Have you ever considered riding your motorbike to the South Pole? Preferably not! It’s a crazy idea, and that’s exactly what makes Royal Enfield’s attempt to ride Himalayans across Antarctica to the geographic South Pole so intriguing.
Called 90 ° Sud – Quest for the Pole, the Royal Enfield sponsored expedition will see two employed riders, Santhosh Vijay Kumar, head of Rides and Community, and Brit, Dean Coxson, a senior engineer who works in product development, trek for 39 days to reach one of the most isolated destinations on the planet.
Santhosh, Dean and their Himalayans will arrive from Cape Town, South Africa, to Novo in Antarctica, at the edge of what is known as the Schirmacher Oasis, an emerging landmass surrounded on all sides by ice, on November 26. After three days of acclimatization, the team will drive south for 12 days using vehicles provided by the expedition support team, just to reach the starting point of their ride.
And while, yes, the bikes are trucked in at the start of the 478 mile (770 km) quest for the ride to the pole, the crew will need to travel nearly 2,000 miles of ice, set up camp, and prepare the meals each. day at temperatures down to -31 ° F (-35 ° C) and below. After nearly two weeks of traversing mountainous terrain and crevasse in trucks, the team will finally arrive at India’s Arctic Research Station on the Ross Ice Shelf platform to begin their week-long journey. on two wheels to the Earth’s South Pole.
Santhosh says plans to ride in Antarctica were initially triggered in 2014 when he and some colleagues were attempting to ride in the Himalayan mountains during the winter. The ride turned out to be a disaster due to the very deep snow, but during the event a member of the Japanese tour told him about Shinji Kazama, the first Japanese national to complete the Paris-Dakar race (1982) and who won the Dakar 500cc class in 1984. But the feat for which Shinji is best known is to successfully ride a motorcycle to the North Pole, and also to the South Pole, which he achieved in 1992.
The logistics would take years to organize, as well as sort out and test the necessary modifications to the Himalayan bikes, which, of course, were not designed to operate in conditions cold enough to solidify the grease in the wheel bearings, harden them. tires and rubber seals and thicken the engine. oil viscosity.
Ultimately, the changes were minimal and included changing the countershaft gear from a 15-tooth unit to a 13-tooth unit for improved torque at the rear wheel. A tubeless wheel setup is needed to allow for the low air pressures that allow the bike to float on softer snow, while the studs help with traction on ice. A more powerful alternator using rare earth magnets was also incorporated, allowing the Himalayans to generate more current so the team could use heated equipment full time.
Readiness tests were carried out in 2020 and 2021 on the Icelandic Langjokull Glacier to see how bikes and cyclists would perform in extreme conditions, but all agree that nothing could prepare cyclists for what lies ahead. in Antarctica.
The route Santhosh and Dean will take will see them starting at the Ross Ice Shelf on December 14, crossing the South Pole Traverse, a route created by the United States to bring fuel to the Pole’s research stations. This means that there are some trails runners should follow if they are able to stay on the road. And unlike Shinji’s 1992 expedition, it looks like they’ll attempt the trip without any type of ski on their front wheels.
If all goes according to plan, Santhosh and Dean will arrive at the Amundsen-Scott station at the Geographic South Pole on December 21, the first people to ever ride two wheels in that particular direction. Of course, things are unlikely to go as planned, and that is what makes this an adventure to watch out for.
As Santhosh says in a promotional podcast, so much can go wrong. Aside from the challenges of the high altitude and thinner atmosphere, spills are inevitable, and even a sprained ankle or a broken finger can affect the entire expedition. Not to mention the risk of hypothermia, frostbite or serious injury when you’re thousands of miles from the nearest hospital.
Despite all the risks and the inevitable discomfort of the trip, Santhosh and Dean couldn’t be more excited to take on the challenge. “There are two ways to spend your time on this Earth,” Santhosh says. “One is to exist… the other is to live. Trying to reach the pole on a motorbike is to live.