Helen Skelton gets on her Ice bike for Polar Challenge


In January 2012, Helen Skelton plans to start her polar challenge for Sport Relief.   The presenter will attempt to travel 500 miles across Antarctica to reach the South Pole.  Helen’s plan is to reach the pole by ski, by kite and – in a world first – by bike.  Apparently “Success would set a new world record for the longest ever bicycle journey on snow.” , this isn’t strictly true as many people have already completed the 1000 miles Iditarod Trail Invitational race in Alaska.

Completion will require travelling up to 14 hours a day across the coldest and windiest place on earth, battling temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius, blizzards and ferocious 80mph winds.
Although a support crew will be on hand (Tour Operator Extreme World Races is the team behind the mission ; it will be providing safety guidance, production and logistics support), Helen will have to pull an 82KG sledge behind her containing everything she’ll need for the whole journey, including all her food, equipment and supplies.


If the conditions are favourable, snow kites can be used to great effect for travelling large distances.


Rather than use a modern style bike such as a Surly Pugsley, she has opted for an old fashioned design.   The HANEBRINK’s have been around for years, but Helen’s has apparently been specially designed and taken 3 months to build.  It  weighs just less than 20 kilograms, the frame is made from aluminium aircraft tubing which has been specifically treated to withstand the harsh Antarctic conditions and the 20 centimetre-wide tubeless tyres will provide maximum stability and traction on the ice.

Personally I think cycling this machine whilst towing the additional supplies is going to be a huge ask.   I can’t help but feel this part of the challenge is more a marketing spin rather than achievable feet.   It’s worth mentioning this bike has never been tested or ridden in such conditions – only sand as in above picture.



Who is Helen Skelton?

Helen was born in 1983 and is an English television presenter. For the last 3 years she has worked on the BBC children’s programme Blue Peter (which is the longest running kids show in the world – first aired in 1958).

Don’t let Helen’s looks fool you, she’s tough cookie!  She is only the 2nd woman to ever complete the Namibian Ultra marathon.  In 2010, Skelton kayaked the entire length of the River Amazon for Sport Relief, she holds two world records : the longest solo journey by kayak, and the longest distance in a kayak in 24 hours by a woman.

Helen’s most recent challenge was a tightrope walk between chimneys at Battersea Power Station, 66 metres above ground.  This was to raise money for Comic Releif.


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Due to bad weather, Helen is currently still in Cape Town South Africa.  Until there is a break in the weather, she will carry on with training and preparation.

I wish Helen good luck in what is undoubtedly her toughest challenge yet.    Coverage will be shown on Blue Peter from the end of January to March.


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