Hot days led to Antarctic bike dream

Natalie Brown

Outback Australia, where the temperature can easily hit 45C, hardly seems like appropriate training for a cycle in the perishingly cold Antarctic.

But the deep sand provides the perfect soft terrain training Kate Leeming needs to prepare herself for pedalling 1850km through deep snow.

It was during one of these outback cycles, on the Canning Stock Route on a typically sweltering day 10 years ago, that the Northam-raised 48-year-old first dreamt about being able to take her wheels to Antarctica.

“It was 40C every day and I was thinking about the other extreme,” Ms Leeming said.

“I’ve always been intrigued by Antarctica. It’s something I’ve dreamed of and now the technology is there.”

Ms Leeming, who now lives in Melbourne, went to North America to track down the technology she needed to fulfil her dream of becoming the first person to cycle across the continent via the South Pole, including a bike to handle ice and deep snow.

Years later, her bike has been customised as an all-wheel-drive for the 45 days she plans to spend in the Antarctic with only a guide, a driver mechanic and a cameraman.

At a total cost of $800,000 — most of it spent transporting her modest support crew and equipment — the expedition has yet to be finalised, with the final push dependent on fundraising.

The mental preparation, Ms Leeming said, came from her previous extreme cycling efforts, most notably a 22,000km west to east cycle across Africa in 2010, an unsupported cycle across Russia in 1993 and a 25,000km cycle across Australia.

The Breaking the Cycle South Pole expedition will raise money for the Global Fund, which targets programs for HIV-related diseases. A fundraising lecture will be held at the University of WA on June 25. Tickets at www.uwa.edu.au.