Maria Leijerstam just landed at a Russian base in Antarctica. She is in seriously good shape, and she plans to pedal a trike to the South Pole. Racing over 400 miles from the edge of the continent toward the middle, 35 year-old Maria hopes to beat two other male contenders to claim the world record. She will face temperatures as low as -35°C and wind speeds up to 50 miles per hour. She will have to overcome dangerous obstacles such as crevasses, shifting ice shelves, glaciers and snowstorms. This challenge has been attempted before by riders on standard winter bikes known as Fat Bikes, but none have yet succeeded. She had a trike specially made in the UK by a company that could not have come along with a better name or pedigree — ICE Trikes.



Maria’s preparation has included training and equipment testing in Siberia, Norway and Iceland. To replicate the severe cold of Antarctica she has endured a day cycling in an industrial freezer – much to the surprise of factory workers who continued to stack shelves with frozen food. Maria has identified a route to the South Pole virtually untested by polar explorers. She will start her bid for the world record by climbing the Leverett Glacier before heading due south for the South Pole some 400 miles ahead.


The route she will take is used by American scientists based at the McMurdo Research Station on the Ross Ice Shelf to transport fuel to the South Pole. She is accustomed to extreme sports and in 2012 came second in the Black Ice Race – a 400 mile winter cycle along the entire length of Lake Baikal in Siberia. ITV will be broadcasting Maria’s story in a documentary in January 2014 but in meantime you can watch the drama unfold live on her website

We can’t claim any connection with this extraordinary adventure, but my wife recently took delivery of a machine that bears some resemblance to the beast Maria will be riding. It is a model called a Gekko, from a German company called HP Velotechnik. I wrote about our ride in this blog during our visit to The Netherlands last year. When you reach a certain age, major purchases happen at something less than warp speed, but they still happen, eventually.



You may be wondering why we didn’t avail ourselves of the local products. Greenspeed is based here and it is one of the most successful trike manufacturers in the world. Trisled and MR Recumbents both make fine machines in the Melbourne area. I think it is simply a matter of chance. She happened to ride a Gekko and found it fit her and felt just right. For those of you who are unfamiliar with three-wheel machines, they come in two varieties– tadpoles (2 wheels in front) and deltas (one wheel in front). Most of the trikes sold are tadpoles. They are low and feel fast because you are so low to the ground. They take some getting used to, especially on fast, tight corners.



When we arrived here seven years ago, many of the recumbent cyclists I came to know made their own bikes. Alan Ball came up with an ingenious design for a folding trike which he patented. It will soon be on the market in the USA, manufactured by a company called Edge under the name E2. Trikes are a small but growing part of the cycling market. They sell well in the the Southern part of the USA, where retirees are looking for exercise but loathe to put up with the aches and pains caused by diamond frame bicycles. Many people assume that if you ride a trike you are handicapped in some way, and that may well be the trigger that puts people on a recumbent in the first place. Others, like me, are just early adopters. Trikes are ideal for touring, where aches and pains are a serious hindrance and distance is far more important than speed.

First campsite out of Lhasa

Main Square Lhasa

A few years ago, Gordon Cohen fell off a roof. His weight ballooned and he could not exercise. He liked to ride his bike and go to the gym regularly. The damage to his body was serious. It took a trike to get him back into an exercise regime he could live with. Now, he has his own trike shop and represents ICE, among other brands, in Brevard County, Florida. He just completed his first recumbent show at the Boomer and Sr.’s Expo in Melbourne, Florida. Just a hop, skip and a giant jump from Melbourne, Australia.


Here’s to Maria! There’s adventure left in these bones and trikes are looking better every day.