An Epic Christmas Bicycle Trek to the South Pole

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For explorer Eric Larsen the holidays just wouldn’t be the same if he weren’t sleeping in a tent in sub-zero temperatures. This year marks his fourth Christmas in Antarctica in five years.

This time, he’s attempting to become the first person to ride a fat tire bike 750 miles from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. He calls his adventure Cycle South, and it’s his first expedition since becoming a dad — and his first big trip going solo. Depending on conditions, he’ll make the return trip via bike as well.

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Larsen, 41, who is updating his website daily, said his main concern on Dec. 24 was “making sure that Santa Claus knows that I’m nearly at the exact opposite ends of the Earth.” Christmas Day marked Day 7 of the expedition, with 582 miles to go. In his Dec. 25 blog entry he said, “If you didn’t have a white Christmas, you can borrow mine.”

On past trips, he’s marked the holidays with small gifts: Wenger knives for his expedition partners, for example, or a beer smuggled into a resupply. This year, he opened his present from his partner, Maria, early to save weight.

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His days on the ice are predictable: he bikes for an hour, then stops to eat an energy bar. After 4.5 hours, he takes an hour-long lunch break for soup. He’s been covering about 22 nautical miles from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day.

The last flight he can catch out of Antarctica is Jan. 27, but that’s not the only thing driving him to get back to Boulder, Colo.

“One of the reasons that I’m on a pretty tight timeline is that I’ve got a baby boy that needs my love and attention,” he told Outside Magazine.

Still, while moving forward requires such extreme focus he has a hard time keeping up with text messages, he says he still smiles every time he hops on his Surly Moonlander. Much of the time, all he can see is snow and ice.

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“The ultimate goal of the Cycle South expedition is to demonstrate how each of us can use a bicycle to change the world,” Larsen told Outside. When he’s not exploring, Larsen gives motivational and educational lectures.

Larsen holds other Pole firsts: In 2006, he and Lonnie Dupre made the first summer expedition to the North Pole via canoe over ice and open water, for example, and in 2009 and 2010, he skied to the South and North Poles on back-to-back trips on a Save the Poles expedition.

Image credit: Eric Larsen/Cycle South