I write as I travel on the bus from New York back up to Boston where I will collect my bike and gear (which I stored there for a couple of days) and fly out to Reykjavik, Iceland tonight.
Its been an exciting but hectic week since I left Melbourne, lots of travelling; visiting my sister Robin and her family in Sacramento, California, a couple of meetings in New York, making some final preparations for the expedition and, of course, collecting the amazing new Christini all-wheel drive polar bike, mark II.
Just like for the first polar training trip in Spitsbergen in 2013, Steve Christini designed and built a custom all-wheel frame and forks and sent it to Carver Bikes/Bath Cycle and Ski in Woolwich, Maine for Zach Pilgrim, mechanic extraordinaire, to assemble.
Over the last month or so, Zach and I had been developing the list of components and I have been very fortunate to receive sponsorship support from VEE Tires (for the Snowshoe XL 5″ wide tyres), HED for a set of their incredible carbon rims (the best available), 45NRTH for a pair of Wolfgar boots (specialist extreme cold cycling boots that are made to withstand -31C conditions) and Revelate Designs for the expedition pogies (handle bar mitts) and some bags to carry food, water and equipment on the bike.
By the time I arrived, Zach had already built the wheels and had mostly assembled the bike, which had arrived from Philadelphia the day before!
The main issue with the first prototype AWD bike that I trialled in 2013 was that the design could only support a 4”/10cm wide tyre on the rear wheel and this did not provide enough flotation in the soft snow conditions. The new bike has essentially been built around the tyres – to accept 5”/12cm wide tyres. This has proved to be a major challenge for Steve, to get all the angles of the gearing system exactly right to give the drive to the front wheel. The first bike had a straight shaft drive from the rear hub to the head tube, but this had to be adapted for the wider tyre. He has added an industrial strength universal joint assembly connecting the seat stay to the top tube, similar to the design of the original MTB frame. It’s extremely precise engineering to transfer the power through to the front wheel, as it does, without noticing any significant resistance. It’s incredibly efficient!
The new frame fits me much better than the last one too, the centre of balance is slightly more forward which means I should get better use of the front wheel drive and I sit a little more upright so I can drive my legs more efficiently.
Here’s a brief video with Zach explaining how it works:
Everything ran smoothly when we tested the bike up and down the car park – so far, so good – now I have to wait for the real test in Greenland!
I had allowed a couple of extra days in the schedule in case there were any hiccups with the bike. As everything ran smoothly, I was able to travel down to New York and meet with Gene and Lauren from Charity Miles and then Christine Dennison and Tim Taylor who showed me around the Explorers Club.
I have been supporting the Charity Miles App almost since its inception in 2013 and so this was a great opportunity to meet the team. The app is a new fundraising model. For every mile you walk, run or bike, 25c per is donated from the Charity Miles sponsorship pool to your chosen charity. The only cost to you is your energy, not your money.
On 27th April, we are launching our Charity Miles – Breaking the Cycle partnership. Those who sign on and do a work out for my BreakingtheCycle Team and raise funds for (RED) go in the draw to win a copy of my second book, Njinga. 100% of this money for (RED) goes via the Global Fund to support specific HIV/AIDS initiatives in Africa. It’s a really worthy cause and a great incentive to improve and maintain your fitness. Collectively, if we can get a large team participating, then by the time I finish my Breaking the Cycle South Pole expedition, we will have raised a significant sum of money to support some of those who really need it. For every 40c you raise, you will be providing a day’s anti-retroviral treatment for someone in Africa with HIV/AIDS.
The Explorers Club
I have been a member of the Explorers Club in New York since 2013 and never had the opportunity to visit it. There I had arranged to meet Christine Dennison and her husband, Tim Taylor (and dog, Ginger – an Australian kelpie cross). Christine, an explorer and fellow of the Explorers Club, wrote an article about me for Misadventure Magazine in January, so it was great to meet her in person, receive a guided tour of the club and meet many of the staff. The club is full of memorabilia largely donated by its members from more than a century of exploration.
A big thanks to some of my friends from the court tennis world; Nicky Howell in Newport, John Edwards for putting me up in New York and being a wonderful host and Kip Curren for organising for me to store my precious bike and gear in Boston so I could visit New York. I’m very lucky to have friends I can lean on on the other side of the world!
PS – I’m now at Logon Airport, waiting to board my flight to Reykjavik. Please follow the expedition when it starts after 27th April.