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Unsung Heroes: Kate Leeming, the Arctic Explorer

Dr Kate Leeming really knows how to push the boundaries of cycling challenges

Women are getting out there and setting themselves incredible feats of strength in cycling. Pushing through personal boundaries, overcoming illnesses and raising money for wonderful causes, and Dr Kate Leeming is the Arctic queen of them all.

London to Cape Town powered by Bicycle

With the freedom machine between your legs, you can explore some beautiful landscapes, make memories and pedal your way to fitness. So why not push it a little further and take on an amazing feat, for a great cause?

We first heard about Kate Leeming when a video popped up in our inbox showing a very bundled up women, cycling across Greenland on a fatbike. We were hooked by her story, and the mammoth cycle she’s been planning for later this year.

Who is Kate Leeming?

Australian born sports enthusiast, Dr Kate Leeming, has always been one for active hobbies and pushing her strengths. Having once been ranked 2nd in the World for professional Tennis, Kate has just about competed in almost all sports… except cycling.

After discovering the freedom and fun that two wheels can give you, Kate began clocking up the miles in no time, and began exploring the World at her pedal strokes. When asked why travel by bike, Kate says: “I choose to travel by bicycle for the close connection I make with the people and the land; I love bringing a line on a map to life, and it gives a great sense of place, a realistic perspective of how the world fits together.”

For us, a cycle challenge may be in the form of a sportive, or a charity endurance event, something that’s difficult, new and will challenge our mental and physical limits. For Kate, she’s taken it to the next step.

With a wonderful sense of adventure and a bike to get her there, Kate set of covering miles around the globe. Cycling from St Petersburg to Vladivostok in Russia, to covering 25,000km through Australia, and 22,000km from Senegal to Somalia, Africa. For each of her multi-day challenges, Kate cycled for a cause she believed in: The Children of Chernobyl in Russia, Australia was about education for sustainable development, and in Africa Kate was exploring the causes and effects of extreme poverty.

With thousands of miles worth of cycling experience, Kate has been getting ready for her biggest challenge yet: The Antarctic…

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Breaking the Cycle: South Pole

The largest desert on Earth, and the most unforgiving too. The Antarctic is home to the South Pole, jagged mountains and volatile weather conditions, and it’s the location for Kate’s next huge feat.

Her chosen charity for this expedition is her own: “For Breaking the Cycle South Pole, I am setting up my own Breaking the Cycle Foundation that will support youth leadership as well as some of the impressive community initiatives I visited in Africa.”

Kate will be cycling 1800km across the Antarctic on a custom designed fatbike from Christini Technologies . But how does one even begin training for a ride such as this?

The South Pole expedition is due to take place through November/December/January 2016-2017, but training actually began in 2013 when Kate tested her ability to cycle in polar conditions. Kate says: ”

In 2013 I did my first test in Spitsbergen, Norway and from this experience I deemed that my Antarctic expedition was realistic.  I have recently returned from my second polar training expedition in Northeast Greenland, a spectacular journey through fjords, mountains and over the sea ice. The temperatures there were unseasonably warm which presented blizzards, early melting and snow conditions that were generally softer than I will expect to find crossing the Antarctic continent.”

“Cycling over the snow and ice is as tough as it gets; it less efficient than skiing and one of the biggest challenges is to manage body moisture” – Kate Leeming

A lot of Kate’s physical and mental preparation draws from her previous cycling expeditions around the World. However, to cycle in such dangerous and harrowing conditions takes a little more thought and planning, as Kate explains: “One of the key skills I have to master is getting the clothing systems right to avoid perspiring, as once I stop, it freezes.”

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While we prepare for a ride with the usual essentials: helmet, pads, water, snacks and tubes, what will Kate be needed on her South Pole adventure?

Essentials for a Bike-Packing Adventure

Kate’s team will need to cover all their bases and prepare for things that may go wrong. As for Kate, she’ll be “taking [her] AWD polar bike, a spare bike and parts, tools, camping equipment and polar clothing to name a few.”

“Cycling across the Antarctic continent via the South Pole will be the most intense physical and mental challenge I have done so far” – Kate Leeming

Kate will be filming her adventure across the South Pole, and hopes to have a live-feed in place for people at home to tune in and follow. Swiss film-maker, Claudio von Planta will be joining the cycling expedition to film Kate’s journey with a variety of camera equipment and drones.

With such a physically and mentally demanding challenge ahead, we asked Kate what she was most looking forward to about the trip: “I’m really looking forward to confronting the harsh reality of cycling in the extreme conditions, but will also appreciate the privilege I have in taking on such a responsibility to honour my supporters and sponsors and inspire others to follow their own dreams. I hope I will have the occasion to take in the harsh beauty of my surroundings.”

It really isn’t just a case of kitting up, booking a ticket and flying out to the South Pole either, there’s a lot of planning and preparation involved from a logistically perspective as well from what Kate tells us: “Organising Breaking the Cycle South Pole is proving the biggest single hurdle. Not only do I have to learn how to manage in polar conditions, I have also had to facilitate the development of new fatbike technology, generate my own publicity and above all, find the funding.”

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If you’re feeling inspired to get out there and take on a challenge for yourself, Kate’s advice is “to explore to find your passion. By all means prepare thoroughly, but those plans need to be realistic and adaptable for a successful adventure. Try something small first and see where those first steps can take you.”

Follow Kate on her website for  training and preparation  updates leading up to Breaking the Cycle: South Pole. To remind you of the conditions and endurance that Kate will be facing, re-cap on her Greenland trip with the video below.

 You may also enjoy:

The Story of Team Rwanda’s Only Female Rider

Anna McNuff: The Ultimate Adventurer

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