Lake Winnipeg training grounds for Antarctic cycling expedition


Winnipeg photo courtesty of TDA Global Cycling

Since the 80's, TDA Global Cycling, based out of Toronto, has been leading touring rides throughout the world, taking participants on wild adventures across continents on their bicycles.

In December of this year, for the first time ever, TDA will be leading "The Last Degree" a ride through the Antarctic – a continent that presents a whole new set of challenges for the cyclists to overcome.


Antarctic photo courtesy of TDA Global Cycling

To prepare for the Antarctic ride, a mandatory bootcamp is being hosted in Winnipeg this February. The climate of Winnipeg, although not as high in altitude, is a rough approximation of the Antarctic climate during the winter months when the ride will take place.

When the temperature drops to -20 or -35 degrees celsius, the winter trekkers will truly know whether they have the winter survival skills required to proceed to the Antarctic trip, including their ability to layer clothing, set up camps and maintain their bikes in cold weather.

According to TDA Global Cycling, it's not necessary to be more than reasonably fit and healthy: the main challenge that those undertaking the ride will face is the discomfort and adversity, requiring mental fortitude over bulk strength.


photo courtesty of TDA Global Cycling

For both the Winnipeg and the Antarctic ride, participants will ride fatbikes provided by Specialized, the men will ride the Specialized Fatboy Carbon Expert bikes and the women will ride the a women's specific model – the Specialized Hellga.

Beth Welliver works for Specialized bikes, and will be participating in the Winnipeg ride this February. Welliver lives in California, so to prepare for the cold weather she plans to do some overnight snow camping. But in terms of the cycling, Beth is ready for anything: "I already ride my Specialized Hellga regularly and go on overnighters with it loaded down."

The Specialized Fatbikes are close to mountain bikes in structure, but have tires that are double the width, between four and five inches wide. "Fatbikes are just plain fun to ride." Welliver says, "The first time you hop on a fatbike, it won’t really feel that much different than a traditional mountain bike. But as soon as you start rolling, you feel the difference that the fat tires make when rolling over rocks, roots, and onto the soft stuff like snow."


Fatbike photo courtesty of TDA Global Cycling

The Specialized Hellga – the woman's model – has a lower standover height and stack height in the front end, and a shorter reach to allow women riders to comfortably dismount and handle the bike while riding. The Hellga also comes with narrower handlebars, a crank length that depends on the size of the frame and a Body Geometry® Women's Myth saddle that is "scientifically designed for women to keep the ride comfortable and go longer in the saddle."

"The beauty of a fatbike is that you can ride one pretty much anywhere," Beth says: "but fatbikes really excel on soft surfaces such as sand or snow due to the flotation provided by the wide tires. The large contact patch on the fat tire provides both traction and stability on snowy or icy surfaces. Often a regular mountain bike with skinnier tires would sink into these soft surfaces, making riding nearly impossible. But a fatbike’s wide tires will float on top of the snow, so you can keep right on rolling!"

Besides the Specialized fatbikes, the cyclists who embark on the Winnipeg ride will use 45nrth studded snow tires, and the first five riders who signed up will get a riding shell provided by Canada Goose. TDA Global Cycling provides tents, but riders are responsible for their winter clothing and riding gear and a sleeping bag that can withstand the cold.


Winnipeg photo courtesty of TDA Global Cycling

As part of the training camp, Ben Shillington – who wrote Winter Backpacking: Your Guide to Safe and Warm Winter Camping and Day Trips  – will spend a day and a half with the group to teach them winter survival methods, especially how to stay warm.


Antarctic photo courtesy of TDA Global Cycling

The cost of the Winnipeg training camp is $2,900, and the Antarctic ride is $70,000.

TDA Global Cycling hosts many popular cycling tours around the world, including the Tour d'Afrique from Cairo to Cape Town, the Silk Route from Beijing to Istanbul and the South American Epic, from Cartagena to Ushuaia.


Related on the dandyBLOG:

Fat vs. Skinny: Picking the right winter tire

The final legs of Vince Vining's Visite Sombre charity ride

A leg up on winter cycling: Yvonne Bambrick on layering up

Review of Frostbike, new book on winter cycling from Calgary

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