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Interview with Polar Explorer/Adventurer Eric Larsen

Lee Kinder from Logan, UT had the opportunity to interview Eric and inquire about his incredible expedition to the south pole on a fat-bike.

by Lee Kinder – Photography by - Cycle South – Stephanie Scott

Photo credit: Cycle South – Stephanie Scott

 

“Remember, it’s cool to be cold!” quips Polar Explorer/Adventurer Eric Larsen.

Indeed “cold” is conjugal part of what he experiences on most of his trips. No exclusion to that statement in his recently announced intentions of securing another World Record, he will be bicycling to the Geographic South Pole!

 

-What was the driving force behind Cycle South? Will you be self-supporting or have a team? 

 

Eric-The Cycle South Expedition is fundamentally about accomplishing three basic things:

1. All of my expeditions are about connecting people with places. Ultimately, I want people to come away with a better understanding of Antarctica, what is like, why it is unique and how it is an integral part of a healthy planet.

2. Telling an interesting story. I want to engage people in the experience of life on a major polar expedition, the daily routine, the physical and mental challenges, and most importantly, share the lessons and insights that come from human powered travel in remote places.

3. Using bikes to change the world. The goal of the Cycle South Expedition is to provide a platform to engage followers in a wide variety of bicycle-centered advocacy projects and inspire action. Through my web site, people will be able to support Clif Bar’s 2 Mile Challenge, the Davis Phinney Foundation, Winter Wildlands Alliance, World Bike and Bikes Belong.

It will be just me on the expedition :) although I have a pretty big support network helping out.

-In your 15 years of travel and exploration, what experience(s) do you feel prepared you the most to engage this expedition by cycling it?

 

Eric-When I was 12, I got a paper route so I could save enough money to buy a road bike (mountain bikes didn’t really exist at that time in the mid-west). At $5 a week, it took quite a year to save up enough cash, but by the time I was in 8th grade, I was riding my bike everywhere. I started racing right away and eventually got a job in the local bike shop where I worked throughout high school and college. Needless to say, before I was anything, I was a cyclist. Therefore, in terms of Cycle South, I’m not coming into the expedition trying to learn about bikes.

That said I don’t really look at the Cycle South Expedition as biking problem. Most of the bike technology to complete the journey is relatively sound. Therefore, I think the biggest challenges are really from an remote expedition perspective – funding, planning, preparation, expedition gear selection, food preparation, communication, travel schedule and navigation, clothing systems and cold weather management – just to name a few.

In this regard, I have substantial experience as well. I’ve been doing arctic and polar expeditions for over 15 years – from dog sledding in northern Canada to climbing Mt. Everest. In 2010, I completed the Save the Poles expedition a first ever expedition to the South Pole, North Pole and top of Everest all in one year. I’ve led expeditions in Antarctica for three of the past four years; and therefore, am very familiar with the terrain and conditions in Antarctica as well as the skills that are needed to launch and execute a successful polar expedition.

Photo credit: Cycle South – Stephanie Scott

 

-Why the Surly Moonlander over a custom built bike?

 

Eric-I chose the Surly Moonlander for the main reason that I can switch the front and rear wheels. If I have any problems with the drive train – free hub, cassette, derailleur, etc I can swap it with the fixed dingle in the front. Of course, being able to run the Bud and Lou is a definite advantage!

 

-Moving mechanical parts and sub-zero temperatures don’t often play well, what component considerations/modifications were made to alleviate potential problems?

Eric-Basically for any expedition, I try to assess all my gear to determine the equipment that might break. For each one of those items, I take a spare (stove, fuel pump, tent pole, etc). For the rest of the gear, I try to set up systems to ‘field fix’ each item. During the Cycle South expedition, I’ll take a spare tube, pump parts, chain links, brake cable/housing (I’ll only be using the front brake), and a tire. To prepare the bicycle for extended cold weather, I’ll be removing the grease from the hubs and bottom bracket and replacing it with a light synthetic oil.

*Bud and Lou making the trip? Tubes, tubeless, both?

Yes, tubes for sure.

*Geared? Any special lubricants needed?

Yes – am replacing grease with synthetic lube.

*Brakes?

Since I’ll probably be riding at around 5-6 mph, I’m only going to run the front mechanical disc brake.

*Saddle? Leather…

Still looking into saddle options.

Photo credit: Cycle South – Stephanie Scott

 

-The “engine” being the key component, how do you intend to keep it fueled? 

 

Eric-I’ve got a pretty comprehensive diet that I’ve refined over the past 20 years. In this type of travel, food has to be light, compact and still provide enough calories (with the right proportion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins). I’ll be eating Mountain House freeze-dried meals for Dinner and Breakfast. During the day it’s mostly Clif Bars with some chocolate, salami and cheese. I’ll also be using energy drink mix from Skratch Labs. All told, my daily food ration will weigh a little over two pounds. I’ll start out eating about 5500 calories per day and by the time I reach the South Pole that will increase to 7200 calories per day.

- What part of the cycling experience are you looking forward to the most and the part you dread?

 

Eric-I’m looking forward to making good miles on wind packed hard snow on sunny days. I’m dreading white outs (where it is impossible to see the horizon and consequently balance) and soft snow.

 

-Many are eager to follow your expedition, how will DeLorme’s technology allow your global audience to follow along? 

 

Eric-I’ll be using a DeLorme inReach, which is a tracking and two-way communication device that runs on the Iridium satellite network. The inReach unit sends out position locations every 10 to 30 minutes so people will be able to follow my actual progress in real time. There will also be opportunities to send me a text while I’m on the ice.

-You mention riding for both adventure and advocacy, what involvement from the Fat Bike community do you hope to inspire?

 

Eric-I honestly believe that you can use a bike to change the world. I hope that the Fat Bike community embraces this idea and continues to ride their bikes throughout the winter (reducing their carbon foot print) as well as contributing to my partner organizations.

*As a side note, while my web site offers a brief overview of the advocacy programs I am involved with, all donations will go directly to my non-profit partners.

 

-We would like to Thank Eric for taking time out of his incredibly hectic schedule, both at home (he’s a new Father, Congrats!) and in the final preparations for his departure. We will be looking forward to reading about his progress during the expedition and wish him much success. 

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7 Responses to Interview with Polar Explorer/Adventurer Eric Larsen

  1. Josh Spice December 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    It’s very obvious these photos were taken to emulate Antarctica, but don’t be fooled – the scene is probably Lake Superior, since Eric bases out of Duluth. Notice anything strange? No poagies. That means it’s above zero F. If it’s that warm, he certainly doesn’t need all that head coverage.
    Cool story Fat-bike.com, but being a photographer myself, a big thumbs down goes to the photographer as I don’t like it when photos are intended to lie. The intent is obvious that it’s supposed to look like he’s on Antarctica.

    • Cormac December 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      photos werent intended to lie…He openly talks about going to ride in places like nunavut and other arctic like places.

    • Elisabeth December 11, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

      Josh, the photos in the article were shot last March in Churchill, Manitoba where the team traveled to test gear. Conditions in Churchill, while not identical, are similar to the conditions in Antarctica. Traveling to Antarctica with a team for testing and training would be prohibitively expensive.

      While Eric is taking poagies along, he will also be wearing a custom mitten developed by Ergodyne, as he prefers the dexterity that they allow him.

    • tim December 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

      The photos were shot on a training expedition in Churchill, Manitoba last march. I was with him on that trip. No malice intended, how can photos be shot of antarctica when the expedition hasn’t started yet? the point of the pics was to illustrate the possibilities of using a bike in this kind of environment and to use as demonstration to potential sponsors. Churchill is actually pretty similar to a wide variety of arctic conditions and yet is MUCH easier to get to, which makes it an ideal place to test systems that might be used in antarctica. Temps were about -5F to -20F, Eric doesn’t prefer pogies (not every rider uses them) though Revelate designs created a custom pair that is going to antarctica. Conditions will determine if he uses them or not. Finally, Eric is not based out of Duluth, but Boulder CO, after having lived in Grand Marais, MN for 10 years. Check his facebook page to see all the pics from last march in Churchill https://www.facebook.com/EricLarsenExplore, and his main web site http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/ for full bio and expedition info.

    • Lee KInder December 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      Hi Josh,

      I am not certain how you came to the inference that any emulation was intended with regards to the interview photos provided, but be that as it may I’d like to add a comment or two.

      First, the photographs were taken in Churchill, Manitoba on the edge of Hudson Bay during a training trip, not on Lake Superior as you suggest.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlPMGeO-8VQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

      -20ºF temps coupled with humidity and wind, in my opinion it is not un-reasonable to don a Cold Avenger mask, goggles and hood/balaclava in said temperatures.

      Secondly, Eric’s gear selection during his training rides in the aforementioned locale didn’t include “pogies” nor does he intend to use them for the Cycle South Expedition. He will be using custom designed and created glove made by Ergodyne.

      Lastly, although I can appreciate your sentiment with regards to photo usage, in this case it would clearly be difficult to post photos of a trip yet to be taken. Eric’s intentions are pure and relevant to his interview.

      Respectfully,

      Lee Kinder

      Re

  2. Ben December 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    Rough crowd! Good luck Eric.

  3. Mark December 12, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    Why even answer? We all know that this is not a photo of the actual expedition….

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