Dutch adventurer, Sjaak Lucassen, is planning to ride a motorcycle in the most uninhabitable place on earth: the North Pole. But he's not going there on a rugged adventure bike like a BMW R1250 GS or Ducati Multistrada. He's going there on a modified Yamaha R1.
Lucassen has said in his website that his fascination for traveling to the North Pole began a long time ago. He was inspired to follow in the steps of the earlier polar travelers. Of course, for his attempt, he wants to make history as well and be the first to reach the True North Pole onboard a motorcycle.
The True North Pole, or geodetic north, differs from the Magnetic North Pole (the direction a compass points to). Not only that, he intends to travel from grid north (along the grid lines of a map projection). Geodetic true north also differs very slightly from astronomical true north (typically by a few arcseconds) because the local gravity may not point at the exact rotational axis of Earth.
As expected, no stock motorcycle will make it far in this hostile environment. The 58-year-old Lucassen has been building a polar motorcycle based on a 2001 Yamaha R1 sportbike since 2016. He has christened his creation as the aRctic1.
Among his modifications are a wider swingarm and front forks to accommodate wider tires. They are more than half a meter wide to get a better grip on the slippery ice, as well as cross any crevasses (deep cracks, or fractures found in the ice sheet) he may encounter along the way. He fitted raised handlebars to better handle and steer these wide tires. He modified radiator to prevent the coolant from freezing. He also upgraded the carburetors to produce additional power and to ease starting under freezing temperatures. Finally, he has also upgraded to a larger-capacity alternator designed to produce more electricity. This will be used to power additional heated grips, heated riding gear, auxiliary lights and a lot more.
For the first part of his journey, Lucassen plans to start his adventure from Anchorage, Alaska. He will ride all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, Canada: a distance of about 1,800 kilometers on roads. The second part will be the ride from Tuktoyaktuk to Ward Hunt Island: about 2,300 kilometers over frozen sea and islands. This will not be a walk in the park for Lucassen, as this part of the adventure will be ridden on top of ice and will largely depend on the weather. It will need to be cold enough to keep the ice solid enough for him to ride over. Finally, from Ward Hunt Island, he will ride along grid north toward the True North Pole over frozen seas.
Lucassen plans to conduct the expedition unassisted and will be towing a sled carrying all the essentials he needs to survive the harsh arctic weather. However, there is a possibility of a backup team in a separate vehicle, carrying a camera crew that will document his journey. They will also have other supplies like fuel and food.
He also mentioned in his blog that they are arranging for a helicopter to be on stand-by or a plane to bring supplies at pre-designated drop-off points along the route. These vehicles can also serve as an emergency airlift for him in the event of the unthinkable.
As for the ride back to civilization, Lucassen said that, “Riding back is not planned. Nor staying there. If it’s possible to pick us up with a small airplane we could consider that. An option is to leave all the gear there and have it flown back by the Russians when they open their annual base called Barneo. Future will tell.”
Shinji Kazama and his Yamaha TW200.
The idea of a polar expedition is nothing new. Since the turn of the 20th century, many explorers have attempted to conquer both the north and south poles with varying degrees of success. Often, they do not involve a motorcycle as a means to reach the pole. On April 21, 1987, 36-year-old Japanese adventurer, Shinji Kazama, reached the North Pole on his modified Yamaha TW200 motorcycle after 44 days of riding ice, snow, and more ice. He is also the only person to have reached the South Pole on a motorcycle, riding the same TW200 on January 3, 1992.