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Welcome to Royal Enfield’s frozen adventure

Production models headed to the South Pole in a fitting celebration of 120 years of motorcycling and exploration

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Yes, it's true. Royal Enfield celebrated 120 years of motorcycle production last year with an epic undertaking. Typically, a bike manufacturer might add a flash of colour along a fuel tank to mark the milestone, but not on this occasion. Instead, Royal Enfield tried to ride one of their Himalayan motorcycles to the South Pole.

It honoured the spirit of adventure that owners have displayed, riding all over the world and quite often all the way around it too.

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The journey from 81-degree South to 90-degree South began on the Ross Ice Shelf, an expanse of ice that is hundreds of metres thick and roughly the same size as France. The model used was the single- cylinder 410cc adventure motorcycle called the Himalayan, and was ridden after surprisingly sparse modifications from the standard model. Long-travel suspension, simple ABS brakes and 24.5bhp meant the motorcycles (which cost £4700 in the UK) were perfectly suited to the terrain, which was helpful given that they had to navigate a route never ridden before on a motorcycle without skis fitted.

After some extreme testing and research in Iceland on the glaciers, modifications were limited to a slightly smaller drive sprocket (down to 13 teeth from 15) which improved drive in the deep snow. Tubeless tyres were used, which meant lower pressures and a larger footprint in the snow and ice, with studs too to help find grip.

With temperatures dropping to - 35 °C Royal Enfield also beefed up the standard alternators in order to be able to run the heated riding kit that the intrepid adventurers needed. When you consider how challenging the seven- day ride was, it's easy to see why the Himalayan carries the tag line ‘Built for all roads, built for no roads'.

Two Royal Enfield staff members shared the journey. Santosh Vijay Kumar is based at Royal Enfield's technical centre in Chennai, India. He partnered with Dean Coxson, a development engineer at Royal Enfield's UK technical centre. Although both are experienced riders, clearly neither had ever undertaken anything like this before.

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Before the expedition, Santosh said: “The ride is going to be spectacular, the challenges like nothing we’ve ever faced before. Aside from the riding conditions being so gruelling, on a good day we can expect the temperature to hover around -20°C. What I’m excited about most is the idea of being on a largely unexplored continent.”

For Dean the excitement was in the unknown. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said.! “How do you prepare for something that nobody has done before? Not knowing is a great feeling, I can’t wait to find the answers to all the questions we have”.

The journey began with the team landing on Antarctica on November 26 for acclimatisation and training, and on December 16 the riders reached their destination. Built to house research staff in the 1950's, the station is the only inhabited place on the planet that has just one day and one night a year, each lasting six months.

Check out the whole expedition here, including exclusive films, interviews and more.

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