Not many people opt for a bicycle to traverse the Arctic in winter. However, on Wednesday, cyclist Omar di Felice set off to do exactly that. Starting in Kamchatka, Russia, the ultra-distance racer aims to complete a 4,000 kilometer journey through eight countries that border the Arctic Circle.
Naming his new adventure the Arctic World Tour, this solo trip through a world of snow and ice will see him following the three arctic border lines (the Arctic Circle, the 10° iso-therm line and the Arctic tree-line) in extreme conditions, with temperatures close to -40°.
The project is part of Di Felice's Bike to 1.5°C project, an initiative to raise awareness of the current climate crisis and promote alternative modes of transport. In October, the project was launched when Di Felice attended the United Nation's Climate Summit in Scotland which he rode to by bike from Milan before also visiting the Rouleur Classic.
However, his upcoming journey will be significantly more arduous that this jaunt across Europe. Not only will he have to contend with various types of freezing polar weather, he’ll also have to keep alert for polar bears too.
Helping with the first of these tasks, engineers at his clothing sponsor UYN have designed Felice a special arctic cycling suit. From their base in Asola, northern Italy, they’ve created a cycling-specific padded jacket and trousers that are both ultra-light, yet water and windproof.
Designed to keep him warm, safe, and visible in the white expanse of the frozen north, it aims to ensure perfect body-temperature management and maximum freedom of movement. It does this partly thanks to a patented Ergomotion shoulder construction, which follows the profile of the shoulder blade. The trousers are also designed to adapt to the asymmetric movement of legs during a bike ride.
Some finals details were designed together with Di Felice himself: a removable hood that can fit the bike helmet; one inside pocket and two external ones; two side zips on the trousers to increase ventilation; waterproof gaiters at the bottoms of the legs for added protection; plus two additional front pockets to stash essentials.
UYN has already collaborated with Felice, helping equip him in his successful attempt to ride to Everest base camp in winter last year. Although riding at a lower altitude this time, the suit they’ve designed for him wouldn’t look out of place on a Himalayan alpinist.
Needing every advantage to stay warm as he faces freezing temperatures, UYN will also provide Di Felice with other more conventional items. These include socks, base layers, jackets for all weather conditions, s neck warmer, balaclava and under helmet liners.
Di Felice is currently riding in Kamchatka and will move to Lapland (Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway), Norway's Svalbard archipelago, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, and finally Canada.
In keeping with Felice's climate-conscious mission, UYN's production site is certified by Step (Sustainable Textile Production), and the energy used comes exclusively from renewable sources. For their garments, they have developed a bio-based fibre NATEX, a high-performance yarn derived from castor beans instead of oil.
He plans to finish his adventure in late March. You can follow his progress on his social media channels (where he'll do live streaming with scientists to talk about the effect of the climate crisis), or here.