SALT LAKE CITY — Ice biking is not an Olympic sport, but a Utahn recently finished a trek to the bottom of the world that just might be worthy of a medal. Dan Burton, a bike shop owner from Saratoga Springs, spent 51 days in sub-zero temperatures riding his bike to the South Pole.
"It's impossible to understand how hard that was unless you go and do it," Burton said, back at work in his Epic Biking shop.
Most expeditions to the end of the earth or the top of the world are tackled by experienced teams with many sponsors. Burton had none of that. He's a regular guy, running a neighborhood bike shop, who accomplished a daring feat all by himself.
"There were some days I went 15 or more hours," he said.
From Dec. 2 until Jan. 21, he rode his bike across Antarctica to become the first person to make it to the South Pole by bicycle. He estimates he covered about 730 miles.
"Exactly how much? I lost my GPS so I don't know," Burton said with a laugh.
He averaged 13 miles a day, riding into a headwind in temperatures 30 degrees below zero.
"It's an extremely difficult thing, every day for 51 days," he said. "Except, I took Sundays off."
And Burton completed the entire journey all alone. He pulled his gear on a sled, slept in a tent, and cooked freeze-dried food. He tumbled into a crevasse and had to overhaul a broken wheel.
He paid an outfitter in the region to drop him off on the edge of the continent and pick him up at the pole. He had a cache of food and supplies that he picked up half way through the journey. He also had a satellite phone to talk with his wife each day, and to use to call for rescue, if he needed it.
Some South Pole expedition experts doubted him and didn't think that he had any business to be out there. They feared he would not come home alive. However, Burton never allowed himself the option of giving up.
"I prepared myself mentally that there was absolutely no way I was turning around," he said.
He said one of his greatest fears was getting close to his goal and not being able to complete it. He said that motivated him. Burton also said the tips of his fingers and toes are still numb, and he has a patch of frostbite on his face. But he generated plenty of heat riding his fat-tired bike. He said the toughest part was doing the trek solo.
"Being alone really messes with your emotions," he said. "I became very emotional and would cry over things."
His mother died from a heart attack a year ago, and he pedaled to the pole to raise awareness for fitness. Now that he's back home, Burton plans to put together a documentary on his trek with the help of a filmmaker.
He also wants to start a charity that gives bicycles to kids to promote lifelong cycling, and he plans to start with local schools.