Celebrity Adventure

So, Helen Skelton is going to “become the first person to use a bicycle to help her reach the South Pole”.

A few exaggerated claims in this BBC article are causing some annoyance on the internet. It claims that in the 500 miles trip she will “hope to set a new world record for the longest bicycle journey on snow”. Bad news for her: I and numerous others have already completed the 1000 miles Iditarod Trail Invitational race in Alaska. It doesn’t invalidate her trip, but it does show a lack of respect and understanding for the existing state of adventures on bikes.

It is often observed you can test your motivation for a trip very simply. Would you do it if no-one is looking? If not, then maybe you shouldn’t be there. When the road gets hard, how will you respond if the reason to keep going is not inside you?

That test gets muddied by the issues of sponsorship and charity, though.

Regarding sponsorship, I just wouldn’t be able to go on some of my adventures if I didn’t have the support of some great companies sponsoring me (cough! bottom of the page! cough!). It is only fair to them that I return their help by trying to get them some exposure in the media. Many people find themselves in the same position.

Regarding charity, the best way to raise money for the charity is to really sell the adventure.

Both of these are legitimate reasons for getting your story out there. They are reasons to seek nice soundbites; claims of records that you will break; whatever else.

That’s fine as long as you can stay factually accurate and use no sleight hand to present your trip as harder than it is.

Celebrity adventures do nothing to diminish those of people that don’t get to appear on BBC Breakfast. The experience of riding my bike to Nome was so overwhelmingly intense that I would never be able to fully explain it anyway. The likelihood of people mentioning Helen Skelton when they hear about it in the future doesn’t harm my fundamental experience of it. The ride burns brightly in my memory.

I would love to have the kind of financial support that celebrities get to achieve their goals, and I’m a little jealous of it. That’s probably why people get so excited about the subject. But I do get by and I do get to keep going on adventures, so I can’t complain.

Good luck to her in her trip. (But I rather suspect that a bike with a 80kg sled will be about much use to her as the ponies were to Scott)

1 comment to Celebrity Adventure

  • Chris McSweeny

    Well at least they’ve dropped the claim about her Amazon trip being the longest ever kayak trip. I’m still not convinced most people would think a solo kayak voyage involved the use of a couple of support boats, a large support team and camera crew though. It’s disappointing as her feats would be impressive without the need for exaggeration and being economical with the truth.