Royal Enfield’s Dean Coxson talks exclusively about their record-breaking expedition to the South Pole

1 of 12

On December 16th 2021, Royal Enfield rode into the history books when employees Dean Coxson and Santhosh Vijay Kumar reached the South Pole on a near-stock Himalayan, becoming the first people to reach 90 degrees south by motorcycle.

With the pair now returned home to the UK and India respectively, MCN caught up with classic bike restorer Dean for an exclusive interview about the trip.

The 51-year-old has been at Royal Enfield for four years as a Senior Engineer of Product Development, and although he’d heard whispers about the 90-degree South project, to mark Royal Enfield’s 120th anniversary, he never imagined he would be one of the riders.

Related articles on MCN

Pushing a Royal Enfield Himalayan through the snow

“I was making myself a drink and the boss comes up and asks if I want to do the South Pole trip – I just agreed to it. You’ve got to take every opportunity that’s thrown at you… You’re not going to get it again.

“I’d done testing for Royal Enfield just inside the Arctic Circle, so I’d got a bit of experience on riding on ice and snow, but nothing to the same extreme.

“They sent me to Iceland for nine days alongside Arctic Trucks – our partner and riding support – to ride on glaciers and test tyres. That was the first insight into what we were going to be doing and then it was a whirlwind to get the bikes up to spec.”

Pre-trip prep

Camping in the snow on the way to the South Pole

Aside from testing in Iceland, Dean didn’t do much prepping physically, but extensive time was spent on the bikes to ensure they could cope with Antarctic conditions.

“There was talk of doing a lot of modifications, but that detracts from what we were trying to do – use a standard or near-standard bike,” Dean explains. “It was as stock as they come! It even had mirrors on at one point… But they soon came off.”

Among the mods were a 13-tooth gearbox sprocket to increase torque to the rear wheel, with tubeless wheel setup and studded tyres.

The South Pole expedition team

A stronger alternator was fitted so the riders could run heated gear from the battery, as well as an external connector to aid quick jumpstarting. There were mounting brackets for a front ski. But upon arriving at Novo in Antarctica and getting it out the box, the cold caused it to shatter so the expedition went ahead without.

Dean says: “I also removed the oil coolers because it wasn’t going to get hot out there! I also think they’re quite vulnerable. I’ve not known of any being knocked off but the last thing we wanted was to throw the bike down, rip it off and spill oil on the surface because we would have been in trouble then!”

Welcome to Antarctica

Dean met up with the rest of the team in Novo and then the group spent five days there to acclimatise. The expedition consisted of six men: the two riders, Dean and Santhosh; George Marshall and Will Evans to film and photograph the historic event; and support crew Arnar Gunnarsson and Youi from Arctic Trucks.

Tackling snow drifts on the Royal Enfield Himalayan

“It worked as a bloody good team to be honest. Considering we’d never met each other before – it was great. We looked out for each other.”

In Novo, the team prepared the bikes by adding fluids and studded tyres, then Dean helped prep the 4x4s and 6×6. But with over 3000kms to travel until the start point, it wasn’t long before they loaded the bikes onto the trucks, clambered in and began the next leg of their journey.

“At Novo there is some sort of civilisation,” says Dean. “You’d got mountains around you, there were people and planes coming in. It was when you got onto the plateau you realised how vulnerable you are.

“It’s just flat. There are no mountain peaks, no hills, it’s just 2500km of flat snow and ice. No wildlife, nothing. It’s just you and the five guys you’re with.

Heavy compacted snow on the Royal Enfield Himalayan

“On a good day you’ve got clear blue skies, but the weather soon changes to a whiteout and then there is no differentiating between land and sky – it just becomes one. It’s so disorientating.

“It’s a risky place. You’re minutes away from death if you wandered off at that sort of temperature because no one is going to get to you. Even in a vehicle, at the furthest point you are still two weeks away from anyone reaching you.”

The team trekked overland in the trucks for two and a half weeks before they were able to start their world-record attempt.

The plan was to start from the Ross Ice Shelf and follow the route of the very first expedition to the South Pole, by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen in 1911 (see box out), but bad weather meant their plans had to change.

Parked up in the snow

“We got close to 86 degrees south and had a whiteout, so we had to stop. When we woke, the snow drifts were that bad that ALE (Antarctic Logistics Expeditions) wouldn’t allow us to continue to the Ross Ice Shelf. We had the option to sit the storm out or move further towards the Pole.

“We drove up to 87 degrees and started the ride there. That was right on the edge of the whiteout and the conditions weren’t good. So, we moved up half a degree and started the ride from where I believe Shackleton finished his trip, so there’s a connection there.”

As they debated beginning the ride, they heard that another front was moving in, and had to make decisions quickly.

“We just decided to go, and we did it in one hit. We didn’t sleep or stop. We just got on the bike, and when you got cold or tired another person jumped on. The actual pole trip [a ride of 250 miles] we did in a complete 30-hour stint.”

Keeping warm in -30 degrees was a challenge. On his lower body Dean wore a merino wool base layer, mid-layer trousers with Rukka overtrousers. On top he had a wool base layer, t-shirt, hooded top, Keis heated jacket and Dainese textile jacket with a Nomex balaclava and Shoei flip-front helmet with ski goggles. But even so, he could only spend just over an hour on the bike at a time.

Riders tackle the dangerous conditions

“I started the first leg. I was probably riding for an hour. Some of the conditions were heavy snow drifts and you could be dropping off a snow drift 18 inches high which gives your body a pounding – especially in those temperatures. You just ride until you feel you can’t really do anymore. You’d stop, put your hand up and the next person would jump on and carry on.

“It was mainly between me and Santhosh, and Armar did a bit in the middle. The cold had got to Santhosh, then I highsided, pulled my groin and couldn’t ride. They dosed me up on ibuprofen and at that point Armar rode in my kit.

“I think I came off five times in total over the whole trip and four of them we’d almost come to a standstill. I was generally travelling about 20/25mph – I found that comfortable on the flat part, but it got to one point where it felt so good, I pushed it up a little bit to 30/35mph. The bike jumped right, so I corrected it to the left, and the next thing I know I was going one way in the air and the bike was going the other.

“It was a soft landing. It goes through your mind ‘don’t break a bone’ because there’s no medical support. You’d have to put up with it until you can get to a hospital… which would be in Chile!”

Riding in the snow on a Royal Enfield Himalayan

If the riders revved too hard, the bike’s tyre broke through the icy surface and had to be heaved out which was even more of an effort at because of the thin air at 3000ft. But the team was on hand to jump out of the trucks and get the riders on their way as quickly as they could.

“I was physically exhausted when I got to the Pole,” Dean says. “But about a metre short, I whacked the throttle open and dug the bike in. I walked to the truck Santhosh was in because he was having difficulty with the cold, and said, ‘look come on, we started this together, we’re finishing it,’ and we both pushed the bike over that last metre.”

It was a hard 30 hours, but the team and the bike had made it. A total overland distance of 1988 miles – 250 of them ridden – in one of the harshest environments on Earth. And after weeks on the move, Dean was finally able to take a well-earned shower at Union Glacier, from where they flew home.

One for the mantlepiece

A spinning rear wheel on the Royal Enfield Himalayan

When asked if Dean had any doubts during the trip, he says: “I never even thought about failure to be honest, it wasn’t on the cards. One way or another, that bike was going to get to the Pole.”

Now he’s home, Dean is back to work and enjoying being up to his elbows in oil and engine components again.

“I’ve got frostnip on a couple of fingers on my clutch hand and a couple of toes, but I’m just waiting for some of the images from the trip to come through. There’s one of me stood next to the Pole with my crash helmet sitting over it. I think when that’s on the mantlepiece, that’s when it’ll sink in.

“There are a lot of people involved who don’t get credit. So, it’s a big thanks to everyone who prepped the bike and those that made it possible for me to go.”

Royal Enfield Himalayans complete extreme Antarctic mission to the South Pole

First published on 11 January 2022 by Jordan Gibbons

Royal Enfield riders reach the South Pole

A pair of Royal Enfield Himalayans have successfully achieved a first-of-a-kind mission to reach the geographic South Pole.

To celebrate 120 years of Royal Enfield, and as a tribute to all adventurers and riders across the world, Royal Enfield employees, Santhosh Vijay Kumar and Dean Coxson, spent 28 days travelling over Antarctic territory to reach 90 degrees south.

Related articles on MCN

The pair travelled with the team over 2000 miles to reach their starting point, altered at the last minute due to blizzards.

At 87 degrees south the pair covered another 250 miles and braved -30°C temperatures with wind speeds nearing 40mph before ultimately reaching the geographic South Pole just before Christmas.

Riding to the South Pole on Royal Enfields

The motorcycles themselves were modified in-house before the expedition with some suitable upgrades to help handle snow and ice.

The changes made to tackle treacherous conditions included a drive sprocket with two fewer teeth, tubeless wheel setup and studded tyres as well as a stronger alternator to operate heated kit.

Dean and Santhosh are now back home in the UK and India respectively and are tending to minor frostnip and revelling in their accomplishment with hopes to share some of their stories from the ice soon.

Royal Enfield to mark 120 years with 770km South Pole expedition on modified Himalayans

First published on 27 October 2021 by Dan Sutherland

Heading to the South Pole on a Royal Enfield Himalayan


Royal Enfield are marking 120 years of motorcycle production by attempting to ride to the South Pole on two modified Himalayan adventure bikes.

The trip, known as ’90° South – Quest for the Pole’ is said to be the first of its kind and will begin on Friday, 26 November in Cape Town South Africa before snaking around 479 miles to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Related articles on MCN

The 39-day adventure will see the riders reach their final destination via the Ross Ice Shelf and Leverett Glacier, with the bikes ridden on a compacted snow track from the ice shelf onwards to reduce drag and limit the emissions generated by the trip. All waste – including human – will be collected and disposed of after the event.

Royal Enfield Himalayan under the Northern Lights

The two Himalayans will be ridden by Royal Enfield workers Santhosh Vijay Kumar and Dean Coxson and will be joined by heavy-duty support vehicles from Arctic Trucks, who have previously covered over two million miles on the Antarctic Plateau.

To give the bikes a fighting chance of finishing the journey, Royal Enfield engineers have given them some gentle upgrades. The main drive sprocket has lost two teeth to become a 13 and there is a tubeless wheel set-up, with studded tyres that can be run at low pressures.

This will give increased traction and allow for better floatation over soft snow. A stronger alternator has also been added so heated kit can be run off the battery. They have already been tested twice at Langjokull Glacier in Iceland, to make sure they are fit for the ride.

Watch the video trailer ahead of the adventure below: