Ride Lumos Stories #3 - Biking for Preventable Blindness: Olly's Ride for Sight

After 2 editions of #RideLumos stories, we're super excited to share the story of our third rider, Olly Gaspar, along with his two friends, Ryan & Jessy. In our previous #RideLumos stories, we spoke to our riders personally, as it's always different to hear their stories directly. However, our third story is slightly different with emails being the primary mode of interview. This is because Olly, Ryan & Jessy are cycling across Norway as you're reading this, and we'd like nothing more than to give them the space and time to ride & recover for what they're setting out to achieve. Brace yourself for some amazing pictures!

Olly, can you introduce yourself & tell us how you met Ryan & Jessy?

Hey, my name's Olly, and I am a travel blogger. Welcome to “Pedalling the Edge”, this is our team campaign to cycle across Norway for charity, which include my friends Ryan and Jessy. I have known Ryan since I was 10 years old, we went to school together and stayed friends ever since. Jessy met Ryan in Canada on a skiing trip, and I then met Jessy on a mountaineering course in India. Our paths all crossed through a shared love for adventure, and we started doing trips together ever since. We wanted to make the most out of our trips, supporting charities where we could meaningfully impact, which is why our chosen charity was the Fred Hollows Foundation, which we are all proud to support.

Why Fred Hollows Foundation?

There are 43.3 million people around the world living with blindness. Almost 90% of these people live in developing countries. Blindness means that children can’t go to school, providers can’t work to support their families, and older people lose their independence. The good news is that nine out of ten people who are blind don’t need to be. It costs as low as $25 to restore a person's sight. We wanted to choose an organization that could yield the highest benefit from the amount that we can raise, and Fred Hollows Foundation fit just that.

How did you decide on this trip & where will you be cycling across?

We were all trekking together in Nepal in October 2022, when the idea came up that we should do a trip together in 2023. We decided on doing a trip for charity first, then decided it would be a bike-touring trip, before settling on Norway as a great location for the trip to take place. We have decided to cycle from Stavanger in the south of Norway all the way to Tromso in the north, where we will cross the Arctic Circle on our bikes. That's over  1,550 miles/ 2,500KM, and 30,000M in elevation. We decided on this route because we wanted to see a different side of Norway that most people don’t experience, and also to immerse ourselves in nature. That's climbing the height of Mount Everest thrice!

What's an average day like on this journey? What are your expectations of a good day vs a bad day?

A lot can change day to day. The weather has a huge impact on where and how we camp. Elevation during each day also affects our riding because Norway is very hilly and mountainous, so our daily elevation can impact our riding and how much ground we cover in a single day. Overall, every day is a good day, and we work well as a team!

Have you done anything similar before in terms of routes or fundraising efforts?

None of us have ever attempted a huge cycling trip like this before. Ryan had previously done a small solo cycling trip in Tasmania, and I had done a week of cycling in New Zealand, but never had we taken on such a big ride in terms of distance, duration, and elevation. The routes we chose were planned using an assortment of blogs, European cycling sources, and then combining that with mapping and navigation apps to create a route. The final element we added was riding for charity, which actually proved challenging in itself. Not only are we juggling riding long distances each day, camping each night, and route planning, but we are running a daily campaign to update people back home about our ride while raising awareness for our charity, the Fred Hollows Foundation. It’s a lot of work, but between the three of us, we make it happen.

Given the tough journey, how did you prepare for it & what products did you find most suitable for this journey?

Our trip began on July 15th, but previous to this trip we all had very limited bike touring or bike-packing experience. This trip was sort of a “let’s try bike touring and see what happens” approach. We prepared by researching a lot. We researched the bikes we would need, the route we wanted to take, and also what the conditions may be like. The reality though, is that things change on the ground, and we always tweak and adjust the trip as we go. 

As for our gear, bike-packing bags and a decent bicycle to travel across terrains. I'm using a Trek Checkpoint ALR5 with 40mm tires; Jessy is using a Giant Revolt 0 with 40mm tires; and Ryan is riding a flat bar Giant Toughroad SLR1 with 50mm tires. For cycling gear, I use a Zefal handlebar bar on the front, an Ortlieb Centerbag in the mid-frame, two Ortlieb front panniers, and Ortlieb back panniers. Jessy has a similar setup with THULE back panniers. Once you have a good bike and some bags, you are set to start tackling trips. Our Lumos helmets have been a game-changer for Norway because of all the long tunnels and the lights really make us feel visible. They’ve definitely come in handy, allowing other road users to spot us from a distance away.

Were there any memorable trails that were particularly challenging/ beautiful/ rewarding?

We crossed over a high pass that was above 1,000m in elevation from sea level, and was one of the highest roads in Norway. This was a long grueling day of steep uphill pedalling, followed by a huge 500M decline where we zoomed down winding roads without a single car in sight the whole way down. This was a special moment for the trip because getting over this mountain range, and up over the high pass proved that we were capable of tackling the tougher terrain that Norway had to throw at us. One aspect which is both peculiar and beautiful is the sunlight hours here in Norway. It doesn’t get dark until 1 am and is light again at 4 am. It’s an incredible feeling to be cycling at 10:30 pm at night and still have plenty of light. That in itself has been amazing. You can follow our journey through my blog or people can donate directly to our project on GoFundMe, with 100% of proceeds going directly to the Fred Hollow's Foundation.

At Lumos, being seen is our number one priority, and we are proud to support the team at We Seek Travel in their efforts to help restore sight. There's no better way of being seen than allowing others to see. As part of our joint commitment, we are giving $/€/£ 10 off for every purchase with the code 'OLLYGASPAR' at any of our Lumos stores (US, EU, UK & World). We will also contribute an equal amount of $/€/£ 10 to Olly & the team to fund their journey & their commitment to the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Olly, Ryan & Jessy. As we always say, move smart, and stay safe.

To our community, we love stories like this, and would love to hear from you. Share your #RideLumos story below.

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