On Yer Bike!

OCD Action’s very own expedition is under way!

A few months ago, we wrote about the plans of two Cambridge students, Chase Caldwell Smith and Kate Ellison, to take on the daunting task of circumnavigating the whole of Iceland… by bicycle. Dubbed the “Hringvegurinn Expedition” (after the Icelandic word for “ring road”) and assigned official expedition status by the University of Cambridge, Chase and Kate were set to cycle a gut-wrenching 1332km through the rocky, icy, natural hazard-strewn paths that make up the titular ring road.

The two of them are doing the expedition in order to raise awareness and money to help people with OCD. Chase has OCD himself, as chronicled in a very honest and moving article on the expedition's website. At one point it caused him so much stress that he got physically ill, developing shingles and fearing that he might lose his sight in one eye, and while he’s doing much better now he is still aware of how life-destroying the condition can be.

Chase is particularly keen to draw attention to the effects of OCD on people at university. A time of huge change where many people find themselves cut off from their old friends and family, university can be a really tough time for people with OCD. But help is out there, and OCD Action are doing as much as possible to raise awareness about the disorder for students. Check out our OCD at University leaflet for more information.

The good news is that their journey has begun, and is going really well so far! Equipped with bikes very kindly given to them at a 10% discount by Reykjavik Bike Tours, the two of them are well on their way. Here is everything we know about the expedition:

Friday 22nd July: From the warm, comforting safety of Knaresborough, our daring explorers got ready to embark on their three week adventure in a much colder, rougher place.

Sunday 24th July: Early in the morning Kate emailed us to let us know that the two of them were on their way. That afternoon, they landed in Reykjavik, the country's capital (and the northernmost capital city of an independent state!) where they would begin their travels.

Monday 25th July: Chase and Kate set out on the expedition. They got off to a good start, managing to cycle around 30km. However, they then got to a point where the terrible weather and busy motorway traffic meant it was too dangerous to cycle, so they had to make an "executive call" to take a bus until it got safer. By evening they made it to the town of Borgarnes via the seaside fishing town of Akranes.

Tuesday 26th July: Kate and Chase continued their cycle, managing to cover 33km from Borgarnes to Bifrost University.

But unfortunately, they had to change their plans again. Having consulted with locals they found out that there were no campsites for over 100 kilometers! To make matters worse, camping by the roadside is illegal in Iceland. Therefore they were forced to get a bus to the town of Blonduos.

Despite these setbacks, Chase was not too disheartened, as he told us yesterday evening:

A bit [of a] learning curve for me has been to be patient and also flexible... If weather, traffic, or energy levels aren't safe, then the expedition has to evolve. I'm learning quickly! And also avoiding perfection is totally relevant to OCD.

Wednesday 27th July: Fortunately this day was less unpredictable. They managed a whole 50 km and by the evening had made it to the small village of Varmahlid.


Wednesday 28th July: Having arrived safely in Varmahlid the dynamic duo spend the next day cycling the 45km route to the small community of Holar. Again, they made it without any setbacks.


Thursday 29th July: The last time we heard from Chase and Kate they'd made it to Holar and were planning to spend today cycling around the Trollskagi (known as the "peninsula of trolls") towards the village of Dalvik. We hope they're well on their way to making it safely!

We're thrilled that Chase and Kate are doing so well in their expedition, despite the occasional setback. But the journey has hardly begun, so we wish them the best of luck for the rest of it -- though we've got no doubt they will do an absolutely amazing job! Overall they've managed to cover around 150-160 kilometers by bike, which is incredibly impressive!

Check out the Hringvegurinn website, Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, and have a look at their video for more explanation of why they're undertaking this challenge:

There's also an excellent article on the website about the setbacks they've encountered in the first week, and how they're not actually as much of a problem as they might seem.

Chase and Kate have already managed to raise £723.94 (including Gift Aid) for OCD Action, but they're hoping to raise even more. Visit their JustGiving page to help them raise as much as possible!

Do you want to get involved in something like this? Or something else which maybe isn't quite as gruelling but is still massively important for helping raise awareness and creating the funds to help us do what we do to help people? Just get in touch with Charlie at charlie@ocdaction.org.uk or call 020 7253 5272.

But for now, thank you so much Chase and Kate! Just be safe in the knowledge that every pedal you make is going a long way to helping people struggling with OCD.