How to begin writing a post about the Dunwich Dynamo?!
The “Dun Run”, as I’ve heard it called, is a crazy overnight 120 mile unorganised mass bike ride from London to Dunwich, a tiny village on the Suffolk coast.
This was my first year. After failing to get any friends interested enough to actually take part, I set off to Greenwich where at 6pm Barry from Southwark Cyclists was doing a feeder ride from the foot tunnel to the start at London Fields. Through the foot tunnel and waiting for Barry I met Omar and a couple of others. Shortly after 6pm Barry and more people turned up and off our group went towards London Fields where the ride starts.
At London Fields I was chatting to Omar and others waiting to set off. Omar is also cycling his first dun run alone, so we agree to set off together.
We got the “official” map for a £1 donation and carried on waiting. The sea of bikes was impressive, a real bike porn show. Everything from commuter hybrids, tandems, Bromptons, carbon fibre fixies, vintage racers, recumbents, and even a penny farthing. At about 8:30 there were enough other people going, and me and Omar set off.
The route leaves London along the Lea Bridge Road and then through Epping Forest. Up to the forest it was still light and fairly uneventful. Once at the forest, with the trees crowding overhead it started to get gloomy. The line of blinking red bike lights stretched as far as the eye could see, which was going to be the predominant theme of the night!
I lost Omar somewhere – he was on a fast racing bike, I’m on a slower older racing bike with a pannier full of red bull and cereal bars. But I cycled along with various groups, dodging the lairy drunkards coming out of pubs and making good progress.
Once the sun has set it was very dark. I caught a couple of guys with bright headlights lighting the road ahead, and they were going the perfect speed for me. I followed them for a good 10 miles until they stopped for a break, then I was on my own. It’s a very strange experience cycling in the dark. In the countryside there is no artificial light, and my cheapo front light does nothing the light the road ahead. I could just about make out white lines on the road so I knew if it would turn, and the horizon so I know if the road was going up or down. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was going uphill or downhill until I saw my speed climbing or felt my legs working harder.
The cycling goes well, I was feeling great as I reach the feeding stop half way at Great Waldingfield village hall. So great I even though “hey, I could cycle back to London after this.”
The queue goes for miles so I don’t wait for food, but I relax for about half an hour, fill my water bottles and meet up with Omar again. We set off again into the night following the blinking red lights. I lose Omar again as he goes off with a group of racers.
The next 30 miles is also great. I catch a group of racers all riding together. They’re quick on the flat and downhill, and I struggle to keep up. But they were useless hill climbers! I would lose them going downhill, scared of potholes, but reach the bottom and coast up the other side past all these racers. I started to wonder if they stopped at the bottom just to punish themselves going up the other side!
I took a wrong turn somewhere. I was cycling along at the front of a group of cyclists and missed a turn. A cyclist catches up and asks if it’s the right way, so I say yes, and he says OK, and the group speeds into the distance. Then I check the route again. Wrong way. Oops. Oh well, the others will just have to work it out themselves. (sorry)
Back on the right track and it suddenly gets light. It’s a very strange experience watching the sunrise while cycling. It seems wrong somehow. But I guess I would normally be in bed. And what a sunrise.
Note the red sky at morning (shepherds warning).
By now I’m into the last 30 miles. My legs are tired, and the thoughts of cycling back to London are long gone. Finally I see a sign saying “Dunwich 7”, and I know I’m nearly there. Already there are cyclists heading back to London, cheerfully saying “Morning”.
Just before 6am I arrive at the cafe by the beach and queue for what seems like an hour for a full English breakfast. But what a breakfast. I could have had two of them, but that would mean queueing again! While eating I’m chatting to a girl at the same table, she literally fell asleep in mid sentence, and I left her peacefully snoozing.
On the beach and I dip the bikes tyres in the sea. I find Omar and we discuss our rides. He arrived about an hour before me when the cafe queue was only 10 minutes. It starts raining. I have only my waterproof cycling jacket, the cafe is very very full, and there is nowhere to shelter, so I just get wet. Next year bring a poncho just in case! Omar also says he heard they apparently printed and sold 1000 maps at the start, making this year the biggest ride ever!
Omar’s family arrives to whisk him back to London, while I’m waiting for the coaches organised by Barry from Southwark Cyclists. The trucks arrive to load the bikes, and chatting to guys in the queue it turns out I was supposed to collect a ticket from Barry the evening before at London Fields. I paid my £25 a week earlier and have a receipt, but didn’t get a ticket. I find Barry and fortunately there is still space. Phew. Bike loaded on the truck and I have nothing to do for 4 hours until the coaches leave.
By now it is sunny, and I have no suncream. Oh well, I’ll just do what everyone else is doing and get a great British lobster tan on the beach.
1pm arrives and there are still 200 bikes waiting to load onto trucks, but both trucks are full. Could be a disaster, but Barry from Southwark cyclists takes it in his stride and manages to get another truck for more bikes and to squeeze as many bikes as possible into the luggage bays of the coaches. Around 1:30, only half an hour late, we set off for London in a huge convoy of about 10 coaches and 3 trucks.
The convoy converges at Smithfield market and bikes are unloaded. No system in place, just a guy on the back of a truck holding up anything from £50 boneshakers to £3,000 carbon fibre Cannondale’s and saying “whose is this?”. No one lost a bike though, the system works the same as the conveyor belt at an airport baggage claim – what if the guy who decides to claim my bike is standing next to me!
The final cycle back home to Bermondsey is agony. My knees are like two blocks of frozen treacle.
Arrive at home in Bermondsey at about 7pm, so 25 hours to go nowhere. But in the this case the journey is the destination. What a fantastic experience.
Finally, a big thanks to Barry at Southwark Cyclists for organising the coaches.
Next years ride is 24/25 July 2010. I’ll be on it!