So Saturday July 8th was the 25th Dunwich Dynamo. It’s a pretty unique event in that it’s unofficial, has grown organically over the years purely through word of mouth, and is enormously well attended. It’s a wonderful event with a great atmosphere, and is supported in a unique and very unofficial way along it’s route, not by an event committee or race organiser, but by the communities through which it passes. The route starts at London Fields, in Hackney, and Finishes on Dunwich Beach in Suffolk. In total it covers around 175km, but given that most attendees arrive at London Fields on their bikes, it’s probably fair to say that most riders cover around 200km over the course of the night.
This was my first Dynamo, and I rode in a party of 5, 2 of whom had ridden the route a number of times, so we were in no real danger of getting lost. July 8th turned out very fine, and at 7pm on Saturday, as we assembled outside London Fields, the temperature was a balmy 25 degrees with no prospect of rain. Having soaked up the carnival atmosphere, we finally decided to make a move at about 7:30pm or so, and headed North out of London, towards Epping. It wasn’t too Long before the potholed and broken roads of London gave way to the potholed and broken roads of Essex, and we continued to weave our way through the continuous snake of recreational cyclists. After 2 hours, we were making decent progress, having covered about 40km, and we broke the journey at the Black Lion pub in High Roding. Having ignored the lure of free chips for cyclists at the Axe and Compasses just 3 or 4km earlier, we made do instead with gels, chocolate, bananas and of course liquids. For our entertainment we we had the pleasure of some Essex boy racers inexplicably shouting ‘Jackass’ from the window of their lowered Honda Civic. Backsides rested, we saddled up and rode out again. We can’t have stopped for more than 10 minutes, but in that time, dusk had turned to night, and for the first time that evening, the blinky blink of city lights gave way to the LED blast of full on night lights. Hitting Dunmow at 10:07 was a blow, since due to the warmth of he evening, I’d already emptied one water bottle, and had been forced to make a start on the ’emergency flat cola’. The timing meant that the late night shop had closed and there was no opportunity to refill until the next stop at Sudbury. This was unfortunate, as it meant that for the next 30km, with no liquids to take on I really felt rubbish, and started to wonder if I might be somewhat under prepared (me? Under prepared?) Eventually though, Essex turned to Suffolk and at around midnight we pulled into the fire station at Sudbury, where what can only be described as a barbecue party was underway. The station was chocca with bikes, and the good people of Sudbury had turned their fire station into a rest stop for cyclists, and must have raised the station a good few pounds, selling cups of tea, burgers, Mars bars and sausage rolls to the hungry throng.
After a sensible amount of rest, fluids restored we hit the road again. I felt good, and fresh and happy to be on the way, but with hindsight, I couldn’t tell you a huge amount about the next couple of hours. The roads were quiet, but for the swish of slick tyres on tarmac, the clicking of freehubs and the whirring of cranks. There were a few gentle inclines, but no hills, and the only event of note was when we pulled over to allow one of our number to don some arm warmers, and I almost tipped myself over the handlebars trying to avoid running into the back of a friend. By 3:30 we were passing close to Framlingham and I was surprised to see a young family selling Lemonade and flapjacks in their driveway. 2 kids and their mum doing a roaring trade keeping the cyclists fuelled and enjoying the breaking of the dawn. To me it really seemed to sum up the atmosphere and feeling of the Dynamo; an almost improvised, yet somehow wonderfully coordinated event, bringing together communities, and providing a platform for commerce and charity alike to generate funds. A glass of lemonade was gratefully downed and we again, rested before the final push toward Dunwich.
We’d aimed to arrive at around 5 am, in order to make the most of the opening of the pub, and to leave Framlingham too early, risked us waiting on the Beach for the pub to open. So when we eventually got going, the sun was just threatening to make an appearance on the horizon. Suffolk is a very pretty county, and a crisp summers dawn is something to behold. We stopped occasionally to take photos, but eventually we rolled into Dunwich an onto the beach in time to see the Sun break over the sea for a glorious dawn. 194.3 km covered.
Could I have ridden home afterwards? We will have to see…