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Dunwich Dynamo 2010

posted 22 Feb 2011, 04:39 by South Herts   [ updated 20 Sep 2013, 01:21 ]
The Dunwich Dynamo 24th/25th July 2010 - ridden by Graham Figg...

The DD 2010

As I write this on 30th November 2010, the temperature is struggling to reach a balmy 0 degrees. Therefore, now is a good time to look back at the halcyon days of summer cycling.
The Dunwich Dynamo is the progenitor of a number of all-night cycle-rides, (such as the Exmouth Exodus) which grace the cycling calendar in the UK. Starting in the early 1990’s, a group of hardened cycle couriers decided to end their days’ work in the East End relaxing over a few beers. One year, possibly after some other substances had been consumed, they decided to ride overnight to the Suffolk coast. Thus was born the legendary “Dun Run”. This is my story of the 2010 edition.
So this was it. At Hatfield station, with only a couple of hours to get to London Fields for an all night ride, and after painstakingly checking my machine, there was my one front light source, a supposed high quality dynamo lamp lying limply face down on the front mudguard. I scrambled around in my tools for the right Allen keys to attempt to repair it, curiously watched by taxi drivers and people dressed up for a night out in London, but it was soon clear that the plastic of the body was cracked. There was no time to dwell on this disaster however, because shortly both Peter (Monahan) and Mark (Keeley) arrived, we quickly purchased our tickets and just managed to board the same train. On the 20 minute journey to Finsbury Park I rationalised the situation; I would do a temporary repair by buying sellotape (or is it “sticky-backed plastic”?), if it still broke off I could borrow a back-up light from Mark, by the time it was dark we would be out of London and lights almost superfluous, and hey! A good drama needs a bit of jeopardy.
An hour or so later, after our annual episode of getting lost yet again in the one-way systems of North London, we were enjoying a nerve settling pint in London Fields, (the barmaid in “The Pub on the Park” had assumed all the “carbo-loading” going on was a celebration at the end of a ride!) waiting for the ill-defined start time.  All cycling life was here, lycra clad roadies, recumbent riders who you thought might fall asleep on a long downhill, dayglo-coloured fixies, a lone front brake lever mounted on incredibly narrow handlebars and casual looking but “hard-through-inexperience” normal people with bicycles. I was riding my self-built Orbit Harrier (with tape decoration), Peter on one of his Moultons, and Mark on a Cube road-bike. Then the route sheets were handed out, for which a £1 donation is customary. The route is basically the same, but differs subtly, usually in the last 20 miles, although there are no checkpoints or bureaucracy. Around 9 pm and we were off, under the London Fields railway bridge and wiggling through Hackney to the Lea Bridge Road. Concentration is vital here. There are loads of parked cars, pedestrians, traffic and variously experienced cyclists around you and the possibility of getting lost in the bandit country of Hackney. Shortly however, after what seem miles of gentle climbing, you reach the finger of greenery, Epping Forest, which creeps into North East London. Soon the convoy is cruising through Chingford, populated by bevvied up Essex boys and girls drinking in the streets outside the various pubs. Some even offer up friendly cheers and applause. At the north end of Epping High Street, we turn right for North Weald. At this point it is virtually dark, the ride is thinning out and the event proper begins as far as I’m concerned.
Our next target to aim for is Great Dunmow. Via the village of Moreton, we pick up the B184 and on this reasonable road, turn up the revs. It is still before bedtime for normal people, so several in the know have set up deckchairs and a few crates of beer in their gardens to watch the cavalcade go by. Then suddenly we see some cyclists coming back towards us. We hadn’t really been paying much attention to the navigation, just assuming that the large group we were in had a collective sense of direction. A rucksack wearing hybrid-rider shows me a mobile device. It shows a road going diagonally from corner to corner of the screen and nothing else-not much help. However, this is my 4th Dunwich, and I feel we are on the course. We carry on counting down the signpost distances to Dunmow. Reassuringly, in the distance we see several hundred red LED’s blinking, confirming our judgement.
In Dunmow, it is about midnight, the last customers are making their way home from various pubs. We stop outside the Saracen’s Head hotel-cum-restaurant-pub, consuming some of our rations. It’s obvious now that I don’t have enough food, despite consuming a large amount of pasta before I left home. There aren’t many 24-hour supermarkets in the depths of rural Suffolk. Only Mark seems to have got his refuelling strategy right. It’s also still quite warm and even 2 large water bottles don’t seem enough.  My concerns are leavened by the arrival of a fellow rider, who has brought his pet dog, accommodated in a large box over the front wheel which he assures us allows the animal to sleep. And then we’re off again, through the pretty village of Finchingfield. We cross the bridge and pass the windmill, both immortalised in millions of photographs but now just a route sheet instruction to be ticked off, and head for Wethersfield and Sible Hedingham. This is where we make a bad mistake. Compared to previous years, the fabled feed station has been moved back along the route, from Great Waldingfield to Sible Hedingham, but it’s not directly on the route. Missing what we later discovered was a tiny sign, Peter has to go without the anticipated cup of tea and I a good nosh-up of beans and pasta. Soon however, we’re enjoying the exhilaration of the descent into Sudbury. Judging by previous year’s efforts, we seem to be slightly earlier; it’s about 0130 hrs.There are still people wandering around who seem incredulous at our exploits as we ask them where to find the hill to Great Waldingfield.
The 2010 route
Reaching Great Waldingfield we stop on the village green to eat some more food. For me, all that is left now is cashew nuts, but there is only 50 miles to go. Various determined groups, and types of machines flow past, imaginatively lit-up. The desire and impulse to sleep has to be fought off now; it is still several hours until daylight. I’m finding it quite hard as we start again to keep the power going, but as we skirt round the south of Lavenham, I get into the swing again. Unlike previous years, no jam-jar lanterns have been left to confirm the route. Peter has been hurtling along, seemingly descending into dark avenues of trees where you can’t see what’s ahead and I’ve found it hard to keep up. At one point, we passed a minor accident. A rather bloodied cyclist was sitting in the road with an ambulance in attendance. Neither he nor his machine looked seriously damaged.  In Bildeston we ration the water out. I feel much better once I’ve taken a large drink, and we climb up the road to Needham Market, my machine subtly lighter.
By 0400-0500 hrs you begin to ache for the sun to start coming up. Surprisingly, as it’s now 25th July, about a month after the longest day of the year, this seems to start about 0430; we’ve just crossed the A14 and are on the last quarter of the route sheet. Spirits rise with the sun, and we stop at an enterprising, although rather expensive feed stop in a front garden for a euphemistically named “bacon roll”.  The wildlife is now turning up the volume, and a few local humans can be spotted opening the village newsagents and garages. We pass through Framlingham and its incongruous industrial structures for agricultural processing, and approach the A12. It is at this point, with 7 miles to go that you reach the first sight of the magic word “Dunwich” on a signpost. The final leg across to Dunwich beach via Westleton seems endless. It’s 0700 on Sunday 25th July, almost 24 hours since I was last in bed. Remembering what day it is takes some thought. However, it is light and most of the effort and danger is over. Suddenly, the road becomes beach and we run out of country. While most people have been sleeping, we’ve ridden 116 miles and my tape bodged light repair has held!!
For Dunwich riders, there are a number of options at this point. The rather unofficial organisation behind the ride (it is after all a turn up and go affair) organise a coach, which takes you back to Smithfield Market. There is an excellent beach café at Dunwich, which opens early especially. In 2009 it was raining at the finish and desperate for sleep cyclists littered every possible dry perch, even the floor in the toilets, completely tolerated by customers and staff. After your fry-up blow out, if you haven’t slumped into a bacon rinded and greasy plate, you can sleep on the beach, which is just 2 miles up the coast from the PWR nuclear power station at Sizewell. In 2004 I was met by my wife and son who took me a few miles to where they were camping and I had a good sleep on Sunday morning. In 2007 I cycled another 10 miles to the Youth Hostel at Blaxhall and then home to Hertfordshire on the Monday. In 2009 and 2010, myself, Peter and Mark have ridden to Peter’s brothers in Leiston, eaten him out of cakes and coffee, and then ridden about another 25 miles (via another massive pub meal) to a B&B in Forward Green near Stowmarket. This makes the ride back to Hertfordshire on Monday shorter and easier, and the next village has an excellent pub serving good value meals (yes folks, you have to cycle 4-5 miles for your meal on Sunday evening!!). 

When I have time, I will conflate the trips of 2009 and 2010 back from Dunwich, which are a story in themselves, on the Sunday and Monday into another article.
If you would like to try this event with me in 2011 you can contact me via the webmaster.  Details of the event can be found here.