The Dunwich Dynamo is a 120 mile night ride from London Fields to the Suffolk Coast. From 1992 till ’98 it was a commercial event but from ’99 it became a turn-up-and-ride type thing. This was my second Dun Run, my previous trip had been two years ago, in 2011).
Riders gather in London Fields (around the Pub On The Park) and really this was the highlight for me this year:; many hundreds of riders excitedly gathered around, giggling and babbling about what lies ahead, meeting up with friends, laughing at some of the elaborate ways of attaching lights/bananas to bikes and, best of all, staring at the wide variety of bike: Carbon racers, Bromptons, Moultons, knackered old mountain bikes, recumbents, unicycles and tandems (one of these is a lie).
Trying to ease 2,000-odd bikes into Essex from London results in a pretty slow start of the ride, and friends are easily lost in the yo-yoing between traffic lights (sorry Kate!). The nervous excitement is still fairly evident at this point. As the natural light starts to go, the river of riders thins to a stream and the atmosphere changes a little as riders either realise what this trip entails and/or get their heads down and start to ride. There are a lot of bemused people on nights out, mostly smiling and cheering, but not all! (‘honestly, why would you want to ride a bike through the night’ pondered some chap, who surely had other things to be concerned with, as he was being escorted out the pub the police).
There are some wonderful villages that have pubs that clearly embrace the event and are more than happy to let you top your water up. There are locals who are clearly familiar with the event watching outside and smiling as you go by. I had a sit down in Great Bardfield, on the village green, with a chap who had set up his camera to get some cool night shots. I set up my camera and tripod and I was pleased to hear that he felt most of these villages embrace the event. The neighboring town of Finchingfield must be the inspiration of many biscuit-tin pictures.
As you head into rural England the bike lights ahead dominant the vista and start to produce a hypnotic effect on the rider; an illuminated carrot and stick to keep you pedaling on. I had some decent lights this year that are more than adequate in the city, but I was reminded of the different class of lights that genuinely allow to see the road/potholes/fellow Dun Runners. After losing my mates fairly early I quickly found myself sticking to people with some really serious lights. Can you believe I found someone trying to do it without lights?
Now this is not very rock and roll, but I have to say I was reminded about how dangerous it is. I actually found all the drivers pretty considerate and there is certainly safety in numbers from the cars. However these rural, non-lit, pot-holed roads are full of cyclists of different experience (many of whom are knackered and sleep-deprived). I do quite a bit of track cycling and am used to riding in very close formation but the key to this is signaling and verbally letting each other know what you are doing. More of this please! It was a cloudy night and the full moon wasn’t very evident and this lack of natural light didn’t help my nerves. When, during my previous Dunwich Dynamo, I had been talking to a lot of strangers this year I found myself checking on the road and other riders around me. Maybe I’m just getting old.
I was a bit gutted by the weather on Sunday morning; my previous experience of an amazing dawn tearing through the sky and offering infinite encouragement to the fatigued and sleep-deprived cyclist but this year was pretty gloomy. However going through some sleepy, misty villages in the twilight of morn was absolutely stunning.
Whatever the weather, arriving is a great feeling and the three Dunwich ladies that cheer you in and wave their big WELL DONE banner should certainly be knighted. Again I have to admit I didn’t strip off and run into the sea; I need more peer pressure for this and apparently I arrived quite a while before my crew (trying to meet in the ride didn’t work as they couldn’t find the feeding house/watering station at Sible Hedingham and it was too cold to wait around at the subsequent feeding stations).
My group didn’t have coach tickets to get back home as they had sold out months in advance and were without train tickets too as apparently all the trains that day had no bike space. I found my mates in a futile queue for the sold-out coach and we tried our luck with the first train of the day from Darsham station. There was a plethora of bikes there, and having been dealt with very officious staff at stations on various occasions I thought this was also doomed (“I’m not having the burned bodies of innocent travelers on my conscience because of your bike” – one platform attendant at Oxford station). However I have to say that Greater Anglia covered themselves in glory: They were extremely progressive in their attitude and in a 4-carriage train that normally has a capacity for 4 bikes they used one whole carriage to put bikes in, and filled the other carriages with tired cyclists. The train attendant on the PA system was clearly in the spirit of it all and made what could have been a nightmare journey pretty relaxed. I was home before midday and was pretty pleased with it all.
The Dunwich Dynamo is a great thing to tick off. From the hundreds of brave riders, to cheering onlookers to volunteers manning feeding stations, the Dun Run should remind you of how great it is to be human. Along this line of thought, I encourage you to do it in fancy-dress or with crazy lighting arrangements. It is not the Tour D’Essex and please let us remember that it is a fun event, not a race. It is about people, like my friend Chris Lovitt, who did the entire 120 miles 80kg of cargo bike and dogs (Peppa and Tigger, like Chris, are both Dun Run veterans). Chapeau mon ami!
Royal Mail to phase out post bikes completely in 2014 | Laura Laker bit.ly/1jDQhsS