Dunwich Dynamo 2014

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Dunwich Dynamo - 12/13 July 2014


Robin, Chris, and I (Les) jumped on the 16:04 from Cambridge to Liverpool Street with our bikes looking forward with some trepidation to the ride ahead later in the evening. I had done this mad thing three years ago but Robin and Chris were DD virgins and so perhaps more nervous than me. The weather as we left Cambridge was perfect but the met men were warning of thunderstorms gathering and also more general rain approaching from the west. As an eternal optimist I still thought there was a good chance we would get to Dunwich without too much rain.


Arriving at Liverpool Street it was clear that we were not the only mad fools around. Around 20 mins ride through the London traffic and we arrived at London Fields and the Pub in the Park. A lovely summer scene with hundreds of people soaking up the sun and relaxing on the grass, a significant number with bikes, but at only 6 pm there was not much of a hint at the numbers that might be doing this ride.


We met up with Chris's son Harry when we arrived and settled down to a nice pint on the grass to relax before the upcoming exertions. Clouds were building and rainfall radar suggested some significant storms were around in Essex and over the Thames estuary but still we were optimistic (or at least I was). By 7:30 pm the bike ranks had swelled considerably and with rain threatening we decided to set off before the main throng at 8 pm. We rolled out of London Fields at 7:40 pm, estimating our arrival time at Dunwich sometime after 5 am!!


London traffic keeps the speed down for a while but it gives you time to answer the inevitable questions from car drivers as to what you are doing!!


As we eased out of London towards Epping it became obvious that it had rained heavily very recently - there was surface flooding on the roundabouts and on any low spots in the road prompting rapid direction changes to avoid getting very wet, but we were still avoiding the rain itself.  As we rolled past Epping and into the wilds of Essex we could see lightning flashing regularly on the horizon and still plenty of surface water on the roads but progress was reasonably comfortable and swift as we had less traffic and a gentle tailwind to help. It was very warm generally, except where the rain had been particularly heavy before us, and I did not need anything other than a cycle shirt until around 4 am when slightly cooler conditions (and body clock/thermometer) prompted donning of a light windproof.


We had a number of stops along our way for punctures (Les x 1, Robin x 2), food, tea, getting separated and waiting around for each other etc. Good food stop at Sible Hedingham which is about half way, and a nice tea stop with about 35 miles to go, but we resisted the pubs which were staying open late! Weather was very misty and humid through the early hours but still no rain on us, despite regular lightning continuing on the horizon.


It's difficult to describe the sensation of cycling with countless others stretching out in front and behind, following the red lights and having to wait for ages to pull out into the flow of headlights when you have made a stop. And all at a time when any sensible person is buried under the duvet. The novelty and craziness of the situation seems to make it much easier to do than you might imagine when you consider the effort (and lack of training) involved. Plenty of support along the way in the villages and towns, including several ladies in bedroom attire (dressing gowns on I'm afraid) cheering and giving high fives to passing riders at around 2 am!


All of us, except perhaps Harry, were getting tired and inevitably slower but dawn and the decreasing number of miles to go keeps you going. Once you are down to 35 miles left its only like a regular club ride still to go - so no problem, we do that all the time! 


When we had three miles to go we started to feel the first spots of rain. In the last mile or so (of the 117!) it started to rain very heavily and by the time we drifted down to the car park by the beach at around 6 am it was tipping down. The beach cafe was heaving and the queue stretched out into the rain. By the time we made it inside the term drowned rats came to mind but we managed to struggle our way through a 'full english', a bacon roll, and baked beans on toast between us. Harry had chosen to wait for a friend along the route and arrived at Dunwich separately - he couldn't be bothered with the food queue and went for a swim instead!!


Liz came and collected us at around 7am and we were back in Willingham by 9am, none of us remembering much of the journey home by virtue of being unconscious.


Those of you who want to know more might like to look at the Wikipedia entry for the DD and the Guardian online has a nice piece at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2014/jul/14/dunwich-dynamo-london-suffolk-coast-ride-cyclists. I believe Chris has one picture on his phone which I am sure he will share with us eventually.


Anyone who wants to join in the fun in future can do so on Sat 4th July, 2015 and Sat 16th July 2016 - it's like Easter, it moves with the moon!


Admin's picture

by Admin on Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:00
Hi Les, That's great .. but I think the nice ladies in their dressing gowns giving high fives to cyclists in the wee small hours deserves a mention, too! I can't remember where it was and thought I was misremembering the clothing details until I read the piece in the Guardian which confirmed it was not a product of my tired and fevered imagination! Chris ((Passage now added - Paul))
Admin's picture

by Admin on Thu, 07/17/2014 - 10:01
Nice piece Les, almost as worthy as the Guardian’s piece which like Chris I read the other day, thinking it was true I did see 2 young females dressed in Robes and slippers giving high fives, Sudbury I believe, perhaps Framlingham, who cares!!!!!. What a wonderful experience ,a fantastic mad thing to do, will always remember the flashing red lights in distance and the continual flow of Bikes, and that one eyed hero of a man who completed this with sod all training, well done,” I take my hat off to you sir Les” If you have never done this you must it is and will remain in my memory one of the best rides ever!!! Robin
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