Monday, 2 July 2012

Dunwich Dynamo XX - What a ride!

I think it's fair to say that Dunwich Dynamo is awesome! Statements on twitter such as 'the most life affirming thing you can do on a bike' aren't that fair off the mark. As I decribed it to someone the other day when asked why I do things like this, the bright bit at the end once you've gone through the dark bit in the middle is one of the most fantastic feelings there is.

Dunwich Dynamo even more so than most. Everyone's there for a bike ride. Not a race, just a ride of 180+km though the middle of the night. You're with chatty, happy like minded individuals that are all there for a variety of reasons but will all experience that bright bit at the end and that brings everyone together.

For those who know nothing about this event, it's an hardly organised bike ride from Hackney in London to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. There are no marshals, no exact route, no official start time (QUOTE: people start to leave when they feel like it after 8pm. A sort of momentum develops'), no van following to help if things go wrong (you rely on the good nature of the other riders) and no charge.

Only my second year for this but last years lessons had been learnt. The flask of hot sweet tea was genius, the change of top and long socks at the half way mark got rid of the chill from last year and the music in one ear from 1am onwards to help me through those dark moments from last year. In fact, because of the above, I didn't actually have a dark moment this year. In fact I didn't stop grinning from 2am - 5am!! Like a bloody Cheshire cat I was!!

Grant and I had had a long Saturday before the ride as we took a car up there to make the return journey easier (last year waiting for the bus was painful although the service they provide is second to none and such good value, but we wanted the option to leave when we were ready this year). This turned out to be a stroke of luck later though! 5 hours of driving is not the best preparation for a 10 hour bike ride!! However, the chippy supper was!

We set off Hackney at 8:15pm once we noticed there was a steady stream of cyclists heading off North so after picking up some directions (for the bargain donation of £1) we joined them. Now a horrible creaking sound is really not what you want to hear at this point but it's exactly what was there. At the regular traffic light stops though the first few KM, we established it was my rear sprocket and then just hoped the chain wasn't on it's way out! I put a lot of lube into the freewheel and by chance more than design, the creaking then stopped. It seems I'd been a bit eager with the cleaning on Friday night and it'd taken a while to get itself going again. Phew!! For a second there, I thought I might have to do it fixed wheel!! (There are people that do that but quite frankly, I'm not that cool and would have moaned a lot... I like freewheeling downhill too much).

Anyway, the bit through Epping was a lot more pleasant this year and with a lot less abuse from passing motorists too! The first quarter flew by and we stopped for refuelling at around 10:30pm. Lunch was had around 12:30 and a further snack break around 3am.


DD gives you so many memories, but everyone will tell you that one of the most ingrained and amazing is during those early hours where you pretty much just have a line of red flashing lights as far as the eye can see! It just inspires you and I really can't put how it feels into words. The spiel I've written will never do it justice!

So as you can see, it was going well. Too well some would say. Well you're all a bunch of pessimists! But unfortunately, you are correct. 5am and with only 18km to go and it happened! I slowed to check if we had to take a turn, Grant didn't notice in time and was closer than I thought and he rode straight into the back of me. I managed to stay upright and stop the bike. As I turned to see Grant, he wasn't there. Nor was his bike.... Running back up the road 10 yards, he was found lying in a 4 foot deep ditch with bike on top. A helpful participant who'd been nearby lifted his bike up and I helped an uninjured Grant out of the ditch.


Oh Shit! His front wheel had bent and popped 3 spokes. Oh double shit, I'd snapped 3 on my rear wheel and it wouldn't even turn! DD was over. We popped his rear onto my bike and I set off faster than I had for the entire ride so far in order to collect the car so I could pick him up again.

Technically, I finished as I got there but only to throw the bike in the car and head back out to where Grant was. It feels incomplete. There was no soaking up of the atmosphere and dozing on the beach in the sun. We started together and cycled together and therefore DDXX will always be incomplete to me but I can't wait for next year. There is just nothing quite like it!

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