Another one of the bucket list.
The Dunwich Dynamo (Dun Run or DD), for the uninitiated, is a cycle ride, originally thought up by a group of couriers in London back in 1993. A Saturday night blast from The Pub in the Park, Hackney, to the Suffolk coast, Dunwich to be exact. A distance of just under 200km, drifting out of town via Epping, then off into the countryside.
To say it is an organised ride, would do it an injustice. It is a known ride, which has grown organically for the last 29 years and has anything up to 3000 participants, no one paying any money, unless you buy a map for £1.00, and that money goes to charity. Loving this? Yup I know.
Hands up, I don’t like mass participation events. The only sportive I have done turned in to race around me, by people who didn’t appear to have the handling skills to carry it off, and I tried everything I could to become isolated.
This, on the other hand, seemed to be about the taking part.
There is one issue, and that is this ride is one way, so you have a few options.
- Train from the Midlands with the bike, do the DD and ride home Sunday 400km
- Drive to London, ride the DD, book a space for the bike on a truck and minibus back to London
- Drive to Saxmondham, train with bike to London, do the DD and pick up the car in the morning. This comes with an issue, 3000 people are probably thinking the same, and there are only 6 bike places per train, one train per hour.
We chose option 4, Drive to London, do the DD, but as the Saxmondham train will not accept any bikes on that Sunday, due to space and congestion, one of us had to go back to London without the bike, pick up the car, then come back to pick us up. In hindsight, not the best option, but because we had left it late, probably the only one. We didn’t get home until 16:00 Sunday, 25 hours after we left home. Tired? you could say that!
The Dun Run
We parked up in Stratford Westfield shopping center, then drifted through Victoria Park until we reached Hackney. Priority #1 was to get some food and we found Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant, where the food was perfect and set us up for the night.
Everybody slowly started to congregate in London Field, the park land behind the Pub in the Park, waiting for 20:00, at which point a slow and orderly move by some, including us, to the road. We started up the road and a small chatty group formed.
The plan was to drift out of town with the group, as this is where local knowledge would help. Most of it was on one type of cycle path or another and passed easily and safely.
This carried on for the first 20km, which took us to Epping, where we got clear of the main traffic, heading out into the country and actually at the highest point of the ride, 100 meters elevation.
Time for a brief stop at a rapidly closing fuel station in North Weald Bassett, to enable the lads to pick up snacks and a last coffee. Sat in the fuel station gave us a real insight into this ride as groups of riders started to roll past, bikes covered in Christmas tree lights, strips of LED’s, and colourful LED accessories in their wheels. It can be a real relaxed event taking all night for some riders.
By about 21:15, we were on the road again and it was now starting to get dark. We had some groups fly past, and we caught up with other groups, passing through loads of small towns and villages.
We then started to find people sat outside their houses, chairs, and picnic tables, drinking, and cheering all the cyclists, offering encouragement along the way. This has become a real event for some of these villages.
We notice chequered flags at the side of the road highlighting a pit stop, should you need one. The flags came in 300m, 200m and 100m to go, until we see the building light up like Christmas, teaming with cyclists, drinking and eating. At 22:00, it’s too early for another stop so we press on.
At 22:45 we spot a sign for The Bell, a pub in Great Bardfield, offering another pit stop. We dive in and the guys get some water and a quick bite. The pub is buzzing, yet the service is so quick. The deeper into this event, the more I love it.
Twenty minutes later and we hit the road again. While sat outside The Bell, a large number of cyclists had buzzed past, so we know we would be in the thick of it now, the numbers on the road were building.
Sure enough, we now started to see riders in the distance and the view was a mass of twinkling red lights as far as the eye could see. It’s a truly uplifting feeling seeing so many cyclists out enjoying a ride like this. (or am I starting to get tired and emotional 🙂 )
Despite everything, the pace had naturally picked up since Epping, and we were making reasonable time, as it was 23:00 and we had covered 60km.
We are now starting to pick up faster groups, hanging on for a while for a draft, then giving a turn on the front, before moving on to the next group, either as the current stops, or slows down. It’s amazing how quickly you assess the quality and skills within the group, evaluate how safe you are, and when to do your turn.
At the 90km point we reach another pit stop, just on the edge of Sudbury. This time it’s a cycle repair pop-up outside Torque Bikes. Chance to chill for twenty minutes, and sort clothing out as the night chill is starting to take effect. It’s typical of the UK weather, that, after a stunning summer’s day we leave the capitol at 290C and by 02:00 the temperature has halved to 140C.
Arm warmers and gilet on, we set off again. Then a chap on a flat-bar 1x bike rode up the inside of me, as we gently warmed in to the climb out of Sudbury. Then, spinning away on this diner plate sprocket, he dived in between our wheels, avoiding taking us out by a fine margin, moving away up the hill. By the time we had got to top of this 1km climb his legs had fallen off and we spun past and, thankfully never saw him again.
Shortly after we headed off into what felt like a much more rural area, rolling up and down until we dropped onto the back of a group of eight people, two girls, six blokes. This group encapsulates perfectly what I mentioned earlier about group dynamics, and whether it’s a safe place to be or not. We find ourselves rolling along at between 30kph to 40kph, but there was a constant pattern where the group would bunch up, then relax and spread out. Then we notice one of the girls hands off the bars throwing on a pink rain jacket, sitting up to close the zip. However, I notice the label on her back, outside, showing that she had it on inside out. For several miles she kept sitting up, hands free trying to zip the jacket up, and failing, obviously.
All this is being done at speeds of 30kph+ in the dark and on roads I did not know. Then there was a couple of occasions when wheels touched, so as we entered Market Needham I rolled back, and we all agreed it was time to let the impending incident go on without us. It is now 124km into the ride, and 02:00 and only 120, so we propped the bikes up against a wall stretched out and discussed how uneasy we had felt in the last group.
This gave me time to take the twinge out of my right shoulder, Rob his moment in the spotlight, and Michiel time to add electrical charge to his Garmin. I also thought it was time to take on a protein bar. This was the first solid fuel I had consumed since the Turkish restaurant, but I had been using SIS Beta Fuel in my bottles, which was amazing. My energy levels kept high all night and I did not feel hungry at any point. Great product.
We also witnessed 90% of the riders entering the town, missing the next turn. Whether this had been going on throughout their entire journey, or whether it was just tiredness starting to creep in was impossible to know, but we helped as many as we could, take the right turn.
We rolled out of Market Needham and came across a large car park that had been turned over to food and drink trucks. At this point Michiel and I started to shiver with the cold, so we stopped. I put on my rain jacket, which I had been questioning when we set off, Rob his quilted gilet and Michiel finally put on his arm warmer, his last piece of warm clothing.
We now had only 33km left and the sky was starting to lift, as dawn was not so far away. Hopefully we could get to the coast in time for sunrise.
As we approached the village of Cransford, Michel had a rush of blood and increased his pace, dragging Rob with him. I was beginning to overheat in my jacket and missed their wheel. The split had happened, but I thought I would catch up down the road. However, my Garmin displayed a left turn, and they went straight on. I gave a shout, but it went unheard. This gave me time to stop, remove and stow my jacket and get a drink, waiting for them to return, five minutes later.
About thirty minutes later we rode up to the back of a group and spotted a ‘the pink jacket’, so we kept our distance and followed for a while, on full alert. Suddenly, the eight-person group at the front slowed and looked to be turning, but my Garmin showed straight on. We slowed, and moved to the right and as we passed, then realised that they had stopped for a natural break and everyone behind us had just stopped looking confused. We pressed on with less than 20km to do now, the end was in sight and hopefully some warmth.
At 04:13 we rolled onto the beach in Dunwich, just over eight hours after we left Hackney. There were a few people on the beach and a small queue for food at Flora Tea Rooms. The queue suddenly had another three people in it, two beans on toast, and a sausage sandwich for me. It was also the best cup of tea in the world.
After a second helping for Rob and Michiel, we moved from the cafe and on to the beach, hoping to get some sleep, as we had two hours before we needed to get Michiel to the railway station in Saxmondham. Despite the lads finding a comfy spot in the reeds, only Rob got any shuteye. I had reached a point I usually find after so many hours awake, where I no longer feel tired.
A 15km ride, retracing some of last night’s route and we get to Saxmondham station. It’s deserted and there are few cars in the car park and our hopes rise that we might be able to get the three bikes on the train, but as the train arrives the guard informs us that “We knew about this event, and because of past congestion issues, instead of doing the sensible thing of putting on more carriages and profiting from the event, they found banning bikes on that day to be easier”.
I’m paraphrasing here, he just told us, “no bikes today”. Oh well, we packed Michiel off to London, without his bike and went in search of breakfast #2 for me #3 for Rob.
Thanks for your company, Michiel and Rob, two of my bucket list items in two month. (see Hunstanton Overnight)
Thanks Michiel, for the photos of the three of us, me, Rob on the Zebra and the Flora.