Dulwich to Dunwhich

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Updated 29 August 2015

Dulwich to Dunwich

From Dulwich to Dunwich (and back) 8/9 July 2006
by James Lyon

120 miles through the night from Hackney to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast, 9pm depart. No fees, no support, and very little organisation, the Dunwich Dynamo has actually been running for the last 14 years; I’d done it a couple of times early on in it’s life when it was a proper organised thing run by Mosquito Bikes with full support and an all important broom wagon too. It’s now become a sort of cult, almost underground, event similar in style to something like the Critical Mass.

However, this year it seemed to be getting a fair bit of publicity on several cycling forums and Sam Fensterheim had put up a thread on the De Laune notice board asking for any other fools to join him. I fitted it in around a trip down to London and Ross Fryer, Jayne Wadsworth and James King joined us too. Unfortunately, Sam was taken ill the day before the event which knocked the numbers back down to 4.

For reasons best known only to me, I’d elected to ride the Dynamo on my singlespeed road bike, a Specialized Langster fitted with an 81” gear. Ross and Jayne turned up on their all-singing, all-dancing carbon Tarmacs, while JamesK turned up on his winter training bike, something for which I was thankful…it meant he was less likely to be setting a silly fast pace! We met up in Dulwich Village and rode up to the starting point at The Pub On The Park in London Fields. There were hundreds of bikes lying around the place of all shapes and sizes...recumbents, tandems, couriers' fixies, high zoot road bikes, touring bikes, cheapo mountain bikes (they'd be in for a tough ride...) even two nutters on unicycles!

I bumped into a few friends I knew from Beastway and also from one of the cycling forums. Jenn Hopkins, the solo winner of the recent Mountain Mayhem 24hr was also there, she was riding a battered looking fixie road bike. Bill Wright also turned up to wave us off, he’d been working just round the corner at Eastway. We sat around on the grass for a bit and consumed some all-important nutrition kindly supplied by Ross from behind the bar of the pub. Crisps and a Coke, the food of champions! At about 9pm, as if by some unseen signal, people started drifting out of the park and setting off. We waited until about 9.20 before setting off but we were by no means last. Getting out of town was a little mad, streets clogged with bikes and cars; bemused locals, some derisive and some supportive, cheering us on our way. Once we got into Epping the roads were amazingly quiet, just a line as far as we could see of little flashing red lights. We were rolling along at a decent clip, helped by the tailwind and we passed a couple of hundred riders, all settling into their own pace.

We’d picked up a printed sheet of directions but I remembered some of the route from many years ago and there were enough other riders in front of us for us to simply follow the trail of lights. We pushed it along pretty steadily, pretty flat to slightly rolling hills took us out to the roughly half-way point where a village hall was opened up for us with some refuelling laid on - £3.50 bought you a plate of pasta salad. So far things were going well, even the singlespeed wasn’t particularly hard work, the gear was ideal for the slightly rolling terrain.

40 minutes later, suitably refuelled, we set off again. By this time my super bright headtorch was beginning to die, and it had started drizzling slightly. We put on showerproofs and continued on our way, tapping along at a steady rate. It wasn’t cold so even the slight dampness wasn’t a problem. However, we rounded a corner sometime later and found that a car had gone off the road on a wet corner, smashed into a tree and caught fire, it had only just happened because the scene was complete confusion. The Fire Brigade turned up a few minutes later followed by the police who promptly closed the road and directed us another way around. Ross managed to slip past the burning vehicle but Jayne, JamesK and I were turned back, we almost immediately got lost, my light died then James’ swiftly followed. We established contact with Ross and after a few minutes of faffing, retraced our steps, found that the road had now been re-opened and we met up with Ross again a mile down the road where he was sheltering under a bridge. A quick break later while Jayne shared out a pack of Jelly Babies and we were once again on the way, threading our way through the dark lanes and sleeping villages of Essex.

As we approached the coast there were a few more serious little hills. The legs were starting to feel it a little more by this stage and the on-off rain showers had dampened our enthusiasm somewhat. By this time, it was light and we found our first signpost for Dunwich. The final few lanes passed in a blur, we could smell the sea ahead of us and we arrived on the beach at about 5am. We’d ridden 120 miles in exactly 7 hours. The little beach café had opened especially early for us and we were among the top 50 or so people there so there wasn’t much of a queue. In no time we were sat in front of a steaming pile of sausages, eggs, beans, fried bread and bacon, while 2 cups of coffee kept the tiredness at bay for a while longer.

We had been planning to ride back home (what idiot thought of THAT plan?!) but on setting off from the beach we quickly discovered why we’d made such good time on the way out. The tailwind that had pushed us there was now a persistent headwind and, to add insult to the conditions, it started properly raining. A quick debate under the shelter of a tree followed and we all quickly agreed to ride to Ipswich (a mere 35 miles away…) and get the train home.

We tucked our heads down and slogged away. After an hour or so, the rain eased off, the sun came out and we made better time. Jayne punctured by the side of the main A-road into Ipswich and a completely shattered James King made the most of the 5-minute break by curling up on the wet grass and falling asleep while Ross and I fixed the puncture. Eventually, we rolled into Ipswich at about 8am and spent the next 20 minutes trying to find the station. After several missed turns, we pitched up at the station, bought a ticket for the next train and Ross bought the entire contents of the stations coffee bar. We also met up with my forum friends, they’d cunningly got a lift to the station in a friends van. The train journey to London passed quickly, James fell immediately asleep, and the rest of us shared stories from the ride.

The entire trip was 150 miles, 120 to Dunwich then 30 miles from there to Ipswich. We’d done the ride in bang on 9 hours. From Liverpool Street station we split up, Jayne heading off to Elephant and Castle; Ross, JamesK and I went south via a McDonalds (essential post ride food!) back to Dulwich. An excellent night out!


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