Dunwich Dynamo, or simply the dun-run, is a semi-organised mass bike event from Hackney in London to the beach at Dunwich, overnight, on the weekend closest to the full moon in July. That’s 110 miles, in country lanes in the dark. A ride for good legs and gooder (sic) lights.
I first heard about it a few years ago and last year a friend had a go and really enjoyed it, so naturally we agreed to tackle it together this year.
Having not ridden this before but with ideas of riding back, I opted to take my “faster” bike in the hope it might make the return leg easier. I loaded it up with a last minute panic buy toptube bag for food and managed to attach a jacket to my saddle bag (not that it was needed, the temperature barely dropped below 17 degrees all night).
Every other pocket was loaded with food as well. Just in case. Apart from some arm warmers and phone/money. In hindsight that much food wasn’t really needed, there are plentiful stop points with a variety of food options. Still, it’s always good to have some as a back up.
I’d also panic-last-minute had the rear wheel trued and replaced a heavily fraying gear cable. This didn’t seem like the kind of ride to be testing the limits of wearing out equipment.
As it turned out, the bike was a good choice for me and made the ride comfortable (well, at least as much can be expected for a ride of that length?). However, at the start and throughout the ride, an amazing variety of bikes were on display. It really is a ride where you can turn up on whatever you own and give it a bash.
One of the most memorable bikes was a four person, two higher, two lower, side by side, contraption, which was being ridden for charity:
Ready, Steady, Go
The ride starts at/outside Pub on the Park in Hackney. I had opted to take a train to Waterloo and cycle over from there (to save a few miles). Leaving Waterloo, I picked up other cyclists like the Pied Piper – not that I had much idea of where I was going – and we made it to the pub a short while later. There are cyclists everywhere. And bemused locals. Amazingly (well, not really, but with the help of mobile phones) all of our small group located each other.
We set off with some of the first groups of cyclists, leaving not long after 8PM. Tradition seems to dictate a pre-ride beer, and while it was very tempting, previous experience of beers on long rides have not proved to be very conductive to maintaining any kind of will to pedal.
It’s a very jovial and fun atmosphere as you leave (actually, for the whole ride) but the early part was also my least favourite part (of the ride over). Lots of cyclist mingling with cars on fairly busy roads and drivers being either confused or angry at the amount of cyclists “in their way”.
In fairness, it passed with out incident – actually there were a few inexplicable crashes in the earlier miles, possibly through over excited riders touching wheels or clipping pavements (everyone seemed to be fine) – and once we made it past the first few miles and out towards Epping Forest, things started to calm down.
Riding a non-circular route like this provides some logistical challenges for the return and non of us were opting to take the available coach-ride back. This meant we all had further to go than the 110 miles of the ride so we had agreed to press on throughout the ride to allow time to finish our journeys. This meant skipping some of the food and rest stops.
We made our first stop after about 50 or 60 KM at an unofficial (even more than the semi-official stopping points) cafe/restaurant, who seemed very amused about the masses of cyclists ordering coffees and asking to use the facilities so close to closing time. Maybe they would be a good candidate for opening late next year, although probably best to stock up on some nuts/crips/other snacks if so.
With some coffees and cokes drunk, we continued on into the darkness.
Riding through the night, following endless red taillights is quite an eery experience. You have very limited awareness of your surroundings but still (hopefully) an intimiate grasp of what is happening immediately ahead and behind. It was a full moon but still very dark in places. We were riding in some fast groups and it wasn’t always possible to tell if we were still altogether, looking backwards didn’t really reveal anything useful, but we always appeared to be near each other.
Dawn at the Beach
And Back Again