08 July 2012

Ride report: Dunwich Dynamo XX

It is nearly a year ago when we first joined the infamous Dunwich Dynamo peloton from London Fields, in central London, to Dunwich in the Suffolk Coast. This year the ride had been proposed a bit earlier than last year to avoid clashing with the Olympics.

It was also the first time I was going to attempt a ride of more than 130 km on my Long Haul Trucker, with a yet unbroken-in saddle. A lot to fear, maybe, but surely would add a bit of spice to an otherwise easy and flat ride to the coast.

Saturday evening and we, as always, are rushing to get things done on time. Pack loads of food, drink, check bikes, lights, clothing, weather forecast, routes, batteries, spares, and again, weather forecasts. The night promised to be very pleasant, with temperatures above 10C throughout and a tailwind all the way to the beach. Lovely, especially when comparing with last years predictions of rain (which never turned out to be true though!).

Relaxed atmosphere before the off
At 8:15 pm we made an appearance in the park, where we met our companion for the night, Dan, on his very first night ride. People were chilling on the grass, drinking beer, and some were already gone or about to go. We took things easy, chatted a bit and waited until almost 9 pm for the off, tagging along with a large group of relaxed cyclists. The fast boys had either departed already, or were leaving it till the end. Still, quite do not get why some folk take this really nice ride as if it was a race. There were large groups of club riders in their club gear and sporting featherlight bikes, with no more than a tiny saddlebag attach to it. I, on the contrary, was carrying a >15 kg bike and two half-full panniers, totalling more than 25 kg. There really is no rush in getting to the beach as it is usually freezing at silly o'clock and I rather have a siesta when it is nice and warm.

By 9 pm we were already battling our way through traffic to get out of Hackney. Heading North East we soon got on the road leading to Epping Forest. I grabbed a coke here as was already feeling tired and sleepy after a busy week with not much sleep. We re-joined the train of riders and made good progress, crossing the M25 still in (some sort of) daylight.

Audaxer (left) meets Mario Bros

Through Epping Forest
While passing through the town of Epping, we got the usual cheers from the drunk locals. Exactly the same thing as last year! It is fun though. Shortly after Epping, there's the first pub stop, or rather, where people stop to drink/eat something before the pubs start to shut.

Crazy number of cyclists going through
From here the ride become more laney, and our recollection from last year was that the field spread all over and you do not feel a part of large group anymore, seeing the occasional cyclist every now and then. However, this year, numbers have increased quite a lot, and we were surrounded by other cyclists throughout the ride.

Proper night time cycling it was now. Very few motorised traffic, and the lanes became ours, with the exception of a few random drunkards that we saw on the roads, in the dark, going who knows where. We made progress passing through familiar Essex towns, and eventually got to the half way stop in Sibble Hendigham by 2 am. As expected, it was packed with cyclists, with queues that were completely off-putting for getting food. Luckily we had brought our own food, and it was still relatively warm, so ate our sandwiches happily while observing others pulling in and out.

All types of bikes, at the half way stop
Still another 90 km or so to go. Sunrise scheduled for 4 am, so very little left of night riding and clear skies were to be expected after we left. Still, plenty of us on the road. I was feeling great - all the night riding done up until now seemed to have a positive effect. Also Lucy was in very good spirits, and so was Dan, who was doing very well for his first night excursion - and was clearly capable of going much faster than us if he had wanted to.

Sunrise in the countryside
Lucy in good spirits
50 km or so to the coast we came across the famous bacon butties stop, in someone's garden. We too stopped here last year, both feeling completely knackered and in much need of a rest. This time though, we knew what to expect and made a quick incursion into the garden for some hot food and a coffee. Dan was being hit by the sleep deprivation bug, so he was happy to get some caffeine in. Pop up stops are all over the place now - people have realised there's potential for business here! The owners of this garden had also set up a tent where people seemed to be having naps in their cozy sleeping bags! Had it been cold and rainy I would not have minded, but it was time to go hit the roads again for the last stretch to the beach.

Bacon roll and coffee stop
Wheat fields and sunshine
The final km to the beach were rather nice, pootling around with others at a very relaxed pace. You could notice the type of bike and rider at this point. Most of us carrying panniers, heavy bikes, and lots of them not even wearing cycling-specific clothes. But it does not matter, this ride accommodates everyone. Some of the faster guys were already heading back home, having probably reached the beach by 4 am or so.

Lucy enjoying the final kms
Lucy & Dan followed by many others
The final bit into the beach is always very pleasurable as it passes through the Dunwich Heath. A bit of gentle up and downs, the famous sign to Dunwich, and we were there!

Final lanes
Made it!
Rolling into the beach, although not as spectacular as the very first time you do this ride, is always a highlight. A field packed with sleeping cyclists is something that we cannot get to see everyday and something that will certainly impress anyone. It was 8:30 am.

Finding a clear spot for a snooze
The beach full of tired bodies
After we found a clear space and ate some of our snacks, we went for a well-deserved siesta. For most, this is the end of a very long night on the saddle. Plenty of coaches organised by the Southwark Cyclists would take them back to London, but we found this to be extremely stressful last year. Also, prices had gone up, and the bikes got some abuse being loaded onto the trucks last year. For said reasons, we had decided to return by train, via Diss, some 40 km East of Dunwich.

Some folk came very well prepared!
Siesta time!
All in all, it was an excellent ride with great and warmer weather than last years. Something I would suggest all people to do at least once. Everyone gets to the beach, on all sorts of bike and styles. It was also the first time I had taken the tourer (>25 kg of weight!) on a >200 km ride, and it felt so comfortable, despite slowing me down quite considerably on the hills! The brooks saddle seems to be breaking in and had no sores at the end of the day

Bring on Dunwich Dynamo 2013!!!


  1. enjoyed your account of the trip,i also did the ride for the 1st time and we were spoilt with the weather, also an amazing site as the sun started to come up,we could see mercury and venus as we left the bacon roll stop at helmingham whilst still totally dark..left the park at 838pm and arrived 520am with an hours rest in total.lots of friendly cyclists enroute to speak too...will not hesitate to do again as this is the sort of ride that you should do at least once in your lifetime ...

  2. Glad you had a good time Mark, and congrats on such a fast ride. The weather and the tailwind helped on the night. It is a great ride, no doubt. The high you get the first time you see the beach is worth all the sleep deprivation. We're totally hooked on night riding, but for this one we like to take it easy as it is kinda nice to get to the beach when it's already warm.