Saturday 11 July 2015

Dunwich Dynamo Number 2 - My Longest Ride to Date

Saturday morning was a bit of a blur and I didn't have time to bless myself let alone devote any time to thoughts about the Dunwich Dynamo. This was a good thing. As I type this I have of course now completed my second Dynamo but this particular one was very different to the one the previous year!

For those of you who do not know, the Dunwich Dynamo all began back in the early 1990's when a group of bicycle couriers (a few possibly on rather lovely single speed bicycles) left London for the 112 mile journey to the Suffolk coast. Since then it has grown in popularity and is one of those cycle events you simply have to do!

Geoff and I completed the Dynamo last year and after almost a year of pestering he had agreed to do it all again this time. For Geoff it was to be his third time at this event. Our meeting point was Liverpool Street Station. It had been my intention to catch the tube there however one glance at how busy the station I would use to get there was, I cycled instead. This meant a journey of 10 miles. Was this the best of options?

Still, I felt pretty good and the weather was lovely so I set off Sadly my navigational prowess (more on this later) let me down and I ended up cycling straight past Liverpool Street Station altogether! Realising my error after about a mile I turned round and cycled back. I still don't know how I missed it? So my extra 10 miles became 12.

Liverpool Street Station was heaving and in addition to the foot passengers there were lots of cyclists, many of which I assumed were out for the Dynamo.

Liverpool Street Station

Saying hello to Geoff we wasted little time in getting to the official start at Hackney Fields. This was very busy and apart from the many cyclists taking part in the Dynamo, there were lots of people 'chilling' to use common parlance.

Getting anywhere near the start was slow due to the shear volume of cyclists. The wonderful thing about the Dynamo is the diverse quality of those brave enough to take part. There are quite literally all kinds of cyclists and bicycles and for me one of the highlights of the ride.

Near the start I saw my cycling partner Andrew and several other familiar Bromptonians. This was great but sadly I knew we would not be cycling together for the entire event as both groups wanted to do the Dynamo at different speeds.

As soon as we set off Geoff and I lost them and we stuck in a slow moving peloton of bicycles. Passing under the official start - a blue iron railway bridge - I pressed start on my Garmin 810 to record the ride data.

The official start?

This part of the ride was my least favourite. It was very slow and I have to report that there were more than a few selfish cyclists who must have assumed everyone else was clairvoyant and would know what they were about to do.

Gradually we started to thin out and could press the pedals in order to gain some pace. I must make it clear that the Dynamo is not a race and I certainly did't treat it as one, but with over 100 miles to complete, I had little intention of making it an amble in the countryside.

Geoff and I were able to maintain a really good pace and for a few miles we glided along at over 20 mph. I was loving it and every so often someone would make themselves known as a reader of my humble blog.

As we reached Epping we spotted Andrew and a few of the other Bromptonians. They looked strong and as we passed them I knew that my partner in crime, Andrew would not only love the Dynamo but complete it with ease.

If you have read my blog before you will know that I have been on many night rides. In short I love them and there really is something about them, hard to explain to others. If you are reading this thinking that this is madness, have a go and I suspect you'd change your mind.

The sky started to change colour and the horizon was illuminated with a pinkish, almost orange glow. The views were stunning and a quietness descended, allowing us to hear gear changes and the whiz of tyres on tarmac.

Water! As it was a warm night I decided to take four - yes you read it correctly - bottles of water. Two were placed inside the Brompton cover saddle bag (with cover taken out), one in my mini O bag and the other on a frame clip on the handlebar stem. This worked really well and I did seem to need every last drop. By just after midnight I have completed just over 50 miles and was running on empty as we reached the big halfway stop.

Geoff and I got carried away at a roundabout and must have taken a wrong turn. We soon noticed that we were very much alone and the usual stream of lights was no more. Consulting various mapping apps on our respective phones we discovered we were in fact in Thaxted.

Thaxted is notable as composer Gustav Holst was once a resident. Sections of his 'The Planets' were inspired by locals. His setting of the patriotic hymn ' I vow to Thee, My Country' to the trio melody of 'Jupiter' in 'The Planets' is named after the town.

It was almost as if Geoff had willed us to this location as it was rather picturesque even in the early hours of a Sunday morning. Thankfully Geoff was able to plot us a course back to the route the extra couple of miles didn't really cause too much hardship.

With no water and closing in on the 50 mile mark I was really pleased to see the village hall that was the big near-heaflway stop. This meant water in abundance. Like the great explorer of the Empty Qauter of Arabia, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, this water was viewed as a precious commodity.

After a few minutes to recover and collect our thoughts, Graham a fellow Brompton rider (but not on a Brompton for this ride) came over to say hello. With full water bottles Geoff and I headed off into the night and again resumed a good pace. That was until I had a slight problem.

My left knee which had been aching from about 40 miles really started to give me some problems whenever I reached an incline. I just didn't seem to have any power in it and it felt tender under excursion. Consequently my pace dropped and after any incline I had to unclip and flex my left leg. This went on for at least the next 20 or so miles and I was slowing Geoff down. Being the all round good egg that Geoff is, he waited for me for catch up and we did not leave each others sight.

When stopping for another bacon roll, I discovered that the straps of my left shoe were quite loose. Tightening them up the straps were touching the ground and overhanging way more than they should do. Back on the bike my knee soon felt a great deal better and I could feel more power in my legs. I cannot believe this was all it was but it seems as if it was.

At coming up to the 100 mile mark we made our last food stop at a favourite location. Bacon and egg roll and free coffee was brilliant and never had either tasted so good or been so welcome.

Heading off the 100 soon came up and we pressed in for the beach. Feeling pretty good I upped the pace as much as I dared and before long Geoff and I could start to see riders coming in the opposite direction.

The long winding road down to the beach car park came up quicker than I anticipated and upon reaching the beach we had down it! At just past 07:00 a.m. Geoff and I had completed the Dynamo again - and even added a few extra miles for good measure.

Wasting little time we headed for the coach queue. This moved much faster than last year and soon we received cards telling us that we were on the 10:00 coach.

With some time to spare we headed back to the beach for a well deserved rest. Geoff headed to the sea for a dip (I think I might do this next time) while I watched people arrive.

Again a few people came over to ask if I was Orange Brompton and kind enough to say they read my blog.

The morning was lovely and it was great to see all kinds of bicycles and cyclists on the beach. Again this is a highlight of the Dynamo - the shear variety of participants.

At 09:30 Geoff and I headed to our coach. As we had Brompton bikes were were allowed to fold them and put them in the coaches storage area. Organised brilliantly by Southwark Cycles we were in good hands and made our way to our seats.

We left at about 10:10 I think and I just about saw the familiar sight of my Partner in Crime arriving. I have to say this brought more than a smile to my face as I knew he had safely completed the Dynamo as I knew he could.

The driver was excellent and as more than a few passengers were caught short, he stopped later in the journey at a service station.

I remember little of the journey as sleep overtook me. Waking up as we approached London I stayed awake for the rest of the journey.

Arriving at Surrey Quays, Geoff and I got our bikes, unfolded and headed off back into central London. At Piccadilly Circus Geoff and I went our separate ways.

I have to say a huge thank you to Geoff. We have been on many night rides and I always enjoy cycling with him. Again I do not exaggerate by saying I could not have done the Dynamo without him!

If I take into account my journey to and from the Dynamo as well as the Dynamo itself, I cycled getting on for 150 miles. The next day I cycled to work but unfortunately my knee started to feel tender on the way home. In fact I have not cycled since as I thought it prudent to let it rest and recover. A new pair of cycling shoes have already been purchased!

Again it is amazing what a little Brompton folding bicycle is capable of. My P type was supremely comfortable and as I cycled along The Mall I wondered whether those watching me go past on a funny little orange bicycle would have guessed I had just cycled over 115 miles overnight?

Would I do it next year? Well, it is an incredible event and I enjoyed this more than last year. I was disappointed not to average 14+ mph and suspect that I could have. With the Dynamo 12 months away I will have 12 months to work on Geoff to do it all over again!!

The map and ride data can be viewed by clicking on the link below:

Map and ride data for Dunwich Dynamo Number 2

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