The Dunwich Dynamo was completed Sunday morning under dry conditions, with tailwinds and crosswinds gently urging us onto the lost city on the Suffolk Coast. I left shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday and arrived 117 miles later at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday, where the beachside cafe already had a line out the door. Along the way, lycra-clad cyclists frequented the pubs of Essex before closing time. Then it all got a little more serious as warmers and windproof outer layers were donned for a few hours of dark riding through towns like Fitchingfield, Sudbury and Coddenham before reaching the coastal plain. It’s a ride of few hills, and yet the going is slow with lots of gentle descents and ascents along the way.
I love this ride because it’s not at all serious. No stopwatches, no time limits, just get there by 11 a.m. or so if you want your bike to get on the truck back to London. The pints-before-the-ride and the pints-during-the-ride aspect of it suggest that this is one for the party cyclist. Indeed, there is an “AIDS Ride” feel to the riders, at least the ones who aren’t dressed like messengers or people kicked out Critical Mass rides. And the machines can range from a new time trial machine–arriving sans gruppo on the shoulder of a rider who managed to build it before the start–to penny-farthings to ice-cream-cart style bicycles and (at least I think I saw this in 2006) a unicycle. Many of the riders are indeed ride-to-work types for whom it will be the longest ride of the year–as evidenced by the number of groups who were taking breaks on the roadside or under village park pavilions as Dunwich drew near. Yet it’s a serious ride. You have to think about how to light your way for eight hours (if you’re responsible at least) and how to get enough calories for the ride.
The darkest hours are the two to three between the food stop at Lavenham, which becomes a holding pen for the sleepy and the leg-tired, and the dawn, when riders dribble along in singles, pairs or threes. Then, the horizon brightens just a little, and the cadence takes on some urgency as riders sense the ocean just a few miles away. Groups form and gain momentum, with riders calling directions to each other before intersections. The gentle downhill and the sandy soil hint at beach ahead. Then you see the ruins of the Greyfriars monastery, and you’re there: Stony beach and North Sea beyond.
See my flickr photoset here.