A week ago, I was settling down for a weekend of admin, collecting Ben from CCF camp and perhaps quick spin out on Sunday and then I saw the post from Viv. . . ‘A few of us are doing an 200km all-night ride from London to Dunwich on Saturday night on the Dunwich Dynamo.’
Since completing Chase the Sun, I have pulled back on cycling for a couple of weeks to spend some time with the family but am conscious I do need to get some miles back in my legs in preparation for the ride to Paris. I had been planning to give the Dun Run a go but had completely missed the date.
The Dunwich Dynamo (Dun Run) is a 200 km ride from London Fields to the Suffolk coast through the night of the July full moon. The ride (once again it isn’t a race) originated in 1993 and has evolved over the years, It is an ‘un-supported’ and ‘un-organised’ ride (though Southwark Cycles do arrange coaches and trucks for the return trip) and apparently was part of the inspiration for Chase the Sun. I had a quick google and realised I could just turn up and ride, so the seed was sewn.
On the morning of the 12th I realised we had arranged to go to birthday party for one of my mates, which put paid to the plan to head to London. However, the BBQ was about 30 meters off the route as it passed through Sible Hedingham so all was not lost. During the course of the day I heard from a couple of friends who were also planning to ride, so made some loose plans. The party was great, with lovely weather, kids on bouncy castles, fantastic food and the odd cider or six. Unfortunately, as the evening progressed, the sun was replaced by rain and a fierce thunderstorm. Around 11 despite, some significant questions about my sanity, I donned my lycra and headed off into the storm.
As I left the house, I could see a steady progression of lights, illuminating the road out to Weathersfield, I rode against the flow for a while but as the roads narrowed, I was causing some confusion, so headed back to the Hedingham food stop. I had read the blogs and articles but it really does need to the be seen to be believed. There were hundreds of cyclists on all manner of cycles, many adorned with fairy lights and all in excellent humour (apparently there were in the region of 2000 folk start the ride).
By some crazy twist of luck I bumped into Russ, a particularly mad friend, be-decked in blue lights, as were the rest of his club and we had a quick chat, I then got a call off another friend who had missed the stop and instead was having a pint in The Wheatsheaf in Castle Hedingham so I headed over to meet them. There were blinking red lights everywhere, and several locals outside their houses cheering us on. It was an amazing atmosphere and as I rode to the pub we were met by a (slightly intoxicated) lady dishing out high fives.
My companions for the rest of the night were Ashley Bond, a mate from work and his friends Rich Plochi and Dan Bagshaw and we spent the next few miles getting to know each other. The roads were awash with cyclists and generally folk were pretty good at calling out obstructions although it is just as well that there was limited other traffic as the roads were full. We were making pretty good pace as we climbed out of Castle Hedingham and then swept along to Sudbury. As we left Sudbury, we were drawn by the crowds outside the White Horse, which despite the hour was doing a cracking lycra clad trade, so had a quick pint. This was to set the scene for the rest of the night. The ride may have been unsupported but it certainly wasn’t without support! In most villages, there were folk out in their PJs cheering us on and several pop up restaurants in gardens and greens, and many pubs stayed open til the early hours
I was having a ball, the atmosphere was great and whilst the route was pretty flat, the lack of light did cause some challenges, especially on the descents but there was a constant trail of lights to show the route. We did get burnt just outside Monks Eleigh where we ignored my Garmin and followed the lights as the guys were on a bit of a sprint. As a result we added a 10 km detour to the ride but werent alone
As the ride progress, we passed a number of groups stopped by the roadside and there was a constant stream of banter, there also seemed to be a huge number of punctures but we were incident free. As the sky lightened we passed the picturesque Needham Market Lake but decided not to stop until tempted by the Scout Troop stop in Peasenhall (I think) where we had bacon butties and mugs of tea before the final push to the finish. The beach at Dunwich was a sight for sore eyes, there were bikes everywhere and folk of all shapes and sizes stripping off lycra for a dip in the sea.
We also witnessed some of the remarkable folk who had completed the ride, there were folk on tandems, BMXs, a chap on the tall bike and two guys who had completed the ride on their Boris bikes (one complete with fairy lights and popcorn nutrition). However, we we had passed the most remarkable as we neared Yoxford, 9 year old Oscar, who was doing the Dun Run for his third year (albeit, just from Sudbury) – huge REspect Oscar! (I am sure I have him on video but I haven’t edited them yet)
The queue for the breakfast was huge, so we decided to have a swift half whilst waiting for our lift home. On balance, we should have had a breakfast and perhaps a massage in the teepees on the green as it was a long wait! The bravado of a morning pint took its toll on Rich and Dan who had a snoozette in the sun.
I am pleased I decided to join the ride at the last minute as I am now really looking forwards to next year. It seems the two sun chasing events will both be repeated in 2015! The Dun Run was great fun and showed the best of the British spirit. It wasn’t fast or especially hard (see strava) but boy was it fun! I couldn’t believe the numbers involved or the folk coming out to cheer us on and did earn some useful lessons for next year:
- I am too old to miss a night’s sleep, should probably not go to a party first:)
- Wear layers or removable sleeves, it got quite hot, quite early! (yeah that’s too serious)
- There are loads of stops and it is all about the experience, next year, I won’t carry loads gels but will stop and make the most of the experience – there are plenty of chances to race – this one really is, a ride!
- Take more pictures, the support was amazing, and bizarre!
- The journey home is a bit of a zoo – next year – cycle back
Finally I couldn’t resist posting the link to this gif. It’s a Strava visualisation showing all the activity over the weekend of the 12th. I don’t need to point out the Dun Run. However, was also amused by the lone track heading south from Chester around midnight! (the pic is a link to the gif ;))blog – It’s much better than mine!
Many thanks to Viv for the heads up. Unfortunately I didn’t see him but a great steer thanks! Thanks also to Pugsly, Rich and Dan for putting up with an old man on their first Dun Run and Kudos to all who did the full ride.
Here’s looking forwards to next year’s Dun Run – The next ride is on 4th July 2015 – See you in London Fields for the start