Leicester Forest Ride Dunwich Dynamo 2011
On 16th July 2011, 18 members and friends of the club travelled to London to take part in the Dunwich Dynamo. The event is a 120 mile ride from London Fields (Hackney) to Dunwich, a village that fell in to the sea on the Suffolk Coast. The thing that makes this ride unusual (apart from it being free) is that it starts at 8pm, meaning that much of the riding is in darkness.
Most of our group travelled down on the train and met up with Conni, Simeon and I in London. We drove the van loaded with bikes, water and sugary carbohydrates down and parked near the start.
Rob Martin's local knowledge led us to the Mangal Turkish restaurant for what seemed like a strange choice of meal for a group about to ride so far. A selection of Kaburga, Lokma, Beyti and Kulbasti were ordered and Steve looked more and more concerned about what he might actually receive ("they don't have this sort of thing in Thurmaston" but as he pointed out when is was served, they were all just "lamb salads".
The stragglers of the group arrived and we headed for the van to get into character. The mood turned from nervous energy to even more nervous 'focus'. Bikes were assembled in near silence as people realised the scale of what they were about to do.
A 2 minute ride brought us to London Fields and the Pub on the Park - the traditional start to the ride. There were around 1000 riders of all shapes and sizes on all kinds of machine. The common link seemed to be an abundance of red, flashing blinkies attaches to bikes, helmets, belts, feet, spokes etc...
After a beer and a photo opportunity, our intrepid gang rode off into the gloaming and I was left to work out how to get to the first rendezvous but without being held up by all the bloody cyclists!
35 miles later (for the riders - I went along the M11) I parked up and almost instantly drew a crowd of cyclists hoping to buy warm drinks and sugar from me. I had to explain repeatedly that only Leicestershire's (and a couple of Middleborough's) friendly cyclists could use our facilities.
Pretty soon, our riders began to arrive and were full of tales of riding through London in huge groups of cyclists and the fun that following mile after mile for red LED was proving to be. I was jealous - pig sick not to be riding. To see how grateful our riders were to have a hot drink and a biscuit though more than made up for this. Simeon and Conni were soon off into the night once more while others were happy to stay a while longer and chat.
The weather was kind and the cool, clear skies meant that the full moon acted as a floodlight to light the roads and countryside.The second stop was at Sible Heddingham village hall. In the early days of the event, this hall was probably quite sufficient for the riders taking part. Now, because of its success, the queue for food in the hall meant an hour's wait to get food.Luckily, riders of the mighty Forest didn't have to worry about this and once more wrapped themselves in blankets and drank Typhoo at their leisure. Conni and Simeon by now were practising their 'through and off' in darkness with their nose to the bars and so missed this (and the next) stop.
My trip to the third and final meeting point of Coddenham took an hour and despite being about 15 miles away from the route, I still met puzzled looking cyclists with maps blowing in the tail wind, wondering where they might have gone wrong.
At Coddenham, riders were getting really desperate. I had to close the doors of the van at one point after a I found a couple of guys with our cups in their hands, trying to work out how to use the flasks. By now we were out of hot water and so thanks to Simon's preparedness, I was able to boil up another couple litres for tea. There would have been some pretty pissed off people if they'd arrived to find that they couldn't have tea after 85 hard miles.By now our riders were split across four groups. Our European contingent were after a new record for the event (although were going to face a lengthy wait on the beach for us). The last group on the road of Janet, Simon, Andy and Steve seemed to be having the most fun. Unfortunately, Janet wasn't fully aware of the rules of sprinting for signs and accidentally took the Suffolk sign - she'll know better next time...
Last stop was Dunwich, the beach and the end of the pain. I arrived an hour after the sun had risen. I had seen the spectacular orange light-show as I drove towards the beach, but I now understood why so many people raced there to see the sun rise from the sea.As our riders came in, there were some tired legs and faces. Aaron's 1000-yard stare had developed into a 118-mile gaze. He wobbled to a standstill and I'm sure wouldn't have made too many more meters, let alone miles.
The beach was full of dozing cyclists and tired bikes. A few brave souls went for a swim, as is tradition. The Forest gang more than most.
After about an hour of the drive back, I was working too hard to keep my eyes open and we rounded a corner on the wrong side of the road and realised that some sleep would probably be a good idea. Luckily, Simeon and Conni were already asleep and didn't realise what a near miss we'd had...
I really enjoyed the event. I'd love to ride it next year, but wouldn't mind providing support again. It was a great way to get involved and the heart-felt "thank you"s I received for something as simple as a cup of tea made it all worthwhile.
The other cool thing is, thanks to our new signs, 1000 more cyclists know of the existence of Leicester forest Cycling Club, and that must be a good thing!
Congratulations to everyone that rode the event. It was quite an achievement, especially for our less experienced riders for whom this was twice or even three times further than they'd ever ridden before.
Thank you for the t-shirt and the whiskey. It is delicious.
And finally apologies to Mark Cavendish as I slept through the live coverage of your latest stage victory.