On Saturday 8th July I completed challenge number 8 of the year and ticked off July’s challenge too! My original plan had been to tackle cycling round the outside of the M25, going off the beaten track and doing a rather long loop around London. Time, cost and logistics scratched that plan off the list and in it’s place came the Dunwich Dynamo.
This was a 110 mile bike ride from London Fields out to Dunwich on the Suffolk Coast, but with one teeny tiny catch, it would be through the night! The ride was only semi-organised – free to take part, and cue sheets with the route available on the day but beyond that it’s a case of following the trail of lights ahead of you! The ride started back in 1993 as a club ride and has grown year-on-year to the hugely iconic event it is now.
Century rides are (thankfully now!) less daunting for me, but I know they’re tough. And as for riding at night, my experience amounted to riding through well-lit cities with street lights guiding my vision and way.
With a strong torch (and spare batteries!) strapped to my bike and plenty of food and snacks packed, we set off on the initial 11 miles to get from South West London to North London. The start area was chaotic but wonderful, there were so many bikes in all shapes, sizes, types and colours that it reminded me of why cycling is such a wonderful sport – and why events like Dynamo want to stay free and only semi-organised. They encourage every type of rider to give it a go and get involved.
Getting out of London was tough. Playing follow-the-leader with some few thousand cyclists on narrow cycle lanes and in busy North London traffic was stressful to say the least, but as the roads widened, we were treated to a stunning sunset. As it got darker everyone started to turn their lights on and a string of red cycling lights flashed the route ahead. Some had gone to town and decorated their lights with fairy lights and all manner of things (note to self, Mabel would look fantastic with fairy lights on next year!).
And so our routine continued, keep pedalling and follow the lights, occasionally looking down to check a Garmin route we had found was vaguely on course. Night riding came with it’s challenges – darkness being the main culprit! While my torch was lighting a decent amount of the road ahead, it was strange not being able to look as far forward as I normally could. It was an odd feeling looking to my left and seeing nothing but black, not knowing what was in the field next to me made me feel oddly small. But it was peaceful and certainly allowed a lot of thinking time.
Around 3am I started to struggle. I needed to sleep. My eyes were tired. But a sudden temperature drop did the trick to shiver me awake and an hour later came dawn and an awe-inspiring sunrise that just kept getting better and better.
The last 20-odd miles were a slog. I was really struggling by this point. Tired, hungry and grumpy that there was always ANOTHER hill (and by hill I mean slight incline that meant my tired legs had to keep pushing). But then we arrived! 110 miles later a tired Sam and I finally made it to Dunwich and after a quick coffee and a bag of crisps we headed another 8 miles down the road to a hot shower, lovely breakfast and sleep!