Monday, July 30, 2007

Dunwich Dynamo

Yes, we did it! Here we are at London Fields enjoying a preparatory pint before setting off into the night. Check out Nick's old-school arm-warmers. Must be a Belgian thing.We're off! After picking up a copy of the route, we hit the road at around 8.30pm, slightly earlier than scheduled. After some confusion getting out of Hackney we were on our way. I'd expected us to be among the older of the riders but there were plenty of silver cyclists with at least 10 years on us, some even older. The range of bikes was pretty diverse too - lots of fixed wheel single gear jobs as well as tandems, recumbents and fold-up bromptons. Some riders were better prepared than others: I donated one of my rear lights to a girl who was riding with no illumination whatsoever. It wasn't clear why she hadn't realised lights might be useful on an overnight ride!

Once we got into the Essex countryside proper and the street lights ended, the sight of the line of red lights snaking ahead was really inspiring but didn't stop the weather doing its best to dampen spirits. The rain had started as we left London and didn't let up until 5am, so the camera had to be stashed away to stop it getting wet, thus no pictures from stage 1 of the journey. I'm not sure if they would have conveyed the full extent of the grimness of the ordeal anyway. We made good progress but the rain made it hard work. We reached the halfway point just outside Sudbury at 2am, where hot food was on offer in a village hall. The queue stretched out of the hall into the rain and we stood shivering for an hour for cuppasoup, then spent another hour wringing out our socks and warming up, then fixed Nick's flat tyre and got back on the road. This was the hardest part of the ride. Being freezing cold, soaking wet and on a bike at 4am with a 60 mile ride ahead of you is nobody's idea of fun, least of all mine, and it was pretty hard to get going. Not exactly what I'd expected when I first heard about this moonlit night ride in the middle of summer!The darkest hour was indeed just before dawn. Eventually we warmed up again and got back into our stride, as the first glimpses of daylight began to appear. Nick's socks were from Sainsbury's - in fact they were carrier bags.As we pedalled further into Suffolk, the places we went through started to become increasingly familiar: Cretingham - I've been to the pub here! Kettleburgh - my first band did a gig at the village hall! Framlingham - my mum was at school here! We were getting there.The sun came out at around 7 and we rolled into Dunwich at around 8.30. Not bad going considering the rain and the fact that we stopped at the halfway point for two hours. We were greeted by a reception commitee of my folks, my brother, his wife and their kids, which was a real boost, especially as we were able to load the bikes up into my brother's van and be whisked back to my parents' house in Yoxford for scrambled eggs and a hot bath.Nick got a train back to London and Marc flew back to Holland from Norwich. I stayed in Suffolk and clocked up another 30 miles yesterday, extending my tour of memory lane and stopping in Dennington, where I spent my first 7 years, for lunch and a pint, kept company by the pub cat.
All in all a really tough ride, mostly due to the weather, though the number of hills also came as a bit of an unexpected surprise, even to a local boy like me. None of them were individually that bad but cumulatively they really started to take their toll after a while. The one at Castle Hedingham stands out as particularly cruel and unusual punishment; hats off to the riders on single gear bikes. Nick and Marc did a brilliant job of keeping spirits up through the toughest parts of the ride, as did the bloke on the recumbent eating chips off a tray on his lap, who unwittingly provided us with amusement for several miles, along with the cyclist known only as 'duck-legs'.

Would I do it again? Yes, I'm already thinking about next year, but not if the weather forecast is the same as this year. Top tip for anyone considering the ride next year: take your own cuppa soup and avoid the queue for food at the halfway point!

7 comments:

neilrthomson said...

good work! while you suffered I consumed 6 pints of Kaltenberg and smoked a lot of Golden Virgina. Maybe I should get a bike... amdown this weekend if you fancy a pint / death defying feat of physical exercise...

Spratticus said...

Bloody marvellous. 'Chapeau' as they say in drug addled French cycling circles. Count me in for next year's ride. What most impressed me was the the crazy shirt swapping you crazy...shirt swapper...you.

lizzy said...

Wow Well Done. the post cuppa soup part sounds really gruelling!

Mae's daughter said...

did you have a full blood transfusion?

the oxo said...

Yes, I got a job lot of Vinokourov's blood cheap off the interweb.

mr_stone_i_presume said...

hey simon, are you doing dunwich this year?

If so see you en route

Thomas>>>from merchant

Taiters said...

Thanks for the blog - especially the hint about the half way grub.
I will break my Dunwich Virginity this year but, perhaps unsurprisingly, can't persuade any mates to join. Seems likely I will make some new ones enroute though.
Taiters