Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dunwich Dynamo 2008

Bit of a difference from last year. Almost perfect weather conditions - clear sky and a back wind. Sadly, Nick and Marc weren't able to accompany me this time but I'd managed to swell the ranks of Team Badger with three men good and true: L - R: Iwan, owner of the only pair of calves larger than mine this side of Argentina, with a training regime that had consisted of watching Lord of the Rings: The Musical that very afternoon; Spratticus, a man whose shit is very much ON and who will be well known to regular followers of this blog; Richard, recently returned from two years globetrotting and riding on a borrowed bike with NO training whatsoever but a secret weapon in the form of a giant slab of flapjack from the 99p shop. Richard, Spratticus and I gorged ourselves on pasta in Borough before heading up to Hackney to rendezvous with Iwan and about 500 other masochists.

We also hooked up with Tom (of Merchant and the Courtesan fame) and lady friend Helen,all revved up for their first Dynamo.

Had an hour in London Fields, in which we indulged in a bit of voyeuristic bike porn, ogling other people's machines (and in my case feeling woefully inadequate about my own, but hey, it's not about the bike apparently).There seemed to be fewer recumbents and Bromptons than last year but possibly more single speed/fixed wheel riders. We downed a pint of Adnams to put us on the Suffolk scent and then, lo and behold, the routes are handed out, the toilets are visited, final adjustments made and we're off, cycling out of East London. At one point I was riding behind a girl in high heels, which I thought would be the ultimate fashion statement if she was doing the Dynamo, but she took a left turn after a couple of miles leaving me to ponder the practicality and marketability of combining stilettos with cleats. We started to get a false impression of darkness from the trees in Epping but it was still pretty light when you looked up at the sky and we seemed to zing out of London remarkably quickly.

Then, suddenly, we've left the street lights behind and are riding in the countryside proper, with the moon out and the LED's snaking up ahead of us. With the wind behind us, it seemed particularly quiet, which also gave the impression that we were going a lot faster than we really were for some reason. We stopped at 10:45 for what people who run training sessions invariably and annoyingly call a 'comfort break' - in our case this meant having a slash and breaking into the food stash - in some ways the Team Badger Dynamo is a bit like a mid-life crisis sleepover and midnight feast on 2 wheels. I also tested my blood sugar at this point and it was a pleasingly low 3.8: very unusual for that time in the evening, meaning I could munch away on dried fruit and binanos (which is what Bez calls bananas apparently) with impunity for the rest of the ride. I did, however, have to forego the 'Go' biscuits which Spratticus seemed to have in endless supply.

The first 50 miles or so seemed to fly by pretty quickly and uneventfully but I guess we were ready for a break by the time we hit the food stop at Lavenham, about 70 miles in. The queues were as long as ever but we had enough of our own provisions so only had to line up for hot drinks, which Richard gallantly volunteered to do. I bumped into Jack from the excellent resonance Bike Show and we had a bit of a chat that turned into an interview. Quite a few people took the opportunity to catch up on their sleep at the food stop but I felt wide awake and we were back on the road by 3.00. I'd ridden in short sleeves up to Lavenham but it felt a lot colder when we left so on came the warmer clothes. The rest of the team already had their tights on but the Badger shins remained unfettered for the whole ride.

The cold does make you want to pee more though. Here's Spratticus having a moonlit 'comfort break':

We saw quite a few bats flitting about on the next bit of the ride but then the clear skies meant it seemed to get light a lot earlier than last year and it was a real moment when the sun started to come through. It was a spectacularly beautiful morning as we started to reach what the route called 'Silly Suffolk'. From around midnight through to six we barely saw a car and had the road to ourselves. The first sight of another person on the route came at Coddenham, where there was a bloke fixing the church wall at 5.30 am! This was also where the strain started to tell a bit as well and, like last year, some of the hills seemed a lot less gentle than they might normally feel. I suffered a lot more than the rest of the team here, I think, and it was like a lorry struggling up a hill sometimes. I'm not sure if it's an age thing, or a bike thing, or just a general fitness thing, but I'm definitely not a contender for the King of the Mountains jersey, even in the Suffolk Alps. I like to think of myself as the Mark Cavendish of the Dynamo, though without the sprinting, obviously.

The last 15 miles or so from Framlingham was pretty tough, though our spirits were buoyed by a woman and her toddler cheering riders on in the back lanes behind Sibton Park. Richard and Iwan had shot ahead and missed a turning so Spratticus and I rode into Dunwich on our own with our knees creaking and thighs aching, finally making it to the Lost City at around 7:30, with the rest of Team Badger turning up only 10 minutes later despite having taken a pretty significant detour.

Met up with my folks, who arrived with a flask of coffee and more binanos, and my brother, who cycled over from Leiston in solidarity, perhaps hoping to bask in the reflected glory but looking suspiciously fresh compared to every other cyclist. Also caught up with Tom and Helen again, who were looking a lot more sprightly than I felt, the young swines. Breakfast in the cafe was followed by a quick paddle and a kip on the beach - too cold for swimming, though it didn't put everyone off. Then a swift pint of Adnams before escorting Richard off to Darsham station, where the bastards from National Express were only allowing 5 cycles on each train, forcing Richard to cycle back to Ipswich...into a headwind! That would have been a bridge too far for me, but he made it - 'chapeau' I say. I just about had enough left in my legs to limp back to Yoxford and collapse on the parental sofa.

All in all, then, a great ride. The final reading on my computer when I got to Yoxford was 126.66 miles (from Borough), average speed 13.1 MPH, max speed 29.1 MPH and total cycling time of 9 hrs 37 mins. The weather made it a lot easier and more enjoyable than last year, though the last bit somehow felt harder. A lot of people do the ride on their own, but I couldn't do that, so it was great to have such a good team...cheers lads! Hopefully next year (4th July) we'll be able to combine the veterans from this year and last, as well as a few newbies, to form Team Uber-badger. Tips for 2009? Book a coach ticket - don't rely on getting the train back. I think I'll try to carry less stuff too and who knows, I may even invest in a new bike by then, so I'll only have age to blame for my slow progress on even the mildest gradient.

Check out the ITV news report on the Dynamo, featuring cameo appearances from Team Badger here


Spratticus said...

Great Dynamo Dialogue. Trust me, I was suffering equally as much on the Suffolk equivalent of Alpe D'Huuuu-ez and Col de Madeleine at the end there.

Courtesan said...

Hello Simon,
What a fantastic ride.

See you next year

the oxo said...

Hey Tom

Good to see you guys on the Dynamo! Hope you made it back OK and see you soon - if not then definitely on 4th July 2009!!!!

Tom said...

Yeah I can't wait for 4th july 2009!

Think I may take a leaf out of your book and stay in Suffolk for a few days after. Camping near Southwold seems appealing.