This weekend was the Dunwich Dynamo, my inaugural, but hopefully the first of many such occasions. It's a 120 mile ride from Hackney to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast, near Southwold, where I holidayed as a teen. It was something I almost did last year, but a lot of fellow riders backed out before I could fully commit. I was so determined to do it this year though, that after reading many articles and much forum chatter, even if I knew not another soul there, I'd do it. Turned out a handful of folk got bikes together in time and showed up, and I even ran into some chaps that I didn't know were doing it at all.
Of course, I rode fixed, on 45/16 ratio, roughly 73 gear inches. Taking the Gayas wasn't a tough choice either, being the sturdiest of my stable as well as easily adaptable to a behind-the-seat bottle cage that was required.
I also felt ostracized for the jeans and t-shirt option I took. Despite being someone with a 150 mile-a-week average I don't own any lycra (apart from padded under bits.) I've never had a complaint and, unlike some folk I spoke to, believe that you should ride with things and in a way that you are comfortable and confident with. This was also the driving force behind my super-minimal packing ideology (top image.) 99% of rider had a backpack or panniers and a lot of the time, both, or more. I spent some time minimising all I would take, with only wishing I'd taken more and better food, I only rode without a jacket leaving London, and by that point had a hell of a lot of room in the saddle bag.
Getting out of London, incidentally, was tricky, with 1000 cyclists all trying to get through traffic, getting lost, stuck and confused, ultimately frustrated and then injured by each-other (including one particularly ugly crash just outside London;) it was worryingly difficult. There were many stops early on through Essex, which was predictably horrific with drunks playing chicken with us in the road and throwing things at us. Once through the forest all was beautiful, and quickly I was playing catchup with / wait for / stop with friends for the first 40 miles or so before deciding that I wanted a more meditative experience and hung-back to get some space.
I cruised on like that until the 'halfway' point at about 55 miles, where I stopped, looked around feeling confused and rode off, regretfully rejecting food in the faith that there was more further on. 10 miles later I realised I had deceived myself and stuffed down the two Double Deckers while in the saddle. Soon after, I could feel myself bonking (bike term for energy crashing NOT childish sex slang) and decided to pull over at the next village to sit down for 5 minutes. But I didn't, nor the next one, nor the next one. I rode a further 10 or so miles in constant deceleration, convinced that I had a flat, or something trapped in the Gayas' tight clearances before almost literally keeling over at a junction on the grass.
10 minutes later, after half a bottle of lucozade, I was whizzing along, leading a small cadre of roadies in full lycra. One of the only things frustrating me about the ride so far was the climbing speeds of geared riders (i.e everyone else.) Geared riders coast down hills then begin to grind up the other side on a spinny/climby gear. Being fixed, without the 'luxury' of gears, the only option is to tear down a hill as fast as possible, gain and preserve as much momentum as possible and burst up the other side. So, at about 4 in the morning, with the sky lightening and 30 odd miles to go, I let rip.
Having a dawning realisation that there was literally nothing else I was in the middle of the Suffolk countryside for than to ride my incredibly fast bicycle as fast as I could through an alien land with moonlight and sunrise fighting it out for shadows. I followed a team of roadies into a detour, and then realised that following people this late in the game, with everyone so spread out and the sunlight taking ground was a no-go. I whipped out the iPhone at every corner, checking the GPS and burning past groups of now-flagging early starters, downed all my lucozade, Pulled as much from every descent as possibly and skidded into the beach at about quarter to six.
Loss sets in at this point. I was here, the end of the line. I'd seen a handful of brave return riders coming at me in the last 5 miles or so and there were only a hundred or so folk at the end. I'd wobbled through the first quarter, meditated then burned like my legs were on fire for an hour and a half. I got a call from a friend, we grabbed tea and bacon sandwiches. Any conversations about the ride were null at this point. We talked about glasses, why we were drinking tea, plans for the week, brief trivia and the weather. Then I laid down on the beach for 4 hours.
photo credit - Owen Smith