Night Rider

Cyclists from New Malden Velo Cycling club, ready to start the Dunwich Dynamo
At Raynes Park Station, most of the team ready for the off

I didn’t manage to get a place in the Ride London 100 this year. I could have ridden for charity, but due to the inevitable difficulty I would face raising money this time, I decided against getting in this way. After all, I’ve already done the Ride London twice before, and I was not confident I could meet the required sponsorship target.

Start of the Dunwich Dynamo at London Fields with hundreds of other cyclists
At London Fields waiting with hundreds of other cyclists

An alternative to the Ride London 100, although a very different ride, is the Dunwich Dynamo. The Dynamo is a 112 mile ride from Hackney in East London to ‘The Lost City’, Dunwich in Suffolk. The ride is at night, starting about 8pm, or when people are seen to start leaving London Fields near the Pub in the Park. The ride is unusual in that it is not really organised. There is a chap in the Park who sells route sheets for £1, the proceeds going to charity. Other than that, there are no marshals, the roads are not closed and there is no official mechanical support. This annual ride is held to coincide with a full moon, so it’s not totally pitch black when you are on the remote country lanes of Essex and Suffolk.

A group of four of us from the New Malden Velo club set off from New Malden at 5pm, meeting a fifth member at Raynes Park. We then made the journey up to London Fields in Hackney, by bike of course! After downing a coke and eating most of our food supplies, we set off on the ride at about 7.30. I can only say that the first part of the ride was a bit chaotic, thousands of cyclists mixing in with Saturday night traffic is probably not a good thing, the cycle lanes in this part of the ride moved on and off the pavement and into the road quite a lot. Further along the ride, the roads quietened down as we passed through Epping Forest and into the ‘badlands’ of Essex. We had been warned about this stretch of the route, and sure enough, someone decided it was a good idea to throw a full bottle of coke out of their rear window into the path of a group of cyclists. Thankfully I think everyone managed to dodge it, but it was clearly aimed to try and knock someone off their bike.

Once we got out into the countryside, the roads became quieter and there were a number of roadside offerings to help keep the cyclists going. Free Cake! Midnight feasts and a number of pubs open throughout the night. We stopped at The Axe and Compasses for coffee.

The rest of the ride through Essex was pleasant, with the wind behind us and only rolling hills, this part of the ride was not too challenging.

We rode through the dark, stopping at Sudbury fire station which had been turned into a cyclists refuelling stop. Barbecue food and drinks and toilet stop here.

Dunwich Dynamo ride for New Malden Velo cycle club, stop at Sudbury fire station
Sudbury Fire station, Almost halfway point for ride

After Sudbury fire station, which we left around midnight, we pretty much rode through the rest of the night without stopping. Everything was OK until we got a bit lost towards the end of the ride. Following the lights in front of us had worked until then, but we got to a point where the people in front of us were asking us for directions. This was not a good sign. Things started to look up though when we found someone who ‘had the route on their phone’. This pretty much meant that we had to keep up with them, and they were fast!

At 3.55am we arrived at Dunwich beach. The remaining two members of our group, who we have become separated from arrived a few minutes later. We had a beer and breakfast at the cafe and then sat on the beach while watching the sun rise.

New Malden Velo Cycle club sitting on the beach at Dunwich
On the beach at Dunwich for sunrise

Dunwich was not the end of the ride for us. We still needed to cycle 30 miles to Ipswich, where we would catch the train back to London. On that part of the ride it started to rain, but not too heavily. We were soon back on the train to London.

Looking back on the ride, it was certainly very enjoyable and I would definitely do it again. I’d probably not rely on other people too much for directions though next time. We became separated from the two members of our group who were the only people with GPS mapping. See you next year Dunwich Dynamo!

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