It was with great excitement that we four rolled out of Hackney at 8pm headed for the coast. The crowd seemed just the right type – frame pumps, Brooks saddles and Carradice a-plenty.
We were doing the Dunwich Dynamo, a 180km night-ride from London to Dunwich, a small coastal town in Suffolk. The ‘Dynamo’ was started 20 years ago by a few messengers with some help from Mosquito Bikes and today over 2000 people make the yearly trip. It has become a big event in the local calendar: pubs stay open and serve food well into the night, bike shops set up tents with cups of tea and bacon rolls, and people turn their gardens into makeshift shelters waving at those passing by.
Our trip was sold to me as a relaxing affair – except one chap arrived with a power meter. Perhaps this was going to be much more serious than I expected. We crawled out of the city at a snail’s pace - infuriating scores of taxi drivers; the roads were just not designed for this many cyclists.
As we reached the countryside the light had begun to dip so upon spotting our first pub we made a dash for it before we had to turn on our lights. Thankfully the man with the power meter ordered a pint of Guinness, which put me at ease; perhaps we weren’t going to ‘smash it’ after all.
Emerging like moles we discovered the world had gone dark. Thankfully I had borrowed a quality light to help me on my way. I flipped the switch as we rolled out of the car park. ‘Bloody hell, that’s bright Jordan!’. It was on the dimmest setting. From now until morning, the light was referred to as both ‘the sun’ and ‘the megatron’.
The miles fell away easily after this: we had hitched onto a large club who were riding together and were sucked along up the hills. The monotonous darkness interspersed with mild stretches of mortal terror. Quite naturally we made no effort to read the cue-sheet, missed the food stop and instead found sanctuary in a nearby pub. Yet further Guinness to the rescue.
After rattling along a bit further the ride was beginning to take its toll. I was unsure of how far we had ridden but going on the ‘one urinating cyclist per 500 metres’ rule, I had estimated it to be about 110km.
I was feeling tired and hungry and the road picked out by hundreds of blinking red dots stretched out to infinity. At this point my mind had turned to the piece of plastic in my pocket and the thought of collapsing into a Travelodge. I decided against it however as the abuse we handed out to the member of our party who got a puncture was so extreme that I dared not imagine what would be said of a quitter.
Sensing my waning energy Mike reached into his bag and brought out some food matter that, in the dead of night, looked like a bag of mummified testicles. ‘Excellent!’ I thought, and devoured five.
Yet more miles tumbled away. Now and again came a spark of energy and brilliance interspersed by much longer periods of mediocrity. We passed through a small town at about 3 am with drunken revellers lining the street. One poor chap was leaning against a wall ejecting the contents of his stomach.
‘Bring it all up man!’ I cried. ‘You’ll feel better in the morning.’ I spent the next five minutes thinking about how annoyed I’d be if someone shouted that at me.
The idle chitchat continued until we looked up and realised our lights were no longer needed. It was morning. Quick. Up the pace. We must reach the beach for breakfast.
We thundered along with what little energy was left until we saw the sign: ‘Dunwich Road’. One long descent and then you could see it shimmering in the cool morning light.
A mirage? No. We could smell it too. Our eyes were not deceiving us. There it was. The café armed with full English breakfasts. We abandoned the bikes and made haste for the queue. Five minutes passed and we were kings. Sat at a table with pots of tea, fried bread and the sun on our backs.