Somehow, someone convinced me to join the Dunwich Dynamo on Saturday night. If you’re going to go on a bike ride it might as well be a long one, and if you’re going to do a long one it might as well be overnight, right? Hmm, well I wasn’t entirely convinced beforehand, I was very excited at the beginning, followed by waves of unconvinced-ness during and by the end I felt firmly unsure of pretty much everything.
It was 120 miles, which is a long way by anyone’s standards. I had cycled that far before, but that was during the day and it did take the whole day. I knew I could do it, so safe in that knowledge I decided not to give it too much thought (or do anything like training for it). I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning my bike, buying vast quantities of cycling snacks and trying my hardest not to cycle anywhere. We cycled over to London Fields in the evening to find more lycra on more fancy bikes than I have ever seen in one place before. I had naively been expecting a critical mass sort of crowd, but oh no, this lot were serious, very serious.At 9pm we pedalled off, over Lea Bridge Road and into Epping Forest. As it got dark we followed a trail of tiny red lights blinking into the distance. Every now and then we’d come into a village to find hundreds of bikes on the ground twinkling like Christmas as cyclists descended into the pub for last orders or first coffees. At about 30 miles I felt pretty dubious about the whole affair as I realised how far we still had to go. By mile 45 I felt better, knowing we’d put a good distance behind us.
At 60 miles we stopped at a cross roads to commemorate the halfway point (with a massive bottle of chocolate milk and a banana), it felt amazing until I looked at my watch and saw it was 3am. We’d been cycling for 6 hours already, with a short stop every hour or so, going at what I thought was a fair old pace. It dawned on me that even if we could keep up that same pace, we were still going to be cycling for another 6 hours! Then someone cycled past us carrying a dog in a basket on the front of his bike, which was enough to take my mind off the mammoth distance that awaited us.
At 4am it started to get light behind the clouds, by 5am it was properly light and we could see the landscape around us. At 90 miles we celebrated with a short lie down under some trees (all night cycling is the new all night raving). We were on the home stretch we told ourselves, only 30 miles to go. Then we remembered that 30 miles is still a fairly long way, longer than most people would cycle on a Sunday morning, even if they had been to bed.
To keep ourselves awake we quizzed each other on random facts. Which country drinks the most cups of tea per capita (Ireland, 6 cups)? Which uses more water in its production a bicycle or a cup of coffee (bike)? The last 20 miles were long, my legs didn’t really work anymore. The last 4 miles were the longest 4 miles of my life. But then, at 8.30am we arrived on the pebble beach of Dunwich. I reckon they chose Dunwich because a pebbly beach is better for bikes than a sandy beach.
I’m very glad I did it (but I wasn’t glad all the way round). My mind has been see-sawing between ‘definitely next year’ and ‘never again, well maybe just to Brighton’ ever since, we’ll see.