Preparing for the Dynamo

A few weeks ago I wrote about fixing my road bike and casually mentioned that I was taking part in a slightly nutty cycling adventure. Well, seeing as I haven’t yet chickened out/seen sense I should probably tell you what I’m getting up to…

I’m riding the Dunwich Dynamo.

I first heard of the Dunwich Dynamo back in 2010 after reading this Guardian article about recommended summer bike tours. It is a 200km overnight ride that leaves London Fields, Hackney at 9pm on the night of July’s full moon and cycles more or less in a straight line to the Suffolk coast, or more specifically Dunwich beach. Legend has it that one night, over 10 years ago now, a group of cycle couriers (and we all know how crackers they are) decided to set off on their bikes until they reached the sea. They ended up in Dunwich, and a group of cyclists have recreated this overnight adventure during July’s full moon every year after.

The ride is completely unsupported, and so although there is a lot of organisation provided by the Southwark Cyclists (they organise the transport back to London for riders and their steeds) when you’re out on the road you can only rely on youself and the other cyclists. There are no route markers, there’s no support vans – any help provided is done so voluntarily by local residents, shop owners and other cyclists in the group. It’s going to be quite a contrast to the organised running races that I’m used to!

I had not long got into cycling when I first read that article about the Dynamo and the idea of a long distance bike ride to the beach seemed just magical, especially considering that I struggled to ride the 7 miles from Southampton to Romsey (my first attempt at a Sunday bike ride)! Various glitches have arisen each summer since, both technical and social, but this year the Dynamo has taken priority and I’m facing a real test of physical and mental stamina: 200km, potentially 12 hours+, no sleeping, in the dark… I can’t wait!

The event has become larger each year, some years exceeding 1000 cyclists on their tourers, tandems, fixies and recumbents (and apparently a penny farthing one year and a Boris Bike during another) so hopefully I won’t get lost if I just follow the flashing red lights ahead of me. Things that I am scared about though include potholes in the dark, hitting a downhill unexpectedly and not being able to see it, my bike breaking down beyond repair, and (obviously) not making it to the beach. Things that I am looking forward to include riding through London en masse, not being able to see the hills rise in front of me, cycling into dawn, midnight picnics, jumping into the sea, and we all know that I’m a sucker for that sense of acheivement too.

I bet you’re wondering how on earth one prepares for an even like this, aren’t you? Well, you’re probably better off asking someone else, because I haven’t really done anything… I used to ride to work so would cover 10miles minimum each day, and that was enough fitness to take me on a 60-odd mile ride to Canterbury last year (read about that here on my old and redundant blog), and I’ve done London to Brighton a couple of times with friends,  so I’m hoping that my recent surge in cycling activity coupled with my ever improving running fitness will get me to the beach. If you plan to go cycle touring, long distances over several days then training is absolutely essential, but I’ve been told that as a one-off adventure I should just about be fine…

Not leaving anything to chance though, here is my list of equipment and action for the Dunwich Dynamo 2012:

Bike (duh…)
Spare inner tubes x2, repair kit, tyre levers, pump etc.
Bike lights (I’ve got some pretty good Cat’s Eye ones and am hoping to share someone elses beam on the bumpy bits)
Spare batteries for bike lights
Gloves (never bothered before, but I reckon my hands might hurt too much without some extra padding in the later miles)
Padded shorts (again, never bothered before, but 60 miles left my bits a bit sore so I’m taking precautions)
Cycling jersey (there is no particular reason to have one of these – I could wear a running top – but they look freakin’ cool)
Waterproof jacket of some description
Extra layer in case I get chilly
Flapjacks (homemade, lots of nuts and seeds)
Corned beef sandwiches (I don’t know why, but I reckon these will be delicious mid-ride)
Dried apricots (great snacks for long rides – packed full of carbs and small enough to keep on your person)
Water bottle cage for my bike
Speaker (so that we can have a battle of the playlists on the way)
Thermos of coffee



6 responses to “Preparing for the Dynamo

  1. I read / heard an interview how it started up by 2 cyclists who preferred night rides, and had a very organised feel to it with registration and all. As it grew in popularity, it grew unwieldy to organise and so became what it is today.

    I found the London leg the most unpleasant tbh, and don’t worry about seeing things. It doesn’t get that dark, full moons are very bright, even through cloud and your eyes adjust to the gloom. It’ll be fun and fine.

    • I want it to be more than fun and fine – I want it to be amazing!

      I also heard that it went through a phase of being a properly organised event, so it must be true, but I like to think that it is all a pilgrimage to follow the path of those crazy couriers who had drunk too many cans of Red Stripe and fancied a swim.

      Thanks for the advice – shame you won’t be riding with us… Encouragement via twitter will be very welcome!

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