What is the Dunwich Dynamo?
Simple. A turn-up-and-go challenging free-entry overnight 120 mile bicycle ride (some say the greatest London cycle event of the year), on-tarmac from London Fields in Hackney to the lovely, lonely Suffolk beach at Dunwich.
When is it this year?
The next Dynamo, DunRun, DD number 21, DDXXI, will be on the weekend of 20-21 July 2013 - so, back to mid-July this year as promised. There will be almost a full moon to light your way.
It’s not a race. It’s unsupported. There’s no van following. It’s a long way for nearly all of us. There will be times when you wish you were tucked up in bed.
But you’ll love it. The adrenalin buzz, the experience, the achievement, the smiles will cling forever. For a lot of us it’s almost the highlight of our bike year. That rare and precious human collective/supportive thrill is fabulous. Unmissable. We should rule the world.
Minimalist. Honest. Yes really. It gets bigger and more famous, but is as simple. And we aim to keep it that way. Patrick Field’s London School of Cycling has been involved from the start (1992) and provides route sheets and catering at a village hall near half way.
Since 1999 Southwark Cyclists have organised the main convoy to bring cyclists and their bikes back to London. This is the fourteenth trucking year. Our third without Barry Mason whose words have been adapted and updated here. Time flies.
How many people ride it?
230 riders in 2003. Numbers have increased year on year since, so there were approximately 1500 in 2012.
Who does it?
Mostly your average bike-to-workers for whom this is a very, very long ride. A daunting but exciting challenge. A few semi-pro cyclists, more road bikes every year, more and more fixie-skidders, a whole fleet of low-life recumbents, several Bromptons, some tandems. A Boris bike and two spaniels in 2011, a penny-farthing in 2009.
How long does it take?
Starting between 8pm and 9pm, most get to Dunwich between 7am and 9am the next morning...so about 10 or 11 hours, depending on your pace and number of stops.
What’s it like?
It’s a friendly adventure with bike-minded people along surprisingly traffic free country roads, with riders that soon settle into bunches at various paces. People give each other mental and if possible, mechanical support all the way to the sea. Glimpses of village Saturday night and the throbbing marquee in the middle of nowhere, bats, stars. The sense of very real achievement at the end is a huge lift that will stay with you. The worst bit is missing a night’s sleep. But that’s also the best bit. We ride into the sunrise.
Resonance FM’s ’Bike Show’ special for 2011 is available online here and a loving, personal reflection of the event can also be found on the site.
We see them every year but noticed them for the first time in 2005…on the quiet road ahead. Serotin bats, the UK’s largest, are our only ones that sometimes land to feed. It looks like these have learnt to find moths and beetles etc. on the tarmac. They’ve got much better radar than hedgehogs so you needn’t even try to avoid them. And no, of course they won’t go for your jugular. Probably.
Where is Dunwich?
About 200km (120 miles) north east of London on the lonely Suffolk coast between Southwold and Aldeburgh, right next to the internationally important Minsmere bird reserve.
What is Dunwich?
A thousand years ago wool-rich Dunwich almost rivalled London. Coastal erosion means the medieval metropolis is now half a mile offshore, and on a quiet night they say you can hear the watery tolling of the lost church bells. Nothing stays the same; the ride gets shorter every year.
Where is the start?
The ride meets at the Pub on the Park, Martello Street, London Fields, Hackney E8.
Bikes everywhere. Bemused locals (though perhaps no longer so bemused).
There will be feeder rides to the start from Greenwich and London Bridge. Watch this space.
What start time?
Be at the Pub on the Park by 8pm for a 9pm start. That’s PM. Saturday evening, 20 July 2013. Careful, that start time isn’t precise; people start to leave when they feel like it after 8pm. A sort of momentum develops like those bats from a cave, and suddenly everyone has gone. Some leave much earlier and most can’t see the point of that. It’s not a race so why rush?
Be careful out there…
Be aware that the first few kilometres follow very inner-city streets that were never a problem until 2005 when a late-ish starter in a group of three got his bike taken from him by a few youths. Look out for each other and maybe leave your alone moments for the greener bits later. And, tragically, in 2006 in the village of North Weald, a stupidly driven van came round the corner on the wrong side of the road and killed well-equipped rider Andrew Rawlings, and injured another. In 2008 a rider got hit by a can thrown by some young drunks from a front garden. When Barry phoned that in when he heard about it days later, the Essex policeman who took the call had been on the ride and loved it. The house in question got visited. Another reason for always reporting yobbery.
How do I follow the route?
You’ll be offered a route sheet by London School of Cycling at the start (suggested minimum £1 donation to help cover some costs) but the route is unsigned.
The OS Travel Map 'Road map East Midlands and East Anglia Including London' covers the whole route. ISBN 978-0319230916. From around £2 plus delivery from Amazon.
Hackney fairies will try and put some night-light jam jar lanterns out along part of the way. And follow the flashing red-lights ahead. That memory will linger.
What’s the route like?
It leaves London surprisingly quickly and slightly confusingly, is all on tarmac, and once through naughtyboy-racer bouncer-guarded road-pub Epping Forest, it’s mostly unlit county lanes all the way with a few villages and small towns. Moreton, Leaden Roding, Great Dunmow, Great Bardfield, Finchingfield, Castle Headingham, Sudbury, Great Waldingfield, Needham Market, Framlingham, Rendham, Darsham, Westleton …
A few short sharp hills and more steady climbs, nothing very serious. Mostly very flat. Tarmac throughout.
What do I need?
Lights. The clear sky requested. Lots of stars out there and the near full moon make it surprisingly undark. If you use little blinky city lights you’ll sometimes want to tuck in behind someone with a beam…it can be dark out there, unnerving in the gravely tree tunnels. Bring a pump, a spare inner tube or two (and associated tools), and spare batteries if you might need them.
Around 55 miles out the “halfwayhall” will be specially opened by lovely people and you can buy hot drinks and good basic food there.
Note this carefully please: This is a turn up and go ride and we intend to keep it that way. We’ve no way then of knowing how many people will want feeding here in the early hours.
We can’t of course afford to get food in and then not sell it. We’ll aim to feed the majority of riders, but no more. Please make sure then you bring something to eat with you anyway, but especially in case there’s nothing left. There will be queues.
Every year, too much litter is dropped by non-thinkers. Our kind food people spend an extra few hours cleaning it all up, which just isn’t fair on them. Please respect them and your planet - use the bins.
Also look out for pop-up stops. More and more open each year.
Best avoid the siren call of the open pubs. Unless of course you need coffee/loo. The few all-night garages can be handy. Moths to a flame. Lots of new pop-up pit-stops now though as well. Keep eyes peels for these heros.
What happens if my bike or I break down?
There’s no following magic bus to sweep you up or mend your bike but fellow riders often work wonders. The ride is unsupported. You are on your own. If you’re in trouble, expect help from others but if you just get too tired or a knee gives out or whatever, then you’ll have to find a lift or cab to get you to the nearest station.
The Dunwich Dynamo is under the London Cycling Campaign’s £5m public liability insurance cover and if you are not a member please consider joining.
What happens at the finish?
Dunwich Beach. The steep shingle beach makes for a great cleansing wake-up swim.
The Flora Tea Rooms opens specially for us at 6am (it may open sooner at 4am, but don’t bank on it). The Ship Inn likewise. More and more pop-up cafes along the route this year, follow our Twitter feed as we reveal where they are.
Once fed, most then snooze on the shingle a little. Some then have a beer or two.
How to get home?
A few seasoned riders just turn round and spin back to London. Most get the coach or train. Some just cycle up the coast for a long weekend.
We’re openly biased. We recommend the coaches for the snooze home, and the wagons for your bikes. It’s Hamiltons Removals’ most interesting job of the year! We put the bikes in their vehicles with their professional packers. Tandems and recumbents fit easily.
That said; whilst we will take every care with bicycles brought back to London, you and your bicycle remain your responsibility. If you’re worried about your pristine paint job then bring a wrapping sheet or blanket or similar, but we tell the firm to bring lots of cardboard and try to get all the pedals pointing in the same direction.
2012 was a record year for us, and we’ve modified the service to try and deliver even more for the participants.
Tickets are now on sale; this year we are working with an 'e' provider http://regonline.activeeurope.com/dunwichdynamo
We’ve always sold out of tickets, and there have always been some riders who have been disappointed in missing out on a seat, so for 2013 there will be a reserve list once we have sold out. It follows there will be the facility to cancel your ticket and make it available to the reserve list. If you cancel your ticket up until 14 days before the ride, and it is resold, we will refund the cost of an earlybird ticket less 25%
Transport back tickets are £20 if paid for on or before midnight on 31 May, £30 from 1 June, and £35 on the day IF space is still available.
We have often had to close online booking earlier due to all seats being sold, so don’t leave it to the last minute to book your return transport.
AND PLEASE BRING A PRINT OF YOUR BOOKING ACKNOWLEEDGEMENT AS YOUR “TICKET”
Once you've completed the ride...
Take your time on the beach or head straight home as you wish. With an earlier start we hope that we can get those who wish home sooner and move more of you, avoiding that painful ride to Ipswich. The later convoys are for those who want to swim, eat, sleep, relax, and quite rightly slow down and savour the moment, not rush.
This year we load from 8am for a 9am first departure, last departure 13.00. Return to Chambers Wharf here: http://goo.gl/maps/ZSWEK
You'll get fuller information e-mailed to you nearer the event, assuming you have bought a ticket.
Important: We close online bookings around noon on Saturday 20 July (or sooner) to make sure the lists we use outside the pub are complete. We can’t afford to make a loss so we base the earlybird coaches/trucks ticket price on a cost-covering not-for-profit basis, with transparent books.
Late booking is more expensive so as to encourage early booking and easier estimating of numbers. It’s difficult and extremely expensive to get more capacity at the last minute.
Money from the route sheets goes to the London School of Cycling. Any surplus helps the LSC pay for the glow-lights, the workers’ food and general expenses. If a loss develops, we’re in trouble.
People leave belongings on the coaches … jackets, cameras, bungee cords. All usually reunited later but its avoidable tiresome hassle.
Logistic wizardry said the Guardian.
We moved a record 875 people and their bikes back last year and this year we will have capacity to bring back about 1000.
Helpers to unload the bikes will be waiting at the London end for us. Once back, some of us then find a pub. Optional extra.
How do I book a coach place?
Go to http://regonline.activeeurope.com/dunwichdynamo to book transport back for you and your bike.
Please print off your acknowledgement (it's the only one you'll get) and present it when loading at Dunwich Beach.
Can I buy coach-back tickets at the start?
Don’t count on it. All tickets will almost certainly have already been sold. However - partly depending on the weather - there may be some no shows on the night. We will be at Dunwich with a Q&A point from 10am on Sunday, possibly sooner, so if you are chancing it make sure you have cash. If you lose your ticket overnight, it is at this meeting point you come, to try to convince us.
The nearest station is in fact Darsham, four miles back along the route from Dunwich. The first train of the day is at 8.44am (do check for yourself) then every two hours……change Ipswich, arrive Liverpool Street about 2 hours 20 minutes after leaving Darsham. The single fare from Darsham to London Liverpool Street is approx £40 on the day, but cheaper in advance. You can book via www.thetrainline.com. Delivery is free, and Southwark Cyclists will get commission if you book with thetrainline using this link.
Ipswich station is 30 miles away and has trains at 9 and 43 minutes past the hour. Journey time of about 80 minutes and £36 on the day (again, check this).
Engineering works may or may not be happening - Sunday is the favourite day for them and could result in coached sections that might have no room for bikes. Check National Rail Enquiries for engineering work notices nearer the time - enter your journey and click ‘check for updates’. And careful … that Darsham train has increased its bike capacity but it is still minimal.
Be nice. Be considerate – of each other and the locals. Noise is the chief complaint made against us by local residents in towns and villages along the way.
We do not want to read, reply to and give feedback to riders about irate emails and voice messages this year. So, please use common sense and be courteous of sleeping folk when passing through and stopping off in residential areas and be as quiet as possible.
Do not chat under bedroom windows at 3am in the morning or at any other hour.
And do not under any circumstances leave litter.
This good behaviour is for the benefit of local residents as well as your fellow riders, as it will ensure the continuity of the ride in its present ungoverned, unpoliced, unticketed form, for years to come.
Our Survival Tips
Do some longish rides beforehand … Southwark, Greenwich and Lewisham Cyclists usually do a lot: see Rides and Events page on our website
Don’t overdo the alcohol, etc. for a few days beforehand
Pack spare layers of clothes, it can be very warm or chilly or damp or wet
Money. Always handy
Most jeans have lumpy under-seams that you don’t notice for a few miles. Then you notice.
Tools: at least - a pump, a small multitool, a couple of spare inner tubes, tyre levers.
Make sure your bike is in good nick. Give it a good clean, lube and service a few days before. On the day, give it another look, and, for example, flip it over and check the tyres for those infiltrating little sharp bits. If you’ve been thinking about getting new tyres, splash out before the ride.
Lights: you’ll need them. LEDs can last all night, but bring spare batteries anyway, tuck in behind someone with a beam for those tree-tunnel lane stretches.
Saddle? Apply Vaseline, chamois cream or similar if/before your bits get sore. Recumbent riders, they boast, needn’t bother.
Carbo-loading works for most: a large pasta meal the night before. Some swear by cutting out caffeine for a few days beforehand so that the 3am halfway coffee really j o l t s.
Drink water before you get thirsty, snack and nibble before you get hungry. That way you’ll avoid hitting the spirit-draining brick wall (or bonk) of no energy.
Don’t sprint off with the skinny greyhounds unless you are one. Settle into a group doing a pace you like. If it turns out slow, dance in the pedals and catch a quicker group. Bit too fast? Drop off the group and wait to be caught up.
Swim at the end (a change of pants/small towel is a good idea).
Keep looking here or the Facebook page.
Smile and love it.
From this year's DD team:
Andy C, Bill, Colin (with help from Barry and Alex)
If you have any queries about the Dunwich Dynamo 2013 and they are not answered here, please contact email@example.com / 0759 298 5293