Dunwich luck | Southwark CyclistsAuthor: Alice Beneyto

Lashing Saturday rain didn’t bode well but the Dynamo’s luck was in. Hackney’s Pub On The Park starting point was dry by early evening.

A rainbow sea of riders and bikes floods London Fields, the click-clack of cleated feet and the soft tick of turning wheels join the yack of rising voices, the volume increasingly febrile with anticipation of the off and with relief that the skies have finally cleared and it might, just might, stay fair for the night. Which it does.

Where’s the route map? Where’s the route map? It’s not here yet, no rush no rush. Where though, where, will it be? Somewhere over there. It’s here, it’s here! Then without signal a rolling wave of fourteen hundred cyclists moves out: the Boris bike, lots of foldings, a few tandems, the penny farthing, the road and fixed and single speed; en route to Dunwich you pass riders, they pass you, the fairy lights and flower garlands, a billowing red sateen cape, the Brompton with its blue neon glow, Kingston Wheelers and Ipswich Tri in their club kit, sleek as seals, slip by.
It’s dark and still, the moon glows round and waxy. Stop at a T-junction and look back at the trailing loose string of white lights bobbing closer. I stick out my pink flouro arm, a human sign-post, and stage whispered thank yous come clear as bells in the near silent night.

The village hall in Sible Hedingham is a half way oasis with vats of soup and crates of bananas, Styrofoam cups are scattered on tables, a few exhausted bodies are lost to oblivion on the wooden stage. Catches of conversation about broken chains, rear mech solutions, sore bottoms and aching knees.

Move on and whoosh through lanes with the soft rush of wheels and random red lights flicking suspended in the night beyond. By Bildeston a glowing pink line cuts through striated clouds. Dawn is here. In early morning light a remote resourceful cottage has a constant cluster of cyclists stopping for their coffee and bacon rolls. Shall we? Oh, why not. Then breakfast’s over, let’s move on, Dunwich is ever closer. Trip over handlebars, bent out of shape but fixable, phew.

It’s clear, it’s cool. Dip and curl through a Suffolk Sunday, signs for Suffolk Dog Show line the route and Peasenhall village proudly proclaims its Pea Festival, peadestrians this way. Joyous.

A sign to Dunwich, ten miles! And then it’s there. The sea! Bodies and bikes scattered all around. Bikes leaning on every fence, post, hedge and rail, bodies blissfully asleep on the tranquil grass of The Ship pub – sold out of breakfast by ten o’clock but the gin and beer flowed freely – or slumped head down on the benches of Flora’s café while patient waitresses call out orders and serve plates piled high with chips and whitebait, or prone on the pebbled beach, bikes laid asunder while a brave few plunge into the chilly sea. A snake of cycles spirals in a free-form queue for the bike truck; the first coaches leave, faces already asleep in the windows as they roll away.

The final bikes are stowed under the last coach, every inch of space used up, and the heavens open. Thank you, lovely Weather God, for looking out for us through one hundred and twenty miles and please remember next year’s date, 30 June 2012.

Stats abound with the personal bests, the averages, the last year’s record broken, but the only numbers that really matter are these: beaming faces at Dunwich beach – countless; beautiful sunrise – one; massed memories – millions; the anxious ticketless left behind with no lift home – none. A perfect result.

Barry, Southwark Cyclists hope you approve.