No training program would be complete without a 120 mile night ride would it?! Well that’s what we thought anyway. We seem to have made it our intention to to ride in the most unpleasant conditions we can think of in preparation for the Really Big Bike Ride. We’ve done raging headwinds, torrential rain, heavy traffic and killer climbs so it seemed only natural to progress with some good old fashioned darkness and sleep deprivation. With this in mind we rolled up at the Pub on The Park in Hackney, London at half past 8PM to join the masses for the 19th annual Dunwich Dynamo!
As soon we arrived at the park another one of the challenges which this ride would continually provide, that of sticking together, suddenly occurred to me as I tried to search for our riding buddies who were waiting for us amongst the huge throng of riders hanging about London Fields Park. When we eventually found them we were told that it had quietened down quite a bit in the last half hour or so too! So with this amount of bikes on the road, losing your mates is pretty inevitable and it didn’t take very long at all. Within the first few miles we managed to get well and truly split up as myself and Johnny managed to fall back following a dropped chocolate bar, near collision and stylish dismount over the handlebars!
We managed to regroup though when we came around a corner about 30 miles into the ride to see the road pretty much impassable due to hundreds of riders completely blocking the road, What’s going on here then? Oh, this must be the pub! It seems to be Dunwich Dynamo tradition to get a cheeky jar in before last orders at the White Hart so that’s precisely what we did!
Obviously by this point it is well and truely pitch black so from here on the road becomes a seemingly endless stream of flashing red lights fading into the distance, the roads are pretty good and a good tail wind meant that we were rocketing along, the Dutch courage probably helped as well so spirits were sailing high! The main challenge at this point is riding in such close proximity to other cyclists, among such a surreal setting and as the first signs of sleepiness are beginning to drift in.
The next milestone was the half way check point, which seemed to take forever! As was expected the group of 7 riders we were in had drifted apart again since the pub but a roadside breakdown was to be the scene for our next rendezvous as me Jim and Steve came round a corner to find our friends Fabian and Walter looking concerned. Fabian who was doing the ride on a bike with one gear had managed to snap his chain while lugging 2 panniers and 1 giant German up the steepest road in Essex. As luck would have it a kind stranger with tools and spares stopped on his way past to save the day, err..night, so we pressed on again. After about a couple of hours we were getting a bit disheartened that we still hadn’t made it to the half way check point so we stopped at the side of the road and got stuck into some cold pasta. It was at this point when I got a call from Walter who was at the check point, he was also about 15 miles behind us, whoops!
Oh well, so at least we were further on than we thought. So, time to get cracking, we’d been stopped for about 10 minutes and we were getting really cold, another factor which we had overlooked. Even though it was the middle of summer the clear sky meant temperatures had plummeted! The hours ticked on by and our search for water had led us to bump into Steve again so we had a quick stop for a brew from Mr Taylor’s flask of happiness. A few more miles on and we also found Walter and Richie so we had a little crew together again as the sun was rising at about half 4.
The last couple of hours were definitely the toughest for me. As sleep deprivation well and truly settled in and my ‘Achilles knee’ began to throb from the cold night temperature and lack of leg warmers I dropped back and settled into a slower pace, I couldn’t take any risks at this stage in the game. The last encounter with Jim and the boys came about 15 miles from Dunwich where we stopped and had a chat to a lovely toothless old chap riding a bike far older and possibly heavier than any of us. We love you Derek Plumber! I’d go as far as to say those last miles seemed like the longest 15 miles of cycling I’ve ever done but it was worth pushing through the pain and bewilderment to get to the pebbles of Dunwich at half 7 in the morning and go for a dip in the sea!
What an experience, what great company!… we’ll be back next year!