end of the road at dunwich, the lost city

The Dunwich Dynamo; a night of beautiful madness

The Dunwich Dynamo, the dun run, the French might call it ‘the beautiful madness’. Whatever you call it, the dun-run is a whole lot of adventure packed in to a single night.

I’ve taken part in this iconic event three times; 2011, 2013 and 2014. In this article I’m sharing the account of each ride. My hope is that these short stories will inspire you to take part in the next Dun Run in 2021

The Dunwich 2014

We met at 7.30pm at London Fields, next to the Pub on the Park, with 100’s of other like minded people, united with a single aim – ride 196km through the night to the lost city of Dunwich on the Suffolk Coast.

We’ve talked before on this blog about the great spirit and camaraderie of the Dun Run, and it was a fantastic feeling when at the start of the evening, Debbie & Francis from DD2013 came over to say hello (as featured later in this post).

Starting out; Lydia and Richie lead the pack through Springfield Park

This year the favour was returned, thanks Dan & Justin for fixing Rosie’s puncture in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Starting out pedalling up through East London towards Epping Forest, we encountered the chap riding a double decker bicycle.

Around 21 miles in we stopped, as is tradition, around 10pm at the White Hart in Moreton for a swift pint and a fistful of cashews.

This year the pub was even busier than usual with crowds filling the sleepy village streets.

Sible Hedingham

The feeding station for the ride at the halfway mark – Sible Hedingham Village Hall -is a welcome break, a chance to rest tired legs, fill up on pasta, sandwiches and coffee and a chance to share stories of the journey so far with fellow riders.

We took a different tack this year, we were lucky enough to have been invited by our friend, the lovely Vita, to share a giant pot of a coffee and bacon rolls at her house in Sible Hedingham.

What a treat!

Thank you Vita for a welcoming & revitalising pit stop. The extra sandwiches we took with us really raised our spirits at 6am in the pouring rain.

A welcome break at Vita’s house, coffee and bacon rolls to keep us rolling!

Still with 50 miles to go the heavens opened. The rain was heavy and unrelenting. We had to stop.

Happily we found this garage forecourt more than accommodating and pulled in to wait out the storm.

Hot coffee

Luckier still, Fabian had the same idea and whipped out the stove to brew up a fresh pot of coffee to share with our new friends under the shelter of the garage forecourt.

A sure fire way to make friends & boost moral! Good work Fabi.

This event is like no other, it’s a challenge that invites you to push yourself in many ways, regardless of ability.

Whether you’re a veteran keen to help others discover ‘the beautiful madness’, a newbie looking to test your endurance or a club rider training to shave a few minutes off your PB – there is something for everyone.

Even Bertie!

Go Bertie! This guy gets a thumbs up form Rosie

This is why I think that the Dunwich Dynamo is the original microadventure: it’s challenging, it’s a total break out from the norm and it’s free.

You’ll make new friends, you get to swim in the sea and there’s a café on the beach so you get a good breakfast at the end (or fish n chips if you take your time). Until next year… #dunrun2021

Dun Run 2013

This weekend I did the Dun Run for the second time (AJ was busy celebrating his 1st birthday).

As always it was a fun yet challenging ride with over 1,500 other like minded cyclists. Just the ticket for a hot Saturday night in July.

One of the things that I really love about the Dunwich Dynamo is the camaraderie, the ‘we’re in this together attitude’ and the sheer thrill of riding a decent distance through the night.

You never quite know what you’ll see on the road; hand painted signs encouraging groups along the way, bacon butties in the early hours towards the final 30 miles for those needing fuel and the occasional rider at the side of the road with a flat tyre.

A big bike for a big ride

Team spirit

In these circumstances most cyclists would offer assistance of some kind, we all would right? I did that very thing on Saturday night and thought no more of it.

What’s a spare tube on a ride like that? Well, in some situations it makes all the difference.

Not wanting to blow my own trumpet, really just to share these exceptionally kind words from Debbie & Jane.

Thanks to you both for your very generous donation to Re~Cycle. Hope you see you on the Dunwich again next year. x

A letter from Debbie

Dear James

Thank you so much for your generosity in the early hours of Sunday morning when you gave me an inner tube. We exhausted our three spares in one go when I hit a horrible pothole just outside of Epping – two punctures and then a snapped valve left us with no repairable spares when I hit a second pothole much later. Your kindness made all the difference to me being able to continue the ride and finish. I would certainly have had to retire had you not passed us at that moment.

Thankfully we had no further dramas, apart from a 7mile detour when we took a wrong turn. We finished on the beach at 10am. The second half of our ride was much more enjoyable. Your spirit and relaxed manner inspired us along the way and we were very pleased to see you regularly throughout the event.

As promised I have made a donation this morning to Re-Cycle for £20 in your name to mark your kindness.

We hope you had a good journey home. When we realised there were so many people at Darsham waiting to get onto a 2 carriage train we opted to head in the other direction. We ended up travelling to Lowestoft and then to Norwich, where we got the train to London and were re-joined by all the riders at Ipswich, who had either ridden the extra mileage or had taken cabs.

Your name will always feature in the stories of our DD experience. We learnt so much from the event and may give it another go next year.

With best wishes
Debbie & Francis

A letter from Jane

Hi James

Just a quick note to say a huge thank you for helping my friend out on the Dun Run – the tube was a life saver 🙂 Your friendliness and generosity made the difference between us all finishing and bailing out!

I love the website, sounds amazing (and some great pics) – very inspiring, its a great attitude to life!

Have made a donation – tube for a donation seems like a good deal…

Happy cycling 😉

Jane

Taking a dip – a refreshing end to the nights ride

Dunwich Dynamo 2011

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 on the cusp of London Fields at half past 8PM to join the masses for the 19th annual Dunwich Dynamo!

As soon we arrived at the park the first challenge was to search for our riding buddies.

The gang were waiting for us amongst the huge throng of riders hanging about London Fields Park.

Losing and finding each other would be a theme this Dunwich Dynamo.

We eventually found the the guys near the lido. iThe masses had begun to depart and the crowds thinned out enough for us to meet up.

So with this amount of bikes on the road, losing your mates is pretty inevitable and it didn’t take very long at all.

Over the top

Within the first few miles we managed to get well and truly split up.  Myself and Johnny managed to fall back following a dropped chocolate bar.

The near collision sending Johnny over the handlebars in a stylish dismount!

We managed to regroup though when we came around a corner about 30 miles into the ride.  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.

A cheeky half at the White Hart

Obviously by this point it is well and truly pitch black.  From here on the road becomes a seemingly endless stream of flashing red lights fading into the distance.

The roads are pretty well surfaced 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 safely in such close proximity to other cyclists.  It was such a surreal setting.

As the first signs of sleepiness began to drift in it was a real challenge to focus on the road ahead.

The next milestone was the half way check point, which seemed to take forever!

Chain gang

As was expected the group of 7 riders we were in had drifted apart again since the pub.

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.

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, at least we were further on than we thought. Time to get cracking, we’d been stopped for about 10 minutes and we were getting really cold.

Even though it was the middle of summer the clear sky meant temperatures had plummeted! A factor which we had overlooked.

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.

Hot coffee for cold cyclists – the rain was just too much too bear at 6am

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.

Achilles Last Stand

The last couple of hours were definitely the toughest for me. As sleep deprivation well and truly settled in my ‘Achilles knee’ began to throb.

The cold night temperature and lack of leg warmers had taken its toll on my bare legs. 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.

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. We arrived at half 7 in the morning, straight in for a refreshing dip in the sea!

What an experience, what great company!… we’ll be back next year!

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