Yes, it seemed like a good idea. All bad ideas start off as good ideas. Little tiny twinkly orbs of goodness shining out of the blackness of possibility. What you never see is the gigantic area obscured by the blackness called misery, misfortune, idiocy and a sore bottom.
Me, Ginger Kev and Mark promised each other we would do the Dunwich Dynamo this year no matter what the weather or personal situation was, as we have managed to find excuses for the past three years. This year was the year. Like blood brothers (although not, because you shouldn’t do that sort of blood sharing any more) we set our faces to the wind of the East.
Ginger Kev and Mark before the ride. Look how happy their little faces are.
For those who do not know. The Dunwich Dynamo is a cycle ride that starts on Saturday night at around 8.30/9pm ish from outside The Pub on the Park in Bethnal Green and we all head, unsupported and quite frankly in my case blindly into the night on a 120mile ride to Dunwich Beach in Suffolk.
We arrived at the starting point and joined the steadily swelling ranks of cyclists who had gathered to torture themselves. The majority of folk on normal road bikes, the occasional hybrid, some funky looking recumbents, a Brompton or two and a butchers bike. We, like all others, jabbered with excitement, admired people’s cranks group-sets and rims. I know, it sounds like a night at The Hoist.
Me. Guardian of the bikes whilst they go for a wee.
A couple of beers drunk a couple of wees done, Mark got some maps (I dropped mine and lost it within about 30 seconds of him handing it to me) and we were ready to go. Slowly, snaking out through Bethnal Green, through a graveyard, some parkland and onto a nice big road with a giant bus lane for us all to occupy.
Despite agreeing to stick together, Ginger Kev disappeared within seconds, he assumed we had raced ahead so he was racing ahead. Which is shame because I was looking forward to his tales of the Fortnum and Mason sit in. Still off we pedalled, caught up with him briefly then lost him again. Turned out he had a puncture.
I will skip most of the details – but the first downside of the ride was when we cycled through a lovely little village by the name of Halstead. This is where Mark pointed out to me we were closer to our homes than the finish line. This small innocuous sentence kicked me in the tenders like a Donkey with an axe to grind. We eventually found the rest stop with food and hot drinks around midnight. A church hall filled with sweaty cyclists all with a bemused look on their face. One eye amazed at how well they had done so far and the other eye showing total fear of what lay ahead. Basically 1500 cyclists looking a bit like Marty Feldman in Lycra.
We all wore this expression.
We waited for Ginger Kev for around 50 minutes. During which time we went from exhilarated to deflated to freezing our aching butts off. Ginger Kev bowled up, got a drink had a wee, ate some food and off we all went. I think you know what is coming. That’s right, within about 2 miles we lost him again. Then I lost Mark. We were all cycling solo. I had nobody with a map, my tiny little LED bike lights that couldn’t illuminate a moth’s behind were next to useless, my arse hurt beyond belief, I was cold and tired and had around 60-70 miles still to ride.
THIS IS THE COLOUR
It was around two and a half hours later that it started to go a little.. erm… shall we say awry? Following little blinking red lights down country roads is actually quite fun. They are all you can see, sometimes they disappear round a corner sometimes you are enveloped in them, 10 or 20 red willow-the-wisps cushioning you from the stark blackness of the empty and chillingly silent Essex and Suffolk countryside. For several hours now I have been cycling as hard and fast as I could up hill down dale (or whatever us southerners call dales) and had no idea what distance I had done. So naturally I chose a particularly fast descent to switch my bike computer on. 38mph it screamed back at me. I was doing 38 down a narrow country lane at 2.30am with virtually no light. This bit of information scared the total and utter full contents of my colon from me. I instinctively braked, skidded on the detritus smeared across the road bounced into a bush and back out of it again into the path of a mini peloton passing me to quiet jeers of ‘Oi watch out!’ and ‘Muppet’, stabilised and carried on at a much more sensible cadence.
An hour later was the second moment of what I like to affectionately refer to as ‘NEAR DEATH’. I was tired. I had, on advice, bought several caffeine sachets for the moments when I was tired and needed a boost. Up to this point I had completely forgotten about their existence. So what does a tired cyclist do at 3.30am when he needs a lift? Yes! He takes all five of them in one hit. It took roughly 10 minutes for my system to be flooded. It was alarming. My vision blurred. I felt like a super hero. I was a super hero. I believed I was Cycleman! Put on this planet to defeat the evil Red Dragons of Suffolk. I chased the Red Dragons down, the Red Dragons that taunted me, flying around corners, blinking, flashing, goading me to catch them. All the time my eyesight fading, my focal point tripling. Then the sweating, oh my Lord! The sweating, shivers and burning heat, muscles trembling like a shell shocked war veteran. The Red Dragons were all around me now, roaring at me, buzzing past me. I was drinking water as fast as I could aware that basically I was having a caffeine-induced whitey. I was also aware that I might be stood stock still in the middle of a pitch black country road having a wee. At this point I sat for around 20 mins, calmed, re-attached my real self to my body and, as luck would have it, Mark appeared. I sheepishly wiped the sweat* (*tears) from my face, saddled up and headed off once more with a companion.
To see this sign would be nice at this point. We didn’t.
The worst behind us and around 30 miles still to go we were beleaguered yet determined. We had given up hope of ever seeing Ginger Kev again. At this point, a low point, the sun started to cast its glory on the horizon. You cannot describe the empowerment that you get when just the faintest light in the sky reaches your eyes. It picks your body up, it shakes it, massages it, warms you to the bone, gives you hope and purpose, erases the shameful memory of when you though you were Cycleman.
We waited for Ginger Kev by the side of the road, about 15 miles from Dunwich. We ate flapjacks, we nodded in the way that cyclists nod to each other as the same people we had yo-yoed with flew by. Ginger Kev turned up, remarkably swiftly and, in trio, we began the final stretch.
Dunwich looked like a cyclists’ Dunkirk. We had coffee, we had a full-English, we slept on the stones in the heat of the sun by our bikes. The three of us parted ways (mainly because I forgot to book my coach seat and they didn’t bother to do it for me). Triumphant I made my lonely way home, by bike, by train, by bike, by train, by bike. I am proud I did it. I probably won’t do it again.
As far as the eye could see were people, aching, saddle-sore but satisfied
I didn’t do it for charity, I wanted to experience the challenge on a human level not a pressured charity level– but if I had – I would have done it for the Premature Baby Charity, Bliss. This is where you can help them if you feel the need.
Look at their little faces, they are still smiling!