Blinded by the lights, dizzy new heights
The Dunwich Dynamo, a rite of passage, a night of my life
I guess this current trip is a more conventional view of adventure- far flung places, landscapes never imagined, strange cultures and language, and extreme weather survival. For me, however, in my old London life a sense of adventure and freedom was something I was able to feel each weekend, getting out of the city riding loops of the home counties. The perfect ingredients for such adventure is to have amazing friends who share the same spirit of discovery, some big scale road atlas´s and highlighter pens, oh, and a country pub for lunch. We would always return to London feeling as though we had been on holiday, my friends and I feeling as though we knew a secret.
One of my favourite adventures was the Dunwich Dynamo. Which I was reminded about today whilst chatting to a friend in London. This made me incredibly home sick as I recalled one of the most memorable nights of my life, and surely a rite of passage for any London cyclist.
Here is something that I wrote after the 2012 ride……
There are some nights which stand out in your memory for being some of the best of your life, those nights which feel like a beautiful dream, hazy and distant and so great in your memory that they don’t seem like they were ever real; you know for sure they could never be recreated. Of being 17 and discovering music and boys and dancing like it’s your last night on earth; or the last night of a summer spent traveling – staying up all night and into the afternoon with precious friends, knowing you will never all be together again. Cycling the Dunwich Dynamo was one of those nights.
The Dunwich Dynamo, an over night bike ride, celebrating it’s 20th year, is a semi-organised event, usually held on the Saturday in July closest to the full moon. Cyclists meet at London Fields, Hackney in the evening and cycle approximately 120 miles (200km) to Dunwich on the Suffolk Coast.
It felt like a right of passage, my 4th summer in London and it was only now I was bold enough to do the Dunwich Dynamo. Leaving the streets of Hackney we knew too well, we started off, fairly cautious, not wanting to burn out too early. We followed the red back lights of other cyclists through the A roads of outer London and the rowdiness of Saturday night in Essex suburbia. We were pacing ourselves, and before we realised we were 30 miles down and in the countryside proper. We came to a stop at a country pub, hundreds of cyclists taking the opportunity for what seemed like the first natural stop, there was a feeling of quiet excitement.
our riding uniform was always denim shorts and converse
We peddled through the night, each in our own rhythms, hundreds of people in a formation. We were able to see nothing around us but the flicker of red rear bike lights guiding our way. This caused other senses to heighten, increasing awareness of our own and other people’s movements, the sense of body awareness and balance; I had a real sense of where Eve was even though I couldn’t see her. I’d like to describe this feeling as Synesthesia, it was like nothing I’d experienced before.
We didn’t stop at the village hall set up to feed bleary eyed cyclists, nor did we stop at the Suffolk sausage vans that seemed to appear in abundance come day break, we just kept on keeping on, biting into giant chunks of rocky road as though it was apples. Eve and I cycled together, we were in separate worlds, but at times it felt like we were riding a tandem.
This is not an organised pay to enter ride, it´s a turn up and do it event, with no other reason than just because. It is a beautiful and magic thing with such a sense of collective spirit, like nothing else. Our way was guided by tiny tea lights in jam jars, indicating the correct turn at junctions.
I don’t remember time passing slowly or feeling tired, I do remember my shoulders aching and feeling restless from my saddle amongst the rolling Suffolk hills distant and still, and that is how we rode into the night, and out the other side, into the dawn.
These places in between, dawn breaking, sun rising, being unsure of the right turn but then that feeling you get when you see the name of your destination written on a sign post for a first time.
10 hours after we’d left our Hackney, our home, we arrived at the beach. The lycra elite had arrived hours before in the dark. A perfect summer morning, we swam in the sea, drunk beer and slept on the beach. The place had been turned into a cyclists D-day landing, just for one day.
And so to London, the Dunwich Dynamo 2015 is the only thing already in my diary, see you next year.
- The Great Perú Divide, Part 2
- These Bits In Between, part 1