Cycled from: East Dulwich, London
Cycled to: Dunwich, Suffolk Coast
Distance: 125 miles (ish)
When: 16-17 July 2022
While you were sleeping last weekend, I was one of thousands of people who voluntarily swapped a night of rest for one turning pedals in a cycle ride that, eventually, would take us almost 120 miles, from the heart of London to the Suffolk coast.
This act of collective, glorious madness is committed once a year, on the weekend in July that falls closest to the full moon, and goes by the name of the Dunwich Dynamo. I first rode it in 2009, then every few years since. Last weekend was my fifth ‘Dun Run’, and the second time I completed it on my bright red, Pashley Britania (for those not familiar with the bike, it weighs a hefty 16.5kg, allegedly has five gears although I can only ever get three to work, and has a wicker basket at the front to store all your stuff in. It’s the cycling equivalent of riding a tank).
When I rode ‘Florence’ (yes, that’s her name) to Dunwich in 2019, I didn’t get much attention. Perhaps people just did not compute that the woman in the summer dress and sandals was riding through the night with them to the seaside. Perhaps people were more self-absorbed before the pandemic. Perhaps I just look older and less fit now and people felt sorry for me. Whatever the reason, something shifted this year; Florence and I attracted a lot of attention, all of it wholly supportive. For a start, this time (many) people actually asked me if I was doing the ride, something I cheerily confirmed each time, although there was increasingly bravado in my tone as my knees began to protest at the unaccustomed cycling exercise. When I finally (13.5 hours after I set off) arrived at Dunwich beach a number of people sought me out to take a photo of me and my bike: they saw what I’d done as an ace of lunacy to be celebrated. And when hundreds of us were dropped off back in London (us conveyed by coach, the bikes in removal vans), I got a huge round of applause from my fellow ‘night riders’ as I cycled away. It was very kind of them, but reader, as soon as I was around the corner, I got off that bike and pushed it the final 2.5 miles home.
The point of this blog post isn’t about my personal levels of (in)sanity though. It’s that you don’t need to be a Tour de France wannabe, 50 per cent Lycra, 50 per cent eye wateringly expensive carbon fibre road bike, to join in the beautiful madness of Dunwich Dynamo. You just need a bike, any old bike, and if you keep pushing those pedals, you will, eventually, get to the sea.