Gone for a ride, back in seven days

No proper post this week. Too much going on. Being a ‘Typhoid-Mary’ of bicycle madness is a lot harder work in May and June than the dark days of Winter. Following last weeks teaser about the forthcoming appearance of a – LIMITED EDITION – Dunwich Dynamo Souvenir handbag there’s more…

No proper post this week. Too much going on. Being a ‘Typhoid-Mary’ of bicycle madness is a lot harder work in May and June than the dark days of Winter.
Following last weeks teaser about the forthcoming appearance of a – LIMITED EDITION – Dunwich Dynamo Souvenir handbag there’s more…

You thought the DD was silly? Wait till you hear about the follow up

…coming soon a new event that starts in London and goes somewhere very mysterious indeed.

Meanwhile, just in case you’re suffering bullshit withdrawal, here’s a dose heavy enough to tranquilise an elephant…

twenty years are gone

The following first appeared in ‘London Cyclist Magazine’ – without the hyper-text – in May 1998 as promotion for Dunwich Dynamo VI, when the DD was still a pay-to-enter event with routing signs and a location breakfast on arrival at Dunwich Heath. The DD is now a free, traditional event, like Christmas, only with less eating and more travel. Then there were a couple of hundred, now nobody has to count how many happy pilgrims pass. Some details of route and stops have changed and the road to Dunwich Heath is still hanging on against the hungry sea. Mostly it’s the same.

The following first appeared in ‘London Cyclist Magazine’ – without the hyper-text – in May 1998 as promotion for Dunwich Dynamo VI, when the DD was still a pay-to-enter event with routing signs and a location breakfast on arrival at Dunwich Heath. The DD is now a free, traditional event, like Christmas, only with less eating and more travel.

Then there were a couple of hundred, now nobody has to count how many happy pilgrims pass. Some details of route and stops have changed and the road to Dunwich Heath is still hanging on against the hungry sea. Mostly it’s the same.

“I began riding out to the Suffolk coast on moonlit summer Saturday nights in the far-off country of the 1980’s. Jez Hastings , editor and publisher of the tricycle fanzine ‘One too many’, suggested that this tradition could become a public event. On Sunday mornings races and rides, for larks are plentiful; how about one on Saturday night for the owls?

Jez ran a small wholesale business and his links with the bike-trade brought sponsorship from Mosquito whose location on the Essex Road has a pleasing psycho-geographical resonance. In 1992, the Dunwich Dynamo had it’s first edition.

At Eastway, the London Boroughs of Hackney, Waltham Forest, Newham and Tower Hamlets abut. The river Lee has been the divide between the old London County Council and Essex and before that Middlesex and Essex, and even earlier a peace line between the Danes and the Saxons. From Eastway you ride up Leyton High Road, the hill to Chingford and into the hanging glade of Epping Forest. After a wind through Moreton to dodge the A414, you join the Dunmow road at Fyfield. Unfortunately, many excited riders miss the first control at Leaden Roding where Mr. and Mrs. Knight and their extended family offer bread-pudding and coffee.
North of here on the roman line of the Dunmow Road the land is flat and the heavens wide. Early starters are not too late for chips in Dunmow.
Great Bardfield and Finchingfield are so cute they even look like picture postcards in the dark. The Hedinghams, last towns in Essex, feel out of commuter influence. At Bulmer Tye the road from Castle Hedingham sweeps into the highway for Sudbury. After the winding, rolling lanes of North Essex, this runs broad and level. If that’s not enough to spur you on, gravity soon will as the road begins – gradually at first – to descend.
Almost hidden in the rampant hedge is a big white sign that – for administrative convenience of putting all of Sudbury in one county – marks the borderline. The real crossing comes at the bottom of the hill where – after a shallow right-hand bend – the road bridges the river Stour and leaves the timber villages of Essex for the pink plaster of Suffolk. You feel the pattern of the country better without the distractions of the day.
Beyond the control at Great Waldingfield are the Suffolk prairies where once over-lit American cold-war bases are falling derelict; not all change is for the worse. Needham Market and the crossing of the River Gipping takes the route into its penultimate phase, silly Suffolk; silly is the old word for holy.
Ruined monasteries poke out of the woods and if the sun’s not up yet, it soon will be. Sometimes temperature inversions leave mist in the river valleys, while the fields between are sunlit. Foxes, rabbits and crows stare arrogantly at the bag-eyed townies.
From Coddenham to Pettaugh the way is once again pencil-straight. Does the hamlet of Stone Street commemorate a time when this was paved and all the rest was the kind of mire the 1990’s would call off-road?
If you ever ride this route alone, pick a line through Framsden and Framlingham and Bruisyard. For the tired sheroes of the Dunwich Dynamo, lulled by signs on every turn, this might call for too much thinking. They are sent along the A1120 whose sharp hills can make it a via dolorosa if the hot sun catches you still labouring.
A last phase running down behind Yoxford sees the soil turning sandy and the farmland drifting into heath. Too many bike rides end with an anti-climax, so the Dynamo promises a monster breakfast and, should you require it, a nice piece of cardboard on which to snooze away the morning.
For unconducted travellers the café on the beach opens at ten o’clock in Summer. Dunwich was once the capital of East Anglia and 800 years ago was as big as London. A storm blocked the river which killed off the port. Over centuries what remained of the town was washed away by the relentless tides.
The Dunwich Dynamo is the only bike ride that gets shorter every year. In years when the event runs at a loss and I am tempted to jack in the task of promoting it, I look forward to the season when the finish route will have to be changed because the road on which it now runs has been washed away; five more years is the latest estimate.
The inexorable transformation of the coastline reminds us that the permanence of change predates the modern cult of ‘progress’ and will out-last it even if we do succeed in recreating a sustainable way of living.

  • Jez Hastings went to Islay,  watches birds, paddles canoes, contributes to the Washing Machine Post and is now Scottish.
  • Mosquito Bikes are still in the Essex Road, all their stock is nice.
  • I’m still dreaming of becoming a cyclist.
  • The Dunwich Dynamo has spawned many ‘tribute’ events. The Exmouth Exodus – which runs form Bristol in August – is highly recommended
  • The DD now has a useful alternative – the Dalston Dynamo  – which may develop into a Dynamo de l’avenir?

hit the beach

Anyone who rides a bike regularly has a journey that amounts to nothing; maybe a jaunt just long enough to make getting a bike out worthwhile, instead of walking or – for those of a more leathery disposition – the distance that can be ridden on an empty stomach without thinking of how to refuel. A long trip is just a lot of short ones run together. With careful preparation, good morale and deft use of the formula X x 0 = 0, any voyage can be reduced to the status of ‘nothing’.

“London’s best bike ride”

Jack Thurston

Play sound.

Anyone who rides a bike regularly has a journey that amounts to nothing; maybe a jaunt just long enough to make getting a bike out worthwhile, instead of walking or – for those of a more leathery disposition – the distance that can be ridden on an empty stomach without thinking of how to refuel. A long trip is just a lot of short ones run together. With careful preparation, good morale and deft use of the formula X x 0 = 0, any voyage can be reduced to the status of ‘nothing’.

The hardest thing about travelling on a push bike is the idea.

If you think 187 kilometres is a long way stop worrying about the idea and use the time and energy saved to deal with technical problems as they present themselves.

Never persuade anyone to ride the Dunwich Dynamo. If they do there’s certain to be a point on the trip when they wish they were at home in bed. When that moment comes you don’t want to be held responsible for their regrets. If you think somebody is under-prepared try and put them off. Alternatives are available  and there’s always next year; but – if they must go – support them. The chances are they’ll succeed and love it.

Reasons to ride the DD include…

  • It gets shorter every year.
  • If the weather is wet there’ll also be tail-wind.
  • Epping Forest means you exit Outer London quicker than on any other radius.
  • Moonlight doesn’t burn human skin or give you cancer.
  • You don’t have to get up early to join in.
  • There’ll be no tea-shops, folk museums or other visitor attractions open to tempt you off the road.
  • The darkness is dramatic but dawn comes early and from then until breakfast time the only other traffic on the empty roads is dopey pedal bikers.
  • However ill-prepared you are you’ll meet other pilgrims who are in a worse state than you.
  • It crosses soft country, no deserts.
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Salt water is antiseptic, cold water analgesic, the big, briny bath at the end is both.

There are many reasons to ride but the best is this…

Ride the Dunwich Dynamo and for the rest of your life – while you live in London, and keep a bike – you can glance at the clock as evening falls and ask yourself the question; ‘shall I ride to the Suffolk coast tonight?’ You never have to go, but your World will always be bigger.

DD XX
London Fields, E8
30th of June 2012
You’ll know when the time is right.

photo: adrain fitch

Back in the day there were nice ‘T’ shirts from Mosquito. This year, to celebrate TWENTY years of pointless lunacy it’s time to launch the Official Dunwich Dynamo product range.
Scientists are working on a luminous skin-cream that offers spooky zombie conspicuity in the dark then becomes a high factor sun-block after dawn, but what kind of fragrance and can it be rain-proofed?
In the meantime COMING SOON the Dunwich Dynamo Souvenir handbag. You know it makes no sense.

right round Chelmsford

If you’re looking for a gentle leg stretch this weekend why not check this scenic 150 km. Meet outside the Ice Rink, Lea Bridge Road, 08:30 Sunday 06/05/12. The sedate touring group will allow conversation but more testing options are also available. Rolling hills and flying Essex cloudscapes.

“Light and shade never stand still.”

John Constable

If you’re looking for a gentle leg stretch this weekend why not check this scenic 150 km.

Meet outside the Ice Rink, Lea Bridge Road, 08:30 Sunday 06/05/12.

The sedate touring group will allow conversation but more testing options are also available.

Rolling hills and flying Essex cloudscapes.

In celebration of Claire Tansley force of nature.

Something for the weekend?

If you live in the UK, next weekend is the best of the year. True we all lose an hour in bed, and have to live until October to get it back, but this time next week the sky will still be open at 19:30.

If you live in the UK, next weekend is the best of the year. True we all lose an hour in bed, and have to live until October to get it back, but this time next week the sky will still be open at 19:30.
I usually celebrate the momentous day by riding the Start-of-Summertime a nice 200km out-and-home from the North East Hertfordshire new town of Stevenage to Lavenham in Suffolk.

Lavenham, once an important wool town, is now so rich on tourism it has a public toilet made of stainless steel, well worth cycling 100 kms to enjoy. I washed my face there a few years ago and emerged to find a couple of middle-aged, white blokes with beer-bellies liking the look of my parked-up Burrows funny bike. Which looked like this…

…only a bit battered.

Once I’d answered some of their technical questions we talked about travel. It turned out they’d also come from Stevenage, by road; and lived there.

“Stevenage will soon be very famous” one proudly told me.

I guessed they weren’t talking about the comprehensive network of cycle paths.

“Stevenage will soon be very famous, all over the World, because of Lewis Hamilton.”

At the time the brown lad with the Scottish family name was just drifting into the national consciousness. The boyish glee with which these geezers were enjoying the idea that such a prodigy could emerge from their home town was heart-warming. Perhaps one day Stevenage will be known as Hamiltongrad, Hamiltonville or just Hamilton, maybe it will have a Lewis Hamilton Boulevarde on which the speed limit is ‘minimum 190kph’?

I won’t be riding SoS this year. My pre-season has been next to nothing, so instead I’ll be grovelling out into West Herts to pick up some brake levers I left in a shed.

To avoid getting up too early(minus sixty minutes) I’ll try and combine my sneak into the mighty Chilterns with this one. See you there?

The first social ride in the modern era – perhaps the first ever – to highlight the problem of community severance out in the great doughnut of inaccessibility. I never dreamed such a thing could happen so soon. Roll on bicycle paradise. Too good to miss.

If you prefer the Start of Summertime you can set your alarm – as you subtract the hour – and jump an early morning train – full of wall-eyed night-clubbers – to Stevenage at Kings Cross or Finsbury Park.

They take entries on the line.

Any time you ride your bike, own the road, make it look easy, fun and aspirational, you’re taking important political action to preserve civilised human organisation. And don’t forget to check the stainless steel toilets in Lavenham, they really are of architectural interest.