The all singing, all dancing blog of Alex Guite

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dunwich Dynamo: I'm not a spokesman

Full moon in July means cycling 200km on the "turn-up-and-go challenging slightly-scary free-entry overnight on-road" Dunwich Dynamo ride. I completed it last year, despite moderate rain, two broken spokes and a ripped tyre. For good measure I did an extra 50km to a train station at the end.

I'd been looking forward to this year's ride pretty much since I recovered from the last one, the achievement of pulling into Dunwich as the sun rises in the morning is awesome. I headed over to London Fields on Saturday evening to start this year's ride looking for a good training cycle and a bit of adventure.

Learning from last year's ride when I ran out of food at four in the morning, I over compensated this year. But four bacon sandwiches, two packets of fig rolls, five bananas, one energy bar, two electrolyte sachets and a tray's worth of flatjacks, alongside all of my mechanical stuff (basic tools, inner tubes and spare tyre) not to mention maps and a change of clothes in case it rained were all be too much for my courier bag. So with the even greater baggage needs of LEJoG in mind I figured the time was right to get a pair of panniers.

Along with cycling over 100 miles a day for ten days, one thing I'm dreading about LEJoG is that I'll have to de-pimp my bike down to a tourer. Hello panniers, goodbye racer. I guess I could put some go-faster stripes down the side to make it look a bit cooler.

Weather forecasts for the ride were pretty poor, but having survived rain last year I didn't think much of it. Didn't look like the hundreds of others in London Fields on Saturday evening thought much of it either. I bumped into some riders from the Central London CTC who I'd cycled with before so joined them to set off. There's no official start to the Dynamo, at around 8pm people start setting off and then a kind of momentum develops and the streets fill with bikes.

An hour in and the drizzle started. But with a good tailwind and plenty of energy we plunged on into the darkening night, following a trail of red LEDs through into the countryside. Many of us were cycling along two a breast along the wider roads, sharing cycling anecdotes with complete stangers or pushing on in silence with cycling buddies. However, for reasons I can't adequatley explain I was chosen as the spokesman for all cyclists when a boy racer pulled along side me and shouted across his girlfriend "Oi, you ride single file. Single file". I started back at him by begining to explain that the highway code allows cycling up to two abreast on wide roads, but before I could get more than "Nah mate, we're fine like this-" he swerved his car towards me. Sometimes it might be best to keep quiet. I wonder how many other breaches of the highway code he's made whilst compensating for his presumably small genetalia.

Only 40km in I heard a noise I'd been dreading since last year's ride: the twang of a broken spoke. Fortunatley we'd just past a village so I turned back into the light to inspect the damage. With one spoke down my back wheel was wobbling around, all I could think was "man, this is untrue!". In the slight panic which gripped me with the realisation that if one spoke was gone, another might be about to go, that it was raining harder and harder, that if I couldn't continue I was in the middle of nowhere and that it was too late to find a bed & breakfast, I couldn't remember how to true my wheel. After almost an hour of uber-faffing, spending over five quid on a pay phone (no mobile reception) to get someone to look up which way to turn a spoke key to tighten spokes and trying to get the number of the nearest travel lodge, the good sense of an old cyclist prevailed: "loosen your rear brakes and don't worry about it, you've got lots of other spokes".

So once more I plunged roughly back into that good night. The next 70km to the food station were pretty unremarkable along dark country lanes: my waterproof became saturated and I got wetter and wetter, but with a good tailwind and a plentiful supply of fig roles things didn't seem too bad. Pulling into the warmth of the food station at just past two in the morning made me realised just how cold I was. Completley drenched and shivering I huddled around one of the radiators to dry out whilst shoving down bacon sandwiches, flapjacks and bananas.

I found some of the CTCers who I'd become seperated from earlier and discovered that I wasn't the only one who wasn't looking forward to going back out into the worsening rain. They'd even found out that there was a train back to London in five hours and so, along with many others, my Dynamo finished in a village hall on the outskirts of Sudbury.

Along with the rides to the start and the station back I clocked up 160km. No Dunwich, but I did discover that my Ortlieb panniers really are totally waterproof, even in torrential rain.



At Sunday, August 05, 2007 11:43:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Oi! "de-pimp my bike down to a tourer"?! Surely that should be the other way round! I very occasionally de-pimp my tourer down to a racer...

Dude, you totally ought to have phoned me to ask about the correct use of Spokey. I could have told you over the phone! Still, sounds like you followed some alternative sound advice. Well done for getting as far as you did!
And I told you my ortliebs were 100% 'proof!

At Monday, August 06, 2007 5:58:00 PM, Blogger North London Light said...

you should think about linking to this site or at the very least checking it out.

Its a very useful resource.

Can definitely concur on the waterproof capability of Ortlieb's; nothing else for me. Only drawback of Ortlieb's are no internal dividers/pockets so think about packin kit into ziplock? bags so they are easier to get to. Also think about a bar bag (could loan you my red one as I think your panniers are red) to match the panniers then you have somewhere easy to put on road essentials such as mobile, camera, tools/puncture kit,snacks so if the worse happens you then dont have to open panniers as the p***** fairy alway visits in the wet!!!

At Tuesday, August 21, 2007 1:25:00 PM, Anonymous Gav said...

Cyclists who cycle two abreast through Cardiff deserve to die. Fact.

At Tuesday, August 21, 2007 7:16:00 PM, Anonymous alex said...

Thanks for your informed commentary Gav...


Post a Comment

<< Home