We set off from London Fields with everything in place – the planning was worth the effort. Hundreds of cyclists (700 according to reports) packed the lanes and we rolled forward at snail’s pace, edging towards more open roads.
The cruise to Epping Forest was hampered by London’s aggressive and busy roads. However it wasn’t long before we saw our first cow! We had arrived in open country and looked forward to getting some real speed up. The darkness gathered and we sped into the night with scores of cyclists and their bright headlights around us. Sparking up brief conversations with riders alongside was great fun and really showed the Dunwich Dynamo as an impressive social event.
Miles and miles and the hours, I am glad to say, started slipping past. The training and the copious pasta meals set us up really well. We were well ahead of schedule and our legs felt fresh. We were really starting to gel together and had found a strong pace. Our average speed was over 20k per hour. We would have been well on track for a ten hour ride.
Unfortunately the few odd twanging sounds from the back wheel started to worry us. At the 50k mark which felt very remote from any habitation together with black skies and no moon, the twanging sounds turned out to be breaking spokes on the back wheel. The wheel buckled under the pressure and we had to cycle on a knife edge for the remaining 30k to the rest point.
We made it as the rain fell and the temperatures dropped. The wheel had been getting worse and jamming in the rear forks of the bike. It was very very bad news for the remainder of the ride.
Talking to other cyclists and getting advice we were forced to make a difficult decision and retire from the ride. Continuing for a further 72k over even more isolated and unlit lanes was potentially dangerous. We were amazed at the offers of help from the pits of dispair where we had no idea where we were going to spend the night or get back to civilisation. The Dynamo is an unsupported ride so there really is no help when things go badly wrong.
A kind man who was following the ride by car to support his wife offered to help. He let us have the back seat of his car to Dunwich. Another wonderful man called Chris who had a van took the bike onto Dunwich for us. What great people to help us out when we needed it most. All these negotiations took place at 3am in the pooring rain and with hundreds of hungry cyclists milling around.
The Dynamo was for us now a ride in a unofficial support car and from 3am onwards we chatted about the ride and admired the cyclists who pushed onto Dunwich in difficult conditions very much starved of sleep.
The dawn broke and the birds began to sing. Our bike arrived in Dunwich before we did which was definately not in our original plan. Driving onto the beach at 7am there were dozens of cyclists queuing for the cafe and a hearty breakfast. We stode over to join them, happy that despite the seriously bad luck, we had completed 107k of a 185k bike ride and we too had not had a night’s sleep.
After breakfast we went onto the beach and took photos. It was far too cold to swim but not everyone agreed with us. Some brave souls stripped off their lycra completely and ran into the sea! This was the end of the road – we had got here but not quite as we had imagined.
James and I are so disappointed not to have completed the distance so have vowed to race the final 80k at some point in the near future. Watch this space!
Thank you for all your support and the generous contributions. It is not too late, if you still want to donate. Go to JustGiving and follow the simple process. We are so close to getting to £10k!
I will be posting photos from the event once I have had some sleep and no more pasta.