Night riders – the Dunwich Dynamo
London – Dunwich, UK, June 2010, 120 miles
Cycling over Tower Bridge with the city lights reflecting off the Thames I’m enjoying being back riding in the dark. London takes on a different feel in winter, when the darkness falls as people start their commute home, and being on a bike is a perfect way to experience this.
The cool air and stunning views of the city lit up remind me of an overnight ride we did earlier this year from London to Dunwich. The Dunwich Dynamo is unorganised and we simply turned up along with hundreds of other cyclists of all different shapes and sizes – courier types, Brompton riders, tandems, mountain bikes and hybrids like ourselves.
We left London Fields about 8pm and followed the chain of blinking lights and lycra out of the city and up to Epping Forest. It was a beautiful clear night. Cycling in the dark it felt as if we were flying along, with the breeze cooling us down and passers-by cheering us on. So we were surprised when we hit the halfway mark and realised it was already 2am.
Whilst we stopped we started our own mini rave, strapping glow sticks to the frame, which made it easier to spot each other in the crowd. We pedalled past eerie, deserted villages, along quiet country lanes and through town centres where we waved to locals heading home long after the pubs had closed. Sometimes we rode as part of a big group, at other times just the two of us.
In the early hours we passed sleeping cyclists curled up on the grass verge and in fields. We avoided the urge to join them by loading up on Boost bars and were rewarded with cycling through a beautiful, soft sunrise much earlier than we realised the sun came up.
The last few hours in the early morning were hillier and harder, but after 120 miles and no sleep that was to be expected. We rolled into Dunwich at 7am with ‘The Eye of the Tiger’ on our handlebar stereo and big grins, before running into the sea for a swim to blow the cobwebs away.
There’s something special about night riding, the stillness and the quiet. At this time of year many people hibernate their bikes until spring, but by doing so they miss out. Some good lights and waterproofs will keep you pedalling about safely and you’ll be rewarded with some of the cycling there is.