Dunwich Dynamo ride report — the inaugural Beeline Bicycle Club outing
Where did it all start?
In the summer of 1993 a group of London bike messengers fancied a dip, so hopped on their fixies and rode 120 miles through the night to the beach in Dunwich, Suffolk. They enjoyed it so much they did it again the next year, with a few more taggers-on and the Dunwich Dynamo was born!
Ever since, each year cyclists gather in London Fields on the evening closest to full moon in July and set off along the same route. 24 years on, it’s expanded from a handful of people to around 2000. This year that number included 18 yellow t-shirts as the Beeline Bicycle Club set out on its inaugural outing.
A Motley Crew
On the dream team we had…
- Emily: the walking smile unphased by riding a bike twice the weight of anyone else’s
- Jonathan: Dunwich Dynamo veteran and Kickstarter backer
- Dom: a joke a minute, although hard to get past his dubious man-bun
- Dave: hardcore cyclist with new wheels to match his carbon frame
- Phil: finally proving that he’d get out of the house while his wife is back visiting Aus
- Becky: hardened triathlete prepping for taking on Tour de France stages next week
- Steph: equally hardened triathlete eying up doing an ironman
- Paddy: Beeline investor with a lot of bum based anxiety for his first long ride
- Sarah: Beeline investor along with Paddy, taking e-bikes out for a spin
- Christian: Beeline backer who’s new wheels were sadly to be his downfall
- Caroline: Christian’s other half who nobly didn’t leave him behind
- Ben and his friend: Beeliners who left us in their dust
- James: US intern at Beeline remembering which side of the road to ride his rental
- Marc: Beeline mobile developer. The Beast. Beeline’s answer to Chuck Norris.
- Chet: Beeline CTO doing the dynamo on a single speed — who needs gears?!
- Mark: Beeline co-founder and brains behind the inaugural outing
- Tom: Beeline co-founder bringing the noise and endless snacks taped onto his bike
In little over 12 hours time most of us would find ourselves dozing off over a fry up on a sunny beach on the East Coast, but back to the start:
Organised plans for a well oiled start quickly fell through. The 6pm communal carb-loading plan was replaced by over-running naps, malt loaf dashes around Asda and one of us having to walk off a few Piña Coladas that had accidentally slipped down earlier.
It all finally came together though and shortly before 8pm Tom planted the flag next to the pink ice cream van in London Fields and the team started to gather. There was an incredible buzz in the park as thousands of cyclists gathered to set off. The Dunwich Dynamo is very much about taking part and having a good time, so while there was certainly a lot of lycra (and very necessary padded shorts) there was also a lot of fancy dress, laughter and a wide array of bikes. From racers to cargo bikes, Bromptons and even one guy doing it on a fat bike.
Our final member Emily, turned up and we set off, following the way-pointed Beeline route that Mark had previously prepared and sent around with the new route sharing feature in the app.
It was stop-start to begin with through London traffic but great fun as drivers and pedestrians first looked bewildered then either shouted encouragement or told us we were nuts. As the sun dipped, Spotify shameless exposed Tom’s guilty pleasures via a speaker strapped to his saddle, lifting moods even further as we persevered towards Epping where we would escape the bounds of the M25 and head into the countryside.
So energetic was James, our intern from Boulder, Colorado, that he waited until we’d stopped for a breather at the top of a long grinding hill to politely ask if anyone had a pump he could borrow. A quick inspection revealed a completely flat back tyre he’d been riding on for the last few miles which we patched up. Here we also discovered that the new wheels Christian had got specifically for the Dunwich Dynamo had let him down with tyres constantly flattening so he and Caroline had to sadly pull out. We will see you for round two next year guys!
By now the sun had well and truly set and we were riding by the light of the full moon. Those of us with little blinkers clung close to those with big headlights. Spurred on by Marc’s homemade flapjack, Tina Turner and the promise of a pub stop nearby, a group of six made a breakaway to get in the queue for the bar. Becky and Steph, keen triathletes and Dave and Marc led the charge with Tom and Mark just clinging on in the slipstream. It was an exhilarating hour or so, riding tight together in the pitch black, swooshing down smooth roads and grazing overgrown hedgerows as we went through Coopersale and North Weald. Nonetheless Tom and Mark were quietly relieved when the White Hart and the long-awaited break came into view!
There was a brilliant atmosphere. Here at about 11pm there were hundreds of cyclists blocking the road going through the village of Moreton, all laughing together and really enjoying the experience. We were only about 20 miles in though, much to Tom’s dismay!
While a few of us popped in to get some refreshments for the group, the rest of us bumped into Paddy and Sarah who had set off a little ahead of the rest of the group. They had been quite smug about the “mechanical doping” of their electric bikes, but were now realising this did mean pushing some extra weight for much of the ride in order to get 30 miles of benefit! Paddy had flagrantly disregarded Mark’s prior advice to go with the skinny saddle and confessed that he was already feeling the beginnings of some “chaffage” from the Boris bike one. We were in absolute stitches when he confessed that he was getting a bit bored of his current e-book but the only other options he had to listen to were “a bit naughty”.
Spirits were high!
They were even higher as the second half of the group pulled in to find a tray of sensibly small half beers already waiting to reenergise them and after a good catch up we were off again to the sound of Tom’s somewhat offensive dance tunes.
Hey, are you from Beeline?!
The road runners pulled away again after a while, leaving the rest soaking up the atmosphere and relaxing further back. Emily was an unstoppable force of morale. Despite riding a hybrid that was very much made for comfort, not speed, she constantly chatted away to everyone she rode alongside, making friends along the whole ride. We even managed to pick up another friend into the group who had been riding on his own and fancied some company so stuck with us for a while.
After passing through Leader Roding and Great Dunmow on our merry little tour of rural England, the next port of call was the village of Great Bardfield and the refreshments of the Bell Inn. As we pulled up we heard shouts of “Hey, hey, are you from Beeline?” and warily turned, hoping we’d done nothing wrong! It turned out to be Kickstarter backer, Chalky, who was using his Beeline for the ride and having some technical issues. It was a real treat to have a chat with him as we sorted him out and having bumped into him once we seemed to stalk each other for the rest of the ride.
We were now a third of the way through so thought we’d take the Bell up on its hospitality for a while, securely chaining our bikes up with some helmet straps to settle inside (Emily, diligently carrying several kilos of steel lock was yet to arrive — arguably due to carrying several kilos of steel lock!) It was 1.30am now and people were starting to feel the heat, as made apparent by the vigour with which we all devoured bar snacks and more of Marc’s flapjacks. We found some friendly fellow riders to take a photo and it became apparent they’d been vigorously putting away more than just snacks at the bar. Whether or not they made it to the end we never found out but they certainly seemed chirpy this point!
A couple of hours of slightly more subdued riding through darkness and it was a real relief to find Torqe Bikes of Sudbury open at 3am specifically for the Dynamo — amazing dedication from the team there. Becky, one of the strongest in our group had been having problems with her bike The only solution to get back on the road there and then was going to be a new wheel at £200 — a bit of a stretch! Especially when it turned out we were less than 10 miles from Becky’s parents’ place. Some of us did question if this was real coincidence or a very well engineered get-out but we gave her the benefit of the doubt! Her parents were no doubt delighted to get a phone call at 4am and it was with sweaty hugs all round we sadly said goodbye to Becky — another bit of unfinished business for next year.
As well as good mechanics, Torque had done a good line in coffee. This combined with the paling sky gave us a new lease of life, which Jonathan and Tom were about to put to good use. In a rare moment of benevolence they waited for Chet at a roundabout to ensure he didn’t get lost — his lack of gears held him up on the hills. Sadly, the result was all three of them taking a wrong turn. Benevolence forgotten, Jonathan set out on a mission to catch up and Tom tried to keep up. Despite J’s relentless pace it took a good half hour to catch up with the others which left them feeling a little more tattered than before! In occasional moments of politeness Tom did try and take the lead and make life easier for Jonathon but quickly found he was just slowing down proceedings so resigned to sitting on his back wheel!
Meanwhile, nature had been preparing quite a show as dawn broke. First the sky went through shades of greys, navy’s and purples, then as it started to blue the tiny puffs of cloud scattered across the sky started to pick up the first of the morning sun, glowing yellow and pink. Combined with the smooth, quiet roads and the crisp morning air it had us all feeling quite romantic and wishing we could be bothered to get up at 4.30am more often.
Mother nature didn’t let up as we pushed on past Ipswich and through Needham Market towards the sea. The country roads were flanked by fields of wheat which shone gold in the morning sun. We, however, were a bit less shiny and new by this stage and were having to find new ways to entertain ourselves. Mark did a “Beeline TV” interview of Marc (yes, confusing!) who revealed his dismay at there being no more pubs open to stop in at 5am! However, where we lacked pubs, we made up for in community food stops. It was amazing to see all the little stops the locals had set up along the way so early in the morning to feed hungry cyclists. We made the rookie mistake of skipping a sausage stop but only to find an even better pasta and coffee stop five miles further on. Steaming bowls of bacon and mushroom pasta and coffee available for pennies were gratefully wolfed down as we mustered the energy for the last 20 miles.
I can see the sea!
There was clearly something in that pasta as Marc and Dave came hurtling out of the blocks for the final stretch. The last 20 miles was along lovely country roads but gently undulating. Not a problem for these two though, who not only took them in their stride, but were out of the saddle racing each other up them and shouting “attaque de Froome” (grow up boys!) Very irritating for the mere mortals among us who were just trying to make it to the end!
We could almost smell the sea and everyone was spurred on to the end. Steph and Marc leading us to the end.
The last winding road through the beautiful village of Dunwhich and down to the beach was exhilarating and deliciously downhill, leading to a mass of bodies and bikes in the car park, on the beach and on the tables of the café, which must have been having its busiest morning of the year.
Confused body clocks decided that it was not really breakfast time after all and hence perfectly acceptable to have celebratory beers, as one by one the team rolled in, exhausted but elated to have made it all the way. The atmosphere was very different from the excited, apprehensive one of London fields 12 hours earlier, but the same friendly togetherness persevered. Chalky was there for a chat as were others we’d bumped into along the way and everyone was congratulating each other, whether they knew each other or not.
There was only one thing left to do and that was get in the sea, following in the footsteps of the original fixie riders of ’93. Taking the plunge wasn’t a lot of fun but exactly what we needed once in (cue childhood echoes of Dads’ shouting “get in, it’s lovely!”).
We’d done it! Although exhausted we’d all had an incredible time and were all a little closer that we were the night before for having shared the experience.
It’s got all of us at Beeline feeling really excited about getting the family together so keep an eye out for more Beeline Bicycle Club rides coming up in the near future. They won’t all necessarily be 120 mile overnighters! Sadly we’re limited in number and Geography to how many rides we can organise and where. However, if you’d like to lead Beeline rides near you, please do get in touch about becoming an Ambassador. Together we can help more people get out there across the world!
For more tales of Beeline adventures around the world (most less long winded than this one) head to the Beeline Blog
Tips for the Dunwich Dynamo
- Plan your transport early. Southwark Cyclists organise transport but tickets sell out quickly. We managed to organise our own minibus and bike trailer back for about £30 a head.
- Take some good lights. Although by full moon, it does get pretty dark in the countryside so having lights that light up the road rather than just ensure you can be seen is a big help.
- Carry a bit of cash. There are a pubs in the evening that take card, but the food stops in the morning are incredibly welcome. These are often just BBQs set up on the verge by local residents so visa or mastercard isn’t an option!
- Don’t take it too seriously. The joy of the Dynamo is the atmosphere and making friends with all the others doing it. Don’t miss out on all of that because you’ve got your head down worrying about the cadence on your Garmin! (not really our style at Beeline anyway)
- Set off in the thick of it. We were probably a bit late at 8.45pm. To make the most of the atmosphere really try and get stuck in the main group.
- Bring a LOT of food (preferably sellotaped to your bike like Tom if you’re a real pro!) The one thing that will get you down is if you run out of energy. Malt loaf and flapjack are frequent favourites.
- Carry a spare inner tube and pump. There are plenty of people to help out if you get a puncture but worth being self sufficient.
- Wear padded shorts — it may be a relaxed atmosphere but you won’t be relaxed if you do 120 miles with an unprotected undercarriage.