If there was a ride for the no-training, why-not / just-for-the-hell-of-it types, then the Dunwich Dynamo would be it. Part drunken ramble, part foray into the dark lanes of north east London, the DD is like nothing I’ve experienced. 120 miles, several pubs and maybe 3,000-4,000 people.
The Dunwich Dynamo is an annual semi-organized cycling race in London Fields Park in Hackney, London, England, to Dunwich, on the Suffolk coast. The distance is about 120 miles or 190 km but feels much longer.
If the description seems a little confusing, it is because the journey is technically disorganized. There are no records, timers or numbers pinned on your cycling jersey.
Anyone can do the Dunwich Dynamo. Whether you’ve only ever ridden 15 miles before and someone lends you a fancy bike so you decide to give it a shot or whether you’re part of a lycra-clad cycle crew, who’ve been in training for the past six months, or you cycle so slowly that you only arrive at the beach after everyone else has left.
The Dunwich Dynamo popularity has grown over the years, and many riders consider it one of the iconic rides of the year. Always held on Saturday night / Sunday morning full moon in July, it’s a night-time pootle from London Fields in Hackney to the town of Dunwich on the Suffolk coast.
The reality is that it is a route of 179.5 km (111.5 miles) with a total of 1400 meters of climb (4.593 feet), which makes it a somewhat challenging journey, but it should be suitable for most cyclists. Check the Strava route here. There are no massive climbs along the way, and most of the route is gently undulating instead of an alpine challenge. This is more sprint stage than summit finish.
It does matter what you ride
The bikes come in all shapes and sizes, from city commuters to race bikes. People do it on Bromptons, fixies and even Boris bikes. Although the ‘joy’ of entertaining those around you whilst riding a Boris bike to the coast likely fades by 4am...
The official departure time for Dunwich Dynamo is at 21:00. However, people start to gather at Pub on the Park (Martello Street, Hackney) near London Fields from 7 pm. There is no program organized for the event ... there is a map of sorts, handed out for a few quid and then people just attach themselves to group of cyclists that to dribble out towards Essex. Best bet is to find a guide or get the Garmin route and head out. Relaxation is the main theme for the night and peals of laughter and people start running on the waves with pilots who seem to have similar skills. It's not a race! However, you may not want to have ten pints before leaving.
Dunwich Dynamo Route
The route starts from London through Lower Clapton, Lea Bridge Road and Woodford New Road and then Epping Forest. After Epping, things become less busy, less car heavy and more chatty. This is where the pubs start to become a feature of the ride, this must be like christmas day; thousands of punters turning up and wetting their whistles
From Great Dunmow, the route passes through Finchingfield, Castle Hedingham (which is the only point where there is a sort of true climb, with a stretch of 400 meters to just over 5%), Sudbury, Bildeston and Needham Market. You’re now only 52 km from the sea. Dunmow is also the last pub stop, so make the most of it - tea and nibbles are usually available here from some wonderful people who man a stall - for a fee of course.
A reasonably fit cyclist should do the route in about 6-7 hours, not counting stops, which means it would be around 5-6 in the morning. The fastest cyclists arrive at 4 am, which often sees some of them turn round and cycle all the way back. The thought of this terrifies me each time I see them cycling towards me, in the opposite direction like some haunting apparition. The Dunwich beach tea rooms opens at 6:00 am (but sometimes before), and the ship at Dunwich opens at 3 am. and serves breakfast and beer.
Ride until day break
then sleep for king and country
After eating breakfast and having a recovery beer it’s traditional to bath in the sea, you should find out how to get back home. Most people use a pre-booked coach or try to get a space on the train to go home. I’m in constant envy and awe of the people who have family or friends waiting to collect them whilst I make for the station.
The best bit of the Dynamo is the attitude of those who take part. They all want to chat, find out where you’re from, talk about the state of world cycling or just natter about the state of the country. And now the DD has got a growing global reputation you can even discuss world affairs as you ride.
See you in July.