“How are my elbows looking?”
“Good. A little red, but the skin’s intact. What about your knees?”
“Knees? Fine… Good… well the left one is quite bloody actually”
We’d only got as far as Walthamstow. We’d been riding in a group out from London Fields at the start of the Dunwich Dynamo, when I failed to notice everyone had stopped suddenly. I braked swerved and fell off. Yet again my helmet escaped without a scratch. I can’t recommend my giro gloves highly enough as my hands have nary a mark. My skin however needs a total redesign in terms of impact and abrasion resistance. Luckily the nearest shop had run out of first aid equipment so Adam bought some flannels to mop up the blood.
I’d asked that we stopped at a particular garage on the way out of London. It’s actually in Essex about 20km from the start, but if my leg was playing up it would still be light. I could buy a first aid kit and ride home. I was actually feeling quite up for it at this point and the skin clearly wasn’t going to split on the knee. Inside I opted for a green juice and a samosa. We then went outside to watch a guy negotiate the pumps on a tall bike.
This year rain featured quite heavily. The rain started gently at first but gradually got to the point where the spray off of the front wheel was washing grit and road sludge into my face on the descents. I’m a fairly cautious descender. Quick in the dry on straight roads, but a little slower in the wet and dark with rain streaked glasses. Dulwich Paragon riders are not quite so cautious and I was startled by the speed that people were able to pass me and disappear with red lights blinking into the night.
At the first pubs we stopped for the loo and David kindly lent me his spare front light. That light combined with removing my glasses meant I could now see the road. I was regularly dropping off of the back by this point, but as David is faster than me and Vera was using his front light to see by I was looking out for the distinctive lighting arrangement we had gone with to catch up with them at junctions.
Pub and a puncture
I pulled into a lovely pub forecourt as arranged to find Vera and David waiting out front. No sign of Adam. I was feeling particularly “Hackney” as I requested a light hoppy ale as the man next to me asked for a couple of pasties and 6 pints of Stella. We were there for over an hour as Adam had punctured and stopped at an earlier pub to wash up a little and grab a cheeky pint.
Lunch and a puncture
The official food stop is just short of Sudbury about 75-80 km in and we stopped for a wee and some food. It’s always slightly surreal to see a bright village hall full of dirty, wet cyclists chatting cheerfully.
As we’d lost a lot of time already we decided to crack on.
As we pulled away I considered shouting to the others. My rear wheel felt sluggish and lumpy. On the first descent things got a bit hairy and I accepted the inevitable. I had punctured. The others were now quite some distance ahead and it was at this point I remembered I hadn’t packed a pump. My frame clip for the pump had broken so I had left it behind.
I flipped the bike, against the rules, and set about changing the tube. I was worried though as I couldn’t find the cause or the hole in the inner tube. At that point I realised the local nightclub at the end of the side road had gone from playing euro house to Bon Jovi. They were nearly done for the night.
I flagged down the next person I saw and asked for a pump. I started to panic as the nightclub was now playing ‘I will always love you’ by Whitney Houston. The 2 lads who stopped to help were really nice to me given that I was a panicky oil covered drowned rat with his bike in bits ranting about Bon Jovi.
I set off hoping for the best and rode as fast as I dared towards our next agreed rendezvous point just North of Sudbury.
Riding alone along unfamiliar roads is a relaxing pastime I normally reserve for the spring and summer months during the day. Night riding alone is another thing entirely. A single blinking light ahead gave me hope and I found a group to tag along behind for a bit. Shortly afterwards a lady from Stoke Newington slowed down for a chat.
The rest of the darkness passed without incident as I fell behind a bit then caught up again. Adam and I rode along for a couple of hours chatting about our respective lives and interests, stopping for a tea along the way.
Finally we reached the lake and caught back up with Vera and David. Loo stop and the last of our food. Ready to go. Adam spots that his bike has a puncture.
It’s cold by the lake as we do some early morning stretches and fix our 3rd puncture of the day but we’re told there’s only 35 km to go.
40 minutes later we stop for a sausage bap and are told that there’s only about 35km to go (Deja vu).
The second last 35km passes in a blur of early light and undulating countryside, chats to strangers and turns through sleeping villages. The last few miles are gravel covered and slippy from the rain. And then we’re there.
The end at Dunwich could do with another post all of it’s own but queuing and eating pretty much summarises it. Needless to say when we did get back to London I had another flat. When we checked out the tyre there was a tiny spike inside, that when pulled out with pliers, revealed itself to be a 1” piece of copper wire from the fairy lights that must have tangled in the rear wheel at some point.
Juice and a samosa, Falafel and hummus sandwich, Peanut butter and Avocado sandwich (nicked the idea from Rich Roll), 2 stuffed vine leaves, 3 Nak’d bars, Peanuts, Crisps, Salted liquorice (3 or four pieces), Barley Sugar (about 6), Sausage Bap, I pint, 2 teas, 4 litres of water, and a veggie breakfast on the beach. At no point did I consider eating the gels I brought.
I also got through 2 inner tubes, 4 AA batteries, an oil covered rain jackets and a set of fairy lights.