Flash Says…

Guest Post: Mike follows up on the Dun Run

Posted on: 2012-07-02

A few weeks ago, I wrote up some tips for cyclists on the Dunwich Dynamo. My husband completed the ride on Sunday morning, so I have invited him to guest post. Here are his thoughts and experiences of the trip.

Mike Bristow, about to set off for the Dun RunLast weekend, I did the Dun Run. For those who don’t know, it’s a bike ride from London to Dunwich, leaving Hackney at 8pm and arriving 116 miles away at the beach the next morning.

You don’t get to see glorious countryside (well, not until the sun rises) but it’s fantastic fun. These are some of my impressions from the night.

***

One of the most memorable things from the ride is the “river of red”. As you cycle along, you’re following a bike in front, with a red LED blinking, and they’re following a bike with a red LED blinking… and so on, until the next bend in the road. But sometimes, as you crest a hill, you see a bigger part of the river – the twinkle of red swooping down a hill and working up the other side of the valley until it reaches the horizon.

It’s awesome.

And you know that even though you can now see miles of bikes, this is a small portion of the red river. If someone stood there and watched, they’d’ve already seen the river flow past for hours, and they will still see it for hours to come.

Every time I saw the river reach the horizon, I grinned. I grinned a lot.

***

I’d set off with a friend and FOAF, but by the time we reached Woodfood, I realized I’d be frustrated with the pace. So I said something like “I think I’ll head off at a faster pace – see you at the end. Of course, this means you’ll pass me in 20 minutes when I’m fixing a puncture!”. They chuckled good-naturedly at my unfunny quip, and off I went.

Do Not Taunt The Puncture Fairy.

I’m not saying she’s a bitch, but she does have teeth sharp enough for my “puncture proof” tyres – I guess they’re around 4000 miles old, so they’re not exactly fresh, but hardly worn down to the canvas.

Of course, it was the rear tyre of my hub-geared bike, so it took me a while to fix. Luckily it happened outside a village hall, so I could use the light of the kitchen window to sort it out by, and I could overhear the locals chatting – and have a chat myself.

The locals were a mix of baffled, bemused, (“you’re cycling where? for fun?”) and genuinely entertained by the sight. I got a fair few “good luck” wishes as I set off again. Only to stop, swear, and realign my back wheel.

***

In my one previous longish run, I’d navigated by poring over google maps before I set out, checking the route out in the google map app on my phone, and then pausing at junctions to check out where I was going now and for the next two or so turns.

This worked really well, and I was prepared to do the same thing.

But on the Dun Run I just followed the river, too lazy to check out the route in the way I had planned.

This was a mistake that added – I guess – 7 or 8 miles to my journey (and around 100 odd others who made the same detour that I did).

As a tactic, it also failed because during the day you see so much more – it sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how limiting the darkness is.

The patch illuminated by your light is where you are going, and generally this is not towards the pole holding up the road sign, so they’re hard to read – something that I did on my test run quite a lot.

***

The ride starts in an urban area, and for me the shift into proper countryside happens when you turn right at Epping. As I approached that junction, the lights went red, and every cyclist stopped. There was no real traffic to drown out the noise, so as the lights went green, all you could hear was the sound of a hundred cleats clipping into the pedal.

I don’t think I saw a single cyclist jump a red light on the whole ride.

***

The coaches put on by Southwark Cyclists were fantastically well done – dealing with a mob of flagging, sleepy, cyclists can’t be much fun, but it was expertly and efficiently done. If you’re doing it, I’d recommend getting the coach ticket. If nothing else, it helps prevent you from throwing in the towel before you get to the start…

***

Next year? I’ll do it again, but I can’t see my diary for next year yet, so maybe I’ll be busy – it may be 2014 before I pedal to the beach again.

When I do it again, I’ll:

  • have a better pump. I didn’t get much air in the tyre, and while I’m sure there were track pumps about at the various pop-up roadside stalls, I didn’t spot them. My hand pump is good enough for getting enough air in the tyre to get home from work (especially given that I go past at least 3 bike shops that have a track pump chained up outside), but doing 80-odd miles on a under-inflated tyre wasn’t fun.
  • strap a torch to my head to be able to see things off my path (e.g. road signs).
  • be less lazy with navigation – following other people the wrong way is no excuse for getting lost.
  • Get a coach ticket earlier! The Dun Run next year is the 20th-21st July 2013; coach tickets back will be sold via http://southwarkcyclists.org.uk from, I guess, around late April onwards.

I expect I’ll be asking the Mrs for an all-night pass next year – hope to see you on the beach!

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