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Posts Tagged ‘dunwich dynamo

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!


Recently, my husband said “I’d like to cycle the Dunwich Dynamo”. This is an overnight ride of 120 miles from London to the coast, taking place on the July weekend nearest to a full moon. In 2012, so as to avoid a clash with the Olympics, it takes place on 30 June into 1 July.


“Ok” I said tentatively “If you are really sure you’re prepared, then I will be happy for you to go”. But as I’m someone who tends to worry (as opposed to my beloved, who is generally pretty confident) I spent time searching the internet on how one should prepare for the Dunwich Dynamo, or DD, or Dun Run.


I couldn’t find all the information in one place, so I thought I would document it. Here, then, is a list of all the info I’ve found about the Dun Run, which I hope is useful for my beloved – as well as a useful reference for other cyclists. I’ll be passing this info on to my husband, but I’d love to know what I should amend, in order to make it more useful. Also, if you have anything to add to this list please leave a comment.


I should start by saying, it was generally suggested that anyone in good health and used to regular cycling (e.g. commuting) can manage the Dun Run without any particular training. After all, it’s not a race, not a sprint, but a stamina challenge. I’ve learned that the main challenge as you cycle through the night will be mental, not the physical effort.


I’m not physically able to undertake this kind of trip so I am posting this blog from a mental point of view, hoping it will help my husband. It’s not something I could ever consider, but I hope to provide information so that my hubby – and others – will be able to do the trip. Here, then, are all the tips I have learned.


  • Wear proper padded cycling shorts – even if they go under tracksuit trousers. And don’t wear pants under your shorts – that’s not how they are meant to be worn! Get decent padded shorts, and go commando. This is the way to manage cycling for several hours!

  • Use cream on your private parts, and the seams of your shorts too! Assos Chamois Cream is recommended but sudocrem (nappy cream) will do just as well. And if it was me I’d try E45 cream. These will all do the job, but make sure you’ve planned it so there is no chafing!

  • Have a good solid meal the night before. For example, a good pasta meal, or a steak. On the day of the run, have porridge for breakfast. Make sure you’re boosting your carbs!

  • Don’t drink alcohol or over-do things in the days immediately before the run. A few people suggest having beer at the pub before you set out, and that may well be a fun thing to do, but sensible people seem to recommend taking it easy and not drinking too much for a few days beforehand. You can always have beer to celebrate once you are home. Take it easy in advance.

  • Take food with you. Although there is food laid on at the halfway stage, the queues are long and not everyone will get fed, or you may get cold waiting. Don’t rely on it, or expect it. No matter what you take to eat, but you must take enough food and drink to replace the energy you are using – several thousand calories. This is one way to avoid the “bonk” of hitting the wall a few miles from the end. Pasta meals are good. Sandwiches are also popular. High energy foods like sunflower seeds make excellent snacks. Take a range of foods so that you don’t get bored with what you’ve brought; a stash of buttered Malt Loaf will be useful but get boring after a while. Include sweets for a sugar rush. Plan to be self-sufficient and to have enough food to eat regularly. Eat every hour even if it’s just a snack, and stop to eat properly on a regular basis (although be careful not to get too cold when you stop).

  • Drink lots. You should drink 500-1000ml an hour and should urinate every 2-3 hours (men have it easy – women might like to carry a ‘she-pee’ for calls of nature in the countryside). You can drink squash, but dehydration causes cramp (as does a loss of salts). Ideally carry Lucozade Sport powder and reconstitute it with water to make up drinks for the journey. Otherwise drink lots of water and bring salty foods such as crisps and marmite sandwiches! But don’t simply think “you will manage” or that you know best – it’s important to replace what you sweat, and to plan to have energy for the journey. It will be a long run of stamina, and it’s important to have planned appropriately. So if nothing else take Marmite sandwiches!

  • Carry some caffeine based drinks to revive you for the last push at about 20 miles out.

  • Take layers to wear. Lots of layers. You need to ensure that you are prepared for the chill at 3am. Even if you’re warm while cycling, have something ready to slip on while you are taking a break, so you don’t get cold. You may also need layers to wear while you’re waiting to go home, particularly if you are waiting for the coach, or for a train which can accommodate your bike – both can take several hours. And this is before you consider the chance of rain… you may get wet and miserable!

  • Make sure you have waterproofs. Don’t forget caring for your map – bring a waterproof bag to keep it dry. Don’t just think you will manage, it will be miserable to get wet through and you will want to know where you’re going.

  • Do some training runs. Although regular cyclists should be able to manage the DunRun if they take it slow and steady, it is still good to do at least two types of preparatory run:

    1) Around 60 miles – because that way you will know you can cope. If you find things rubbing, or other issues, at least you discovered this on a shorter run rather than the DD! And it will give you experience of finding a way to force your legs to keep moving when you feel that you have already hit your limit. After all, why commit to 120 miles when you don’t know how you will feel after 40 or 60? So make sure you are confident on a 60 mile run before committing to the Dun Run.

    2) Overnight – not necessarily a long run, but it is important experience in order to find out how cold you will feel at 3am and to learn how many layers you need to carry – even if you think you will already know! You may think summer will be easy. I know from festivals that it’s possible to shiver at night just a few hours after you were sweating and applying suncream. Southwark Cyclists have an overnight run on the summer Solstice which may be useful experience: http://southwarkcyclists.org.uk/events/midsummer-madness-summer-solstice-wednesday-20-june-2012 – There is no harm in being over-prepared!

  • Break the journey into manageable chunks. For example, view it as four trips of 30m each. That way you only have to look forward to the end of each section rather than seeing the whole journey as a seemingly unending trip. It makes things much more realistic and bearable.

  • Plan for regular rests. Some people suggest that you stop for no longer than 5 minutes at a time (so you don’t get cold) – others suggest that you stop halfway through and kip in a hedge! Although how you break will be a matter of personal choice, be careful not to get cold when you stop, and not to lose momentum or to let yourself stiffen up.

  • Lights – at a minimum, make sure you have new batteries in your lights and you have spare batteries in your pocket. Ideally, get a decent and powerful beam so that you can see where you’re going on dark, potholed country roads. Although you can tuck in behind someone with a good light, it’s best if you have a decent beam yourself. If you’re used to commuting in a well lit environment, you should now buy a decent beam so you can see your way on quiet country lanes.

  • Give each other space – ride slowly and steadily in groups. Don’t get too close.

  • Don’t set off too fast! If you find you are going too quickly, hang back a bit and wait until a slower group catches you up. Pace yourself – so that you can take it easy and have enough energy to make it to the end. Use an easy gear and a speed you are comfortable with. This is not a race. You want to be in one piece at the end. Chat to those around you, to keep yourself sane and awake.

  • Take spares – a couple of inner tubes, a chain tool, and so on. Be prepared to do repairs as necessary. Look out for your fellow cyclists (although be aware that you probably won’t have time to stop for others who might need assistance). Be independent – there is no support vehicle!

  • Carry ibuprofen. If you become sore or stiff this will be a godsend. Change position regularly as you ride (for example, how you hold the handlebars) to avoid stiffening up. Take ibuprofen during the journey to make things easier.

  • Take a couple of wet facial wipes, ready to freshen up and if necessary, wake yourself up.

  • Finally “do not see not finishing as an option” – this will get you through.


I’m told the trip should be beautiful as you pass candles in jam jars early on, and as the sun rises later on in the journey. Work with it and appreciate your beautiful surroundings.


Once you’ve completed the trip and made it to the beach, if you are still awake, go for a splash in the sea. This requires a bit of advance planning – a change of shorts and a towel so that you can enjoy the water when you get there. You never know if you will fancy it so give yourself the option. Be protected with some suncream in case you need to sleep on the beach, too.


Good luck! I hope that everyone undertaking the Dun Run will have a fantastic experience – including my husband, of course!


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