07 April 2009

Book now for Dunwich Dynamo before the carrots do

I'm not a racist. In fact, some of my best friends are racers. But I'm more interested in bikes as enabling an enjoyable passage from A to B, not two-wheeled pain barriers through mountain scenery you're going too fast to enjoy. So, when I say I've just signed up for a 200km bike ride, you'll understand it is definitely not a race.

The Dunwich Dynamo is Britain's most famous best-kept cycling secret: an annual ride through a full-moon July night from London to the Suffolk coast along with about 500 other people. It’s not for charity, it’s not organised, it’s not a time trial. It’s not a demo or a commemoration, it has no official start or finish line, and there are no medals or certificates for those who complete it.

In fact, it’s not for anything. It’s just a very long ride in the dark with a lot of people. It’s gloriously pointless, sometimes painful, and done for sheer collective enjoyment, like football or opera or life.

And it’s precisely this non-organised, non-aligned, just-for-the-hell-of-it nature that is the appeal. Everyone who’s done it raves about their remarkable experience, and the cult's growing: from 200 riders in 2003 to over 700 in 2006. Expect about 500-600 in 2009.

This year's Dynamo is on the Saturday night/Sunday morning of 4/5 July. The reason to start thinking about it now is that booking has opened for the return coach, the only sensible way of getting back to London apart from turning round and cycling 200km back. (Some people do, apparently.) If you book now it's only £14 to secure a place for you and your bike back.

Southwark Cyclists help organise the ride, and their Dunwich Dynamo page has lots more information and an online coach-booking form.

It won’t be long before its growing media coverage makes it mainstream, and it’ll get all corporate and sponsored and involve reality TV celebs and people in carrot costumes. So do it now while it’s still cool.

(Thanks to Simon Nuttall for the pics.)


  1. Hi - why do you think 2006 was a peak and numbers will be lower this year? I'm intrigued.

  2. Some day I want to do this ride, but it won't be this year. 4 weeks and counting since I sprained/broke my ankle (I chipped the bone) and I'm not back on the bike yet, and probably won't be for another week or two at least.

    I probably wouldn't have done this this year anyway, but I was planning on a trip to the seaside with some friends in the summer, and probably another cycling holiday of the "book several B&Bs each about 25-45 miles apart" sort.

    *sigh* I do miss the freedom my bike gives me.

  3. @Tim: The weather in 2007 was terrible, and had been for several days beforehand, so I'm not surprised only 450 started. In 2008 I seem to remember it wasn't too nice in the week preceding either, so 550 represents a good recovery.

    I'm pretty confident that the underlying trend is upwards, and that if we have good weather, we'll be back up to 700 if not more.

    And note the way I'm talking confidently about 'we' as if I've done it loads of times and know all about it. I've always found excuses before and have never done it.

    Now I'm banking on the fact that, having forked out 14 quid up front, the Yorkshireman in me won't let me wimp out, even if it's a torrential easterly on the night.

  4. @lnr - sorry to hear that! Hope you're back on your bike soon.

  5. Yes, I have heard of this... 200km is quite far though!

  6. Well done lad - forking out the cash, that is. Now for the easy bit.

  7. PS such a shame I start in the Alps the day before....

  8. Fantastic; I wish I could join in, but it's a bit far from where I live.

  9. @Nick - there are a couple of other night rides of similar lunacy springing up round Britain, such as the Exeter Exodus. Might be worth a Google, depending on where you live??

  10. I rode the Dynamo a couple of time in the 90s. Even though once was in a gale, I found the experience well worth it. The best "organized" I've been on. Hope to do it this year...

  11. Apparently, around 1000 this year! Pretty much perfect weather which probably encouraged the record numbers.