After a really long and annoying period of illness, I was feeling a bit useless and hadn't managed to get in many training rides so when I finally managed to turn the big pile of parts gathering dust in my office into a nifty road bike last week, I was extremely happy to say the least! The Giant frame was second hand and I bought a Shimano 105 groupset and some pretty strong Mach rims on Deore hubs. The stem, drop bars and saddle I stole from my first fixed gear build and the pedals with straps were a carboot find by my Dad (thanks Dad).
I would just like to say a BIG MASSIVE THANKYOU to the Tweed Run who donated some of their beautiful Carradice panniers to us (pictured above and in Matt's post). Also a BIG THANKYOU to my friend Andrew who stripped down my bike and fine-tuned her before the Dunwich Dynamo. Yes, I decided my first test ride on the new baby would be 120 miles overnight to the Suffolk coast!
Over a 1000 cyclists arrived at London Fields on Saturday evening to participate in the ride. We left at approximately 8:30pm to begin our journey, although it was a very slow start out of London due to the high numbers of cyclists and some inexperienced riding which meant the roads got very congested. It definitely wasn't a race but it was a big relief to finally get out onto the open road and try and overtake some of the slower riders separating those of us who got stuck behind.
I was glad I had decided to wear a proper jersey and padded shorts, although I felt a bit silly in head to toe lycra, it really helped keep me comfortable and cool. I was also glad I'd put my trusty worn in Brooks on the new bike as the miles started to take their toll on the pain threshold of my behind! However, I seriously regretted taking a rucksack as my shoulders were aching so much after about 20 miles and my back was definitely producing a lot of moisture. I did eat all of the food I was carrying though and lent my tools to other cyclists so the added weight was justified.
My energy levels started to flag fairly early (around 11pm) and I really needed to stop to re-fuel and drink some coffee to perk up. I didn't get much sleep the night before and unlike other DD veterans didn't take a nap in the afternoon to prepare. Night riding is completely different to normal riding and although I've done some quite long rides, I really hadn't thought I'd have to push myself so much to keep up with my seriously fit fellow riders. I became quite frustrated with myself at one point as I knew I was capable of more but luckily everyone was lovely and offered kind words of encouragement to keep me going. I knew as long as I kept one of them in sight, I'd be fine but at one point I lost all the flashing red lights in front of me which was absolutely terrifying. I had the moon, some bats and a windy country lane to keep me company... it was beautiful but I've never ridden so fast in my life! Seeing the sun rise was a massive morale boost and after yet more jelly babies, pasta and flapjacks I forged ahead overtaking groups of slower riders to get back to the pack.
By about 4am, I started to go a bit loopy. The delirious exhaustion had kicked in and I started to find everything funny. It didn't help I was riding with some of London Fixed Gear & Single Speed's biggest jokers who had also started to go a bit loopy - we started calling out bad riding, dancing on our bikes, telling stupid stories, giggling and whinging at every bump and hill! Finally after a long stretch of B road, we started seeing signs for Dunwich and we perked up again. I wasn't very good at riding geared and stayed in the same two or three gears the whole way, I found it hard to push up hills being so used to riding fixed and I kept forgetting my brakes were the opposite way round. I almost came a cropper on a particularly muddy and gravelly downhill where I built up alot of speed and then pulled the back brake, skidding mercilessly round the sharp corner at the bottom but thankfully staying upright much to the surprise of the high-viz clad ensemble behind me! Finally, at approximately 6:30am we made it to the beach - I've never felt such immense relief in all my life. I got off my bike but surprisingly didn't feel that tired so I wandered round saying to anyone who'd listen "I don't know what to do now, I feel lost!" A sit down on some grass after a lovely but very expensive(!) breakfast proved otherwise though and I was soon snoozing with the best of them.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable and eye-opening experience and I am seriously in awe of other cyclists that rode back too (well done Rosie, Tom et al!) and especially my friend Leo who rode the whole way on a Boris Bike... absolutely amazing. Thanks to Katie and John for sorting out our coach home and a HUUUUUUGE shout out to Simon, Iain, Henry, Matt, Michael, Olly, Pete and the one man party peloton that is Tibbs for being brilliant company and keeping the pace up! I now feel alot more confident about our daily mileage to Berlin and am happy with the bike after putting it through it's paces.
PS. Hello to Team Awesome - my fellow lady cyclists and alleycat winners from a few weeks back! It has been lovely to meet so many new cyclists these past few months and take part in rides such as London to Brighton. Everyone has been very encouraging of our ride and lots of people have offered bits of kit, places to stay and kind donations. I wholly appreciate it as it really does mean so much to us.
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