It's that time of the year again, time to ride through the night along moonlit country lanes towards the east coast. However unlike last year, this year I rode on our Jack Taylor Tandem. Originally the Dunwich Dynamo was the impetus for getting a tandem in the first place as it would be impossible for my parter and I to ride together on such a long ride in the dark as our speed and endurance differ. It was a warm Saturday evening in July with a warm and clear night forecast with only a little rain sometime the following afternoon, this was a change from last year where there were thunderstorms.
20:45We got to London Fields a little late and set off at 20:45, the normal meeting time is 20:00. However we were sufficiently packed, snacked and hydrated for the 189km journey that lay ahead of us. We agreed to split the captaining, my partner would do the first half and I would take the last half. However the first hour proved particularly tiring as it was mainly start stop in heavy traffic in crowds, not particularly fun for a smaller person who was less experienced, more so on a tandem which complicates things further.
We had done many training rides long distances in the weeks beforehand to prepare us for the ride we had been looking forward to for the past year. The training rides served to dial in our tandem setup, we sold the original Brooks saddles as my partner found them particularly painful. We then went and bought some cheap Selle Italia saddles which were quite horrible and finally settled on a pair of brand new Brooks Saddles: The B17 Imperial up front and the Flyer Imperial (with saddle springs) for the rear. This combination worked fantastically, we both prefer saddle cutouts (which the Imperial range features) and the springs of the Flyer help to absorb bumps for the stoker. It's normally difficult for the stoker to see the road ahead so they are typically unable to brace for any bumps in the road which makes this particularly important.
00:30By the time we had reached Great Bardfield we were about 1/3rd of the way there and our setup was working fine, save for the back pain my partner had however this was partly due to the start/stop riding in traffic during the first hour. Much like last year there were plenty of volunteers selling coffee, tea and beer to weary cyclists who decided crazily to cycle through the night via moonlight towards some remote town in Suffolk...
After a short rest, a snack and some coffee we were once again on our way into the darkness of the night, pierced by flashing red and white lights trailing off into the distance.
Since I'm relatively new to tandeming, one of the things I noticed was how much faster we were on the flat than other single riders. We would simply fly past most riders, however as soon as we hit a small hill they would catch up. I would put this down to our power to weight ratio not being so great as it is the average of mine and my partner's, however our speed on the flat was increased because of the increase in power and more or less the same aerodynamic drag as a single person. The experience of flying down empty country laneways only lit by the buzz of the bottle dynamo was something to remember. Overtaking can best be described like being on a human powered train, there was very little which could stop us.
03:30After a few more hours we reached Needham Market. Last year when I reached this point it was still night time, however I think our pace was a little slower and we set off a little later, not to worry as the sun rising over the lake was particularly gorgeous.
Also a cup of coffee wouldn't go astray at 4am in the morning...
A few more hours down some more lanes and we were starting to get tired and a bit impatient, our legs were crying out for a sight of the pebbly beach of Dunwich. The sun had risen to stroke our tired faces with eager light, each pedal stroke would bring us closer and closer...
Finally we made it... We were ecstatic to have made it the whole way with no dramas or any major issues of any sort. We even brought our swimmers to go for a dip but we were too tired and fell asleep on the beach. As we didn't line up for a place on the early coaches we had to wait in the crowded cafe for a few hours when it started to rain as it was the only shelter there. We did finally get on a later coach, with Jackyll safely packed up in a truck we fell asleep with our heads resting on the rainswept coach windows back to London.
This was to be my second Dunwich Dynamo now completed, thankfully I didn't have to cycle a further 44km to Ipswich for the train. Also one of the nice things about the tandem on a ride like this is that you work as a team, and there is always someone to chat to even on the loneliest and darkest laneways at 3am in the morning. Our bike served us exceptionally well and it was a goal we had set a year ago - however crazy it sounded - buying a tandem and riding it in the Dunwich dynamo. We'd done it. Thanks for reading.