So anyway, Dunwich Dynamo got off to an inauspicious start for the TroisV. My back tire went flat right as we pulled up to Pub on the Park, which is the starting point. My back tire had already seen a couple innertube changes this week, so some serious concern set in: was there something wrong with the tape or the rim? If so, my Dunwich Dynamo would end with a walk home. As it turns out, I've just done a very good job of riding over every piece of glass in London recently. Tiny piece of (brown) glass extracted, tire and rim and tape thoroughly checked by two members of TroisV, brand-new tube mounted, old one patched up ("just in case"), and we were ready to head off.
It seemed to take forever to get out of London, but the traffic lights and constant stopping were mitigated by the atmosphere; the cyclists were all in good mood, and pedestrians and motorists alike were telling us we were crazy. At one light a car full of guys in their 20s saw my Brooklyn Chewing Gum jersey (see the photo album; link below) and bellowed, "Is he American?". I got confused; presumably it wasn't for me to answer, since they didn't address me. Maybe their mothers raised them to "not under any circumstances address an American directly," which seems reasonable. Anyway, they told us we were crazy when somebody told them we were cycling 200 kilometers (the use of kilometers always makes your ride seem more impressive, both in speed and distance; nice work, Metric System!).
So but finally out and up through Epping (veterans of the Epping Loop noted that we got there via the less-steep route) and into the villages, where pubs were jammed with cyclists (I was thinking, "how long do you want this ride to take?") and the roads were lined with occasional well-wishers, who waved and clapped ("lined" is perhaps overstating things, but there were people who clearly had come out specifically to watch the cyclists, and it made the atmosphere really fun). After briefly explaining to Matt who Diego Forlan is, we found ourselves rolling through the darkness of the Essex countryside, and staring at a radio tower that would haunt us for the rest of the evening.
There's no real reason to recount the whole ride, pedalstroke-by-pedalstroke, but here's a few highlights/notes:
-->We rode a pretty solid pace for the duration, often moving from one pack of riders to the next. This made for a somewhat surreal experience; one spends much of the Dunwich Dynamo looking at red lights, both blinking and non-blinking, and sometimes, between groups, they disappear entirely. It's also weird how quickly a pack of riders will descend on you if you slow down and/or stop.
-->There were a few minor navigational mishaps, though for a long spell we rode with a trio of pacy riders who had a GPS, which was useful, and with another group of riders, Matt's map and my iPhone combined to get us back on track before we got too far off of it.
--> For the last 20 or so miles we rode in a large peloton led and navigated by riders from Dulwich Paragon Cycling Club. They had a large group of (uniformed) riders, who were in good spirits, and two of whom were draped in Christmas lights, which was a nice change to the red light landscape to which we'd become accustomed at this point. Two longish sections of this stretch were on winding and undulating country lanes, so riders were packed pretty close together (and therefore needed to concentrate, at about 3:15 a.m. onwards; no major mishaps to report, however). Anyway, the Dulwich Paragon riders were good on their navigational skills as well as their general bonhomie. One notes an enormous difference between these riders and our so-called enemies (we did see one of those riders early on).
--> With about 7 or so miles to go, the peloton missed a turn and everybody had to stop and turn around. There was quite a large number of riders in the group, and Matt and I got separated. The problem was, he was ahead of me, and a bunch of riders both slow and fast (including one in a black and white Brooklyn Chewing Gum jersey, who wouldn't deign so much as to crack a slight upturn of the mouth corners in recognition of our "team" status--I said, "nice jersey" and he kept his eyes directly on the road ahead ... jerk.) rode between us on a gravelly and (yes) undulating country lane. So I had to catch up. I started bombing along, careful to stay out of the gravel, passing when I could, moving from group to group, trying to identify Matt's blinking light and Rapha (of course) musette (to be fair, I've got one too). He's not in this group, okay, he must be in the next, okay no, maybe the next... this went on for about fifteen minutes of painful riding. I felt like De Vlaeminck! (no, I did not) Anyway, only then did it occur to me that he might actually be behind me. I slowed down from about 20-21 mph to around 16 mph (I could actually read my computer in the predawn light). A couple minutes (at most) later, Matt came up hyperventilating next to me. Whoops! Well, anyway, after a few whimpered Flotsnoo!s back and forth, we ended strong.
And then had to ride to Ipswich, about which the less said the better. I'll leave it at a single word: headwind.
On the plus side, we were in a group of only half a dozen riders who made the 8:42 to Liverpool Street (and all of whom needed 2 hours to get from Dunwich to Ipswich). The conductor told us as we were arriving into London that there were about 100 bicycles trying to get on at Darsham, which is the closest station to Dunwich.
I was also sure to give the football ground at Portman Road the finger as we rode past.
Matt and I rode to Look Mum, No Hands! for a well-earned milkshake before heading home. Nobody asked us, as they usually do, whether we'd been on a good ride, and we felt a little deflated. Then again, we pretty much felt deflated anyway (but my tire didn't! yay!). But we also felt smug. The feeling remained the rest of the day, even while seeing cyclists pedal past my house after my three-hour nap.
After our breakfast at Dunwich, Matt had a short swim. I didn't even see the sea.
Have a look at Matt's photos.
And you can find the stats in the comments section of Dunwich Dynamo I.