On Saturday 8 July I joined a small team to take on the mammoth overnight challenge of the Dunwich Dynamo.
Chris Froome-lite I am not.
Other than a short commute and an occasional battle with the infamous Swain’s Lane, until then my longest cycling challenge was a gentle Tour de Partridge.
There were nerves beforehand, but the 110-mile Dynamo turned out to be the best experience I’ve had on two wheels.
For any potential debutants tempted to have a go next year, and I would heartily recommend you do, here are a few tips I picked up.
1. Don’t mess with your body clock
If, like me, you wake up at roughly the same time each morning, alarm or not, there’s no point staying up late to get some extra kip on a lie in.
Your stomach will be on edge all day so do the sensible thing and fill it the kind of food you normally avoid eating in large amounts. This is just what you need.
Adrenaline will do the rest.
2. Pack accordingly
I got a puncture on the way to the start at London Fields. No bother. I had two spare tubes.
A jacket also came in handy. Despite the warm weather the early hours got pretty chilly.
After a couple hours my top felt like I’d done a night on the Ministry of Sound dance floor. A spare would have been easy to carry and a welcome change.
3. Take food
All the food stops I read about online in the build up were empty by the time we got there. At Sudbury fire station we ate hot dog rolls warmed on a BBQ because there was no meat left. Maybe next year I’ll take olive oil and balsamic vinegar…
A 12-piece box of Baklava from my local Greek-Cypriot patisserie (I know, it’s grim up North London) was easy to carry and great sustenance for my fellow cyclists and me.
The hip flask of schnapps was also popular among teammates.
4. The first bit is crap – get a location app
Two or three thousand cyclists (retrospective estimates are undecided) leaving London at the same time leads to bottle necks, long waits at lights and much chuntering in the ranks.
Having been split up from some of the team, I was lucky to catch up with them again on the outskirts of the capital. A location app on your phone like Find My Friends would have been a good way to track progress.
You can make yourself invisible after the ride, in case you have stalkery or prankster mates.
5. Make sure your lights are secured…
There’s a cattle grid just after you cross the North Circular. As I rumbled over I saw a jettisoned red eye blinking up from the depths.
6. …and not set to flash
…but at least it was one less flashing rear light on the route. Three miles following one of those and it feels like a scene from Clockwork Orange.
7. People in Epping have issues
Look at what these idiots did…in Epping.
We left London Fields last night as a group of five, but less than 90 minutes later were reduced to four following a ridiculous decision from a group of kids near Epping. They rolled an old mountain bike out into the front wheel of @bamesjerry. I was behind him and went over the top and @nicknumbernine didn’t have the time to stop either. • Thankfully James and I got off relatively lightly, but @nicknumbernine ended up on the train back to London far sooner than any of us would’ve liked. • 🎥 @pedalpilots • #10000kmcc #DunwichDynamo
At no other point on the route did we witness local youths uprooting flowers from civic planters and impotently hurling them at cyclists.
The boy racer culture is strong with them too. Quite unnerving aggression from one Ford on a dark country road.
Everyone else interacting with cyclists on the route was absolutely charming.
8. Pubs open late and serve quickly
The Fox at Finchingfield is a great spot to watch the Dynamo slide past with a beer in the early hours. The niche brand of hand drier in the gents isn’t up to much though.
— Stix (@jeffkennaleague) July 11, 2017
9. Take appropriate medical supplies
At around 30 miles the unaccustomed long-distance rider will have more little niggles than Andy Carroll.
I was fortunate enough to find some codeine tablets when packing at home. Everything was wonderful and serene after one of those.
Remember not to get too carried away with alcohol and painkillers. I switched off my Strava by mistake and missed recording part of the ride.
10. Try and ride as a team
The most fluid parts of the Dynamo were when six of us got together and powered through.
Unexperienced at riding in groups, when it came to the few climbs of the route it was every man for himself. One of the team found it hard to rejoin our small peloton once they’d been dropped.
There’s a tendency to want to kick on as it’s such a long ride. If you slow down to support your teammates it makes it a lot easier to get through.
No matter how you play it, you’ll all be dog tired by the end.
11. Get in the sea
By the time you reach Dunwich beach you’re too tired to be jubilant and a certain part of your anatomy feels like The Eye of Sauron (‘it was said few could endure the eye’s terrible gaze’).
You’ll certainly feel better for a dip in the ice cold North Sea.