The Dedicated Few: Mark Thomas

In a series dedicated to our Dedicated Few – riders who’ve made the annual pilgrimage with us every year since day 1 – Mark shares some of his favourite war stories.

In early 2013 my friend Alex called me one evening and broadly asked the question “how are you getting to Download this year…?”

To my nonplussed and stuttering response, he explained about the fledgling idea of the Heavy Metal Truants and that he would love, if I would be one of the riders, telling me about the three charities we would be raising money for and that it could be “a lot of fun”.

Thinking about that now, and about we are five rides deep into this, how it has grown into an absolute juggernaut, the huge amounts of monies we have raised, the truly great friends I have made, the baking sun, whipping wind, heavy rains and stinging hail (all in the afternoon of day 2 of the first ride!) and the sense of pride of not only being a committee member but simply to be able to say I am a Heavy Metal Truant….well, it is incredible to see how far we have come, and truly a privilege to have been involved from year one and now be immersed in the whole organisation as a committee member.


What keeps me coming back? If I think about that, all the possible answers are really simple.

We raise money for three of the most amazing charities that do such incredible, inspiring and vital work to help children who desperately need it. Over the years these charities have become so much more than letterheads or logos on shirts to me, as I‘ve been lucky enough to see deeper into what they do and how much more they are desperate to do for those kids that need it most. I want to be part of that fundraising and I want that fundraising to grow and grow, year on year

I get to see all my brothers and sisters, old and new, and help write another chapter of this story, which I know will include….team photos at the top of the ride, the rude street sign, the Great Train Robbers bridge….quietly chanting to myself that ‘spinners are winners’ through the grittier parts of the day as we point uphill again….the ritual of Lee our Medic strapping my knees up early day 2….the medicinal qualities of Trooper ale and carb heavy foods…..belly laughs….followed by belly laughs….the giving of the tassels and the Paul Stanley gloves of shame to totally deserving characters and the Stasi like snitching that has grown to accompany it…high fiving the wonderful lady that waits to cheer us as we pass on the third morning EVERY YEAR…having another photo with my buddy Andy Hunns at the Church Cross….and the feeling of pure pride and elation as we lift our bikes above our heads at the finish line at Download and scream out – ‘cos we’ve bloody well done it. Again.

I have a full set of five badges, signifying I’ve done  them all – one of only seven people to be able to say that! It would be horrific to have a gap in that collection (right, Whitestone?)

Oh, and I now have a tonne of lycra, which would just gather dust if I didn’t ride with the black peloton, right?

I’m lucky enough to have never been directly touched by some of the terrible illness, conditions and situations that the charities we ride for are battling to help kids through. And I’m lucky enough and privileged to be able to play a small part in a growing machine that can help that fight.

Wouldn’t miss that for the world. Just try and stop me.