The Man with the Hammer by Rocco Malatesta
I may get taken as a masochist, but I welcome the visit from the man with the hammer at 5am.
He’s like the strict teacher that everyone in the school fears, but when you get to his class, you realise that he just doesn’t fuck around, he wants to help you better yourself and is usually kind, thoughtful and respectful – and punishment is fair and justified.
‘The Man’s’ lesson is the point at which we learn that self will can, and will, fail us.
We’re taught in life to fight, to overcome obstacles, to tread on toes and to steamroller problems.
You’re strong, we’re told. But you can be better. Push harder. Just do it.
We’re then given a million problems that one can only ‘defeat’ with the advertised product and as a result, we become weak, burdened by problems that are not ours, pain that does not exist.
We incorporate this into our daily lives and strive to overcome these problems every day. Bigger house, more pointless shit to put in it. Magazines, Trainers, even children. The latest habitat coffee table, hand crafted in India from the armpit hair of a dolphin.
However, the simple reality is that these behaviours are little more than our self will desperately trying to stamp itself on the world.
After 60km of riding a bike, these thoughts of madness generally fade. The body is undertaking too much to bother wasting energy thinking. This is a good thing.
However, we are still living our entire lives powered by ‘ourselves’. But when ‘the Man’ comes for us, that all changes.
I remember the first time I met him like it was yesterday. It was the first London to Brighton I did at Ditchling beacon and I got off my bike and cried like a child.
I couldn’t go on. What I didn’t know what that this ‘Beware Horses’ sign marked the end of the climb, but I was so buried in self pity that I couldn’t look up and see the crest of the hill.
The man taught me something that day – that self will can and must be torn down and replaced by something that has power.
Through the medium of my bicycle I set about reinventing my life, being the person I wanted to be, not the person I was told to be.
The Man showed me my God.
I hope that he will show you yours.
When he comes, *if he comes*, welcome him with open arms.
Dunwich Dynamo takes place this year on July 13th 2013
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Pilgrimage to the East Coast
So, the Dunwich Dynamo rolls around again.
Newbies quake and rally around the old timers, desperate for some reassurance. Stories of Boris bikes and Penny Farthings get rolled out to relieved sighs and glances.
It’s easy to see how many people fear the dynamo.
First, it’s a night ride, and exhaustion hits that much harder when coupled with sleep deprivation. Second, it involves some serious pack riding. Thousands of cyclists jostling for positions and lines, most unaware of the fine etiquette of the peloton. Third, it’s two hundred bloody kilometers long. Oh, lorks.
But the Dynamo isn’t a harsh or unkind mistress. She does not cause you to fall to the roadside, to walk home, or call a cab.
She does not force suffering or pain or injury. That is not to say she is not demanding – but demands are achievable.
The riders biggest enemy is their own fear.
When viewed through the warm haze of 364 days recovery, the ride is beautiful. It is the fine wine of the randonneur, the subtle blue cheese of the Audax rider. Like touring, but without the boredom. A night of fellowship and warm air gently swirling around your helmet. No tears and little sweat. Just take a chilled out pace and point northeast-ish. Keep going until the sun rises and you run out of land. Bliss.
The mind buzzes at the thought, buzzes like a thousand freewheel pawls, tapping their gentle rhythm all the way down from the hill from Epping.
Like a troupe of mechanical grasshoppers calling in the soft undergrass for a mate, so too does the well travelled road to Saxmundham call forward the rider.
Should a brother [or sister!] falter? A Samaritan stops, picks them up, puts them back on the bike and gives enough gentle encouragement to keep them going.
Should a mechanical strike? There are enough experienced mechanics about to put right any issue.
To the experienced, the Dunwich Dynamo loses it’s fearsome figure and becomes a pilgrimage.
Everyone finds something different in the warm night air.
Last year, I learned that anyone that told me I couldn’t do something was talking out of their arse. I learned that I could do anything.
I also learned that when the ‘Man With The Hammer’ comes calling at 5am regarding a debt of suffering I owed him, I could carry on regardless – despite him shaping me with mighty blows against the anvil of my naivety.
Subsequently, I learned to bring some satchets of Electrolyte powder this year.
I found peace, beauty and a feeling of all enveloping love, as the warm sunrise lifted my spirits and enlightened my soul.
Light cannot be observed to shine so bright without darkness, and the warm morning air must be contrasted to the chill of the pre dawn hours in order to be most appreciated.
Luckily, the best company awaits to carry you through the dark and into the embrace of the Framlingham butty stop.
Have courage, and know that the person that stands on Dunwich beach is a different person than the one that departs London fields.
Look forward to meeting that person, for they will have a most amazing story to tell.
Video: Is of a fellow DD rider and not me.
“And the wind will bear my cry,
To all who hope to fly,
Hear my song of courage and ride into the night!
So for now, wave goodbye
Keep your hand held high
Hear this song of courage long into the night”
Manowar – Courage
Theres something about saying ‘200 kilometers’ which causes my gut to flip. We’re going to ride all through the night until our bodies can take no more, then the sun will come up. And we will ride some more.
My teammates lights illuminate me from behind, throwing shadows of pumping calves onto the road. Cadence high, we plough into the night, four strong, towards the half way point tea stop. I drop back and let another take the lead, tucking in behind his back wheel and revelling in the silent vacuum of the draft.
Let me explain. Silence is something I’m not accustomed to. Since age 5, I’ve not left the house without a walkman/discman/MiniDisc/MP3 player and at least one spare set of batteries. The crowd in my head was so loud, the only way was to drown it out. The noise and the craziness in my head led me to some dark places in life, sitting homeless aged 14 with a needle in my vein, tasting oblivion in its rawest form. Even having got clean, it led me down a path of self destruction, over and over. Drugs, drink, sex, gambling, computer games. Over and over, I gathered myself and took a strained step forward, heavy with the guilt and shame of my past. I had to escape – but with each way of escape came a new low.
When, last August, I was looking for a new bike to replace the steel mountain bike I’d run into the ground, little did I know the changes it would bring with it. I was 17 stone 2 pounds, with zero self respect and a tendancy to think about throwing myself in front of buses. Things were not all good. Once again, I made a decision that things should change. And change they did.
I got up off my butt and started taking action. Therapy, a new sponsor in recovery, doing what was recommended for those in my situation. I got a temp job, and I needed to ride to work. Why I went for a road bike I don’t know, but once I’d got it home, I knew I was in love. Clips, cleats, helmets, lycra – this was all new to me. I’d stepped into a big bold new world, full of weird looking middle aged men, and I didn’t care. I’d found something I could enjoy. I rode to work. I rode to AA meetings. I rode to see friends. I rode everywhere I could ride. It wasn’t long before my boyfriend started to see the pounds shed. People commented on how ‘healthy’ I was looking. My legs went from things that sat under my desk to defined slabs of muscle.
Then, I did London to Brighton. The first time I’d ridden more than 15 miles in one go, and I cried in pain. But the pain was good. It was me, my music and the pain, and I kept going until I could go no further. Then I freewheeled the rest of the way into town. Riding in the open, out of the city, became my new favourite thing. I’d book tickets out to Reading, ride to Oxford and back and catch the train home. Then Cambridge, and then Brighton again. All the time, gaining in speed and distance and loving every minute of it.
The facebook group of the Dunwich Dynamo drew me in. It was some months away, it seemed fine to sign up to. I booked coach tickets, and then realised that I’d committed myself to the most physical exertion I’ve ever done. Anticipation, Fear, readiness to prove myself, a desire to succeed, so many emotions spent months going around my head. I was as ready as I would ever be. I was a healthy 12 stone, with quads capable of keeping going no matter what.
Somehow, on the night, I made it to London Fields. I didn’t know anyone and faced a night of lone riding. My fear of failure stirred. My ego is unfaltering in it’s desire to see me fail, to remind me of all the times where I’ve failed in my life. To tell me that I will never achieve anything. It was working full force that evening.
Suddenly, I hear someone call my name. Someone from the facebook group recognised me. The rest of the evening is complicated to explain, but involved a lot of waiting around for people. In the end, 6 of us set out from London Fields at about 9:30pm.
The ride out of London was hectic. Too busy to think, the only focus was on staying alive. When we gathered ourselves, we had lost two. Four rode on. Crossing the M25, we were surrounded by nature. Trees and fields as far as the eye could see. The sun setting, we stopped into a petrol station for a quick release of internal pressure, and we were off again.
I can’t pinpoint when it was, but something clicked and I flipped my headphones down around my neck and revelled in the sound of freewheels buzzing, of cranks pumping, the crackle of tyres on worn asphalt. Peace surrounded me as we rode on, cutting through the wind like a knife through warm butter. Eddies formed in my ears, the cool air an alien feeling, but the cans stayed off.
The simple pleasure of maintaining cadence and following the red lights took the internal noise away.
At some point shortly before Sudbury, we lose two more. Despite looking up and down, we can’t fine them. Two remained for the second half. We silently plough forward into the night.
I came to realise, this isn’t such a big deal. We ham it up, talking in kilometers to make ourselves sound like Gods of the road, to the uninitiated. We scare ourselves into jelly when all we need is the simple pleasure of pressing down with our calves and quads, over and over.
This is not a battle with the clock, or with the bike, or the road. It is a battle with ourselves. It is a battle with our fear. It is not a test of strength, endurance or ‘Rule 5’. It is a test of Courage, a test of resolve.
The Dynamo changed me before I even rode it. But having ridden it? I can laugh at anyone who says ‘you can’t do that’.
I can do anything.
While I ride I raise money for Addaction
You can sponsor me via JustGiving
Good Company by Frank Patterson
What makes 2000 plus cyclists of all levels venture out on to the roads and head out on the ambitious ride between London Fields in Hackney and Dunwich on the Suffolk coast? I’m sure a lot of cyclists asked themselves that same question at one point between Saturday night and Sunday morning which was when the ride took place.
I think to ask that question we need to evaluate the question, why do we cycle? What aspect of it makes us happy? I think one thing we can all agree on is that our agenda for cycling is totally different?
It was my second Dunwich Dynamo, did the first one last year and my experience of that was truly a roller-coaster… This year I decided to do it again, but this time around raising money for the charity Trees for Cities
TOGETHER WE’RE STRONGER
As a London cyclist where we’re used to constantly being pushed around, where the majority of motorists complain about cyclists and believe they don’t belong in the city, it was for sure a different picture on Saturday evening as we left the city, a large field of cyclists who adhered to traffic rules and stopped at red lights and kept to the left wherever possible just as it should be. When you are as large as we were motorists know that they can’t bully you, some had even engaged and showed an interest in what we were doing.
JUST LIKE THE TOUR DE FRANCE
As we were rolling out of the city waiting to get past congestion and traffic lights so we could spread and really start pedalling, I couldn’t help making comparisons with the Tour de France which I’m a great fan of and really is the base and were the beginning of my passion for cycling started. I used to get up in the morning with my brother, sit glued to the TV screen and watch the beginning of the gruelling mountain stages, as the riders were rolling up the first mountain they were laughing and chatting – they all knew what a hard day of torture it would be. That was how it was like on Saturday as we were rolling out of London we were joking and catching up but deep inside we knew at one point we would be close to being broken both mentally and physically. When darkness had fallen and you really were in the middle of nowhere and there’s only one way… and that’s forward. When you start fearing, when will I hit the wall and what happens when I do? One unnerving sign is when your cycling partner stops talking to you and all you get back in reply when asking if they are OK is ”Yes”.
Going back to my point about the Tour de France, you really feel like a professional athlete when the local people stand on the streets or peer from their balconies and windows cheering and spurring you on. That gives you the extra 10% that could be crucial at that point even though the comment I heard ”Come on you guys you’re nearly there” can be slightly misleading and optimistic when there is still 40km to go. This year along the route several candles had been put in place along the route, I would like to believe that they had been put there just for us but what a tremendous amount of work that most have been.
THE CONNECTION WITH NATURE
As a kid I remember the majority of things we did as a family were on bikes, and that was only back in the eighties. I recognise that today’s modernised society is beneficial in many ways but I am seriously worried that we’re losing our connections with nature. I still believe as I always have that our beautiful now very fragile planet is best experienced on 2 wheels rather than 4 wheels, of course I know that there are certain trips that it’s necessary to make in a car.
As darkness slowly changed to dawn you cannot even begin to describe the sensations that you experience, but you just don’t have the energy to fully appreciate and absorb the moment. From when you hear the first chirps of the beautiful bird songs, to cycling past elderflower bushes from which there is still flowers to pick, and the blackberry bushes which I’m impatiently waiting to fruit, it all took me back to my childhood to when I used to go out picking with my parents. I can’t help but think that today’s generations of children are seriously missing out if their parents are not doing that with them. I also thought about the charity I’m supporting Trees for Cities, how happy it made me to see the lush greenery and the biodiversity it must be supporting and while my reasons were purely because of environmental concerns I realised it also brings a great deal of happiness, there’s no reason cities should be any different. When we live in a big city like London we can often forget how important tress are to us. In fact they’re vital to our livelihoods they give us Oxygen, they suck out pollution and they also help us deal with floods and heat.
It was the 20th Dunwich Dynamo, a big thanks should go out to the organisers Southwark Cyclists I find it astonishing that they can keep this completely cost-free. Thanks to all the pit stops along the way, to all the brilliant people out supporting the riders. And let us not forget to keep protecting our beautiful countryside so we can continue to cycle in these breathtaking surroundings. At the beginning of the blog I asked why someone would do the Dunwich Dynamo, I hope I have given you an answer, it’s why I did it!
I hope I have encouraged you to donate to my cause, if wish to do so you can here and it would be massively appreciated: www.justgiving.com/DynamicDunwichDynamoDuoTrees