Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride 2013
Goodbye leather and speed, hello dapper and tweed. Welcome to The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, the world’s fastest-growing, mass-participation charity ride that sees thousands of sharply dressed motorcyclists across the globe come together for a worthy cause. And it all started here in Australia.
This year’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, held on Sunday, September 29, attracted more than 7500 riders across more than 145 cities. An impressive feat considering this was only the event’s second year thanks to the efforts of some clever people and clever social media campaigns. The result? Almost $275,000 raised for prostate cancer research this year, surpassing the $250,000 target.
In addition to the charitable efforts, the event’s mass turnout and global participation shows how well the custom bike culture continues to thrive and is here to stay. How so? Though welcome, there aren’t too many modern-day machines among the sea of classics, café racers, bobbers, flat trackers and all sorts of period customs in keeping with the ride’s old-school theme.
It mightn’t be long before a major bike manufacturer such as Triumph, with its range of retro bikes, pushes aside bourbon brand, Gentleman Jack, to become the event’s major sponsor.
The DGR takes inspiration from a bygone era dominated by Brylcreem, cigarettes, chivalry and fine suits. Think Don Draper from Mad Men or perhaps our fathers and grandfathers. In addition to the bikes themselves, it is this imagery of ‘gentlemanliness’ and the good spirit of fancy dress that distinguishes the DGR and is central to its upbeat modus operandi: “Live tweed. Ride dapper.”
Mark Hawwa is the founder of DGR and Australian Café Racers, a popular Facebook community of custom-bike enthusiasts that’s responsible for bringing this charity ride to life.
Hawwa says it all started when he returned to Sydney where, after falling under the spell of the Yamaha SR500 in Japan, he formed a group to bring together fellow enthusiasts to enjoy organised rides throughout Sydney. As it grew rapidly across the nation, the Perth group wore suits during one of its rides. The idea caught Hawwa’s attention and he used this to bring bikers of niche categories together on a global scale.
“We aren’t bikies, we aren’t hardcore,” he says. “We are guys and girls who appreciate a finer style of motorcycles. We opened the ride up to ensure the focus was ‘Dapper’ – not specifically suits – and we branded the event The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.”
Hawwa connected with riders worldwide and, with its distinctive logo and imagery created, The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was founded. In 2012, its first year, more than 2500 riders took part across 64 cities.
“The decision was made to bring more purpose to the event,” Hawwa says. “While last year’s ride was about spreading merriment and riding, this year’s DGR has also been about creating awareness for men’s health issues and funding for multiple charities that focus on prostate cancer research and awareness.”
The goal next year is to raise more funds for men’s health issues and give people an absolute hoot while taking part in the event, says Hawwa.
“We want to start linking up with charities on an international scale and ensuring that the funds raised in each country go to a charity in that country.”
Hawwa emphasises the DGR is an event primarily for the custom-bike scene and he aims to keep it that way to ensure it remains manageable and true to its roots.
“We never claim or will claim to be a ride for everyone. We field complaints all the time from other motorcycle segments but, ultimately, to open the event to everyone is outselling the reason it was created; it would also become a logistical nightmare.”
Motorcycle Trader took part in the Melbourne ride that weaved along Port Phillip Bay, cut through the trendy strips of Prahran’s Chapel Street and St Kilda (at the protest of many impatient, air-cooled machines) and concluded at Gasolina, a relatively new, custom-bike garage-cum-restaurant and bar at South Wharf on the edge of the CBD.
It was a pleasure to ride at a super-relaxed pace for once, in keeping with the appropriate riding conduct of a true gentleman, of course. In return, almost every onlooker waved, gave a thumbs-up, smiled or pulled out a camera or phone to capture the sights and sounds of hundreds of happy, extraordinarily well-dressed riders astride their equally unique and characterful motorcycles. And to think that this was happening simultaneously in 145-odd cities…
“The DGR is about quality, not quantity,” Hawwa says. “We will be back in 2014, not necessarily bigger, but better and more dapper.”