20,000 ladies and gentlemen of character, in dapper gear, on distinguished motorcycles, from 258 cities in 57 countries just raised almost $1.5million for research into the fight against Prostate cancer in a single day’s ride. Not bad for an idea inspired by a promo photo of a TV actor just a couple of years ago.
Here in London the turnout has officially topped 755 named riders, but there were plenty more unregistered who came along for the ride or couldn’t fit in the Borough Market meeting place. As these pictures show, it was an amazing spectacle.
It’s hard to believe that in only our third year the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride has grown to become this global event, but looking back, the humble beginnings back in 2012 weren’t all that humble…
…Over on the far side of the world Mark Hawwa and his mates had come across a photo of Mad Men actor John Ham astride a BSA in a suit and everyone agreed that a group of guys riding bikes dressed in our best suits would be very cool, and it just seemed to fit the cafe/custom scene perfectly. …A ride was planned and the word was spread.
Thanks to bike blogs and social media the first event was already going to go global, with 2,500 riders in 64 countries. Here at the Bike Shed we’d been in on the original conversations with Mark, and jumped at the chance to run the London Ride on behalf of the Aussie originators.
Having so much fun on bikes made a lot more sense if there was a cause behind it, and Prostate Cancer seemed like a great motivation for a bunch of guys who sit astride hot bikes on hard seats for hours on end. Especially those of a certain age…
After 350 bikes had turned up at the London ride in 2013 we knew that 2014’s ride would be huge. Bikers who saw photos and read about the ride made it clear that next time around they wouldn’t be missing out. …Hosting them all at the Dirty Burger car park in Kentish Town before the long and slow ride through town to The Ship in Wandsworth had been pretty hard to organise, so we knew that doubling the numbers in a place where we could still host and feed people was a big ask.
We decided the 2014 ride should follow a smooth-flowing route around the river, where the roads are wide, with the best views of London, the fewest traffic lights and only a single right turn. We recce’d the route overnight at high speed, running from Tower Bridge to Wandsworth Bridge and back, but it took two of us almost an hour, so we cut a few bridges out for the day assuming that it could take over 3 hours in a mass parade.
There was no way we could do an event like this on the quiet. You can’t assemble 700 bikes in London without attracting some unwelcome attention from the authorities, so we needed a privately owned space where we could do our own thing. Coming up with a big enough venue in the heart of one of the worlds biggest and most congested cities took almost two months. The most obvious choices, even the big London Parks, were all booked far in advance or were super expensive to hire.
Vikki – aka The Dutchess – did most of the calling and form filling, and finally cornered Borough Market, in a partially covered area beside Southwark Cathedral which is normally used for congregational parking on a Sunday morning while Sunday services take place. Whoops.
…Fortunately, through a combination of Vikki’s persuasive power and our gentlemanly charms we hung on to the space, and although it was a bit of a squeeze, we pulled it off.
Seeing hundreds of gorgeous custom and classic bikes being ridden by ladies and gents in dapper gear was always going to be a treat, but what I love most about the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is that it’s a celebration of all that is great about bikers and biking. Underneath the sometimes tough exterior of the average biker is usually the kind of person that always looks out for others and is more likely to go out of their way to help a stranger than your average person.
UK bikers usually attract the most media attention by filming themselves doing 180mph, getting caught up in Police chases on TV or stunting on public roads at well-known bike meet venues, so it’s a welcome change to show a more genuine side to the majority of motorcycle riders; – the classy lady and true gent. Old fashioned dapper gear, on old fashioned bikes, and with an old fashioned attitude to life. Whatever your actual age, we need to do more stuff like this, more often.
At the final count, London was the biggest single ride and biggest single fund raiser, with 700+ riders raising £86,000, and in the UK as a whole we raised around £141,000 out of the £872,000 (and counting) raised worldwide, behind Australia and the US.
The biggest individual fund-raiser was Londoner Nick Allot who raised a whopping £14,356, and the biggest team was his team, the W4-Wanders, raising £28,000. Nick was awarded a Davida helmet painted in DGR colours and free gear from Triumph, who are the global sponsors of the event.
It was an amazing day out. No trouble, no disasters and no bad reactions from anyone. Even the Police seemed to enjoy it. We had lots of breakdowns and overheated bikes, as riding 12 miles in heavy traffic at around 15mph isn’t good for any air cooled engine, but the guys at CRC Motorcycles in Wembley took up the rear in a London Taxi with tools and rescue gear – all in the name of the cause. They had a very long day.
If we didn’t upset the Bishop of Southwark we may be allowed back in Borough Market next year, but it may not be a big enough venue unless we close off more roads. We’ve had a few comments about running a longer and faster paced ride, and we agree, so we’ll try to sort that for next year, if we can.
We’ll also be more strict about dapper gear, open face lids and riding appropriate bikes next time around. There were a handful of pre-event complaints about the bike and gear policy being “elitist” (although not in London) but we will still try to keep the event more pure in 2015. After all, you wouldn’t take a tennis racket to a cricket match…
We’ll also make sure it’s easier to register and to raise appropriate money or make donations on the day. It’s not compulsory to donate to the cause, but events like this cost money to put on, so perhaps a small donation to the organisation should be mandatory?
Huge thanks to Mark Hawwa of Sydney Cafe Racers for coming up with such a spiffing idea and for sharing it with the world. We’re also very chuffed that the Bike Shed was allowed the honour of organising the London ride.
Thanks also to all the guys at The Bike Shed, who put it all together, especially Vikki and Ali, plus the DGRide volunteers… …Although next year we must remember to take a proper team photo… Doh.
Genuine thanks also to the official global DGRide sponsor, Triumph, who provided bikes to ride and kept putting their hands in their pockets to pay for extra stuff at the last minute, and never asked for anything in return beyond a few subtle logos. Corporate sponsorship has never looked so un-corporate.
Cheers also to Fid the lid, for the Davida helmets we gave away or auctioned off, but mostly, thanks to all of you for upholding the spirit of the event and making it truly epic.
Final thanks go to J Anthony Packett, Mykel Nicolaou, Tony Walters. Michael Jershov and Richard Mayfield for the photos in this story.
We’ll see you all next year at the 2015 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. Meanwhile, let’s all try to hang on to the inner gentleman hidden deep inside every true biker.