Bridging the past to help fight a very present danger, the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride is not your everyday poker run. In fact, there's no gambling at all except by those men who choose to ignore their prostate.
Founded just two years ago, the DGR invites men of all ages to participate in the most dapper of rides for the most distinguished of causes - Prostate Cancer. Each year, one in nine men develop prostate cancer and nearly half a million die from it. On a global scale, prostate cancer affects more men than breast cancer affects women. Men have a 20 percent chance of developing the disease by the age of 85 which doubles for those who have a diagnosed father or brother.
Men and, yes, women riders celebrated the inaugural ride in 64 cities worldwide when the primary focus was to bring together the classic gentlemanly look and motorcycle style of the 1950s. Ride founder Mark Hawwa decided the next year it was time for men to get talking about their prostate and health. (For a sobering account of one's man battle against prostate cancer read Bruce's Story.) Last year, more than 11,000 well-dressed riders worldwide in 145 cities took to the streets on café racers, bobbers, flat trackers, scramblers or what's described as "quirky, undefinable two-wheeled machines," and helped raise $277,000 for prostate cancer research.
Just two weeks ago, the third annual ride hauled in $1.5 million - a staggering number when considering there's no cost to participate. All that's required is good manners, dapper clothes and a motorcycle whose age is about the same for when a man needs the dreaded exhaust pipe check.
Riders in Lisbon, Portugal
Ride name: The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride
Year Founded: 2012
Who Founded: Mark Hawwa
Number of Chapters: No chapters - worldwide participation
Ride Cost: Free
For what: Prostate Cancer Awareness and Funding
Next Ride: September 28, 2015
Riders in Hamburg, Germany
1. So, the ride theme was inspired by the AMC television show Mad Men but tell us why you were inspired to start it?
The ride was inspired by Don Draper (character on Mad Men) on a classic motorcycle. Having brought together first the Sydney Café and custom scene and then the Australian Scene. The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride was founded to bring together the niches of the motorcycle world. The Bobbers, Café Racer, Classics, Weird and Whacky.
2. Certainly you could have started any ride to raise prostate cancer awareness but you implemented what's clearly a solid marketing ploy with the classic look of clothing and motorcycles - was that part of the idea to stand out and be different?
No. The event was about classic bikes, classic style and classic gentlemanly values. It does more than just that though. It breaks stereotypes, it reinvigorates the classic bike scene, gives people an opportunity to connect and raises awareness and funds for Men's Health. In its second year I decided that as gentlemen we should use this to break down that macho biking mentality and get our guys talking about their health and prostates. We are doing that and we are saving lives.
3. Just a year after the first ride 145 cities worldwide participated in the second ride. How on earth did you get the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to get so big in such a short time?
In its first year the ride took place in 65 cities around the world. Sydney Café Racers has a decent international following and through networking globally we had 65 hosts that wanted to be a part of it. This year we had 257 hosts. It all comes down to being a niche event, a fun event and being a part of something that unites us globally.
Riders in Sydney, Australia
4. Are there ride routes for each city and if so, who makes all the plans?
We have lots of volunteers who help make this possible. Each potential host is given the guidelines to running the event and ensuring it's safe and positive for all involved. They follow the guidelines to create the event and we are always here to critique and adjust the route if necessary. Our guidelines ensure all events are consistent, a positive influence to all the public watching as well as authorities and local councils. Our team is very lean to ensure we can raise a huge amount of money for medical research.
5. Prostate cancer is near and dear to everyman's heart - do you feel the disease has more or less been overlooked by all the other more popular campaigns happening today?
Everyone has their own campaign and their own agenda. All cancer, all diseases are bad. I don't think anything is overlooked, I just think more people need to be selfless and supportive. Everyone can make a difference yet I personally feel more people would like to complain and do nothing then do something positive. The Movember guys (moustache growing charity for men's health) have done an amazing job focusing on men's health. I just feel we have a unique opportunity with DGR to really get educate our riders on health and get those conversations happening.
6. Obviously your goal is to help raise money to fight prostate cancer - what else do you hope to accomplish with the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride?
Like I mentioned earlier, the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride was founded on classic bikes, dapper and values. In its second year we added in the charitable element. It is a classic styled motorcycling event that raises money for medical research into prostate cancer, some people like to call this a charity event in an attempt to suggest that we should open the concept up to all riders of all styles of bike. Truth of the matter is it's a classic styled bike event and we won't ever change that. For me personally, as important as education and raising funds for charity is, it is not worth the risk of someone being seriously injured on our event. We keep it to the niche to ensure it's manageable and safe. Tweed and Tarmac do not mix. This is a silly concept so we ensure it's small and slow and all rides take place in the main streets of each city ensuring speeds are kept to a minimum. This event is theatre. It's about being seen and spreading merriment.
I never really have spent the time to highlight exactly what my goals are so here goes:
- To bring together owners of classic styled machines on a global scale. Café Racers, Bobbers, Classics, Trackers, Monkey Bikes, Classic Scooters, Modern Classics.
- To continue motivating people to ride old styled.
- To support the scene, the builders and the bloggers. I want to ensure growth of the scene and in growth give those homebuilders the opportunity to become pro builders.
- To break stereotypes found in all countries relating to that bad boy image of motorcycle riders
- To educate our fellow riders on health and motivate them to get their prostate's checked
- To find a cure using the money we raise. All money we raise is to be spent purely on open medical research that will benefit men worldwide. We do not spend any of it on research that builds intellectual property. We know in the grand scheme of things a million dollars isn't much so we are very cautious as to how we apply those funds to make a difference.
Riders in Salt Lake City, UT
7. How successful was the 2014 ride - held just last month?
Massive. 20,000 riders, 258 Cities, 57 Countries and $1.5 million (USD) raised.
8. There's no cost to ride - how do you raise so much money?
It's up to those participating to choose whether they want to support the charitable aspects of this ride. We all know motorcyclists are the most charitable people out there and this proves it. I believe charity should be a personal choice. In some countries and some social circles it's not easy asking for money or finding the money to donate yourself. We don't want to exclude those guys. Raising money is great but raising awareness and getting guys to take preventive measures is just as important to me. Medical research will save lives in the future but getting our guys to go get checked right now - saves lives right now.
9. Only select styles of motorcycles are invited to participate - what was the decision behind this?
Staying true to why it was founded. Keeping it manageable, keeping it safe. It's 2014. If we opened this concept up to all things two wheels the concept would last another year. You simply cannot take thousands of riders through the heart of a city without having a negative impression on locals, police and councils. Also when it gets to the stage of events on this size, they take longer to plan which would result in us having to hire people to run the event for us. We run this event very lean. The last two years of me running this event have been volunteered. Furthermore it all comes down to accountability. I am the risk owner in this equation. The first name mentioned when something goes wrong is mine. Do I want to be accountable for the death or serious injury of a person because we were more focused on fundraising then we were keeping it manageable/safe and doing our small part for the world. The answer is no. That mentality of Bigger is Better is the death of this event.
Riders in Auckland, New Zealand
10. Anything up your jacket sleeves for the 2015 ride?
With more corporate support my goal is to make this ride even safer. The bits that excite me are the fact that in 2015 we will be able to ensure every single ride will have a first aid kit on the tail-end Charlie. It has never been about the quantity with me, it's always been about the quality. 2015 will be an amazing year but that is all that is up our tweed blazer sleeves that we are willing to share at the moment.
11. Finally, for the motorcyclist reading this who wants to get involved but finds there is no ride near them - what can they do?
Hit the website and email us. They should only email us if they are willing to volunteer as host or part of the hosting team. Without a host we can't run an event. That host will in fact need to be on the correct style of bike and be willing to lead by example. They will need to be gentlefolk and humble in all aspects of their life. This is about being a part of something much bigger and we tend to find a lot of people only want to host for their own glory or to support their own business. That is not what this is about.
Interview with: Mark Hawwa
Written By: AndrewT