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  • December 13, 2013
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Ruairi O'Connell
  • 26 Comments

Gentlemen Ride

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It’s nice to be around at the birth of a new tradition—and even nicer to have actually helped birth that new tradition. The new tradition is an event called the “Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride,” started in Sydney, Australia in 2012 by a local classic-bike enthusiast named Mark Hawwa. Hawwa was inspired by a photo of “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm astride a vintage Matchless, wearing a predictably beautiful suit and looking quite distinguished—and if you have a vintage motorcycle and a suit and tie in your closet, do you need any more excuse to go for a ride? The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was born.

Every ride could use a cause, if not a good reason, and Hawwa found one: prostate cancer. Riders would raise money for prostate cancer awareness, with funds going to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, and so far the events—held in 110 cities around the globe—have raised $266,952 Australian dollars, which is a lot, even in real money.

Hawwa wanted to see the ride become an event all over the world. I read a post about it on the Pipeburn blog, so I challenged our local rider community to organize a DGR here in San Francisco. Incredibly, someone stepped up, and the ride was well-attended for an inaugural event—about 15 motorcycles and scooters were on the route at any one time, with some leaving early and others joining late.

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The original organizer stepped down for 2013, so Wisconsin native Brian Schroeder stepped up. “I had a good time last year in Minneapolis,” he said, and wanted to attend the event in San Francisco. “So I emailed the HQ in Australia to find out who was running it this year and they said, ‘you are!’” Schroeder soon stumbled upon S.F. native Sean Cottrell, and along with the help of local publication CityBike magazine Publisher Kenyon Wills, publicized the event and planned the route.

My plan was to ride my CB350, but we haven’t been seeing eye to eye on things lately. Approaching the Bay Bridge toll plaza on the way to San Francisco from my home in Oakland, the CB decided it didn’t want to go after all, and stopped running at high rpm, even though it knew I had to shell out $60 for a babysitter that day. I limped home at a painful 62 mph. Amazingly, I had an appropriate spare in the garage, a brand-new cafe-style Moto Guzzi V7 Racer, but I was still nervous I would be shunned for having a cheater bike. The rules say suits, cafe racers and vintage machines.

I needn’t have worried. The event was stunningly well-attended, with “modern classic” bikes like the Racer the norm rather than the exception. There were lots of modern motorcycles, as well as ’80s superbikes, custom V-Twins, a trio of BSAs (and two of them even made it to the end!) and about 60 other bikes of all kinds. A thuggy-looking posse on pimped-out Honda Ruckeses was also in attendance. Dress ranged from what you’d find at an 8th-grade dance to a guy scandalously sporting a silk smoking jacket. Before dinner.

The ride was conducted at a gentlemanly pace with few problems or incidents. However, we lacked permits, so a few riders took it on themselves to (illegally, but in a classy fashion) block traffic from side streets so the ride could pass uninterrupted. But San Franciscans, notoriously impatient and inattentive drivers that they are, didn’t mind the intrusion into their busy Sunday, cheering, honking and snapping camera-phone snapshots as we roared and sputtered past.

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I was impressed by the variety of folks on the ride. Plenty of usual-suspect Baby Boomers, sure, but there were a lot of younger new faces too. Theo Litto, who was riding on his first bike—a ’73 Honda CL350 Scrambler—said he was there because it “seemed like a fun ride and a good cause.” I talked to several other guys in their 20s, there to meet other riders and show off their new bikes. “I’m here to meet the people,” Hans (the cat with the smoking jacket) told me. “San Francisco’s such an amazing city to ride, so it’s always nice to experience that. It’s a unique twist. It’s different, but I love it.”

Follow the DGR Site to find out about next year’s ride. And if there isn’t one in your town—start one of your own!

Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike magazine, and a frequent freelance contributor to MotorcycleDaily.com

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26 Comments

  1. Norm G. says:

    I want the dry cleaning concession.

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  2. Proheli says:

    Haha. This was nothing like the incident in New York. For you kids and jokers that haven’t figured it out yet, if you are warm and open and respectful the police will be good to you, actually ALL PEOPLE WILL BE GOOD TO YOU. On the other hand, if you are a Jack Ass, or just a bad person then people know this about you immediately. They resist you and fight you all the way. If your life sucks it is 100% you. GO TWEED GUYS.

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  3. richard says:

    Looks like an English bloke off to work…very common to see guys and girls in business suits on they’re way to work in England like any other work day…motorcycles are more common in the overcrowded city for parking reasons and gas consumption……not everyone adorns the full armoured gear approach everytime they ride…think thats more of a North American thing…probly safer though !rarely see a guy in a business suit riding a motorcycle in Canada.

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  4. mkv says:

    I think that guy on the top picture works at a BMW moto dealership in Mountain View.

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  5. Ben says:

    Jean-Claude Olivier, former head of Yamaha France began this style a number of years ago. Nice to see it catching on:

    http://www.motorradonline.de/sixcms/media.php/11/thumbnails/Jean-Claude_Olivier_Yamaha_030.jpg.2257060.jpg

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  6. Ricardo says:

    I call this “Riding with Class”, nice event.

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  7. Gpokluda says:

    Cool. This is just like the Tweed Ride bicyclists have been doing for years.

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  8. sl says:

    I need to build a bike to play with these guys. I aready have it in my head, but that’s it.

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  9. Mike says:

    After the poor display of civility with the motorcyclists in NY that attacked the couple in the SUV, we could use some more positive image events such as this one. Good cause, good show!

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    • jake says:

      “However, we lacked permits, so a few riders took it on themselves to (illegally, but in a classy fashion) block traffic from side streets so the ride could pass uninterrupted.”

      Yea, but isn’t this how the trouble started in NY, although the attempted illegal blockage was on the freeway over there? I guess how they were dressed, the type of bikes they were riding, their slow pace, and their overall, more acceptable demographic profile made this group seem less threatening – more cute if anything at all.

      So if you are the above, then you can get away from illegal blockage and people don’t care. But if you are a bunch of minority kids on crotch rockets doing stunts and wheelies on the streets and creating general chaos, and you can try to do similar illegal blockages, people rather than merely wanting to take pictures will instead attempt to run your butt over and no one will care.

      Don’t know if the above is fair or not, but certainly that’s the state of the world and prevailing opinions at the present time. It’s basically how everyone thinks whether they care to admit it or not.

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      • sl says:

        I would say you are correct. Different, but similar example. My friend was on his way home, and had to get on and off the highway in one exit. Screwing around he did a healthy roll on the accel/decel lane and got clocked at 135mph. He saw the red and blue lights, and pulled over. The cop check for being drunk etc and asked why so fast. My friend told him he was cleaning the cob webs out, and and apologized. The cop thanked him for stopping, and said to slow down. That was it. It doesn’t always trun out that pleasant, but when respect is shown it can make for a more pleasant encounter. Being scary and intimidating is only good for an insecure ego.

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        • jake says:

          But was your friend a minority? If he was, then him getting off is a rarity and probably the cop was another minority. If he wasn’t then your example really does not apply fully. Not trying to race bait, or even say such uneven treatment is not justified or warranted. Just saying that’s the way it is, there are two standards, and it is rooted in how people genuinely perceive both groups honestly in their hearts, with no real ill will towards anyone or any group.

          So that’s why the double standard is so hard to correct. Basically impossible.

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          • sl says:

            He was the only guy on the on ramp 5mph from doubling the speed limit. Bikers can be any race and still be a mence. I hear what you are saying, but I think actions are speaking louder than skin color here. People would be just as if not more intimidated by a couple of white dominated m/c out there as they were in NY. Lets also remeber none of these guys (even the guy in the smoking jacket) chased any bystanders. Apples and oranges.

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          • mickey says:

            I don’t think people are generally too comfortable around a group of outlaw bikers on the freeway and they are generally white.

            I was once out riding with my brother when I spotted a long double line of motorcyclists coming towards us. Two of the bikers pulled around and blocked all the opposing lanes while their brothers ran a stop sign and made an illegal left turn in front of us. I asked the guy blocking us how many bikes on the run. He said 300. We turned off our bikes and just sat there. Took ten or fifteen minutes I suppose. I wasn’t happy to be sitting there in the sun in full gear, but not much I could do about it. All 300 were white. Rude and illegal behavior is just that, regardless of skin color or motorcycle type imo.

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          • Norm G. says:

            re: “i don’t think people are generally too comfortable around a group of outlaw bikers on the freeway”

            outlaw bikers, in-law bikers. in a Quinnipiac poll, the 97% soccer moms in mini vans surveyed say they hate us (wholesale). they ain’t got time to be dicin’ us up into little groups. billy’s gotta a match starting at 09:00.

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          • jake says:

            Yea, but minorities are much more prone to rude and illegal behavior, and more extreme as well. I doubt if the thought of attempting to forceably stop a speeding SUV by pulling abruptly in front of it ever crossed any of the gang rider’s minds.

            The minority mind – we always get the short end of the stick, get looked down upon as less worthy, and face a harder path to success, along with the social acceptance and prestige it guarantees, all of which is exceedingly unfair, and it makes us mad. Thus since we are so unjustly suppressed at all other times, this one time, when we are all out with our friends and out in force, we have the right to push the limits and clear the roads – by taking, not politely asking, since we as minorities will never get the benefit of the doubt. Then we can finally be free to do our thing and have our time in the sun for a change.

            All men have feelings of insecurities and fears of inferiority, but whites as a collective group have little of these, if any. For minorities as a collective group, the situation could not be more different. As it is easy to imagine, strong feelings of inferiority and the attempts to overcome and compensate for them, esp. when viewed as unjust, usually lead to a warped view of the world, along with less predictable and more extreme behaviors.

            So no, a large group of white bikers will not be more intimidating for most than one full of minorities. Not even in the same ballpark. Don’t the white biker gangs pride themselves on leaving the public alone and out of the conduct of their business whenever possible, even claiming there respect for the public as one of traits which differentiates them from the minorities?

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  10. Norm G. says:

    re: “The ride was conducted at a gentlemanly pace with few problems or incidents. However, we lacked permits, so a few riders took it on themselves to (illegally, but in a classy fashion) block traffic from side streets so the ride could pass uninterrupted. But San Franciscans, notoriously impatient and inattentive drivers that they are, didn’t mind the intrusion into their busy Sunday, cheering, honking and snapping camera-phone snapshots”

    no worries, every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man. (cue music)

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  11. mickey says:

    I’d do a ride like that, sounds like fun..ATTATT baby. ( All the Tweed All the Time)

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  12. Dingerjunkie says:

    When I can get a smart, gentleman’s suit with stealth armor and a kevlar underweave, I’ll join you. Cagers and asphalt don’t care if you’re a gentleman. I’m pretty much an ATGATT guy.

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  13. VLJ says:

    Somewhere, Clement Salvadori is sporting a knowing smirk.

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