Not long ago, large groups of bikers were not looked upon too fondly. This was due in part to the 1953 film “The Wild One,” based on an actual event that occurred July 4, 1947, in Hollister, California. In the film, a gang of bikers terrorizes a small town; the gang’s leader (played by Marlon Brando) became the image of bikers for years. His black leather jacket, white T-shirt, engineer boots, and blue jeans became the biker uniform; even his sideburns influenced stars of that era including Elvis and James Dean.
The 70+ years since that film’s release have helped reverse the stigma, as evidenced by an event that’s run each year since 2012. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was founded in Sydney, Australia by Mark Hawwa, inspired by a photo of Mad Men’s Don Draper astride a classic bike wearing his finest suit. Hawwa decided a themed ride would be a great way of connecting motorcycle enthusiasts with their communities while raising funds to support men who have fallen upon tough times. Causes include prostate cancer, mental health issues, and suicide prevention; funds raised by this event are invested by their partner “Movember,” the world’s largest men’s health organization.
The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride has run in countries around the world; riders dressed in dapper attire, with trimmed beards or clean-shaven, ride their classic motorcycles, café racers, modern classics, choppers, scramblers, sidecars, and classic scooters to raise awareness of their cause. Unlike Brando’s biker gang, the gentlemen on this ride invest time and effort to present themselves in a sartorially impressive manner. Since 2012, 92,531 riders from 103 countries have raised $31.6 million. I’m proud to be one of these riders, cruising this year with 129 guys from Rhinebeck, N.Y., and raising $21,891.
The 2022 Honda Rebel1100 I rode was the perfect machine for the magnificent roads in and around Rhinebeck. It rode like a cruiser through towns and villages but on the open road, it handled like a café racer. Most interesting was its revolutionary automatic DCT transmission, which shifts gears automatically but offers the option of manual shifting with a six-speed paddle shifter.
What could be better than riding a great bike through some of the country’s most beautiful roads, all dressed up on a perfect day for a wonderful cause? I look forward to riding again next year, perhaps wearing a brand new suit!
For more info on The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride: https://www.gentlemansride.com
Contributing editor David Rose is a former jazz trumpet player, menswear executive, race car driver, car buff, and motorsports journalist.