Motorcyclists often get a bad rap. Pop culture is full of troublemakers whizzing about on their two-wheeled machines doing dirty deeds outfitted in ripped denim and studded leather. The annual Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride that happens this Sunday, September 29, is a global event that battles this stigma by encouraging riders to dress their best and bring out their classic or vintage-inspired motorcycles to make a positive impact in the name of men’s health. It’s not limited only to men – there are many women who participate, too.
Founded in Sydney, Australia, by Mark Hawwa in 2012, the DGR has raised more than $20 million for beneficiary initiatives, including 1,200 programs in more than 20 countries. The Movember Foundation is now the official charity partner, and it supports prostate cancer research and men’s mental health initiatives. Raising money is all well and good, but ultimately the goal is to encourage men to visit the doctor regularly and get them talking about their mental health challenges.
Toronto is one of 18 Canadian cities hosting a DGR. Ambassador Paul Dutra helps plan and promote the city’s ride while also leading the charge. A number of volunteers also help out by leading smaller, more manageable groups through the city, since there are no police escorts to direct traffic.
Like many of us, Dutra has experienced his own challenges with relationships, work and mental health. His friendships within the motorcycle community have helped him address and overcome his struggles. Committing himself to making a positive difference through his work with the DGR is his way of giving back in hopes of helping others.
I don’t often participate in these kinds of events. I don’t get excited by riding in gridlock formation sucking exhaust for hours on end, and I’d rather be out riding by myself. I typically donate the money and leave it at that. However, I was drawn to participating in the Movember Foundation’s annual events strictly for the hilarity of growing a moustache that made those around me uncomfortable, and its collaboration with the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride parlayed into one of the season’s must-attend events. It’s a great ride shared with like-minded enthusiasts while raising funds and awareness.
Dutra kicked off last year’s ride by thanking the nearly 400 attendees for their generous contributions and support, and then led a somber moment of silence to acknowledge the husbands, fathers, brothers and sons who have been lost to prostate cancer or suicide. From then on, it was all smiles as participants took in everyone’s motorcycles and attire before straddling their bikes for the ride. The concept is that they should be vintage or classic motorcycles, but supporters aren’t turned away for taking some creative license – it’s all for a good cause. It was heartening last year to see the camaraderie and sense of community that materialized, and the new friendships that emerged.
This Sunday, the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride will parade through the hearts of more than 700 cities across 110 countries. “Canada has shown a lot of enthusiasm as part of this global initiative,’ says Dutra. “We have 18 cities participating, over 1,100 riders registered and over $550,000 raised this year so far – and counting.”
It’s not too late to sign up and ride yourself, or make a contribution to a friend participating. Visit www.gentlemansride.com and be a part of the conversation.