When you think of the term "biker," do you imagine a black leather jacket and jeans, or a gentleman wearing a tie, a tweed jacket and smoking a pipe?
The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is a fun event aimed at living out that second image, while doing some good, too. Inspired by a photo of Don Draper, from the television show Mad Men, riding a vintage motorcycle and wearing a stylish suit, the creators of DGR built an event around the more "dapper" side of motorcycling.
Starting in 2012, the first DGR had more than 2,500 participants and rides taking place in 64 cities. In the two years since, that number has swelled to more than 20,000 riders in 258 separate rides spread across 57 countries.
DGR organizers have also included a charity component. Although the ride itself is free, participants are encouraged to raise money for prostate cancer research through personal donations or sponsorships. As of the writing of this article, close to $1.5 million has been raised for prostate cancer research through this year's rides, which is well past the original goal of $1 million for 2014. They have also secured many corporate sponsors, the largest being Triumph Motorcycles, which donated a 2014 Thruxton to be given to one lucky participant.
Each ride is hosted by local individuals, so the events vary, but classic motorcycles and dapper dress are the common themes. There were three DGRs in my home state of North Carolina, with the closest being a mere hour from my house in Raleigh. That gave me plenty time to get up, wash my ’64 Harley-Davidson Panhead, put on my coat and tie and arrive by noon.
I was a little surprised to see that my suit coat and tie definitely placed me on the bottom end of the “distinguished” attire scale. Some guys went all out, sporting full suits with matching vests, gold watch chains, walking sticks and even bowler hats. The ladies showed up in formal dresses, but were clever enough to wear pants underneath, so they could hike the dresses up around their waists for riding.
After an hour of meeting fellow riders and snapping photos, it was time to begin our ride. There were roughly 50 motorcycles in attendance. The older machines were mostly BMWs and Hondas, while the newer marques were mainly Triumphs and Ducatis. From what I saw, my Panhead was probably the oldest motorcycle on the run, but I managed to keep up with the newer bikes using their fancy electric starters and other such nonsense.
Leaving our starting point at the Capital Club 16, our first stop was less than four miles away at the Big Boss Brewery. But I barely had time to admire the WWII aviation theme, with lots of pictures of airplanes and pinup girls adorning the walls, and no time to try the pool tables and dart boards, before we were back on the bikes.
The next stop was the Lonerider Brewing Company. Their moto is “Ales for Outlaws,” which didn’t quite fit this group. I used the time in the parking lot to tighten up a few things that had come loose during the last hour’s ride. Nothing major, just my clutch lever and rear exhaust…
We then left Raleigh for our final stop, the Motorco, in Durham, which turned out to be a good spot for lunch. After we got our fill of food and talking about motorcycles outside, the group began to break up as people departed for home.
The DGR was short on miles but long on style. Just seeing the looks on people’s faces as we rode past was well worth spending the afternoon wearing a tie. I was impressed by the quality and diversity of the motorcycles. It’s refreshing to ride with a group where every motorcycle is strikingly different, and not just a collection of the latest offerings from the usual major manufacturers.
If you are into classic motorcycles, the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is worth checking out to meet some fellow riders who enjoy breaking the mold and to support a good cause. Who knows, maybe this will make tweed the next big trend in motorcycle attire.