M.J. Bale are privileged to be the official tailoring partner of the DGR this year, the worldwide charity ride, they sat down with founder Mark Hawwa (pictured, in the dapper floral jacket) to chat everything two-wheels.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did the DGR start? What are you guys all about?
The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was my way of bringing people together in the classic and vintage styled motorcycle scene. In its first year it was about creating communities, breaking often negative stereotypes and introducing sartorial riding. In the second year, it felt right to focus more on men, breaking down that macho mentality a lot of us often have and getting us talking about our deeper issues, talking about our health. In 2013 we partnered up with multiple prostate cancer foundations globally and used DGR as a tool to raise funds and awareness for the cause. In a nut shell we are about philanthropy, spreading merriment, classic bikes and riding dapper.
Hit us quickly with the key stats. How many people are involved? How much money have you raised?
To date we have raised $5 million. This year our goal is to raise another $5 million. We are expecting to have over 500 rides across 90 countries with over 50,000 participants. Our event is witnessed globally by over 120 million people.
At M.J. Bale, we talk about the concept of a ‘gentleman’ a lot and you guys clearly do as well. What makes a distinguished gentleman?
For me there are multiple definitions of what it takes to be a distinguished gentleman. Personally, I feel the key to being a distinguished gentleman isn’t about your appearance or what you ride, it’s based around your personality, moral code, manners and outlook on life. It’s being a member of society who wants to leave the world a better place than when they entered. It’s about helping those in need and being genuinely caring about everyone, including those who don’t care about you. Taking the time to have a chat to a friend in need, a stranger in need… as well as helping those around you to achieve their goals. Being a Distinguished Gentleman isn’t about the car you drive, the watch you wear, or the penthouse you may live in – it’s about your actions as a person and having respect for yourself and the people around you.
It’s probably fair to say that a lot of the guys that ride in the DGR look a bit out of place in a suit – the beards, the bikes – they aren’t all your ordinary corporate workers… Is part of getting dressed to the nines for this event about subverting people’s expectations? About trying to create a conversation about the different types of men and the hugely different backgrounds they all come from?
To a degree, definitely. Motorcycle riders come in all shapes and forms, all cultures, all religions, all skin colours. The beautiful thing about motorcycling is the connection you have with fellow motorcyclists. In this world (as it should be in all facets of life) it doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Black, White, Atheist, fat, skinny, built – it’s all irrelevant. We have a mix of every possible occupation you could think of and they all come together as a community wanting to making a change for the better. This is probably one of the most exciting parts for me personally, the fact that we have rides from all the corners of the globe, from Russia to Lebanon, Canada and, of course, over 30 rides here in Australia.
The Café Racer scene in Australia and across the world has obviously just continued to boom. How does this feed into the traditional motorcycle culture? Has it opened it up to new members and communities?
I remember when creating our Sydney based Cafe Racer group, it was met with lots of feedback around how it’s just a phase. Of course it is, everything in life is a phase – some come, some go, some go and come back. Motorcycles are a lifestyle for the majority of riders. Circumstances and personal preferences are forever changing in life. DGR as an event has introduced a lot of people to the culture of the ‘cafe racer’. The event has collectively brought tens or thousands of enthusiasts together and helped forge relationships that have resulted in niche motorcycle groups globally. These communities, I believe, have kept the so-called ‘phase’ strong and on the incline. We live in a world where everything is mass-produced, so for me it just feels normal to want to customise what you own to make it truly unique.
The Gentleman’s Ride has clearly been a huge success on a global scale. How does that affect the way it has evolved over time?
As an event on this scale, I need to be realistic. It’s not a well oiled machine and probably won’t ever be. We work as hard as we can with a lean team to get the most we can out of the event, to make sure we are motivating those over 40 to get checked, to raise funds for research and to make sure everyone involved has fun. We started as a global event and have continued to grow at a rate of around 200% year on year. The continued success of the event meant in its third year we could afford to pay our first full time staff member and each year on that we have been able to take on another staff member. T he concept always stays true to the original idea: bring people together and unite the classic and vintage motorcycle communities, while being distinguished.
What’s your favourite place to ride in Australia?
Orbost to Delegate. The roads from Victoria to NSW are amazing. The scenery, the fresh air and most importantly the 120km of amazing twisty turns!
What’s the least distinguished moment you’ve had?
I was in a competition in Andorra on behalf of Zenith Watches while riding a brand new Triumph Thruxton R. The competition was over 2 days, 500km and a race track. At the race track I was motivated to do a burnout on camera for the official video. I did so, but in the process dropped the brand new motorcycle, damaging the right hand side and hyper extending my knee. Completely embarrassed, I forced myself up on my legs, picked up the bike and rode off like nothing had happened. Little did everyone know I actually pulled over a couple hundred metres away from the race track towards the next check point in excruciating pain and nursed my leg for the rest of the event. A few weeks later in Sydney I decided to get an MRI and a specialist opinion. My ACL was two thirds torn! I’ll try not to make that mistake again!
To get behind the cause, you can donate to the M.J. Bale rider here.