One question I often find myself asking is, “Why do I ride?”. What is the legitimate reasoning behind this motorcycle obsession? It even gets to the point where my attention would be easily and instantly swayed mid-conversation as my eyes and mind wander, ears tuning in to best guess the motorbike that just sped past. Often I’d be met with a gentle shake of the head and a giggle from the individual observing me from across the room.
I can only imagine that to a large extent, it never really quite makes sense to them. Why we would subject ourselves to the two-wheel life? There is a quote that says, “Four wheels move the body, but two wheels move the soul.” The truth is, for each of us, motorbikes have had an immeasurable impact on our lives in one way or another irrespective of where you may place yourself on the spectrum of the motorcycle world.
There’s a purpose to why we ride. Each with its unique reasons. However many and unique, on one particular day, on a global scale, our reasons meet under the single umbrella of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR).
This year’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride took place on the 21st of May. Bearing in mind that over 100 countries participated in this ride. Riders far and wide came together to support the massive fundraising effort towards prostate cancer and men’s mental health through the Movember charity partner. Since 2012, over $44 million has been raised with $7 million stemming from this year’s contributions thus far. Donations are still active and can still be made even after the DGR ride itself via the website.
The DGR is celebrated in a unique fashion, literally and figuratively. The brief was clear, dress dapper and ride classic. Thousands of fine gentlemen and ladies proceeded to bring out their finest outfits. I’ve heard some take over 6 months to prepare for this world-renowned ride. The old-school classics and vintage-styled motorcycles got their opportunity to shine once again. All the above mentioned can be quite the spectacle but it should never outweigh the purpose for the ride.
Prostate cancer and men’s mental health can be sensitive topics to tackle and navigate around. The mission of the DGR is to bring as much light and awareness to both of these. Its intent is to encourage men to embrace and take control of their health, and all that pertains to it across all spheres.
Since 2016, through the leading Movember charity, the DGR has invested north of $35 million towards programs and initiatives that greatly support and contribute to innovative prostate cancer research and men’s mental health. Some of these programs actively involve a means for suicide prevention, through Veteran’s & First Responders Programs and Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride social connections challenge, just to name a few that feature on the DGR website.
To be brutally honest, as men, we often face a legion of demons. Most of these battles are fought in the depths of the dark and only for us to return to the world with a brave smile. Statistically, South Africa is ranked amongst the top 10 list of countries with the highest suicide rate. The bulk of those being accounted to men, as men are 5x more likely to commit suicide than women but it is interesting to note that it is mostly women that are professionally diagnosed. This means, as men, we have a tendency of waiting until it is too late to speak out.
The unspoken magical effect of the DGR is to bring together men from all over the world, to collectively say in one accord “Gents, it is okay not to be okay. We are all strong in our own right but we are stronger in numbers. When you are unable to stand, here’s my hand. When your back is exposed to the cruelties of the world, I’ve got your back covered.”
And so the day proceeded, we arrived in the hundreds at Mall of Africa. With it having been my first DGR, I wish I could accurately put together for you how much of a spectacle it all was to take in. Thank goodness for the clear skies and only a chilly morning to deal with, compared to the emotional mid-week heavy rain.
Visually, on one end you have immaculately dressed gentlefolk and on the other, bikes that existed decades before I even took my first breath. The majority held true to the call of riding classic or vintage-styled motorbikes. It is worth giving the ladies a mention for not only showing face and fit but also for actively supporting us and the cause.
After a safety briefing, we swung our legs over and filed into a staggered formation to take on the 30 km route through and around Sandton City. We were led by the DGR marshalls with the assistance of the JMPD. Over 1000 riders as well as pillons embraced the streets, insighting peak curiosity and igniting joy all around amongst those on the roadside and those looking out from within their cars.
I was in the blissful company of the Indian Scout. For me, she is a gentle cruiser thanks to a more relaxed throttle response which was perfect for the cruising speeds we maintained throughout the route. Make no mistake though, the Scout most certainly has enough ‘go’ when and as you desire it. As a collective, we cruised on through to Prison Break Market for the end-of-day festivities and to capture this year’s group photo.
With the Prison Break Market serving as our end location, it led to further moments to engage and network with not just the DGR riders but now, the general public who were in joyful awe of our presence. To our pleasure, we were blessed with delicious food stalls and the perfect hall venue to wind down and enjoy the live entertainment on stage.
From start to finish, it was a successfully organised and executed 2023 DGR Johannesburg ride. Not enough thanks can be extended towards the organisers of the JHB DGR, Triumph Motorcycles as global sponsors, Elf lubricants and all active participants in the form of donors and riders.
As one of the reigning Mr South Africa Top 3 Finalists for this year running, I take it upon myself to continue this conversation and spread it as far and wide as I possibly can through every platform my feet may land on. I encourage you to do the same. Be it amongst friends, family and of course fellow riders. Even I, when I was at my absolute lowest in the closing months of last year, found myself being carried on the backs of my trusted few.
Depression and all associated mental health challenges do not discriminate, they prefer no particular name or race. We can all fall short and into its grip. Allow me to leave you with a quote I live by, “In life, you don’t need a certain number of friends, only a number of friends that you are certain of.”
So, my dear friend reading this article… Take care of yourself. Take care of those around you and never let go of hope. Donations can still be made via the DGR website, I entice you to make your mark today.
Last but not least, I would like to thank Indian Motorcycles SA for entrusting me with their Scout for the day—it was a privilege and an honour to ride such a prestigious motorcycle, and also a huge thank you to London Royal for sponsoring my dapper look for this event.