Everything But The Bouquet

Motorcycling is less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle change as part of my move to Los Angeles. Had I not moved west, I would have continued along the motor vehicle path I had been on, which is to say I very likely would not have had one. I married into my first car, having little need for one of my own prior, with how immersed public transportation is into the culture of New York.

Three Harley’s later, a Honda for my wife, followed by a Triumph for each of us, captions my transition from straphanger to seatbelt-free commuter. Along the way I was lucky enough to connect with some amazing communities of people, from a staggering array of backgrounds and professions, all connected by a shared passion for DOT certified headwear.

Along the way I discovered a group that allowed me to expand the scope of this interest to include doing good for others. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is a charity event that I have contributed my time to for nearly a decade. Many who have joined the event at my behest, volunteered their time in support, or watched from the sidelines, have all expressed amazement at the experience. The event is, in it’s simplest terms, a parade that makes a spectacle of motorcycling to advance our awareness of invisible diseases. It gives us all permission to talk about real issues that people deal with daily while also challenging the historical perception of bikers.

Video Credit: Michael Hale

Organizing an event of this scale demands a dedicated team. Lucas Worthing, our new Los Angeles city host, and Don Leonhardt, my co-city host, have been part of this event with me for nearly a decade. The planning and organization of this ride could not have been possible without them. Keep in mind, this is only one of the rides that was part of a global fundraising effort that is hosted in more than 800 cities around the world.

Image credit: Steven Craig Smith

The simplest way to convey the effort it takes to organize this event is that it is like planning a wedding, every year. The phenomenon is truly a sight to be seen and while it certainly creates a spectacle during its exhibition, the ride planning starts on the day after it ends for the following year. Securing start and end points require the most effort. There remains a stigma around bikers, and many can imagine the hesitancy from organizations when you are looking for a place to host 500 or more motorcycles. Everyone involved donates their time in support of Movember, our primary charity recipient for the event. The team explores multiple locations around Los Angeles to make the ride a unique experience each year.

Image credit: Lynwood Robinson

The expanded team that makes the event happen is an additional layer of support for the cause. Rikki Rockett, global ambassador for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, steps in to support the LA team by acting as one of several medics on the ride, while also helping us get everyone situated early in the day.

Image credit: Albert Angel

In addition to organizing the ride, we all fundraise through our personal networks. Michael Porterfield was the top fundraiser for the Los Angeles ride at the moment this photo was taken. My co-city host, Don Leonhardt, fixed that just a few minutes later. This year the LA ride raised more than $150,000, more than any previous year, and these great partners rounded out the top three fundraising spots with me. Together we were responsible for one third of the total fundraising to come out of the Los Angeles ride.

Image credit: Claudia Miklas

To say that Los Angeles has a huge motorcycling community is rather an understatement. More than five hundred bikers turn up for this event each year. Some bring their partners or friends to join the ride with them, either by riding two-up on a single bike, in a sidecar, or in a Morgan which is a unique and classically styled three-wheeled vehicle. Sam Bendall had been our LA City host prior to moving to San Antonio earlier this year. He usually acts as host and photographer and below is a rare shot of him making an appearance at the LA ride in a pink tie as a tribute to his father who passed away earlier this year.

Image credit: Dakota Clark

Los Angeles has no shortage of iconic places thanks in no small part to the television and movie industry and the expanse of unique architecture of the southern California climate. The better known locations, like Rodeo Drive, are often part of the route.

Image credit: Kirsty Robinson

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was founded in Sydney, Australia, by Mark Hawwa. It was inspired by a photo of TV Show Mad Men’s Don Draper astride a classic bike and wearing his finest suit. Mark decided a themed ride would be a great way of connecting niche motorcycle enthusiasts and communities while raising funds for a great charity.

Image credit: Steven Craig Smith

Our focus is on gentlemen who have been dealt a tough hand in life. We raise funds for cutting-edge research into prostate cancer, mental health, and suicide prevention programs, as part of our mission to support men’s health globally. These funds are invested by our partner, Movember, which is the world’s largest men’s health organization.

Image Credit: Sam Bendall

While we refer to this as a “ride”, its truly a parade. You won’t find reckless riders, burnouts, wheelies, or gangs here. It’s a slow-moving procession through the city streets. We deliberately plan the route through pedestrian neighborhoods.

Image Credit: Lynwood Robinson

If you are lucky enough to witness the spectacle, you’ll feel it before you see it. The reverberation and audible sound of the motorcade announces it’s passing through communities. What is seen is uniquely unexpected as the general association of a motorcycle caravan is not thought of as a black-tie affair. Men and women dressed, as if for a wedding, astride such vehicles is uncommon to say the least.

Image credit: Steven Craig Smith

In addition to the spectacle that we want this event to be, as a beacon to raise awareness around mental health and related issues, the participants enjoy their own unique experience during the ride. Instead of speeding through the streets, I often see riders deliberately slow down to wave like the queen to hundreds of people who get caught up in watching the motorcade go by. Shop owners who have seen the event have reached out to us over the years to entice us to pass by their café as we plan each annual sojourn through the city.

Image credit: Sam Bendall

Most of the host team is pictured here. Left to right. Jay LaRossa, Luis (Tico) Chacon, Steve Mummolo, Dakota Clark, Miki Masuda, Sam Bendall, Don Leonhardt, Ariel Bradley, and Eric Summers. Not pictured, Lucas Worthing.

This post was intended as a thank you to all my sponsors who have generously contributed to the Movember Foundation through my advocacy that this event serves as a platform for. While I did not get into some of the reasons why I support this cause, I invite you to learn more about Movember and their mission through an article I published on their website earlier this year which can be found here.

Image credit: Albert Angel

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