Dashing and dapper for a worthy cause

Darren Leggatt and Damian Fleming. Photo: John Borren.

Mighty steel steeds will be the mode of choice for around 100 local debonair and smartly dressed motorcyclists embarking on a motoring fundraiser on Sunday.

Held globally, usually on the same day, thousands of finely-attired riders become part of impressive motorcades that celebrate the art of being dapper while also fundraising for prostate cancer research and men’s mental health.

It’s a day to don monocles, silk vests, crisp shirts and tailored suits; tweak jaunty, trimmed moustaches; and ride a classic or vintage motorcycle expressing fine manners and a sense of fun.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was founded in Sydney, Australia by Mark Hawwa. Inspired by a photo of Mad Men’s Don Draper astride a classic bike and wearing his finest suit, Mark decided a themed ride would be a great way to combat the often-negative stereotype of men on motorcycles, while connecting niche motorcycle communities together.

That first ride in 2012 brought together more than 2500 riders across 64 cities. Since then, the global event has grown annually across hundreds of cities, raising over $27 million.

Tauranga DGR organisers Damian Fleming from Bayride Motorcycles and Darren Leggatt say the Tauranga ride, which attracted around 50 riders in 2015, 70 riders in 2016, 140 in 2017, and more than 170 in 2018  is essentially about men’s mental health, suicide prevention and prostate cancer research.

“The DGR has proven to be very popular in Tauranga,” says Damian. “The town is laid out in a way that makes an enjoyable and safe ride, considering we have left most of our safety riding gear at home.

“Collectively, through DGR Tauranga, we have donated $66,500 to the Movember Foundation since 2015, an impressive figure for a bunch of motorcyclists wearing dapper on stylish motorcycles for just one day a year.”

This is the tenth year the event has been held globally, and the seventh year it has been held locally. Last year Covid stopped the Tauranga ride from taking place with rain bucketing down prevented many solo rides, but motorcyclists were still able to raise funds. Around the world this year, many cities have adjusted formats due to Covid restrictions. As New Zealand is at Alert Level One, it means Damian and Darren can run a restriction-free ride.

“This is a cause that we’re really passionate about, as so many of us men either refuse to speak up when we need help, or just don’t have the words to use,” says Darren. “A key message is that speaking up and asking for help is courageous, not weak.

“Cup of concrete isn’t how it should be anymore. Got a headache, take a Panadol. Got mental health issues, reach out for help. Damian and I – along with some key supporters including friends, wives and family – work hard to get this ride up and running as best we can, for the funds but also for the awareness, to change perceptions. As motorbike riders, most of us are a bit rough around the edges, old school and solid, so if we can change habits of a lifetime and open up and talk about this stuff, then other men can too.”

Traditionally, the ride takes place in September, and this is the first time it will be held in May, covering most of Tauranga and taking just over three hours to complete. Each participant is encouraged to raise funds by asking their friends, family and colleagues to donate via a personal fundraising page.

There are stop offs planned along the way, at Mount Maunganui, Fraser Cove, Bethlehem and Tauranga Historic Village, providing a unique opportunity for the public to come and see the motorcycles on display.

“As a local business owner, it is humbling to be able to help put something back into the motorcycle community and the DGR is very fitting. It is a calendar highlight for so many participants, a really cool and fun day where we talk about real issues, show our strong male and sensitive side, show-off our bikes and raise money for a good cause,” says Damian.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride will be held on Sunday, May 23. To enter, riders can register at: www.gentlemansride.com

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