Living tweed and riding dapper, motorcyclists will raise money for men's health during 'Distinguished Gentleman's' event

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Sunday morning, more than 200 local motorcyclists will don their most dapper duds and wrap their tweed-clad legs around their seats to form a sea of vintage-inspired cycles during the 2018 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride.

Since 2013, riders across the globe have gathered on the same day each year to raise awareness of men's health, particularly pancreatic cancer and mental health issues.

It's not the leather-clad biker clique often associated with motorcycle culture. Here, the motto is "Live Tweed. Ride Dapper." The bikes are hip vintage café racers, bad-to-the-bone bobbers and everything in between, so long as it's got an old-school vibe. The riders, men and women alike, are more professor (think Sean Connery's Dr. Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) than outlaw.

Though the specific start and end points are known only to registered riders, the cross-bay trek is sure to hit Tampa Bay establishments as hip as the bikes and riders.

"Vintage and modern-vintage bikes is a different sub culture in motorcycling," said local ride host Tai Truong. "The Tampa Ride is always 200 riders strong and is always tops in Florida and top 20 in the world. People basically get dressed up, dapper style, and get donations like you would do when you run a charity marathon."

So far this year, the Tampa Bay ride leads the 11 other Florida rides in funds raised with almost $35,000. This year, more than 120,000 riders in 650 cities across the globe are aiming to raise $6 million. Last year's ride raised $4.8 million, bringing the total money raised to $12.5 million since the ride started.

Donations go to the Movember Foundation, the world's largest men's health charity, said Stephen Broholm, spokesman for the Gentleman's Ride. The charity distributes the money to research and support programs for prostate cancer and mental health.

"Each year we have input into the programs, with our priority being a global and shareable breakthrough to these illnesses," Broholm said.

Mark Hawwa started the ride in 2013 after seeing a picture of Jon Hamm as Mad Men's Don Draper astride a vintage bike. Hawwa decided to connect the ride to prostate cancer awareness because it's "still is a taboo area due to men's inherent embarrassment and shyness to get tested," Broholm said.

After a ride host committed suicide in 2015, the event's organizers added mental health to their campaign.

"Our commitment to mental health has clearly resonated with our participants and community more than ever," Broholm added, "especially considering that the two causes go hand in hand, especially the difficulty in coping with people that either suffer from or have lost loved ones to cancer."

The cause hits home for riders in the Tampa Bay area, as well.

Truong lost his brother, Devon, to liver cancer in 2014. The two were well known in downtown St. Petersburg's bar scene as the brothers behind the now-defunct Central Avenue haunt Sake Bomb.

In addition, the Truongs were a big part of the growing local vintage motorcycle scene. They helped organize shows along Central Avenue's 600 block.

Now, Tai Truong keeps his brother's memory and love for motorcycles alive through Ronin Vintage, a collective specializing in helmet art shows and bike shows and rides, as well as his work with Tampa Triumph, a company known for breathing new life into the old-school British bikes associated with the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. Tampa Triumph is a main sponsor of the Tampa ride and Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. is one of the ride's major international sponsors.

"My brother and I rode together forever," Truong said. "He got me into riding. He basically taught me how to be a man. I lost him four years ago to liver cancer. Since then, I try to get people riding and show them how much a positive factor it could be in one's life."

Anyone interested in riding or donating to the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride can visit gentlemansride.com for information.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at dfigueroa@tampabay.com. Follow @danuscripts.

 

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