Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An eyewitness account of Toronto's 2016 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride

If you need to raise a significant amount of cash to fund research and treatment, year after year, after year, you have to get creative. It's simply no longer enough to knock on doors and beg.

Getting it done means seizing the public's imagination.

Cancer is a thief, to say the least. If we are going to overcome, and we must overcome, it will be mankind's battle to win. If one doctor is to cure one patient, that one doctor will need to stand on the shoulders of countless thousands of our fellows. Men, and women, giving generously, to allow that one doctor, to cure that one patient. Mankind must rally to the cause. As Benjamin Franklin famously remarked "we must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately".

The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride is the wind beneath that one doctor's wings, raising money to help her defeat prostate cancer.

My generous sponsors joined me to raise close to three thousand dollars to support the cause. I cannot thank them enough.

Rattling off statistics, posting a bunch of photos, some comments about the weather, the route we took, the things we saw, would be a workman-like ride report, but it wouldn't make you really wish you'd been there.

By 'there', I don't mean specifically the Ride in Toronto. By 'there', I mean the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride.

It is Toronto where I joined Paul, Hatem, Mark, Shelli, Ian, and more than 270 other riders who devoted the better part of their Sunday to ride for the cure. It is also Tampa, were Rob rode, and Boston where Larry rode, Salt Lake City where Michael rode, as well as Montreal, Houston, Vancouver, Sydney, Los Angeles, London, Paris, New York, and more than one hundred other cities all around the world where over fifty-six thousand riders took part, raising substantially more than three million dollars for the cause. That's what it takes.

Paul - Chief organizer of the Toronto ride

Paul in motion
Hatem sipping Tunisian tea

Hatem ranked No.1 in the Toronto ride, and as I write this he ranks No. 6 world wide having raised more than fourteen thousand dollars in sponsorship, with more on the way, a remarkable achievement.

A native of Tunisia, Hatem is not only a capable fund raiser, he is a dapper and charming individual.


Mark - note the ascot and Edwardian shin wraps
Mark, ready to roll

Shelli enjoying the pre-ride pep talk
Shelli in traffic
To understand the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride, you need to understand why riders are so passionate about riding. Riding is a completely different way to travel. It takes special knowledge, arcane skills, a sense of adventure, a willingness to manage risk, and a significant investment in the machine and riding gear. The reward for your investment is that you get to glide along the road to your destination, flowing naturally with the forces of nature instead of fighting them, with paths that open where no car can follow. Riders are a relatively rare breed. We understand the appeal, and it unites us. Put another way, we are birds of a feather.

I have ridden tens of thousands of kilometers as a commuter, I have ridden thousands of kilometers in the company of dear friends, I have ridden on city streets, highways, bi-ways, country lanes, and dirt roads. Mostly I have ridden alone. Occasionally with dozens of other riders.

This past Sunday the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride was like nothing I have ever done before. It was a truly unique riding experience.

It wasn't just the 281 other riders who joined me that made it unique, though that number alone makes it very special. What made it uniquely appealing, uniquely outstanding, was the combination of classically-designed machines, and classically-dressed riders.

The theme for the Ride encourages participants to 'ride dapper'. Clothing makes the man, or woman, and it is so, so true.

We gathered on Redway Road at eight o'clock on a cool, sunny, Sunday fall morning, parked our bikes in a long, long row, and strolled in ones, twos, threes or more, chatting in soft tones as more and more riders rolled in.





There to admire were café racers, Triumphs, Moto Guzzis, Vespas, Beemers, Ducatis, Harleys as well as Ural and BMW side-car rigs.






We complimented each other on our French cuffs and cuff links, tweeds and flannels, vintage goggles, vests and bow ties, tuxedos, feathered dresses, tall leather boots, wingtips, spats, white silk scarves, caps, dress suspenders, military dress uniforms and even a kilt and highland tartan.

Once we set off, we knew we were a very special breed.


People stopped what they were doing to smile and wave their approval, often recording our passing, remarking on our finery, inquiring about the cause of our extraordinary procession. We set an example. As we rode along through the streets of Toronto, the unmistakable low bass rumble of hundreds of motorcycles reverberated along the route.

We gathered at waypoints with hundreds of machines lining the street.


We sipped espressos at El Almacen...


we savoured meaty sandwiches at the Cherry Street Bar-B-Que...


we enjoyed a Fast Times magazine party at the Steam Whistle Brewing Company and strolled the grounds of the Toronto Railway Museum.



In doing this we underscored the importance of taking a chance, of doing the right thing, of living out loud, of standing out, of making a strong unmistakable statement, and lending support for a global fight we really need to win.

I have never done anything like it before. I will do it again, next year.


You should have been there. It was wild.

24 comments:

  1. Nice writeup and pictures David.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. I did my best. I even purchased a flat black 3/4 helmet for the occasion and some retro goggles to go with it.

      Delete
  3. Sounds like a great time. Congrats to all who participated.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nice accounting of the Gentlemen's Ride! Although I was unable to attend I felt like I was there :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words Peter as well as your very generous sponsorship. In that way you were very much present.

      Delete
  5. It was a remarkably good time, and I said the same thing. "I am doing this next year...and the year after that."

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a fantastic day, great to see so many bikes. I was definitely under dressed I had no idea how distinguished gentleman would be. However next year the bike will be uber polished as will I. Thank you for sharing the photos and the day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the people that make all the difference. If you are the person who introduced himself to me as a reader of my blog, a) you certainly were not underdressed by any means, and b) I apologize. I was wrapping a quick call to my wife on my helmet headset and the ride was moments from getting underway. My only regret is that we didn't get a decent opportunity to chat.

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. Ed, if the world is small, the riding world is much smaller.

      I am not in the least surprised that many of those faces would be familiar to you.

      You offered your espresso machine should I drop by. I think it's time I imposed on you.

      Delete
    2. Small? I ran into a former print client at Mods & Rockers a few years ago.

      You could drop in on the way to MCC. Don't want to be late though. It's not far from here, and from the looks of the forecast prewarming might be a good idea ...

      Delete
  8. Great outcome, David. This customs seem to grow worldwide, and attract more and more riders and attention all over the world. There wasn't one closely, otherwise we would have been there.

    Even the weather was right for the occasion given the time of the year.

    Oh, and before I forget: You look smashing! Love the bow tie and the scarf, and with the Vespa all spiffed up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sonja!

      Now that I have learned to ride dapper, I'll be constantly fishing for compliments like that. You are so kind.

      Delete
  9. David - Finally back home and happy to read about the wonderful event - you did us Vespa folks proud. Looked like you had great weather and met some good new riding buddies as well. Waiting for your next visit south.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jim.

      As a result of the February fiasco, I've got a US$200 credit from United that may well help fund a fall trip to your neck of the woods.

      Delete
  10. Wonderful! You looked very dapper! I have to be honest I am not sure I could shed all my safety gear to wear the ensemble of dressy clothes. It was lovely to see all the scooters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scooters were definitely present and were all either Vespas or Lambrettas, but they were far, far, far outnumbered by the motorcycles. Most of those were Triumph Bonnevilles or Thruxtons, and BMWs, Hondas, Yamahas or Suzukis with that same profile. The Vespas far outnumbered Harleys, and other than Ducatis, I don't believe there were any sport bikes.

      Delete
    2. As for the gear (or lack thereof) My $50 Zeus helmet was definitely not my Nolan modular, my kid leather Italian driving gloves were not up to moto standards, neither were my fashionable desert boots, or the rest of my ensemble, that's for sure.

      My white silk scarf was from Aerostitch, does that count?

      Delete
  11. A lot of distinguished looking folks in those photos, but I must say you are looking quite the thing.

    As much as research focuses on "the cure" I sure wish there was a lot more focus on prevention.....ie diet and environmental

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right Brandy, prevention is always the preferred path to a long happy life.

      Delete

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.