Motorbikes have moved people in the same way since 1885 when a pair of cool German cats – Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach – decided it would be a groovy idea to stick a petrol engine inside a bicycle.
The humble motorbike has gone through many changes since then, and in 2018 every taste is catered to.
But whether or not you have a penchant for a bobber or a café racer, a flat tracker, bagger or brat, what’s been clearly excellent this year is that The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride has moved more people than ever before to support its good causes.
Teaming again with the Movember Foundation to raise awareness of men’s mental health and prostate cancer, worldwide it’s raised $5.7 million, with 112k riders taking part.
That moves it into the realms of genuine charity phenomenon.
As we’ve done for the previous few years, we signed up as The Baffle Culture squad – any excuse to don fine attire while riding bikes to raise money is good with us!
Our Whatsapp group was a flurry of messages in the preceding few days, with talk of when and where to imbibe the all-important pre-ride bacon and caffeine topping the early chat charts, followed by the poll: ‘Open face or full face?’
This banter was mercilessly toppled in the latter stages as soon as questions started to fly regarding sartorial ride day selections.
I was bluffly confident at the outset, only to be knocked off my puffed up perch when new signing George clearly took the top step in the dying stages by busting out a sneak-peek of his dashing tweed-edged-velvet-collared-matching-waistcoat number.
Dammit – he’d made an impressively strong selection for his debut DGR.
On ride morning I left the house slightly later than I’d intended, and not wanting to be late for my George rendezvous a few miles outside of Cardiff, I soon discovered why riding quickly in a three-piece tweed suit and an open-face helmet is a chilly affair. Man not hot.
We rode into town at a more sedate pace, met up with a full complement of Bafflers – a hungover Salts, Sam, Andrew and his brother-in-law Paul – then headed over to the DGR meet-up spot near City Hall.
As we rode in it was clear that there were a lot more riders than last year, and we were all initially impressed with the turnout.
It was also clear that there was still only one toilet and one bacon emporium, so we spent most of our time queuing before the rider briefing.
Saying that, this was also A Good Thing for a handful of reasons:
We met Oli. Here was a guy who was clearly cut from the same wheel-fan cloth as the rest of us, so Salts wasted no time in signing him up to the Baffle squad. Salts also wasted no time in blagging a coffee off him and a bacon sandwich from Sam – the latter of which seemingly au fait with his ‘lads, lads, I’ve only got a card’ routine.
We got to watch all the bikes riding by us as they entered the fray. My particular favourites being a crew of choppers and a leopard spotted suit.
We had the opportunity to witness George getting more and more riled up by people who didn’t take note of the ‘distinguished’ brief and arrived in their normal, hi-vis, commuter riding wear. He was not amused, and this only became more overt as the day went on. (George has since informed me of his intention to write a strongly worded email: ‘Dear sirs, imagine my surprise…’)
Once we’d eaten, had the rider briefing and waved goodbye to Sam – who ditched the rest of us for his ‘real friends’ to play hockey with – we saddled up and slowly rode out towards our first regroup spot out at Culverhouse Cross.
This first section always takes bloody ages, as trying to thread 300+ riders towards a PC World carpark is no small task, so we spent a good portion of time parked at each set of traffic lights.
Oli kept us all amused by revving the shit out of his BMW (pictured above) at every opportunity, and the rest of the time we good-naturedly waved and beeped as we passed cheering groups of bystanders.
I for one absolutely love it when kids look gob-smacked as we ride by, so always make sure I take the time to acknowledge them – these are the sorts of moments that shape children into motorbike fans, so the more converts the better.
We regrouped, took some photos, beeped some more horns then left in a huge swarm, only to follow a group who took a wrong turn (I couldn’t help but notice that the people we followed in the wrong direction were riding scooters – outside of mainland Europe I tend not to trust anyone riding a scooter).
But really it didn’t matter: we had such good fun beaming about on our bikes, chatting all the way – confirming that open-face was definitely the right winner of the previous week’s poll – scuffing roundabouts, unnecessarily revving engines, beeping horns, laughing and watching George getting more and angrier at sports bike riders wearing the wrong clothes.
We pooled up again at Barry Island, ran for comfort breaks, then buzzed back out and wound our way to Penarth where the pier was closed just for us (and 300 friends).
The best bit for me is always seeing my family at the finish – my 6-year-old looking so proud as if I’ve just won the Dakar Rally. Andrew grabbed some awesome drone footage to finish his day’s vlog and we chilled with more coffee and bacon (this time, Salts picked up the tab).
This year was by far the best one I’ve been a part of, and it’s great to see the Baffle squad slowly growing. Next year is going to be brilliant – we’ve already been discussing details on Whatsapp.
It is also clear that each one of us is going to have to step up our suit game for next year – the friendly rivalry is cranking up!
(DGR 2018 by Andrew Harrison)