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Distinguished Gentleman’s rides- DGR

London, Sep 2014

A huge thank you for very kindly and generously sponsoring my Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR) yesterday. Through some nice friends & relatives like you, I was surprised to have raised £285, which I am very grateful for and should help the worldwide figure which is close to a million. An old friend Robert (as in Robert and Amanda) from our Pan Am days, has bravely been fighting the illness last year, which has been very a trying time for him and his family, so the charity you gave to was very relevant for me. Once again a BIG THANK YOU for helping those with the ongoing investigation into Prostrate Cancer…and giving me the excuse to jump on the bike in fancy dress.

We went on a charity ride yesterday all dressed up, although showing no other signs of being Distinguished Gentlemen, it was a lot of fun! Originally set up by some convicts in Australia, this is just the third year and it’s now a worldwide event, it is the first in the year in the UK. I strongly suggest you get hold of something that’s into a plastic fantastic and do one locally yourself next year. You may be interested in knowing what the day was like for us chaps in London…

Sun was shining, although not necessarily on the righteous, looking at the rather neat but rough crowd. Clearly, God felt it was a good cause. With my friend John sporting his new cravat and his straight-through exhaust ringing in my ears, we rode up nice and early through the crisp and empty streets. As we came along the Victoria Embankment and Parliament Square, it was past lots of very weary, worthy and overwhelmingly pink fundraisers from the Night-time Shine walk, plodding the final mile to the finish. We Felt rather a frauds whizzing around on our motorbikes. At Big Ben, there was a large film crew set along Westminster Bridge, but it was not for us.

Using a handicap system we left later to meet up by the London Eye with French Franck on his peasant’s Solex. Which is a Gallic 40’s design of a heavy iron bicycle with a titchy little model-like motor that you let down onto the front wheel, which jerks you forward at an alarming rate, to reach the top speed of 20mph. Bizarrely Franck came dressed up like some mad magician and probably got the most cheers and waves of anyone that day, chuffing along in his own blue cloud of smoke with a faint whiff of garlic.    

The 600+ bikes were marshalled and squeezed into Borough Market and by 10 am you’d have to walk across the saddles to get from one side to the other. Like this summer down at Biarritz’s Wheels and Waves, it was dominated by Triumph Bonnevilles, but there were plenty of exotic Italians, some vintage, a cluster of older scooters and lots of customised bikes, against the slim Cafe Racers the Harleys looked rather porky. After a coffee and the obligatory bacon roll, we squeezed our way around looking at all the gleaming machinery and chatting with their flamboyant riders, clearly for many ‘distinguished’ = eccentric. The early morning ride-out didn’t happen until 1130 hrs and was a horrible quarter of an hour as we waited for the multitude to swarm off in batches of 100, following the organisers with their wobbly flags of orange triangles. It was a cacophony of revving bikes and choking exhaust fumes, horrid! We wound our way out, the small cobbled streets lined with camera-armed spectators, a very cheerful start. I was next to a dirty great chopper, with its rider and pillion fighting to stay in control at less than walking pace. Thankfully my Bonneville is happy at that speed, all I had to concentrate on was keeping an eye out for Franck buzzing in and out the gutters. I had a spare can of his pre-mixed fuel, as insurance against his nominal fuel capacity, but having topped up at the market, he was ok for the rest of the day.

We came across Tower Bridge which was chocked full of bemused and camera-clicking tourists, the heavy traffic continued all along the embankment, a long line of tweed filtering through the vehicles. A few especially loud bikes enjoyed roaring past some marooned motorbike cops stuck in between cars. Despite the congestion, it was fun passing silly remarks and jokes with the other constantly changing riders. Parliament Square was again full of tourists clicking away at us, but down to Milbank the traffic thinned out, so many of us pulled over to chat, take photos and try and cool down, it was darn hot. The route continued into Chelsea and we then all crossed Albert Bridge to go around the outside of Battersea Park, Franck and I stopped again to see some of the bikes coming through, there was also what looked like a wingless aeroplane with small outriders that popped up as soon the bike got moving, although the driver seemed to be about to expire inside his Perspex coffin. Also spotted was a Morgan Trike, but that was left in the traffic jam miles back, plus a few combinations with vintage sidecars. The final leg was along the south of the river, past Battersea, Waterloo and back to Borough Market. We parked along the side streets this time, stripped off our jackets and kicked back with some ice-cold cider and a bag of chips.

The route home was not so congested, so John and I had a frustrating time in second gear chaperoning Franck as far as Putney and had spent most of the day under 30 mph. So with a cheerful wave left him for a final blast along the A3 to blow the cobwebs away. We may well go for the Brighton DGR next year, with some proper riding and fresh air?

West Sussex, Sep 2015

Thank you everyone for very kindly sponsoring me. Our Uncle Roy had prostate cancer and was undergoing treatment before he died and a very good friend of ours is bravely treading the long path of recovery after his prostate surgery. As I am now officially a grumpy old man, it’s an important issue for me too. Therefore I must give you a huge thank you for supporting me and for some of you, I should add ‘again’. It was, as last year, a cracking day out with other equally daft blokes. If you have five minutes and would like to hear about it, then read on….

Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride- a charity event on one day only, but all over the world. You have to have a classic, custom or interesting motorbike and ride dressed as a distinguished gentleman, which can actually mean almost anything and is bordering on fancy dress for many. Although this seems a small aspect, it is what makes the day so much fun.

Last year’s DGR was a laugh, Franck, John, and I, plus about 700 others, crawled around central London, in and out of the traffic. The bikes were fab, as only interesting stuff can come on the ride, so no ‘Power Rangers’ on their plastic fantastic sports bikes are invited. The gent’s kit and costumes are great fun too, with the prospect of bacon buns n mugs of coffee to start things off, with then a ‘well done’ pint as a finale. However- as John succinctly pointed out, ‘it was a waste of a good bike ride’, so we vowed to make this year’s DGR a more interesting trip.

DGR was started in Sydney four years ago, this is year two in the UK, but despite this event’s youth, there are loads of rides located throughout Britain. John and Ian usually make a Sunday morning trip or two down to Bognor Regis, so we focused on the West Sussex ride, as it would give us a good cross-country trip on the way there and back. It was starting on Madeira Drive in Brighton, with stops in Worthing, Rustington, Bognor Regis, Chichester and finishing at Goodwood. The week was anxiously spent looking at the weather forecast and thankfully it was to be all things bright and beautiful, but with a very cold night, the trip down was to be chilly. Especially as we had to start at 7 am to get there for the 9:30 pm DGR start and squeeze in a bacon buttie too!

This was THE event to sport my new ‘Frankies wedding suit’, but not the kit for the ride down. So I had my regular winter riding outfit on plus glove liners, with the fancy kit stuffed in my panniers. French Franck, sans last year’s Solex and the magician’s outfit, was a late entry, hence the ‘scruffy bugger’ attitude to his attire. With John, we headed off to Sandown Park to meet Ian’s brother-in-law Mike, who stood pulling at his arse, next to his very trick Triumph Thruxton (a Cafe racer version of my Bonneville). His o-so-hip Rowland Sands design seat looked smashing, but at this point was found to have limited water-repellent capabilities. The seat had absorbed a large quantity of very cold overnight dew through its dainty perforations, one finger push had this chilly water oozing out. His already soggy and chilly arse wasn’t helped by the fact that he had on only jeans, T-shirt and a wax jacket. My beard was wet already coming through the mist on this first 10 mins, boy was mine going to be cold? I was mounted on my trusty stead a T1200 Bonneville, John had his slick and new-ish Ducati Scrambler, finally, Franck was perched in his huge touring BMW RS.

We warmed up the bikes (and chilled down the riders a few more degrees) with a short stint through Esher High Street and down the nice woodland road past Claremont to Cobham, then joined the A3 for a nasty thrash along until Godalming. I had asked John what speed he was happy to cruise at on the dual carriageway and he said he could probably go a bit above 80, but as soon as we joined the A3 he and Mike sped off into the distance, as I clung on at 80! We soon caught up, then off-charged Franck with Mike in tow. Hmmm, was this how the day was to progress?

After 10-15 mins we came off and headed towards the usual Goodwood route, but aimed in Petworth’s direction, we should then be able to turn left parallel with the coast and drop down to the coast road at Shoreham. The hour run down to Petworth was smashing, the countryside was beautiful, with little traffic, few packs of cyclists and thankfully no pockets of fog, as we had experienced a few weeks back for the early morning dash to The Goodwood Revival. It was a chilly enough ride for me and Franck, by all accounts the other two were frozen. Thankfully with undulating roads, plenty to see and with sun-dappled trees, it was still a very enjoyable ride.

At Petworth, we turned east and headed straight into the low sun. It was very hard to see the way ahead or any of the road signs despite my tinted mirror goggles. We had to keep slowing down and putting an arm up to shade our eyes, to try and make out which way to go at junctions. We would then also plunge into pitch-black tunnels of trees, but in between these extremes, with the sunlight pouring through the trees and hedgerows, it was magical and the light was beautiful. We began to get used to this, then came across a Warburton’s bread van, which obviously knew the route and had a sun visor. The roads along this stretch were small country lanes, there was no passing him, a little frustrating at the time with our stiffening shoulders.

We popped out on the coast at the rather scruffy Shoreham, right next to the scene of this summer’s tragic air display. We had ridden just under 70 miles and the three smaller bikes have a range of only 100-110, so needed a top-up to carry us through the DGR. It was a good point to rotate the wrists and shoulders, with a sneaky snigger at Mike’s soggy bottom. Having been on the road for two hours and with the cold, we were all hopping around and in need of an urgent wee, but the cashier said we couldn’t use the staff WC. So off we sped swiftly towards Brighton fidgeting in our saddles.

It was 930am when we arrived at Brighton’s Madeira Drive, there were quite a few people around and a healthy number of bikes. Boy was it bright and sunny. Having changed into gentleman’s attire, we headed to an outside cafe for bacon and egg baps and mugs of steaming coffee, slight anxiety issues with the threat of dripping yokes ruining our fine threads. There were some strange characters here, apart from the very strange DGR riders that are. One fisherman had a tattooed face and a young lad was in an oversized double-breasted suit jacket with no shirt, but with a cut and bleeding face, so very Brighton! A chap on his own called James joined us, he had come on a Harley with ape hanger bars and had a very glittery gold helmet! We had just scoffed our food and a yell goes up to mount our bikes, this was the first of many beverage interruptions.

The organisers for this DGR had listed out the expectations for the ride beforehand and it seemed a bit strict with no over-revving of engines and various other ride protocols. So we left in a gentlemanly manner, about 60-70 bikes, with a high viz tail gunner at the rear. As John pointed out, within ten minutes we had beaten the previous year’s average speed. By then there were plenty of walkers out and it was a smashing ride along Brighton and Hove seafront, in the sunshine, waving and saluting. There was some very naughty over-revving at some point, I suspect it was James’ influence. There was no telling us off as we were in the middle of probably a mile-long train of bikes.

The first stop after 20 mins was in Worthing, at a small dead-end side road with a roundabout at the end, the perfect spot for a group of motorbikes, Most of the old brick buildings here are cafes and restaurants. A couple of cars had parked in bays that had been blocked off for the charity ride, assuming no doubt they could get away with a swift coffee on a Sunday morning. A few uncharitable squabbles ensued between cars and bikes. This was a good point to stroll among the bikes and shoot the breeze. Last year there were a lot of very hip and trendy ‘stylistas’ on custom and very interesting bikes. On this trip, with nothing like the number, many were pretty stock and lots of Bonnevilles, there was the odd custom and even a few ‘plastic fantastics’ that had sneaked in, their riders camouflaged in tweed. One lady and her husband had matching Triumph Street Triples (tut, tut) her’s was purple, and she had on purple tweed and had dyed her hair purple too! There was a large chap with an ivory pipe on a huge Harley, he had on a bright white US Navy uniform that billowed out when on the move, looking back in my mirrors it looked like a galleon in full sail. Everyone was, as usual, enthusiastic and friendly, many of the very dapper chaps no doubt lived in Brighton if you know what I mean?  Unsure of how long we were going to be here, we didn’t move towards a cafe for some time and just as a decision was made for a drink, a yell goes up, ‘we are off’! The pack attracted quite a number of spectators as the traffic was held up for the group to leave en mass. I must say we do look good all dressed up, not a boring business suit in sight.

Continuing west, the route headed inland. As most had no protective clothing and shirts were letting in the chill, speed was kept down to about 40-50mph. When the leader came to a junction, he pointed to the person behind to pull over and point the direction of travel to everyone else. This was needed as traffic lights and other road users soon had the group split up. Once the tail gunner came up, then that person re-joined the group at the back. If the pack became very spread out, then the leader would pull into a lay bye to regroup. It all work very well and was slick. At Rustington we were again on the beach edge and on the same level as the shingle with no seawall, it was lovely riding along here. The next stop was in this same town, at a beachside car park, but unbeknown to us, this was only a piss-stop, so having unsuccessfully lined up for tea, we had to leave it and head off again, our thirst still not quenched!

The next leg was in and out of suburbia to Bognor Regis. I was proudly the marker at one junction and I can confirm no problem on my watch, they all came through, yes sir! It was once again a beachside car park, but this time in the shadow of the huge Butlin’s Big Top. Having disrupted the kiddies’ road train on and being midday, a much larger number of spectators came for photos. With hope in our hearts we legged it towards the tea hut on the prom, could it be third time lucky?

Mike and John had a birthday party to attend at 2 pm (we were about 2 hours away) and clearly, the rest of the DGR route was to be inland (uninspiring). So after a well-appreciated hot drink and having waved goodbye to the rest of the ride, I kitted up for the return home.  Within about 10 mins Franck and I were split up from the other two due to traffic lights and then came to a deserted big roundabout. Franck tells me I went the wrong way, I took one direction and he went the other, we then both returned and circled around together and then I headed towards Chichester along a bypass, me blissfully ignorant that Franck had seen the others waiting for us, oops! We then bizarrely saw James in his gold helmet charging back towards us, which added to my confusion. A few minutes later we then came across the DGR group in a lay-by, who then began to pull out as we came upon them, so were embedded within them again!

I knew you could go north from Chichester to Goodwood and Singleton, so we went towards the city, still among the group. At another big roundabout was a large motorbike dealership and the road leading out of town was blocked by police and ambulance, as a brightly coloured rider and sports bike had hit something. It was a bit messy, with bikes and cars all over the place. Once in the old town’s one-way system, we finally left the group and came up the road past Goodwood via Cocking etc. I was half expecting a number of them to follow us as we peeled off but they didn’t.

It was a very nice ride north, we didn’t have the incentive that we urgently needed to get back but still made good progress. Again the dappled trees were delicious on the A roads up to Guildford, before the boring plod along the A3 for the last half hour. We stopped for fuel at Godalming and were home at 2.15-2.30 pm, with tight shoulders.

John said….
Sorry also for losing you on the way back. Not sure where we did lose you? We were back by 2 pm! Following Mike was frightening and had at least 2 occasions where my ABS kicked in, reminding me that my riding wasn’t perhaps as advanced as his.

I had a sly nap in the garden, then went with Mary and William swimming at the Kingfisher, which seemed strange after being in the great outdoors most of the day. I slept well that night!

Who knows where DGR will take us next year, my fingers are crossed for another glorious day as we’ve had for the last two years. So a super day out and thanks to your generosity, £210 towards the £ 1 million raised on this year’s rides, for prostate cancer research.

Pip Pip Andrew