Special: Chennai bikers unite for a cause on The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride 2019
It was a morning of flying suit lapels, ties flapping in the air and biker bravado brimming over fancy displays of burning rubber, given the most pride-filled twirling of moustaches on the meanest scramblers, custom engines and big boy machines — all along the East Coast Road.
Never before in Chennai’s biking history have so many carefully coordinated helmets, colourful rims, flashy petrol tanks and even a few tasselled exhausts been spotted on this stretch.
As some of the city’s best-dressed men assembled all at one place early last Sunday morning, the big question really was, ‘So, where’s the party?’ Well, in this case, the party was the journey itself.
And, our destination was the East Coast Road, where some of us have already resolved to eventually get settled around and retire, only to be able to go riding up and down the stretch as often as we might desire.
Come along for the ride
This was, of course, the city’s own Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR), partnered by Indulge, The New Indian Express, and held on September 29, 2019 — as a part of the global event that witnessed an estimated 125,000+ bikers in over 700 cities across 110 countries — all suited up, and riding out together on classic and vintage rides.
Of course, not everyone everywhere got to enjoy the East Coast breeze like we got to, but then again, these rides were never meant to be either races or competitions.
There was a stated aim to the proceedings — of raising funds in support of prostrate cancer research, and men’s mental health initiatives on behalf of the Movember Foundation.
Just as it helped some of us greatly to learn about the event’s history, and projected road ahead, the information and numbers seemed necessary to aid a bit of brow-beating and backslapping camaraderie among the riders.
To help those bragging rights, you’d do well to know that the global DGR event — since its inception in 2012, spearheaded by ride founder Mark Hawwa in Sydney — has managed to attract over 250,000 riders around the world, and also raised an amount of over $18.5 million USD, towards awareness and research of men’s health issues.
And so, on this bright morning, along with riders assembled in cities from Sydney, London, New York City, Los Angeles and Milan (each group with over 1,000 riders) — a motorcade of roughly 1,400 bikes set out from The Palladium mall in Velacherry, intent on leaving its own imprint on this global charity fundraiser.
Similar rides were also flagged off in Mumbai, Pune, Kochi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar and even in Vijayawada.
A quick survey at the ride’s start led us to realise that the bikes at hand were of every shape, custom make, size, colour and vintage model that you could expect.
Notably, there was an entire segment of sparkling, immaculately polished and methodically maintained Yamahas (100cc onwards), a few of them sporting funky paint jobs, and even the odd ones with modified exhausts.
Among the big, burly two wheelers were a handful of Harley Davidsons, a few chunky Triumphs, and more custom Harleys apart from an entire parade of Royal Enfields from every year imaginable, of 350cc, 500cc versions and the highly popular Himalayans, right up to the new 650cc Interceptors and even a couple of Continental GTs.
For the laymen on the streets of Velacherry, this was no less than an army of bikes, vrooming and throttling its way through the city, quite like they were on a war footing.
However, all of this was just for fun, if only on the surface of things. The event’s longtime hosts, city-based biking enthusiasts Prateek and Sarthak Darolia, took a few moments at the start to educate the crowd about the DGR’s origins.
For those who might not be in the know, the need to ride in formal attire actually emerged from a perception about riders generally being unpresentable, to the point that they might not be invited at well-to-do establishments.
To that end, every rider who showed up in Chennai was well-groomed, even spiffed up in pressed tweeds, and dressed to the nines — short of bringing along personal dressers and stylists.
We did spot a few riding boots that seemed to shine brighter than chrome itself, while there were more than a few eminently waxed moustaches and squarely cut facial trims at hand — all in vogue, of course, just as the bikes themselves were unitedly gleaming, and spruced up for the big ride.
Let’s ride, Chennai!
For this year, while the stated aim was pegged at $7 million USD, the Chennai edition clocked a registered number of 1,328 riders (a near-double jump from last year’s 600-odd riders) and an accounted $1,295 USD in donations towards the state cause.
As for the Chennai Ride’s winners, Keshav Chandran walked away with first place ($205 USD), Gajendiran Devika came in second ($141 USD) and Chinnadurai Muthulingam picked up the third position ($90 USD).
There was more of a giveaways galore too, courtesy (international) sponsors including Triumph Motorcycles, ELF Lubricants, Hedon Workshop, REV’IT as well as Apollo Tyres and Coveritup, in Chennai.
To add to the accolades, we’d be amiss not to make a few style notes. For instance, the coolest suit colour we spotted in the crowd: plum red. The funkiest paint job on a bike: Bright orange.
Ratio of bowties and suspenders against biker jackets and gear: Overwhelming! As for the loudest recorded official decibel level: No comments. But who really cares about the noise?
On The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, you’re really a true gent for revving and throttling your engine like the petrol-head man-beast that you really are, and for waving airily at passersby, as you motor on past Saravana Bhavan... We did spot a few women riders too, all dapper in suits, of course.
As for the gentlemen, carrying off the suits was really just par for the course. The bottomline message was loud and clear: Never mind the destination, it’s how you ride up to there that really matters.
Details on DGR donations and global winners are on the official website.