The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride is a major highlight for the motorcycle community each year. There’s something delightful about everyone getting all gussied up in their riding finery and spending a Sunday causing a scene. It’s also unique in how the event takes place simultaneously across the world. It’s less of an event than a holiday. If that weren’t enough, the worldwide event raises a big pile of cash for the Movember Foundation.
This year was no exception. We had an immense turn out at Cobra Lounge on Sunday morning. Of all the events we participate in each year, only the annual Toys For Tots ride is bigger. Yet the DGR is not a Motoworks event. We have to tip our newsboy caps and top hats to Ton Up Club Chicago, who led the charge on putting the Chicago chapter of the DGR together. Motoworks Chicago was along for the ride, and happy to help.
A beautiful day
We really couldn’t have asked for better weather either, as the Chicago autumn starts in earnest. There was a chance of rain in the forecast, but we never saw any. The numerous layers of everyone’s dapper DGR outfits were perfectly suited (pardon the pun) to the temperate temperature.
I got to Cobra Lounge about 9:30 AM, and dapper ladies and gentlemen were already arriving by bike. The variety of bikes and riders was really fun. A lot of people were ignoring the DGR’s official “Style Guide” and rolling in on all matter of motorcycles.
It’s time to kill the DGR “Style Guide”
Now that the event has grown and matured, I for one think it’s time to open it up to everyone — too all kinds of motorcycles and scooters. I met person after person attending the DGR this year a bit sheepishly. “I know it’s not the right kind of bike. Can I ride anyway?” This made me really sad, honestly. That anyone would feel unwelcome because they don’t own “the right bike” sours the entire event for me. I think it’s especially off-putting because there is a charity component. As I imagine someone who’s struggled with cancer, or depression, or has lost someone in their life to either — to exclude them from an event like this because they don’t own a Bonneville or other “classic style” bike is just gross.
Thankfully that’s not how we roll here in Chicago. I didn’t see anyone turned away. Kudos to those who came out on their “wrong” bike. If you stayed home, do please come out next year. Hopefully the DRG organizers in Australia will see the light and open things up going forward. I think the event will only get better for it.
A dapper festival atmosphere
For everyone who did come, there was no dampening our spirits in the moment as Fulton St. began to overflow with motorcycles and scooters. The DGR is a reunion event for me. There are many motorcycle friends who I first connected with at the DGR. Sure, I see most of those folks at other events during the season, but there’s still something really special about getting together again for the DGR.
As the ride got set to depart, the whole street came alive in a different way. The rumblings and revving echoed across West Town as the great beast awoke, ready to devour the streets for a couple hours. As fun as the gathering of dressed up motorcycle nerds is every year, the ride itself is a spectacle to behold. The general public has no idea why a noisy hoard of bikers in suits and skirts is rumbling by their corner of Chicago, but the smiles, cheers and phones in the air capturing the spectacle say it all.
I think that may be the most special aspect of the ride. It’s a chance for the motorcycle community to make a different kind of impression. Sure, it’s a disruption to traffic, but it’s so patently delightful that I can’t help but feel optimistic that most folks will appreciate the event in the spirit it’s grown into. Hopefully it leaves them with a different and positive impression of what motorcycling is all about for most of us. It’s a nice contrast to the random 12-o’clock gaggle of squids terrorizing 290 at 2:00 AM.
Onward into autumn
With another DGR in the books, I like to look forward. Autumn is here, and it’s my absolute favorite time of year to ride. It’s brisk, it’s generally clear weather, and the scenery starts to turn. We become aware of the winding down of riding season, but there’s still plenty of riding left to do. It makes me feel grateful for the riding time we have left. Winter is coming, but it’s not here yet, so let’s ride!
Thanks again to everyone who dressed up and came out, to everyone who helped raise money for a great cause, and especially to Ton Up Club Chicago for organizing. Until next year, stay dapper, and if you still want to contribute to the cause, Movember is just around the corner.