You may have seen us riding around town on the morning of Sept. 29. Mostly old guys on old motorcycles wearing what by most accounts would be considered completely improper attire for motorcycling. Preposterous! At least for today.
It was a sight to see for sure, whether at the starting spot at Cafe Smitten or along the route somewhere. Riding from downtown Bakersfield up to the Panorama Bluffs, across Union Avenue to 21st Street, with stops at the cancer memorial at Beach Park, Kaiser Permanente on Ming Avenue and then on to Lengthwise Brewing for the wrap-up.
Seventy-nine riders on classic Norton, BMW and Triumph motorbikes. Bobbers, custom cafe racers, choppers and scooters were there, too. Yes, five Harleys and an Indian joined in as well, providing something from, and for, everyone. Tuxedos, three-piece suits, tweed, bow ties and burnished leather gloves joined some jaunty, perhaps ridiculous get-ups for the event. A scant 30 miles or so from start to end.
But for men dealing with prostate cancer or mental health issues, the journey is longer – much longer. And this is the reason for the ride.
The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was founded in Sydney, Australia, by Mark Hawwa. It was inspired by a photo of “Mad Men’s” Don Draper astride a classic bike wearing his finest suit. Mark decided a themed ride would be a great way of connecting niche motorcycle enthusiasts and communities while raising funds to support the men in our lives. By 2018, the event spanned the globe, with 114,000 riders in 102 countries raising over $6.2 million to support the Movember Foundation’s efforts to prevent suicide in men and to raise awareness for early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.
It’s the second deadliest cancer in men behind lung cancer. It’s common, too, second only to skin cancer in frequency. Furthermore, 75% of all suicides globally are men – 510,000 annually, nearly one every minute of every day. It’s unacceptable.
For David Hostetter, the Bakersfield DGR host, it was the connection that resonated. Touched by suicide, Dave and his wife thought the notion of men coming together to make friends (and a little noise too) would be just the thing to get us talking. We don’t do that much, bravado being what it is and all. The Hostetter family’s lifelong passion for motorcycling made the tie-in easy. His kind and gentle spirit makes it real.
For me, as the 2019 DGR ambassador, it was prostate cancer. I was considered too young to have such a disease at 48. But I did. Being the son of a prostate cancer dad, it made a little more sense. Early detection and advanced robotic surgery made me cancer-free and have saved my life. A shiny red Triumph cafe racer, a chance to tell my story, and raise awareness and funds sealed the deal.
We’ll be at it again next September, with more riders, more motorcycles, more stories. We hope to have you join us. ￼
Greg Heiss is a strategic business consultant with WorklogicHR, a local consulting and technology firm. Touched by his father’s prostate cancer and then his own, he has become an outspoken advocate for early screening. He was made DGR ambassador in 2019, his second year with the event and its third since inception. Greg is a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast and currently rides a Triumph Thruxton, among a few others. He and his wife, Lynne, also a cancer survivor, have made Bakersfield their adopted hometown. The views expressed are his own.