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High style for a great cause

High style for a great cause

Conch Tiglao
Each year, thousands of classic motorcycle riders dress up for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. We talk to the main men behind the world’s most fashionable charity ride. 
Dapper folk in Auckland, dressing up and riding for a cause. Photo by ASP

Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR) and Sydney Cafe Racers founder Mark Hawwa wants men around the world to know that prostate cancer testing no longer involves a “finger up their backside.” Now, all it takes is a simple Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test). And that being tested regularly doesn’t mean you’re less macho. 

“It was another way for the DGR team break this stereotype within motorcycling,” he says “We can also break down this macho mentality of men and show them that it’s okay to be vulnerable, it’s okay to get checked.”

Since 2012, Mark and his band of merry brothers (IT whiz kid Mikey Stojcevski, too-cool-for-school Ramsey Sayed, Derek Knipscheer (based in the Netherlands), and the latest addition, creative designer and music enthusiast Rohan Carter, have been donning three-piece suits and pocket squares, and riding through Sydney’s streets on retro and customized bikes to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer research and men’s mental health. Through the years, DGR has grown to include rides in 110 countries, and has become the world’s biggest motorcycle fundraiser, raising a total of US$45 million globally. 

It was a trailblazing, unique idea, inspired by Mad Men’s Don Draper. Dress up in ‘50s or ‘60s dapper style and ride a classic bike. And the world loved it. So much so, that even participants in countries that experience extreme summers during May brave the sweltering heat in their most stylish ensemble to join the global cause. 

Held in September a few years back until DGR hosts in some countries complained that it was too cold to ride out, DGR is now held every third Sunday of May globally. Participants register online, and while donation is strictly voluntary, they are encouraged to donate what they can or rally friends and family to help raise funds. All proceeds go to the Movember Foundation, the leading global charity focused on men’s health.

Not all motorcycle riders are hooligans

But DGR didn’t really start as a fundraiser to save a tiny gland deep in a man’s groin area. Initially, the stylish parade was a creative way to challenge the prejudice around the common motorcycle rider, especially in places where motorcycles weren’t considered a main form of transportation.

“The first ride was just about breaking the stereotype that people on motorcycles are one percenters, hooligans,” Mark explains. “I mean the culture in the Philippines, is that you use motorcycles on a daily basis, as a form of transportation. Here, it’s a hobby. People always assume that motorcyclists are in a gang or are always angry. So the whole idea was to put on an open face helmet, get dressed, dapper-style and go through the heart of each city that we can globally, and break that stereotype.”

And so they did. Using the partnerships he built with custom bike builders, and the close-knit community he created through Sydney Cafe Racers, and by activating other cafe racer communities in Australia and around the world, Mark successfully mounted the very first DGR in 64 different cities across 15 countries, and featuring a staggering 2,500 riders. 

The team wasn’t even interested in getting sponsors at that time. They were just focused on getting everyone together and having fun while shattering stereotypes: huge, bright smiles underneath half-face helmets, hands waving at everyone who looked, riders stopping for people to cross the street. Ramsey recalls, “What was really funny during that first ride was like, you see people reacting to the rumble of bikes on the road. And you see someone give this little dirty look over their shoulder, and then they see a bunch of happy, well-dressed riders and their expression changes.  They pull out their phone and start filming.”

Mark and his merry men

So, how many people does it take to organize a global event annually, with 110 participating countries and still more being activated each year? A main team of five, apparently–to run and improve the website and donation platform, renew partnerships and build new ones, shoot marketing photos and videos, create and design logos, templates and posters, and all the nitty gritty that need to get done before the next DGR cycle. Each participating city has its ride hosts, and  the hosts leverage all partnerships, materials, assets, platforms, information and support that are carefully prepped each year by Mark, Mikey, Ramsey, Rohan and Derek. 

Hanging out with DGR’s main team in Sydney (from L-R): Ramsey, Mikey (and Blaze), the author, Mark and Rohan. It was too hot for suits that day.

If the Pied Piper of Hamelin were a real live person, he would be Mark Hawwa. His gregarious personality and his charm are his pipe, and he uses them to band people together and create close-knit communities. 

Mark met Mikey when Mikey was just about 14 years old. Already an IT whiz, Mikey built a website for a shirt busines Mark had at that time. The friendship took off, and they started working on a lot of events together, until Mark commissioned Mikey to digitize what would become DGR’s first website. 

“When I got my motorcycle license in 2020, I had no friends who rode,” shares Ramsey. “I bought a 1974 Honda CB 250 but had no one to ride with. I found Sydney Cafe Racers on Facebook and started just meeting up with the guys, going for rides. Met Mark through that, and one time he needed help on a project, and he said there’s plenty of chicks. (Mark: I don’t remember that) So, I jumped in, and was there for a one-week job, one turned into two weeks, two turned into three… Mark keeps bringing people together. He’s like the one core thing who will connect you with everything and everyone else.”

As for Rohan, the creative mind behind the latest DGR merch, it started with a couple of stickers for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Drive (look that one up, folks). Then, Mark hired him to do merchandise and other designs for DGR. 

“Being part of the big parade is always cool but another element of DGR is being involved in it directly. Pretty much all the other jobs I’ve had in my life have been to make money for a company,” says Rohan. “And now, I have a job where I get to use my skills for something bigger.”

Style serves a purpose 

DGR has always been a styled ride, a costume parade, if you will. There are rules when it comes to what to wear (think Mad Men’s Don Draper, Taron Egerton or Colin Firth in The Kingsman or singer Janelle Monae’s exquisite style). 

As DGR Manila host Mark Laccay keeps reminding everyone: “You wouldn’t attend a ‘70s-themed party in a Transformer costume, unless you’re an a**hat.” 

There is a certain style guide for motorcycles, too: cafe racers, classic motorcycles, scramblers, classic cruisers and scooters with metal-pressed bodies. (Sorry, Vespa Primavera riders, modern Vespas are not among the list of DGR-compliant bikes.) There’s been much ado about what bikes are considered compliant and what are not, with some people even complaining about the event being “too elitist.” While others may criticize the event for its exclusivity, there is a method to this sartorial madness. 

Classic motorcycles and scooters plus gents and ladies in dapper attire make DGR an extremely photogenic event. Photo by Manasi Ride (DGR Surabaya, Indonesia)

“The moment we try and be something for everyone is the moment that we’ll fail,” Mark Hawwa says pointedly. “Like, there is a limit to the number of vehicles you can put on majority of roads around the world. So, it’s for safety and so you also don’t annoy people who are driving their cars on a Sunday to get somewhere.” 

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“When I started Sydney Cafe Racers, it was really because I was passionate about cafe racers and I wanted to meet other people that had similar-style motorcycles. So, when I decided on the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, it was based on the whole idea of Sydney Cafe Racers. And at the end of the day, if people are truly that passionate about the cause, then donate. They can volunteer. They can help mark corners during the parade. There’s 364 other days a year. If you want to run an event, go and run an event. We will never be something for everyone. And, you know, that took me a lot of years to sort out. I think the beauty of the DGR is the fact that it’s not the stuff that you tend to see on a day to day basis.”

At the end of the day, it’s about saving lives

DGR doesn’t only help save lives, it also builds tight-knit communities. Photo by Leca Novo (DGR Belo Horizonte, Brazil)

DGR happens only one Sunday in a year but the support it provides extends beyond that single day. Even though the parade is the main event, official DGR social media platforms constantly remind people of the importance of getting checked and caring for one’s health. The event has grown so popular that the sight of someone in a suit riding a classic motorcycle instantly reminds people of prostate cancer awareness and suicide prevention.

“We know (the impact of DGR) because we get messages weekly from guys telling us ‘Oh hey, we just got checked for prostate cancer. If it wasn’t for you, we’d be dead.’,” Mark says. “And they allow us to share their stories because they also want to remind other people.”

Ramsey adds, “When a lot of guys, especially with mental health, get the message–they hear it, but they might not get it until something clicks and they’re like, ‘Oh, man, I feel really s**t’. And we’re always an email or a phone call away, and a lot of guys will reach out. That’s what’s so rad about it. We talk about creating a safe space in mental health; we’ve created a safe space in a thousand cities around the world.”

More than 73,000 riders globally. One hundred five countries. Almost USD 50 million raised so far. But DGR’s impact goes beyond statistics: it’s about tangible, life-saving interventions and the creation of safe spaces for open dialogue. As the movement evolves, so too does its commitment to saving lives and fostering a strong global community and culture of proactive care and support.

DGR Manila is happening next Sunday (May 19). To participate in the parade or make a donation, visit or download the all-new Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride app from the App Store or Google Play.