DGR 2015 THUMB Taking on the running of the London Distinguished Gentleman's Ride every year has been a privilege and a pleasure, made easy by a fantastic crowd, but this year I was genuinely nervous about the scale of the task. IMG_8047 Last year's ride attracted over 700 riders to our meeting point at the picturesque Borough Market near London Bridge, packing-out the mostly cobbled and pedestrianised streets with stunning bikes and dapper ladies & gents, but it was just a couple hundred too many people for the space. Our gathering spilled onto the streets beyond the area we'd booked-out, and although no-one seemed bothered we knew we probably couldn't come back. We also hadn't realised we were meeting next to Southwark Cathedral at the start of Sunday Service. We had to delay our engine-start until after prayers - although the churchgoers seemed to love the spectacle. IMG_8052 IMG_8193 This year, Mark Hawwa and the guys at DGR HQ in Sydney, agreed that the best way to improve the event for 2015 was to keep the meeting points and ride routes a secret that would only be revealed to registered riders. We also decided to be tougher on the rules with bikes and gear, and we didn't promote the event on our Bike Shed Facebook pages too hard, ...but even with a tighter brief and minimal promo we knew we might top last year's 700 riders. IMG_8124 IMG_8134 The week before the event the DGR website admin pages showed 800 riders registered, but in the last seven days the numbers swelled to 1,228 - and on top of that I knew a few of dozen riders who were coming and hadn't registered. It was going to be an epic gathering. IMG_8147 IMG_8200 A huge turnout sounds like great news, but if you're reading this and you're from London, your mind will boggle at the idea of any kind of group ride around this huge chaotic city. The bit that makes it unimaginable is that it's all arranged and run without any permission from the authorities, no road closures, no police escort and no proper marshaling or signage. What we did have was half a dozen unbriefed volunteers (thanks fellas, especially Bruce & Alex, who were tireless grafters) and a Vikki, who loves to tell fellas where to go. We had help from sponsors Triumph, who created signage, Jack Lilley, who provided support at the rear with a breakdown van and Street Kitchen who provided food (giving a percentage of profit to the Prostate Cancer charity) and about 1,400 riders who behaved impeccably - and looked good doing it. IMG_8275 IMG_8335 The ride takes place in aid of the fight against Prostate Cancer, but the DGRide is primarily about people and motorcycles, and a new way to present ourselves to the London public. It's a rare opportunity to do something on two wheels that isn't about speed, danger or skills & thrills, but instead shows that bikers can be gentlemanly, considerate, and can even be well-dressed when the occasion demands it. It makes a nice change from high-speed chases on PoliceCamerAction, YouTube wheelies and ASBOs outside the Ace Cafe. 1400 bikers metamorphasised from being marauding two-wheel-hooligans to a parade of dashing, dapper, buccaneers, all on our very best behaviour, doffing caps and eliciting smiles from the London public. IMG_8431 IMG_8547 We met close to Borough Market in an open air car park on Southwark Street. It was the only space we could find that was big enough - and was affordable (it is a charity event). In terms of organisation and planning, both were a very light touch. Vikki got our food and coffee guys on board and liaised with the venue owners. All I had to do was plan the route and lead the ride. ...And make a rousing speech. IMG_8694 IMG_8298 We rode a simple route of all left turns (except one at Westminster Palace) starting with an amble over Tower Bridge before heading east along the river on the north side, crossing over at Albert Bridge, and then coming all the back on the south side of the river. It sounds simple, and it's only about 14 miles, but with around 100 junctions, roundabouts and dozens of turns, even on a Sunday the traffic was backed-up and there were roadworks for the new Cycle Super Highway. If were were to simply follow the rules of the road we knew we'd get broken up and it would take well over an hour. Loads of people got lost, despite the half dozen marshals leading packs of a couple of hundred each, and there were bikes returning for an hour after the leaders got back. IMG_8730 IMG_8774 There are bound to be dozens of stories out there that we haven't heard yet, of breakdowns, lost riders, deeds of gallantry, etc, but the big story was that we had an amazing day out with 1400 of the nicest bikers you could hope to ride with. As a whole, the England Rides brought in £177,457, third biggest, out of a global $2,145,545 raised (and counting). IMG_7874 DGR2013 88 Huge Congratulations to Michael Butler for the biggest individual raise for the London Ride, bringing in £4,260 - Michael was overall 1st in the UK, and 5th globally. Well done also to "Doc GB DGR Riders 2015" who were the 9th biggest team, worldwide. IMG_8783 IMG_7883 Huge thanks also to those who helped marshal, especially Bruce Carter, Alex Bagenal, Loïc Guerin, Kristina Vladi, Ian Harrison, Tony Walters, Jason King, Gareth Charlton, Daniel Edward Tredant, Nick Reading, Richard Gunn, Mark Devonald, Emma Shackelford, Simon Ricketts and many others, esp those who led small packs, ...and of course Vikki van Someren. IMG_8890 IMG_8810Photos by Mihail Jershov
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