Here’s a thought: imagine how difficult it would be to convince a sloth, better yet a drunk sloth, to go for a bike ride. That would be pretty tricky right? It would be lying there, semi-conscious, eyes drooping, perhaps drooling, not really seeing the appeal of it – the most convincing arguments would fall on deaf ears. Well, not to point fingers but certain members of TGAC are similarly difficult to mobilise (cough* Duncan cough*).
A few months ago we heard through the grapevine of a worldwide congregation of like-minded gentlemen. Gentlemen who are happy to put their doubloons behind a good cause, who relish the opportunity to get decked out in head-to-toe 3-piece tweed suits, smoke pipe tobacco, drink whisky neat, wax moustache tips and say words like “spiffing”. Most importantly though, gentlemen who have a particular taste for classic-styled motorcycles. In short, we had heard of the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride.
The DGR is an international event where riders around the world raise funds for research into prostate cancer and then, in celebration, organise a one-day ride through cities across the globe whilst dressed in their most dapper gear, atop their most dashing steeds – clearly a great way to combat the often negative stereotype of men on motorcycles. This year, 258 cities across 57 countries were involved, whether they liked it or not, for riders who between them had raised over 900,000 smackerooneys. Truly spiffing stuff.
Given TGAC’s ambitions for 2-wheeled exploration, this event seemed to us like the perfect launch party. Richard signed himself up to join the ride immediately and proceeded to hound Duncan and Cal to do the same (these two having both recently passed their CBTs, allowing them to endanger other road users whilst on motorcycles). As it turned out, Cal wouldn’t be free to join the cavalcade on this year’s ride, but Duncan’s diary that weekend was as clear as a Scottish summer’s day. And yet, his registration was put off and put off… The hounding for him to sign up continued but still there was no registration forthcoming. It continued further but to no avail. Eventually, even though Cal couldn’t make it, he also joined in with the hounding – although this was probably just to try and stop Richard’s hounding. Suffice to say, there was an awful lot of hounding going on.
Two days before the ride the stars aligned and, low and behold, Duncan signed himself up for the ride. But then the stars decided to un-align themselves because, on the day before the ride, Duncan’s first rugby match at his new club happened. But how could this have been disastrous, you might ask? Was he injured? Did he suffer a sharp blow to the bonce? Nay, none of the above. In fact, he played so well and consequently was forced to imbibe such vast quantities of ethanol after the match that walking into his room the next morning to wake him up for the ride at 8am was like walking into a sauna after some miscreant has relieved himself on the hot coals. In other words, highly inadvisable! And so, 50% drunk and 100% excited like schoolboys, TGAC headed on down to London Bridge to represent themselves alongside the other 600 riders taking part in the London ride that day.
Arriving was like a scene from Fast & Furious 2, where 100s of drivers lean menacingly against their cars, eyeballing each other in slow motion, surrounded by their hareems and revving their engines loudly – except swap the cars for motorcycles; swap the menacing gangsters for giddy late 20s and early 30s men dressed in tweed and chin-wagging like excited schoolgirls; swap the hareems for yet more giddy late 20s and early 30s men dressed in tweed and chin-wagging like excited schoolgirls; and swap the revving of engines for… actually no, we’ll need to keep that in this image because there was still an awful lot of engine revving activity going on.
Combining 1) the beautiful bird song that is the raw sound of 600 motorcycles with cut down pipes and no baffling revving sonorously in the heart of London at 9am with 2) Duncan’s hangover, was upsetting for Duncan and caused him to reflect on his enthusiastic antics of the previous evening for 5 minutes by the riverside…
But this soon passed as we realised that we were standing in a veritable petrol-head heaven – the display on offer was a feast for the eyes and the ears as 600 cafe racers, scramblers, brats, bobbers, choppers, scooters and even a 3-wheeler lined up before our eyes, idling pleasantly or ripping out a throaty roar. The craftsmanship on some of these was truly admirable. In some cases, even nearing the finesse with which Teedie was prepared for her African exploration – often close, but no cherry cigar.
Of course, there could only be one (or two) belles of the ball – Teedie’s two younger sisters and, as it happened, our rides for the day… (apprecaited, that reads a little oddly).
So, after gawking at all these metal models for a while and banishing the remainder of Duncan’s hangover with the help of some incredible grub from a Turkish restaurant on Borough High Street, we noticed that all the other riders were beginning to mount up. It was clearly go-time. Having collected a few pearls of wisdom in our day, we concluded that it would be best if we just joined on to the back of the cavalcade since a) we didn’t have a clue where we were supposed to be going and b) this was probably around the 3rd time Duncan had ever been on his motorcycle – not the ideal combination to lead 600 throttle-happy riders on a two hour ride around London. So this is exactly what we did.
Queueing up at the very very back, we began to get very very excited, grinning through our helmets and adding the din of our own revving engines to the stampede of other bikes that were firing up and congregating in the street, ready to pull out. We sat there, trying to yell at each other through our helmets and over the roar but, in all likelihood, not hearing each other in the slightest. Five minutes went by and we began to wonder why everyone had turned their engines off. Then, to our surprise, a man came running down the pavement signalling for everyone turn around, which they duly did but without a minimum of hassle (hundreds of bikes packed into a street like sardines in a tin do not just spin 180 degrees without what we might call “a kerfuffle”). It turned out that everyone had lined up facing the wrong way down a one-way street. You may or may not have realised this yet but that meant that we had magically become the very very front of the 600 strong cavalcade! Still a few pearls of wisdom left to harvest in this world then, it would seem.
The photographers were lined up, the cameras were rolling, the crowds were cheering, the bikes were lined up stretching back off of our rear wheels – as if it had been organised specifically for TGAC! What a feeling. We kicked into gear and rolled off the line, straight into a tunnel beneath a bridge and started revving the cylinders off our bikes. It sounded like the inside of a lion’s throat when it roars… like a swarm of giant killer bees had descended on London… or the devil farting… it’s kind of hard to describe ok, but you get the idea. Heads turned, cars pulled in, children pointed with their mouths agape as we thundered out onto Tooley Street and over Tower Bridge. What we’re trying to drag out here is the point that it was completely awesome. Everybody on the same page? One more time, “awesome”. Hopefully that’s fairly clear now.
The route took us Westward along Embankment, past Parliament and then further West. Despite Richard having lived in London for 4 years now, he still has the sense of direction of an infant child when anywhere further West than Jubilee Walk. So all we can tell you now is that we went over a few more bridges, round some roundabouts, jumped some speedbumps and then obviously did a U-turn somewhere along the way because things started looking familiar again after about an hour and three quarters as we yo-yo’ed back towards the East and the Shard came into view.
We did make a few pit-stops along the way, just enough time let the stragglers catch up and to get some snaps of us looking non-chalant and as if we knew what on earth we were up to – worryingly similar to the Africa trip in many ways…
But by the time we made it back to Borough Market and crossed the finish line we were just about ready to call it a day anyway – 2 hours of stop-start riding through London and roughly an entire hour of engine revving leaves a bike hotter than a Kazakh Banya, and leaves the rider on top not much cooler. When we jumped off the bikes, we tore our jackets off before even thinking of removing our helmets and asked each other if the sweaty patches were visible on the backs of our shirts. On first inspection, the answer was no, don’t sweat it, not at all. However, on closer inspection, the answer was “aha, it’s actually uniformly damp across the whole shirt so it’s camouflaged out”, quickly followed by a discussion of whether or not we could feel it deep down in our plums.
We’re fairly sure that it’s universally accepted that the solution to this kind of problem is actually to get a steaming hot cup of coffee down your gizzard as fast as humanly possible and so we followed that advice to the ‘t’ on this occassion. We’re also fairly sure that two Scots complaining about the weather in London in September being just “too damn hot” is unlikely to be a first, but it was sure as anything a pleasant way to finish off a pleasant day. If we had one take-away though, it was this: next year TGAC is going to have to up its game, turn up in full force and in full tweed to represent the club in proper fashion. Mind you, that is if we can hound certain team members into signing up again…
For the raw sounds of unedited bikes, click here.
By the way, none of these videos are ours, so all credit to those who made them.
Until next time.