Behind bushy beards and trimmed moustaches, it was all smiles at the Australian Motorlife Museum on Sunday morning as Wollongong's dapper gentlefolk kicked off the 2022 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride, but for many of those in attendance, the day is just as serious.
The ride aims to raise awareness and funds for research into prostate and testicular cancer and men's mental health.
Rider Kerry Herbert from Shellharbour knew only too well what an impact testicular cancer can have.
"I lost my first husband after 40 years," she said.
Along with current partner Neil Herbert, the pair had raised $2200 between them, and were only of the over 200 riders at the Wollongong iteration of the global event.
"Last year we had a fabulous ride and this year, we thought we couldn't miss it rain, hail or shine," Mrs Herbert said.
Spreading out to hundreds of cities around the globe since the first ride in Sydney in 2012, the Wollongong ride has been a top performer since 2017, with the event raising the second most of any city in 2021, with a total of over $155,000.
As of this year, riders in the Illawarra had raised over $500,000 cumulatively since the first ride in Wollongong in 2017.
Riding as part of the FCs, Ken Smith said that the day was a wake up call to all in attendance to be aware of their health.
"I didn't think anything was wrong," he said.
After going through treatment, Mr Smith became involved with the ride through his friend Phill Critcher, and now rides in a sidecar attached to Mr Critcher's motorbike.
Not only has the event assisted Mr Smith's mental health as he recovers, Mr Smith said it is a reminder to be proactive with health and treatment.
"All you men that think you don't have it, don't fool yourself, it can sneak up on you."
In attendance at the Wollongong ride was the founder of the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride Mark Hawwa.
Mr Hawwa said the event was originally about breaking stereotypes associated with motorcycle riders, but had evolved to also break stereotypes around men's health.
"The problem that we have is motivating guys to get checked because they still think it's a finger on the backside," Mr Hawwa said. They don't realise it's a blood test and what a great way to break down that macho mentality around around motorcyclists."
All funds raised go towards men's health organisation Movember, and Movember's country director for Australia Rachel Carr, was in Wollongong to see off the riders.
"This event is particularly important to us, because this small coastal town, this amazing event in Wollongong has continued to be right up there as one of the top fundraising events globally," she said.
As the 223 riders headed off to their destination at Club Windang, ride host Jane Sim of City Coast Motorcycles said the ride would have a tangible impact, having collectively raised $150,000.
"Every one of you should be proud of your outstanding efforts because you are helping to save men's lives," she said.
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