Lahore-Mark hawwa is the founder of Distinguished Gentlemen Ride which was founded initially in Sydney, Australia. Mark started Sydney Cafe’ Racers 5 years ago as a social riding group in order to unite one mind motorcycle riders of classic and custom motorcycles. DGR was brought to life as a way to connect the local and global scenes for a bit of fun and theatre whilst supporting a great cause with dapper gentlefolk upon their classic and vintage styled motorcycles.

He was inspired by a photo of Mad Men’s Don Draper astride a classic bike and wearing his finest suit. Mark decided a themed ride would be a great way to struggle the often-abrogating stereotype of men on motorcycles, whilst connecting niche motorcycle communities together. For all those who do not know about distinguished gentlemen ride DGR is an international charity event for classic and vintage styled motorcycles that raises awareness and funds for Movember Foundation men’s health programmes. It’s slowly becoming one of the most powerful waged people motorcycle fundraising campaigns for prostate cancer research, while at the same time raising international awareness among people.

In 2012, he decided to start DGR which was a small event with only 2,500 individuals in 64 cities. Just a year after the first ride 145 cities worldwide participated in the second ride. In 2013, over 11,000 participants in 145 cities around the world raised over $277k (US) for prostate cancer research. In 2014, over 20,000 participants in 257 cities in 58 countries raised over $1.5M (US) for prostate cancer research. In 2015, over 37,000 participants in 410 cities in 79 countries raised over $2.3M (US) for prostate cancer research. In an exclusive interview with The Nation he talks about his career and success. Following are excerpts of the interview:

What inspired you to establish Distinguished Gentlemen Ride?

I initially started Sydney Cafe’ Racers 5 years ago as a social riding group to unite likeminded motorcycle riders of classic and custom motorcycles. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was brought to life as a way to connect the local and global scenes for a bit of fun and theatre whilst supporting a great cause with dapper gentlefolk upon their classic and vintage styled motorcycles, all riding together on the last Sunday in September.

In 2012, the DGR was a small event with only 2,500 individuals in 64 cities. Just a year after the first ride 145 cities worldwide participated in the second ride. How did you accomplish the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in a short span of time and how was your experience?

Social media was the key to uniting and organising the volunteer ride hosts and participants, and as a way of marketing the event at virtually no cost. I made some great friends and networks over the year that quickly become volunteer ride hosts, as they also had the passion and the drive to support the charity event. The rest of it was achieved by working very long hours managing a Global Gentleman’s Ride Facebook page as well as hundreds of local event pages in the lead up to the rides themselves. As it is always said hard work is never easy however it is very rewarding when you know that you have contributed to saving lives.

Is the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride open to all genders? Do I have to raise money to take part in it?

Yes, we certainly encourage women to participate as they are affected whenever their partners, fathers, brothers, friends and family are struck down with prostate cancer and depression.

Our event has always been free to enter and participate; however, we do encourage people to dig into their pockets to make a small donation to themselves as it is a great way to motivate their networks to do so too.

Your goals are to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, especially prostate cancer research and suicide prevention. What else do you want to achieve through Distinguish gentle men’s ride?

Saving lives is the biggest goal and the reason DGR aligned itself with charity in the first place. If we can encourage more men to actively seek help to monitor their health in any way shape or form, then we are achieving exactly what we set out to do while looking good.

How the funds are distributed and where does the fundraising go exactly?

The funds are donated to charity partner The Movember Foundation, which helps us to distribute 90% of the funds to prostate cancer research programs and 10% to male suicide prevention programs. There are various programs globally that the funds will be distributed to, which gives us the best chance to develop cures and processes that will be shared when breakthrough’s occur on a world wide scale. Everyone benefits this way.

Only vintage and classic style bikers are invited to participate in the event. What the reason behind it.

There are a large number of open events that currently exist for all bike styles, however we felt that in keeping with the image of Don Draper upon the Matchless that originally inspired me in the first place, we needed to stick to bikes that resemble the era that it represented. By keeping the event themed, it also helps to ensure that the rides are kept smaller and more manageable for our volunteer ride hosts. In doing so we reduce the risks of events being closed down by authorities should they increase dramatically in size. For us it’s more important to keep the event going long term rather then become a victim of its own success and getting shut down due to the number of participants taking part. It also ensures that our rides are safer for the general community and participants.

You pride yourselves on getting new bike members on two wheels; do you have any great success stories to share?

I definitely don’t pride myself on that. As a result of the event people become riders. However I personally don’t try and motivate people to ride, I don’t believe anyone should motivate people to ride, it’s a personal choice and it’s a dangerous one.

How long have you been riding motorcycles? What do you love about motorcycles and where is your favorite place to ride?

I’ve been riding for a little over 6 years now as a spur of the moment thing. I simply jumped out of bed one day and decided I wanted to ride. I fell in love with Café Racer styled bikes from some time I spent in Japan. I love the fact that I am in control and that the bike and I become one piece of machinery that can take me anywhere. Its an amazing feeling. I love the different styles of racing and the feeling of getting that knee down on a race track. My favourite places to ride are a mix, for instance I love some of the national parks here in Australia and the amazing twisty roads they have but I also loved doing the Himalayas last year. Two very different styles of riding

Why do these vintage and classic motorcyclists wear dapper suit and ride their bikes on DGR events? Any secret behind it.

For many reasons, either for charity, for awareness, some have been affected by prostate cancer or depression; some just love their bikes and use this as an opportunity to bring them out! By making sure the event happens exclusively on one day a year, the last Sunday in September, we give people a reason to mark it in their calendars as the event to take part in. If it where held more than once a year, it would quickly lose momentum.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride 2016 event is coming soon in Pakistan. It’s slowly becoming one of the most influential grassroots motorcycles fundraising campaigns for prostate cancer research and raising global awareness among people. What would you like to say on this success?

I think it’s amazing that Pakistan is a part of the event and doing so well in the fundraising! As a matter of fact, out of 90 countries participating, Pakistan is currently the 16th highest nation when it comes to fundraising, with $7.9K USD raised so far and counting. That is huge!

What response did you get from Pakistan DGR event?

A fantastic one judging by the 323 registered participants and the excellent number of donations that they raised. In less than a week we will see how successful it was!