When I was a boy, motorcycles and the people who rode them were still considered a bit second rate. “Bikers” continued to suffer from a lingering reputation of ne’er do-wellness caused by films such as Marlon Brando’s The Wild One, not to mention past events such as those rather unfortunate skirmishes between mods and rockers on Brighton’s seafront.

But to me and a few others serving a long stretch at a Benedictine monastery school, the appeal of motorcycles lay not in stale connotations of flick knives, knuckle dusters, greasy hair and burn ups, but in the almost indefinable thrill of riding them (which we had then yet to really experience) combined with an unashamed love of their aesthetics.

It was the late-1970s, a decade or so before the proliferation of plastic-clad super sports machines saw motorcycle design take a whole new turn – which meant break times (and history lessons, if we could get away with it) were spent poring over magazines such as Bike and Motorcycle Sport.

We ogled the rich chromework of Kawasaki Z1000s, Yamaha RD400s and Suzuki GT750s; admired BMW’s new “smoke effect” paintwork, and marvelled at the exotic nature of the Ducati Darmah and Moto Guzzi’s race replica “Le Mans”.

Similarly, we lusted after Honda’s CB400/Four with its jewel-like engine, gazed in amazement at shots of a Bike tester cornering on the Japanese marque’s seemingly impossible flagship, the CBX (1,000cc and six cylinders – in a motorcycle!) and longed for a set of leathers in Heron Suzuki colours, just like Barry Sheene’s.

At 16, as soon as we could, I and my best bike-mad buddies – Gus Novissimo and Jon Sharp, who later went on to find fame as record producer Jonny Dollar – hit the road on “sports” mopeds before graduating to bigger and better things as soon as the law would allow. We didn’t just love bikes, we were all-out obsessed with them.

But, rather as John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi told him he would never make a living out of playing the guitar, our careers master was more than a little sceptical that we could ever earn a crust from motorcycles.

Well, since I’m sitting here writing about them, I can fairly say he got that wrong. But who could have guessed, 30 years ago, that bikes would travel from the tradesman’s entrance right around to the front door and become not just lifestyle accessories, but luxury lifestyle accessories – on a par, as this article demonstrates, with the rarefied world of high-end watchmaking and all that goes with it.

And anyone who still doubts the elevated status of bikes and biking in the new world order should have been with Team Revolution at the September 2015 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, a truly remarkable event captured to perfection by our brilliant photographer, Amy Shore.

Mad Men style

If you’ve never heard of it, the DGR was established in Australia three years ago by motorcycle fan, marketeer and branding expert Mark Hawwa. Inspired by the sight of Mad Men’s Don Draper dressed in a natty suit and sitting astride a Matchless, Hawwa decided to stage a little ride-out around the streets of Sydney for similarly well-dressed individuals with suitably interesting motorcycles and, having already founded the Australian Cafe Racers Group and the Sydney Throttle Roll custom show, he was fairly confident of success. What he probably couldn’t have predicted, however, was that word of the DGR would spread like wildfire or that, by the time the appointed day arrived, additional rides had been organised in a further 64 cities across the globe.

A second DGR staged in 2013 attracted 11,000 riders from 145 cities; last year’s event drew 20,000 riders from 257 cities – and this year’s topped the lot, with 37,135 riders taking part across 400 cities around the world. The rides, free to enter and staged for fun, also have a serious side in that they give participants the chance to raise fund for medical research into prostate cancer. Following the fun of the day Revolution and Tudor are pleased to announce a donation of £2,000 to Prostate Cancer UK. At time of writing, the 2015 event had clocked-up $2.4 million and counting…

I first participated in the DGR in 2014, and wrote about the experience in Revolution’s pages with, it seems, sufficient enthusiasm to inspire Revolution’s bike-mad founder Wei Koh, to want a piece of this year’s action. Then our old friend Sven Olsen – who runs Tudor here in the UK, and who gamely joined me on last January’s freezing cold, overnight Exeter Trial – jumped at the chance to take part, followed by clothing designer and legendary off-road rider Nick Ashley. A few more quickly threw their hats in to the ring (or should that be pudding basin helmets?) and pretty soon Team Revolution was officially in existence and ready to take part in the London ride.

Sun dance

After the 2014 event – which attracted 700 bikes in glorious weather – I was doubtful that this year’s could possibly match it. But it did, and then some, with an unprecedented turnout of an estimated 1,000 machines, some truly fabulous tailoring and another sun-soaked, late summer’s day.

The assembly point, a large car park off Southwark Bridge Road, was already crammed with machines an hour before the official start at 11am – and, as one observer noted, anyone with a love of motorcycles would willingly have paid an entry fee just to see some of the brilliant creations that had turned out. Olsen’s sleek, 1970s Rickman Honda CB750 cafe racer soon attracted a crowd, while Lava – Koh’s stripped-down, BMW-based street scrambler – drew admiring comments from everyone who saw it.

Next to them, my lean and slightly mean Harley-Davidson Sportster looked a little pedestrian – but it still fitted the DGR brief, which asks (but doesn’t demand) that motorcycles taking part should be of the cafe racer/bobber/flat tracker/street scrambler look. In other words, nothing too off-the-shelf, ordinary or plastic-coated.

The correct riding gear is vital, too, which made Nick Ashley a very handy man to have on board since he was able to kit out some of our riders with decidedly “distinguished” clothing (Koh’s dinner suit and camo jacket ensemble is bound to catch on) while Olsen kindly raided the Tudor store cupboard to ensure our wrists were suitably adorned in North Flags, Black Bays, Fastriders and Heritage chronographs.

Not that timekeeping really mattered – especially since variations in the “official” route quickly saw gaggles of riders heading off in all directions having made the always dangerous mistake of following the person in front “who obviously knows where they’re going”.

After an initial mix-up, Team Revolution soon got back on track and, on the return stretch, stopped off for refreshments at the home of a petrolhead friend who had been observing proceedings from the lofty vantage point of his second-floor drawing room. “I’ve been watching them for nearly an hour,” he said. “It’s an incredible sight – and everyone seems to be smiling.”

And isn’t that a far cry from the bad old days of tearaway rockers and The Wild One?

TEAM REVOLUTION

THE MEN, THE WOMAN, THE MACHINES

Wei Koh, Revolution founder

Bike: 1978 BMW R100/7, extensively modified to “street scrambler” specification by Kevil’s Speed Shop.

Watch: Tudor Heritage Chrono.

Riding gear: Bespoke dinner suit by Cifonelli; Twin Track camouflage jacket by Private White VC.

 

Sven Olsen, Managing Director, Tudor UK

Bike: 1976 Rickman Honda 750 CR Metisse. Honda CB750 engine in hand-built, nickel-plated Rickman frame with polished alloy long-range fuel tank.

Watch: Tudor Heritage Ranger.

Riding gear: Chino trousers by Private White VC; M65 Shackett in olive rip-stock nylon by Private White VC; Ruby carbon-fibre helmet with leather lines – made in Paris to look like a French fireman’s helmet.

 

Simon de Burton, Revolution contributor

Bike: 1995 Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster with 1200cc conversion, Vance and Hines exhaust system and Screaming Eagle tuning parts.

Watch: Tudor Fastrider Chrono (yellow).

Riding gear: “Ventile” Harrington jacket by Private White VC; “Victor” black and yellow silk motorcycle scarf by Private White VC; Davida “pudding basin” helmet.

 

Steve Glasspool, friend of Revolution

Bike: Triumph Speedmaster (loaned by Triumph).

Watch: Tudor Heritage Black Bay.

Riding Gear: Rider’s own vintage tweed.

Neil Fitzgibbon, friend of Revolution and photography bike pilot

Bike: Triumph Bonneville.

Watch: Tudor Heritage Chrono.

Riding Gear: Rider’s own vintage gear.

 

Amy Shore, Revolution photographer extraordinaire

Bike: Shooting from the pillion of a Triumph Bonneville.

Watch: Tudor North Flag.

Riding gear: “Pocket” jacket in cream cotton by Private White VC; Bell Custom 500 helmet in matte orange flake; Baruffaldi Vintaco goggles in black.

Camera: Nikon D750.

 

Marcus Headicar, friend of Revolution

Bike: Triumph Bonneville Newchurch (loaned by Triumph).

Watch: Tudor Fastrider Chrono (red).

Riding Gear: “Pocket” jacket in lovat cotton by Private White VC; Bell Custom 500 helmet.

 

Nick Ashley, Creative Director of Private White VC

Bike: Bespoke Triumph hand-built 35 years ago by stuntman Bud Ekins and frame builder Eric Cheney.

Watch: Tudor North Flag.

Riding Gear: White raw state work gear in undyed, organic cotton by Private White VC.