For teenagers focused on having a good time and riding cool motorbikes, the tough realities of suicide and prostate cancer are probably the last things on their mind.
“When you’re younger you don’t really think about those things,” says 52-year-old David Bowler, who in his youth fixed old bikes and sold them for a pretty penny as a pastime in his Southern California neighbourhood.
Dressed in a dapper blue suit-jacket, 64-year-old Kiwi David Littlejohn, 64, nods in agreement. “I didn’t discuss [those issues] growing up but I certainly have in the last 10 to 15 years because I’ve got four buddies who are all affected,” he says.
Bowler and Littlejohn, along with a host of other riders, will be revving their engines next Sunday to address health and mental health-related issues by participating – as they have every year so far – in the third Phnom Penh Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.
Part of a global charity event in partnership with the Movember Foundation, the ride aims to raise money and awareness for suicide and prostate cancer – two of the leading causes of death among men. Last year the ride raised $3.6 million globally, about $6,000 of which came from Cambodia.
“All of a sudden you can use something you loved as a kid as a tool to promote something that matters,” Bowler, who plans on riding his BMW R100, says of the ride, which features a procession of sponsored riders following the instruction to dress “dapperly”. On top of the good cause, the ride helps to build community, says Littlejohn, who will be taking his Triumph Thruxton out for a spin.
And it’s a community that is open to men and women of any background. This will be the third year participating for 24-year-old Run “Maggie” Puthkunthea, and her second as a rider.
“I didn’t know what it was at first. There’s nothing like it in Cambodia,” she says, noting that she first discovered the ride on Facebook. Bikeless her first year, she supported the event as a photographer.
“I’ve always been into cars and bikes,” she says. So she saved up and last year rode with a café racer – a type of lightweight motorcycle with low handlebars harkening back to 1960s racing bakes. The purchase would no doubt have driven her parents up the wall had they known, she says.
“My parents had no idea, I used my own money and hid it inside the garage of the mechanic,” she says with a laugh. Unfortunately, she had to sell her bike to help pay for family medical expenses but she’ll be proudly sporting a red 50cc classic Honda scooter. By raising awareness and sharing photos of her rides on social media, she hopes to catch the attention of other Cambodian women.
“Women are interested,” she says, adding “they just need the guts” to come out and ride.
She’ll be among 83 other riders who have signed up so far, with $3,200 committed and counting.
For details on how to participate in the Phnom Penh ride on September 24, or to sponsor a rider, go to www.gentlemansride.com. There is also a fundraiser after-party with a charity auction beginning at noon at The Mansion.