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Motorcyclists trade leather for tweed this weekend to raise money for men’s health

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride returns to Tampa Bay as local motorcyclists join a worldwide run to raise money for men’s health charities.

Motorcyclists across Tampa Bay Sunday will be trading in their leather for tweed as they participate in the 2019 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.

The annual event, started in 2013, brings together more than 100,000 riders in 650 cities across 102 countries to raise money for men’s health issues. Last year’s ride made more than $6 million globally.

In Tampa last year, almost 300 riders raised $44,000, one of the largest of Florida’s ride. A sea of motorcycles surged through St. Pete and across the Bayside Bridge into Safety Harbor, then across to Tampa where the ride wrapped at Armature Works. Riders with finely groomed mustaches, quaffed hair and more tweed than a Cambridge University faculty meeting rode vintage Vespas, Triumphs, Urals and host of other vintage-inspired bikes.

Tampa Bay riders participate in the 2018 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. [Mari Sabra]

This year’s ride, again hosted by Tai Truong and friends from Ronin Vintage, aims to be bigger than ever. The ride details are available only to participants, but this year features a block party at the Royal Palm Market outside of St. Petersburg’s Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails, complete with a rockabilly band and maker’s market that’ll run from noon to 4 p.m.

“I was just starting at Tampa Triumph last year, so I didn’t have full support. This year they’ve helped in paying for a band, video and photographer,” Truong said. "Usually at the end point, we eat and disperse. I wanted to make it an after-party for the riders but also for families to come down who didn’t participate to come check out bikes.”

Riders head through St. Petersburg's Edge District during the 2018 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. [Mari Sabra]

Truong and his family moved to the bay area from Vietnam in 1976. He looked up to his older brother, Devon, who helped get him into vintage motorcycles. Together, the two helped cultivate a scene for vintage bikes and cafe racers in downtown St. Pete and across the bay area. When Devon died shortly after a stage 4 liver cancer diagnosis in 2014, Truong took it hard, but motorcycles became a way to keep his brother’s memory alive.

“The Distingushed Gentleman’s Ride always comes a month after the anniversary of his passing. So I really push it in Tampa Bay,” he said. Maybe that’s why we do so well. I don’t know. It took sometime getting back on two wheels. Now that I’m back on, there is nowhere to look but forward."

It’s not too late to register and ride, he added. More information is available at gentlemansride.com.

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