Living in the Minnesota Arrowhead, I truly appreciate the ample dirt riding opportunities in the area. The region boasts remote forest roads that deliver some of the most scenic lakes, bluffs, logging camps and historical sites in the State. Always a new dirt road to explore and never enough time to do it! Most of the time, these forest roads are enjoyed with limited company or none at all. A pressure washer knocks the mud off the bike, in an unceremonious culmination to the day’s ride.
But on occasion, I find myself looking for a ride with a little less dirt and a little more refinement, socializing and character. Elegance even. A ride that warrants a fresh coat of deodorant and a clean pair of socks. A ride that ends at a friendly neighborhood pub, where other riders congregate. You get the idea, something a little less dirty and a little more refined, a little more dapper.
It was early September when my friend Blake noticed the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was taking place in both Minneapolis and Duluth. As vintage bike nuts, we decided the ride would be a nice change of pace from the hermit-like riding existence we’d had all summer.
For those who aren’t familiar with the DGR, it’s a charity event hosted in 220 cities and 57 countries around the world to raise money for men’s health. The DGR was originally started with “proper” British bikes and cafe racers in mind, but has expanded to include anyone willing to dress up and cruise the town in gentrified style. Riders from around the world take to the streets on September 28th to celebrate vintage motorcycles, men’s health and finer things.
Allow me to digress good Sir. Not only was the DGR a great change of pace, it was also my chance at redemption. You see, back in July, I attempted to ride my ‘64 Triumph T100SS to Duluth to attend the Bring Out Your Dead Rally. Unfortunately pilot error led to fowled plugs and carbonized points, just miles from the Duluth city limits. The memory still haunts me, while I was huddled on the side of the road trying to get spark from the weak 6 volt electrical system, riders on vintage iron leisurely rode by, waving as they gloriously loped into Duluth. Humiliation. After walking back to my truck, I loaded the bike and headed for home. Though just miles from the rally in a perfectly running Chevy, I was too ashamed to show up to the Dead Rally with a bike in tow. So I went home, but I was committed to fixing the ignition system and enjoy what was left of the riding season on the Triumph.
Fast forward a couple months and there we were making our way to the Duluth DGR. In our finest sport coats and ties, Blake and I cruised the Scenic North Shore Highway from Two Harbors down towards Duluth’s waterfront. Along Old Highway 61, I was able to keep the T100SS in the sweet spot of its rev range, purring along nicely at 50mph. It ran like a dream! Redemption at last! Blake’s XS750 was also running strong after a recent carb overhaul. The weather was a beautiful 74 and sunny. Perfect weather and great running bikes! Who could ask for more? First stop of the ride was at some scenic shoreline along Lake Superior.
This year the Duluth DGR was organized by Michael Manthey of Motorcycles and Gear – Up North. A local independent bike shop owner, he’s a real enthusiast. Honestly, I don’t usually enjoy group rides, especially with unknown riders, but thanks to Michael’s direction and route planning, the DGR was a relaxed ride and went down without an issue. Meeting near Leif Erickson Park in downtown Duluth, we road through Canal Park then off to West Duluth. From there, up we went to Duluth’s scenic Skyline Drive and finally diving towards the Lake Superior shore at Sir Ben’s Pub for a cold one. It was a quick 40 minute ride, but the sunny weather, eclectic bunch of bikes and hilarious group of riders, made the event well worth attending!
What we didn’t take into account, was how ridiculous we’d look if one of us happened to break down, or God forbid, require a bump start from the other. Well of course, this is exactly what happened on our way home. There I was, pushing Blake’s XS down Superior Avenue in a full suit and tie, trying to breathe life into the café racer while trying to catch my own breath.
I’m pretty sure there is a law of physics that states, a stubborn vintage motorbike will not start until the rider sweats through at least one of his shirts as he attempts to kick start the unwilling machine. I don’t fully understand it’s relation to Dark Matter and the Unified Theory, but it proved correct that day.
Eventually we made it home. All in all, the day was a success! The DGR was a blast and definitely worth attending next year. The T100SS ran flawlessly, and I was reminded just how rewarding a vintage bike can be. The ’64 Triumph is all tuned up and running strong, just in time for winterization.