Al Best will ride the "Zombie Tracker" for the first time in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. Photo / Michael Craig
When Al Best heads out on the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride (DGR) tomorrow he'll be alongside more than 900 bikers across Aotearoa New Zealand who have raised over $80,000 towards men's health this year. And he'll be riding a new motorbike built just for the occasion.
"The design concept is for a 'Zombie Apocalypse' vehicle," Best says.
"It's a metaphor to get people off the couch and put down their phones and enjoy life through motorcycling."
Dubbed the "Zombie Tracker", Best's motorbike is a custom build based on a Street Scrambler 900 donated by Triumph NZ for the DGR.
Best approached Triumph through his magazine Submachine with the concept to design and build the Zombie Tracker in time for tomorrow's ride.
"They loved the idea, supplied me with the Street Scrambler and left me to it."
The process has been a collaboration of ideas and skills, bringing people together to make it happen, Best says.
"A small community has formed around this motorcycle and my hope is that it draws attention to the DGR, which raises millions of dollars each year for men's health through the Movember Foundation."
A graphic and fine artist, Best is passionate about "art, cars, motorcycles and optimism", things that he describes as "The Community of the Cool". His passion turned into daily reality when he launched Submachine in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
"I was advised against it but the response has been humbling. I have met so many talented people and their stories and feedback from readers have been amazing."
The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride was inspired by a photograph of uber-cool fictional character Don Draper from the TV series Mad Men. Sydneysider Mark Hawwa saw Draper sitting on a 1957 Matchless bike, "wearing his finest suit", and the themed rally connecting motorcycle enthusiasts around the world while raising money "to support the men in our lives" was born.
A decade later, the DGR boasts it has raised more than $50 million with 340,000 riders taking part in 115 countries around the world.
Covid has, of course, marred the picture after the peak of 116,000 riders from 678 cities raised $9.5m in 2019. The 2020 ride was a solo and virtual affair, but last year 65,000 riders took part in limited number events and nearly $6.5m was raised for men's health charities.
For Best, taking part in and supporting events like the DGR is a metaphysical experience.
"Submachine relates to humans being part of the machine. We're all machines, if you like, but without us, the machines don't do anything. They're just inanimate objects.
"Events like the DGR have been good for men of a certain age to reconnect after dedicating their lives to work and raising families. It's good for their mental health.
"The positive mental health benefits seen in the motorcycle community are well documented but I hope to inspire people to seek out creativity where they can. It could be life drawing, basket weaving or a welding course.
"These things are good for the soul."
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