A Real One Off
By Sean Mooney: Ben Bowers is the Global Innovation Lead at the Movember Foundation and a founding member of the ‘One Offs’, a group of guys who have been affected by testicular cancer. But he knows only too well what it’s like to go through cancer diagnosis and treatment without appropriate support.
“I really struggled for four years with depression and anxiety, and I didn’t know anyone I could talk to about it who understood what I was going through,” Bowers explains. “It affected me quite badly and ultimately led to the break-up of my marriage, breakdown and depression. It was a pretty shit time.”
Shit indeed, but the two-time survivor of testicular cancer did eventually meet fellow cancer sufferers through the Movember Foundation and discovered that he wasn’t alone. “I realised that we all shared similar struggles and really lacked any support in the healthcare system,” he says. “They can help you with the treatment side of things, and they’ll tell you about physical side effects of chemotherapy, but they won’t tell you you’ve reached the lowest point of your life mentally and might need some help to find your way through that, which is actually the biggest challenge.”
So, Bowers formed the One Offs with some of the men he met at this time. “It started with everyone getting together for beers, just talking and helping each other, finding out we weren’t alone,” he says. “We realised that were all in it together and had all experienced the same things.”
A Movember ambassador for close to a decade, Bowers has now been working full-time for foundation for more than five years (“when I jumped over and left my career to become a moustache farmer for a living instead”). When he’s not working on gaining traction for cool ideas such as global street art projects and international sporting collaborations, he’s also a member of Movember’s Testicular Cancer Research Advisory Committee, where he brings his “experiences and knowledge of survivorship to the party”.
It was one of the world’s best known bike nuts, actor, adventurer and Full Tank Moto ambassador Charley Boorman, who introduced Bowers to the Movember world. “I met Charley through a mutual friend who said, ‘You like bikes and have had testicular cancer. You should meet Charley, he rides bikes and has had a bollock off as well’. So, he introduced us round at this house one day; we got on well and we’ve been mates ever since.”
So, what does Bowers ride himself? A Harley Davidson Sport Glide is the mount of choice at present, although there’s a Ducati Multistrada in his garage that he’s very partial to. He kickstarted his riding journey more modestly with a Suzuki Bandit 600 in his early 20s, and recalls the day he picked up the bike from his brother-in-law’s place after getting his licence.
“I rode it about 100 yards up the road to the petrol station, filled it up with gas, pulled out of the petrol station and went straight across the road into a hedge,” he laughs. “That was my first crash and it was very minor. I had that Bandit for two or three years, threw it down the road loads in London, fixed it up, then sold it for more than I paid for it, which was quite remarkable.”
A great leveller
Despite this early tangle with topiary, Bowers has loved bikes ever since, and it seems the same passion for bikes can be found at the Movember Foundation. “Motorcycles are really important for us at Movember, because people from all walks of life and all sectors and industries ride motorbikes,” Bowers explains. “It’s a great leveller for people. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, and where you come from, if you ride you’re in the club. From an organisational point view, that’s great because you meet loads of people from different and diverse backgrounds and other sectors open up through motorcycles.
“Also, the demographic of motorcyclists around the world is very much the Movember demographic – people we’re trying to help, fundraise with or just trying to talk to. Men predominantly who are at risk of the things we fight against.”
Bowers sees the relationship between the Movember Foundation and Full Tank as helping with his mission to improve men’s physical and mental health “The altruistic point of difference in the business model is great with Full Tank in that no one in the motorcycle apparel world is doing this,” he says. “Movember has always been a bit disruptive in the way that we approach fundraising and developing programs, so a disruptive motorcycle apparel brand is a great opportunity for us.”
“Beyond that, Scott has created something that is for all motorcyclists and creates a conversation starter through apparel. The opportunity to have that dialogue all year round through Full Tank is really great, so if we can help Scott grow the brand and it does get to the scale that our collective ambitions have set, it will give us a platform to go and do more things, push harder and raise more awareness of men’s health.”
As Bowers puts it, the end goal is to ensure that guys are not only still here and alive after diagnosis and treatment, “but living the happiest and best lives that they can after going through depression, or prostate cancer, or testicular cancer. Perhaps two wheels and a Full Tank could become another way to help us guys along that journey”.