More than 1,000 leather-clad philanthropists straddled motorcycles and left Liberty Park Sunday morning, beginning the 37th Annual Harley Davidson Wendover Ride to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The annual ride, which attracts riders from throughout Utah and neighboring states, last year raised $33,000 for muscular dystrophy, and officials hope to exceed that figure this year, organizer Joe Timmons said.Riders sought pledges of at least 5 cents a mile for the 127-mile ride to Wendover. The top money-raiser will take home an $8,600 Harley Davidson motorcycle, said Timmons, a local Harley Davidson dealer and sponsor.

Many bikers said the the event not only supports a good cause but also presents an opportunity to rev their engines and spend a day gliding across the West Desert with hundreds of other riders.

"It's the camaraderie," said Salt Lake biker Ted Press, a retired Hercules Inc. worker who has participated in the ride for seven years.

"You look around and see a lot of different people with a lot of different machines and a lot of different lifestyles . . . The muscular dystrophy ride is a catalyst to bring these people together," he said.

Bikers hardly fit the image of Jerry Lewis singing in front of a bank of telephones at his annual fund-raiser for the disease. But nevertheless, the riders share a sense of philanthropy, Press said.

"The biker image has a lot of negative connotations but I've ridden with Hell's Angels and clubs all over the country and they're all nice guys . . . They may look a little rough, but they're nice guys," Press said.

Utah Highway Patrol troopers, Salt Lake police officers and Salt Lake County deputy sheriffs also rode in the event, for fund-raising and law-enforcing purposes, UHP Lt. Norm Steen said.

"The guys are really cool, we've never had any problems," Steen said. "Oh, they like to go a little fast, once in a while, but that's the only thing."

Hundreds of motorcycles, some slung low, ornately painted and shining with chrome that reflected bikers clad in black leather lined a road in Liberty Park just before the start of the ride.

"Just walk up and down here and get the feeling, if you will, of all this machinery. Every one has got its own personality," Press said.