You’ve just got a motorcycle? Your first? Then you must know the next logical step, according to the movies, is to join a motorcycle club! No doubt that’s why you bought that bike in the first place!
But the world of motorcycle clubs is a dangerous minefield (if we may mix metaphors). You join what you think is a carefree band of motorcyclists, and before you know it, you’re throwing pipe bombs into the windows of your cross-town rivals! Or even worse, going on charity runs, collecting teddy bears for sick children!
To help you avoid those grim fates, we’ve put together the following highly factual look at the world of motorcycle clubs.
Outlaw clubs are also known as one-percenters, as they’re the one per cent of motorcyclists who never bathe or change their clothes.
These are the stereotypical brutal gangs that use big V-twins to ride around town dealing drugs, planting car bombs, and collecting protection money, or so say the cops.
The one-percenters use the proceeds of their alleged criminal activities to pay for the swanky vests they all wear. Embroidery doesn’t come cheap these days!
Outlaw biker clubs should have a hard time recruiting new members; once you join up, you’re guaranteed to be hassled by The Man at every turn. That would take a lot of fun out of motorcycling, you’d think.
However, every few years, an outlaw biker movie or TV franchise glamorizes the lifestyle, attracting new disciples. It all looks good on screen, with loose chicks and easy money. Too bad they don’t warn you about the STDs, and about your “brothers” shooting you in the back because they don’t like your style.
Support clubs are sort of like farm teams to the bigger outlaw clubs. If you want to climb the ladder, this is where you do it, by doing petty crimes and other nefarious stuff. It all sounds like an easy career, with guaranteed big money once the big-league gangs sign you to a lifetime contract. The reality is, these chumps are the first to take the fall when law enforcement comes snooping around. The thing about being a foot soldier is, you’re expendable. But at least you can get your cellmate to give you a cool “Born to Lose” tattoo.
Emergency response personnel clubs
Speaking of law enforcement, didja know they have their own clubs? Some of these police riding clubs are pretty square, and they ride around looking for little old ladies to help across the streets. Then there are the other ones, who have fistfights and shootouts with the one-percenters. Hrm.
Of course, paramedics have their own clubs, too, and firefighters. You can tell a firefighter club because they all drive the speed limit, not a klick over. This is to stop them from being pulled over by their longtime professional rivals, the police, and being asked “Where’s the fire?” Hose-haulers find this incredibly irritating.
Well, we only know of one of these clubs, but it gets a lot of press — it’s been featured on VICE, in books, magazines, you name it. The world’s most famous fight club/motorcycle club is the East Bay Rats, a bizarre club in Oakland, California, that hosts (in)famous fight nights at its clubhouse, along with other socially iffy events like wild pig hunts and automobile destruction parties. East Bay Rat fight nights have included such diverse themes as Jews vs: Christians (to determine if the club would have a Hanukkah party, or a Christmas party), or Locals vs. Gentrifiers, or Punks vs. Hipsters. No, we are not making any of this up.
While plenty of riders are involved in small-scale charity work, there are very few organized motorcycle clubs focused 100 per cent on charity. This is because most motorcyclists spend all their money on gas and brake pads and clutch cables and insurance and registration and … you get the idea. Frankly, motorcyclists might be the most needy charity recipients of all, especially with the cost of insurance these days.
While charity work might sound boring, the plus side is that these riders are somewhat rehabilitating the image of motorcycling, balancing out the one-percenters.
The religion that rides together, stays together? Some seem to think so, and it’s not just the stereotypical Christian motorcycle groups on the road these days; Sikhs have their own clubs, as do Muslims. We haven’t heard of any Pastafarian motorcycle clubs, but it’s only a matter of time before it happens. When it happens, we fully expect members to petition politicians for the right to ride with a colander on their head, due to religious conviction.
The original motorcycle clubs were usually men-only. In outlaw clubs, the rules explicitly banned women from joining, as the members were scared their wives would disapprove of all the murder and fistfighting.
Early recreational clubs often focused on racing primitive deathtraps down sketchy tracks, and most women are smart enough to avoid that sort of thing (which is why they live longer than men, on average). Eventually, women wondered why men were having all the fun, and started forming their own groups. None, as far as we know, focus on fistfighting and murder; some do have a keen interest in racing.
There’s nothing quite like being an individual, focused on the freedom of the open road. Doing your own thing, man. Being yourself. If you agree, then you should get a patch for your riding vest that says just that.
And then, go join a club where everyone else wears the same clothes, has the same do-rags, has the same patches on their vests, and drinks their crappy coffee at the same dealership while they wait for the same repairs on the same bikes.
This is more of a thing in larger cities. Why have a club that focuses on stunt riding? Because when you inevitably bin your R6 attempting a superman across the 401, it helps to have a few hands around to get you and your busted bike loaded into a van before the police show up.
Vintage motorcycle clubs
Vintage motorcycles are all good and fine, but nobody on a modern bike ever wants to ride with you. They know they’ll have to two-up you home at night when your Lucas headlight craps out.
The answer is to surround yourself with other motorcyclists on bikes that are hopefully older and even less reliable than your own. Stereotypical vintage bike events include riding down to a pub for a feed of Geritol and Brussels sprouts, and hoping your artificial hip doesn’t give out while you’re kickstarting your Sunbeam afterwards.