CMG’s Cynical Guide to Motorcycle Clubs

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

Hunter S. Thompson wrote the book on outlaw bikers, literally, and got stomped for his troubles. Or so he claimed … it’s just as likely he “forgot” to pay for his LSD and methamphetamine.

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

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.

Fight night with the East Bay Rats. We have no idea who to credit for this photo, but we really hope they don’t come and punch us for using it.

Fight clubs

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.

Charity clubs

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.

Is this a photo of a Pastafarian motorcyclist, riding without his colander? Maybe if he organized a club, he could get a helmet exemption.

Religious clubs

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.

Women’s clubs

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.

Just be yourself, bro. And then find a whole pile of other people just like yourself, and form a club, with dues, and a president.

Brand-focused clubs

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.

Stunt clubs

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.

One big advantage of being part of a vintage motorcycle club: you can steal spare parts off your friends when they are not looking. Or so we hear.

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.


  1. %1’ers are at it constantly. It’s mostly territory, but there’s a race/ethnicity barrier too. Used to respect HA’s, till Sonny got out and brought those “Other” clubs in. Ruined them. Feds were actually lightening up on them. Then? Freaking Canada ain’t even safe anymore.

  2. the first 2 pieces on One percenters and the support clubs was generally a load of crap. clearly when writing the article, it was based off of only media outlets. this article was just a load of crap

  3. Watching my dad in Gangland Undercover (playing the role of Lizard) sure gave me pause. That 1-percenter life. Wow. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Not gonn’ be able to do it!”

      • The one and the same. Some of my fondest memories of him were of us out riding together, me on my Daytona Special and him on a very funky Jawa 350 2-smoker with a Velorex sidecar. Between the two of us, the air behind us was awfully blue. His daily rider was a Wide Glide, but that Jawa always seemed to make him grin.

  4. One percenters generally like getting together to share recipes, give each other stitching advice for their vests, and they rub sun tan lotion into each other’s skin tags after long rides in the hot sun.

  5. Well this was a satirical piece for sure . The goal of these clubs, except the one percenter’s, is to add a social aspect to riding , more fun . I say to the author of this article …sounds like you should get out more !

  6. I once had a bike.thought it would be a good idea…First bike ever was a Kawasaki 750 triple..dam near killed myself first week.. totalled the thing first week..never been on a bike since..I have no desire to leave peices of my brain matter all over the road..(and besides the wife would kill me)/

  7. In the immortal words of Groucho Marx, “I wouldn’t belong to a club that would have someone like me as a member.”

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