Motorcycle Club Primer

I wrote the below blog post years ago during my HOG Chapter Directorship. I wasn’t sure if the topic was appropriate for me to write about. I could be completely off base. It’s not like I am an expert on the subject of Motorcycle Clubs. I don’t belong to one so who am I to write about them. But on the other hand this is geared toward people who are not in a motorcycle club and I think that what I have written here is correct, at least for the local area in which I reside. So I am finally publishing it after years of it sitting in my draft folder. 

As the Director of a HOG Chapter and a person obsessed with motorcycles maybe I should write a primer for Riding Club members regarding Motorcycle Clubs. It has been suggested to me that I write such a document or give a presentation on the topic for my HOG Chapter. I decided against doing that. In most cases what people don’t know won’t hurt them. I do not want to scare off any new HOG members nor do I want to focus on anything other than the HOG mantra: Ride and Have Fun. I also feel it is not my responsibilty as Director to educate people who have entered into a sport without taking the time to learn about it’s history, protocol and culture. That’s on them. As Director I provide them with fun things to do. However this blog is a different story; this is an educational platform.

When you buy a motorcycle, ride a motorcycle, go to motorcycle events and join a motorcycle organization like HOG you cross over into a new world. In this world you will likely cross paths with members of Motorcycle Clubs and therefore you should be familiar with biker protocol. If this is new to you and you are learning this here then it is fair to say you are a newbie to motorcycling. Being that you are a newbie and club culture started years ago then it is also safe to say this is their world and you are entering their arena.  When entering the biker community it is important that you show everyone respect and that you be yourself. Do not try to act like a biker, a bad ass or someone you are not. Be real. Do not wear motorcycle attire to create a new persona or to create a false image. Motorcycling is about respect and integrity. Being honest and genuine is key to earning the respect of others.

“Motorcycle Club” is the term used to designate an exclusive organization that is a brotherhood that adheres to a special set of rules. Members have to earn the right to become a member. New members enter into a probationary period and are voted on. MC’s are not open to the public. You can not sign up or buy your way in. These clubs are territorial and have a special set of rules. The existence of the term “Motorcycle Club” in meaning a territorial club that adheres to special rules automatically excludes other clubs from also being a “motorcycle club”. Motorcycle riding organizations that are not MC’s are considered “Riding Clubs”. A HOG Chapter is a HOG Chapter and that is the best way to define a HOG Chapter. It is not a club. 

You can not sign up or buy your way into an MC. You simply can not sign a form and buy a patch like you can in a factory sponsored organization like an owners group. You have to be invited to enter into a probationary period during which time you would prove that you are worthy of joining the specific brotherhood (or sisterhood). The club members will have to vote on allowing new members into the brotherhood. Prospects who are found to be loyal, trustworthy, and can represent the club responsibly and be counted on when a brother is in need will become members or “patch holders.”

New members of an MC will receive a vest with the club’s three piece patch sewn on. It is usually a denim vest with the sleeves cut off and is called a “cut” and also called their “colors”. The cut is club property. Wearing a club’s colors is an honor and club members will defend that honor at all costs. The vest and patches symbolise everything the club stands for. Do not touch someone’s cut! Do not touch a club members patch! This is considered a sign of disrespect. It’s best just not to touch people you don’t know.

If you patronize a business establishment that has a “no colors” policy you should remove your riding vest even if it isn’t a club cut. To go ahead and wear your vest when they can’t wear theirs would be a show of disrespect.

Show all patch holders respect. They earned it through the probationary period and sacrifices they made in order to wear their patch. They represent their club and showing a patch holder respect or disrespect is the same as showing respect or disrespect to his entire club.

Do not call someone you do not know “Brother”. The term “brother” is reserved for members of the brotherhood. If you belong to the same club you are brothers. If you are not a member of the same club than you should be careful using that term. A patch holder could be offended if someone outside his club referred to him as brother.

Most traditional clubs do not allow women to be members. Their member’s wives and girlfriends may wear a special “Property Of” vest. This vest will have patches designating the women as “property of” that member. Modern day women might find this repulsive. You don’t have to take everything so literal and you don’t have to like their practices! These bikers are not cavemen. They do not own, trade and sell these women. Their relationships are the same as ours. The vest is a symbol of their relationship just like your wedding ring, engagement ring or other sentimental item you have that represents your partnership. You should respect their traditions and keep your opinion to yourself if you have an issue with it. You have nothing to gain by making any snide remarks about their cultural practices that you know little about.

Motorcycle Clubs are not gangs although the police and government may label them as such. Obviously not all clubs members are outlaws. There are both law abiding three piece patch holders and outlaw patch holders. Some MC’s are made up of just law enforcement officers, some are just for fire fighters and others are just for military. There are many “Outlaw” motorcycle clubs. Many clubs adopt the “lifestyle” and in doing so no longer live by the rules and laws that confine most citizens. Instead they make their own rules like they did back in the wild west. If they have a problem they don’t call the police. They handle it their way which in itself is against the law and thus “outlaw”. Are Motorcycle Clubs criminal? The only people who know the answer to this are members of the specific  clubs. For us to try to identify which are which would be futile. The police are having a tough time figuring it out so you probably will not be able to figure it out. As a biker you should assume all bikers are good decent people; but be aware patch holders are a special breed. They answer to a different set of standards, they usually keep to themselves and they will not wave back at you on the road. As bikers we travel in the same circles. We need to coexist. So respect everyone and take the time to learn about the biker culture if you are going to ride on two.

Oh, one more piece of advice… I don’t recommend wearing Sons of Anarchy clothing that makes it look like you think you are a member of a real MC if you are not. You might think the MC lifestyle ended in the 60’s and the violence depicted on television is pure fiction… but you could be wrong and someone might decide to educate you.

One final word on the topic. If you are a member of a one or two piece patch organization like HOG you do not add a bottom rocker to your vest. A bottom rocker patch violates the copyright law on how the HOG patch is to be displayed and having a bottom rocker can possibly put you in danger.

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