The average non-motorcyclist probably has a skewed version of motorcycle culture. We at Rider’s Claw thought it might be cool not to speak about our SmartPhone Motorcycle Mounts, but rather share some insight into the varied cultures of motorcycling. Within the scope of motorcycling there are many subcultures that create this vast and exciting passion.
In recent past we have heard news reports that involve violence perpetrated by “motorcycle gangs”. Unfortunately for non-motorcyclists these reports leave a deviant impression of what a motorcyclist really is. We want to share with you a greater image; an image of the varied cultures within the motorcycle community.
It is true that “gangs” exist in motorcycling. Typically these gangs are referred to as 1% clubs or outlaw clubs. Often the members of these clubs have connections to activities that are not savory. As in many cultures, there are always bad apples but this does not mean the entire culture of motorcyclists is deviant. A decent definition listed by Wikipedia is:
“An outlaw motorcycle club (sometimes known as a motorcycle gang, biker gang, or bikie gang (in Australian English) is a motorcycle subculture which has its roots in the immediate post-World War II era of American society. It is generally centered on the use of cruiser motorcycles, particularly Harley-Davidsons and choppers, and a set of ideals which celebrate freedom, nonconformity to mainstream culture and loyalty to the biker group.
In the United States, such motorcycle clubs are considered “outlaw” as they are not sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and do not adhere to the AMA’s rules. Instead the clubs have their own set of bylaws reflecting the outlaw biker culture.”
The phrase “weekend warrior and trailer queen” typically refers to folks that own a motorcycle and tool around on short jaunts in their off work hours. They enjoy motorcycling, being a part of the culture, but is often said they don’t have the full passion of the freedom of the road. In most cases, these folks don’t have a skill set to work on their own machines. Sometimes these folks get a little grief because they are geared from head-to-toe in branded clothing, have super shiny chrome or high end accessories, and for long hauls they often use a trailer to transport their machine rather than riding the distance.
The weekend warrior doesn’t usually belong to any type of motorcycle club because they ride when it suits their schedule rather than make their schedule to suit the ride. These folks aren’t typically trouble makers but as mentioned they get a little grief or chiding from those that consider themselves old skool bikers. They work hard, pay good money for machine and maintenance, and put a lot of money into the motorcycle industry via machine, apparel, and accessories. In large part, these folks put a great deal of money into the motorcycle portion of the economy.
Those that consider themselves “old skool bikers” are typically riding machines that have some age on them, have been tweaked and modified usually by them, and most often ride extreme miles for pleasure or events. In most of these cases the old skool biker may also be called a “gear head” commonly known as a mechanic, or one with knowledge of the mechanics of the machine. These old skool bikers vary in their membership or lack thereof, in motorcycle clubs.
Old skool bikers often have a depth of knowledge in the history of their preferred brand and often even brands across the culture. These bikers usually have weather worn gear, not necessarily brand name. Their machines may have started out as a stock motorcycle but will often have parts and accessories that are not indicative of the original model. These motorcyclists put a great many miles on their machines and are rarely put off by weather conditions. They will go the distance to ride, go the distance to keep their bike running for years, and have a deep-seated passion for the freedom of the ride.
Gypsies or Nomads
Believe it or not there is a decent handful of motorcyclists that give up traditional life and jobs to live on their motorcycles. These gypsies/nomads often find income opportunities by laboring for others as they bounce around and make home wherever they can find a place to lay their head. In most part these nomads are men and are typically pretty good gear heads. But, like me there have been some women that faced this challenging life with or without a great deal of mechanical skill. As nomads we develop skills and resources that allow us to travel by motorcycle, camp and sleep in remote locations like undeveloped wooded areas and abandoned buildings, and truly live to ride every single day.
Given the nature of constantly moving about, the gypsy doesn’t typically belong to any motorcycle club. It might be safe to say that we gypsies are part old skool biker and part crazy! To learn a little more about how I lived a nomad life on my Harley Davidson, you can visit my blog at: www.hdbroad.wordpress.com.
In 1894, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first series production motorcycle, and the first to be called a motorcycle. Since that time, many manufacturers have been creating two and three wheeled motorbikes. And since the inception of the two and three wheeled motorbikes, groups of riders have been assembling in clubs and riding independent of such clubs.
“Most clubs are either organized around a brand or make, or around a type of riding (e.g. touring). Motorcycle clubs vary a great deal in their objectives and organizations. Mainstream motorcycle clubs or associations typically have elected officers and directors, annual dues, and a regular publication. They may also sponsor sports events and annual or more frequent motorcycle rallies where members can socialize.
There are a great many brand clubs, i.e. clubs dedicated to a particular marque, including those sponsored by various manufacturers, modeled on the original brand club, the Harley Owners Group. There are also large national independent motorcycle clubs, for example, the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America. There are also specific clubs for women, such as Women’s International Motorcycle Association, and clubs for lesbians and gays, such as Dykes on Bikes.
Clubs catering for those interested in vintage machines such as the Vintage Motor Cycle Club are also popular as well as those centered around particular venues. Clubs catering for riders’ rights such as the Motorcycle Action Group, and charities like the The Royal British Legion Riders Branch are also popular. Many affiliate with an umbrella organization, such as the British Motorcyclists Federation in the UK, or FEMA in Europe. Producing national and local branch club magazines and events are typical activities of such clubs.
Other organizations whose activities primarily involve motorcycles exist for specific purposes or social causes such as the Patriot Guard Riders, who provide funeral escorts for military veterans, and Rolling Thunder, which advocates for troops missing in action and prisoners of war. While neither of the latter two groups require a motorcycle for membership, they are motorcycling-oriented and much of their activity involves rides
There are numerous religiously oriented clubs such as the Christian Motorcyclists Association, a biker ministry, charities such as Freewheelers EVS, which use motorcycles to provide an out-of-hours emergency medical courier service, and clubs which attract membership from specific groups, such as the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, for law enforcement personnel.”
Motorcyclists as a whole community have great ties to philanthropy. We participate in charity rides and organized events for a plethora of causes. In the motorcycling world you can always find a ride or event that is raising money for a charity. I challenge you to Google, “motorcycle charity run” and let your click finger go numb with the tens of thousands of results. Nary a weekend passes that a charity ride isn’t taking place in each and every state of America. Even in harsh winter states where riding can cease for a short while, motorcyclists still gather to raise awareness and funds for all sorts of charity.
The sad thing about motorcyclists in the media is that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Media coverage is weak for Rolling Thunder in Washington that supports our military personnel and those that lay their lives on the line for our freedoms. Media coverage is weak for all city/states that put on Toys for Tots hosted by the US Marine Corp, providing toys for children less fortunate aimed mostly at Christmastime, but functions throughout the calendar year. Media coverage is weak for all the individual city/state motorcycle events that raise funds for child abuse, every type of cancer imaginable, battered women, fallen law enforcement and fire fighters, downed motorcyclists, and well… the list could go on but again, I challenge you to search for yourself and feel the magnitude of the power of motorcyclists.
Maas, Kimberly. 2013. “Making Sense of Motorcycle Brotherhood: Women,
Branding, and Construction of Self.” Master’s Thesis. Minnesota State University,
50 States Ranked for Highest Motorcycle Ownership