Why would anyone want to join a motorcycle club?
Motorcycle clubs have never been so popular…or rather the notion of them have never been so.
Since the advent of the internet, people have been able to remotely connect with each other and like minded souls have been able to create their own groups with members both near and far.
Television and film have progressively either vilified or glorified motorcycle culture and motorcycle club culture too. However whilst most is fictionalised and documentary authenticity should come under closer scrutiny, there have been growing legions of new or born again riders…or bikers, if you prefer, that have jumped onto this bandwagon trying to emulate what has been forced fed them for a generation now.
Of course, motorcycle clubs are nothing new and there are many levels and types of club to either become a member of or be affiliated with. There are the local interest clubs, racing and off road clubs in all of their permutations. There are the family type social clubs and the more formal tiered motorcycle clubs with the patch hierarchy being the notorious 1% clubs.
There are undoubted benefits of being in a motorcycle club or associated with the club scene. There is a camaraderie amongst equals. A feeling of togetherness and the notion of committing to something greater than oneself.
“Ask not of what your club can do for you but rather what you can do for your club” …OK I’ve plagiarised and twisted a JFK speech there, but that principle is a cornerstone of the most committed clubs out there all around the world.
Motorcycle clubs need new members, otherwise they will eventually shrink and die as the generations age and pass by. However it has probably never been more important to vet the new intake who may have different views and expectations of what actual club life is really like.
Whilst I have not formed or joined a club myself, I have known many who have and have seen many clubs come and go too. Joining a non selective club is relatively easy, however joining a committed club with a strict formal structure can be a heavily involved process as the club determines whether the potential new member has the right stuff…and as the potential new member decides whether the fabric of the club is really what they wish to be wrapped within.
If you were to ask many who have been involved with or whom have observed club culture for many years, they will probably offer the same verdict. Clubs can be formed with relative ease but can run into problems very early on if local club protocols are not followed and permissions gained.
Even with everything in its proper place, most new clubs will fail within the first 5yrs or so as the members have difficulty in being organised and evolving too. Others dilute the selection process or hand out memberships to unproven candidates…and who would have thought that you could ever belong to a motorcycle club and not own or even have a licence to ride a motorbike. Fantastic as it may seem, this does actually happen.
There are many who would question the policies and politics within the motorcycle club scene too, however the club life is not for everyone, in fact the overwhelming majority of bikers would not suit it at all.
Whether it is the arduous journey to become a member of a 1% club or the rather less but equally protocol driven path to join the other patch wearing motorcycle clubs…the process is to determine the suitability of both parties to each other.
But times have changed, the identities morphed and the landscape has been ploughed so much that in many quarters it has been diluted into a feeble squash from the concentrate it once was.
Of course I do not talk of the long establish clubs but rather the smaller clubs or new entities that have changed into something more akin to a social circle rather than a motorcycle club of days past. Perhaps times do need to change but ignoring the traditions of the past can lead a club and members into troubled waters that they may not be able to navigate through.
I ask the question why would anyone want to join a motorcycle club, not because I instinctively believe it to be a bad idea…actually I am in favour of them as a rule, but rather because I question whether many people are asking themselves that very question before they leap into the motorcycle club world.
Whether you agree or not with the local politics and procedures or whether you really want or don’t want to be associated with the dominant clubs in your area, the fact remains that there are rules and modus operandi that are there to keep the order and to prevent it becoming a farce that would attract negative opinion or unwanted attention from elsewhere.
Over the years I have questioned myself whether I would entertain attempting to join a club or even start one myself, but after researching the idea I decided that it wasn’t for me or the time just wasn’t right. I may still return to that pondering at some point but I am still of the view that I cannot fully commit and give it the time that it would deserve as ultimately I enjoy the absolute freedom of riding my bike anywhere, everywhere and at anytime…and I am not likely to be given any territorial static for what colours may be on my back or rather not on my back.
I emphasise ‘research’ because many would assume that they can act in any manner and disregard any rules, procedures and rituals just because they do not necessarily agree with them without the full understanding of why they are there in the first instance.
Whilst others may appear to be oblivious to any of the customs and think they can remain unchallenged for any misdemeanours or felonies.
All clubs face an uneasy future one would imagine, as social standards and expectations change. As soon as waters become muddied and clubs lose focus or there are too many new and conflicting opinions to reason with, there is likely to be a downward spiral unless the hierarchy within each club and of the club culture itself actively reinforce the core values to both new young shoulders and old wise heads.
The motorcycle club world may not be a perfect fit for many, indeed it will be alien to most whom are not on the inside track. I would not even begin to fathom what sort of ‘right stuff’ is required to join and remain in a club…if leaving were ever a suitable option, but suffice to say that it will not be a complete bed of roses and neither will it be plunging into the depths of a fiery hell either.
If anyone is thinking of entering the motorcycle club world, they need to be asking the right questions and do their due diligence at the very beginning…and listen to those in the know and heed their advice once given. You need to determine ultimately what kind of club you would like to join and are you a good fit for each other. In the ultimate verse you must be honest with yourself and determine is this the right thing for you to do without the influence of new social mediations or Hollywood interpretations…or even the impressions of a motorcycle club scene from another country that may or may not be appropriate and applicable to where you live and ride.
You must decide whether you want to be part of a group and operate within its parameters or whether you want to remain unbiased and totally neutral, and ultimately free to make you own decisions. It is the choice of being solo or having others to stand side by side with you. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here and no decision is better or worse. However it will be a choice you will have to make because these two worlds are fundamentally different. The motorcycle world and the motorcycle club world are different beings from the same mother. They are the Romulus and Remus of biking subculture, oil and water of motorcycle lifestyle but they are respectful opposites of a biking spectrum.
You just have to decide which path you would rather ride. The choice is yours and yours alone.