Finally we have the so called “one percenters”, which comes from an apocryphal quote by the AMA stating that “99% of bikers are law abiding.” These are the so-called “outlaw” bike clubs, and some do have links to criminal activity.
Now, let me be clear, very few “outlaw” clubs are in any way involved with illegal stuff. Most of them are simply not part of the AMA, but are perfectly innocent. Whether you want to be part of an AMA affiliated organization or not is a choice that you have to make.
So there are quite a few different organizations out there that could qualify as a “motorcycle club”; your choice really depends on what you want to get out of your membership.
Different clubs have their own membership rules. Some of the more impersonal one-make type clubs are happy to take a registration form and a monthly fee. Others may require an introduction from an existing member and a period of probation until you can be voted in by full members.
A big embarrassment, at least for me, is that some clubs still do not accept women members. This practice is archaic and I’m seeing more and more clubs include women as well. But be warned that if you are a female biker (welcome!) you may be up against some very old-fashioned attitudes. Believe me, you don’t want to be in any of those female-unfriendly clubs anyway.
Rank & File
Most clubs have a very similar structure. At the head have the club president and under him (or her) there’s a vice president.
At the next level you have the secretary, sergeant at arms, treasurer, and road captain. The road captain is usually a non-voting member. Under these guys you have the regular, patch-wearing, full members and then all the prospects and hang-arounds.
The elected positions are usually for a term of a year, but this varies from club to club. Let’s check out what each of these people have to do.
The president chairs the executive committee and is also the CEO of the club or club chapter. It’s important to remember that the president is a leader and not a boss. He has been elected to keep order and act in the best interest of the club and its members. The president doesn’t make or second motions and only votes to break a tie or in another situation when something’s outcome would depend on the president’s vote.
The VP is the second in command, so if the president is unable to attend to duties the VP can take over. The VP is also the go-between; members and prospects wouldn’t take their issues directly to the president.
Secretary of State
The secretary is the record keeper and takes minutes of meetings, decisions, and so on. All the administration stuff, basically – membership lists, roll call, you name it.
The treasurer keeps all the funds and assets like patches that have not yet been issued. The treasurer will release funds in accordance with allowed expenses and must keep a complete and accurate record of all transactions. He or she also reports the financial status of the club at set intervals.
The sergeant-at-arms has an unenviable job. This person makes sure that the rules and bylaws of the club are obeyed. He also makes sure that any decisions by the executive committee are carried out. All things safety and security are within the domain of the sergeant.
Aye Aye Captain
The road captain is responsible for all the actual group runs – researching and planning the route and everything else that can be planned that relates to running on the road. One important thing to realize about the road captain is that during a run the road captain is the boss when it comes to club members, even above the president and VP.
Patch-holding members have been voted in as full members of the club and have certain sworn duties and obligations. The details of these are different from club to club, but if someone wants to remain a member in good standing they have to stick to the rules.
Pledge Allegiance to the Flag
Prospects or pledges are people who do not have patches and are provisionally allowed to ride with the club. At meetings full members will vote which pledges become full members and which have to leave the club. You can be a pledge for a long time and there is no guarantee you’ll ever be voted in.
Let’s Go Clubbing…Again
Motorcycle clubs are a huge part of bike culture and a significant part of pop culture too. Whether you want to have any part of it is up to you and what you want to get out of biking. Getting into a traditional bike club can be a big time commitment and if you aren’t very serious it is better not to bother. Joining an owner’s club, which is more about the machines than the lifestyle, can be just as rewarding and can provide a different take on enjoying motorcycling in a social way.