PODCAST & BLOG-So, have you ever wondered whether you should join an organized type motorcycle club? Or should you just ride and hang out with friends without being an organized club? From much experience, I can tell you, joining a motorcycle club is certainly not for everyone. I encourage every biker/motorcyclist to think heavily before getting involved with a club. In this podcast episode we play a voicemail a listener left for us. It begs the question, are there benefits to starting or joining a traditional organized motorcycle club? We break this down and get into depth on the pros and cons of joining or starting a biker club, so put your helmet on and hang on for this one.
The first thing many think is why would I want to join a club and have to follow all the bylaws and rules when I can just hang out and ride with guys I like? If this is your thought, then maybe you are not ready to join or start a club yet and are exploring. Many are curious if there are any benefits to being involved with an organized motorcycle club?
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I am the President of the Sworn Few MC and involved in this very traditional organized motorcycle club for many reasons, which I will discuss a bit later. I do know groups that just ride together without being organized in a traditional type club sense. It is up to each individual on how they want to roll and what they are expecting or looking for.
Let's first discuss some major differences between a true motorcycle club, a riding club, and a riding group. A traditional motorcycle club is one in which the members wear a leather vest or “cut” bearing a separated 3 piece patch on the back. The top rocker patch is the club name, the center patch is their logo, and the bottom rocker is the city, area, or state they ride in. They follow traditional type bylaws and have a definite chain of command to follow and elected club officers. They have regular meetings and often required attendance for meetings and/or events.
Riding clubs vary a lot, but typically have some sort of structure like a motorcycle club. In a riding club the members don't wear the 3 piece patch. Some riding clubs don't wear leather vests at all. If they do wear a leather vest they may have a 1 or 2 piece patch on the back. They usually have a chain of command and appointed or elected club officers. The Harley Owners Group (HOG) is a familiar example of a riding club.
A riding group has little to no structure. They likely are just a group of riders that may share some similar interests. They may have clothing items such as T-shirts or hats instead of a leather vest and patch. They likely don't have elected or appointed officers nor a chain of command.
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Because of television, media, and the actions of the minority (less than 1%) biker criminal element people are overly interested in motorcycle clubs. Always remember that 99% of motorcyclists/bikers are hard working law abiding people. Other people and even other motorcyclists may ask, why not just ride together? What's the point of joining a club and wearing a patch?
To quickly put things into perspective for these individuals I ask a few simple questions. Why are people in organized church groups? Why are people in tennis clubs, or golf clubs? Why are boys in Boy Scouts and girls in Girl Scouts? Certainly Boy Scouts could just get together and camp or hike. Why do they have to have uniforms, a structure, wear status patches, and have a chain of command? Why do sports teams wear uniforms and have a leader (coach)? Because, it is basic human nature to want to earn the right and belong to something we consider special and elite. Something special to share with like minded individuals. This often takes the form of wearing something that represents that club or group. Look all around you and you will see special interest groups and clubs everywhere. So, lay off motorcycle clubs already and move on.
Here are a few things that a club or organization may offer aside from just “getting together”.
- A sense of pride
- Chain of command
- Organization of the team/club/group
- Sense of order
- Sense of achievement
- A means to advance your mission or purpose
Let's talk specifically about why motorcyclists/bikers may join a club instead of just “getting together.” Many join motorcycle clubs because the club offers something they're wanting such as brotherhood. Some may not have a family and will turn to a tight brotherhood as their family. That biker will be given a place within the club structure just as he would in a true family setting. He will be taken care of by his club when he calls upon them. It gives individuals a sense of structure and order, which many desire. For those motorcycle clubs that you have to work hard to gain full membership and be awarded the 3 piece patch, there is a sense of a great achievement, which is a basic human need. It is a very proud moment to be accepted into a club.
Further, they will have many to call upon to go riding, which should be their first passion. They may want to help their community and contribute to a larger goal. Many clubs are heavily into fundraising and a club structure is usually warranted to manage these activities. Of course criminal type biker clubs (outlaw motorcycle gangs) are in it for other illegal purposes and to further their activities with like-minded individuals.
There are many different types of clubs that motorcyclists/bikers find support in. There are many Christian motorcycle clubs for those that also ride. There are sober riding clubs for recovering alcoholics. There are biker clubs for those who got out of jail or are recovering from drug use. The list goes on and on. A biker club environment gives individuals a support group, purpose, and something to hang on to.
Many motorcycle clubs are active or retired military personnel. These individuals have a very close brotherhood when active, overseas, or in combat. They have to completely rely on each other during these times and become accustomed to that brotherhood and total trust. They become used to daily structure and a chain of command. When they return to the civilian world they find that those things do not regularly exist, but they do inside many motorcycle clubs. They don't want to just “get together”, but want that structure, brotherhood, and belonging they miss.
So, here are many of the reasons I am involved in motorcycle clubs and helped establish the Sworn Few MC. You see, just because we work together does not mean officers all hang out together off duty. Just like other jobs, we don't necessarily care for everyone we work with. We remain vigilant while on duty and would protect and work with any of our own. However, when we clock out and head for our days off we want to get away from those persons and the job. We are forced to work with many, but in a motorcycle club we make the rules and decide who can join. Nobody else has any authority to tell us how to run our club and of course that is a feeling of satisfaction. We only want to hang out with true brothers and our restricted member motorcycle club gives us a perceived barrier of protection. Many know that it is extremely difficult to even try to get into our motorcycle club.
The Sworn Few MC is very structured by design. We have a very clean look and patches can only be worn in a certain way, which gives us uniformity among the other clubs. We don't clutter our vests with miscellaneous patches and pins. All members where the same exact high quality leather vest.
When we roll up to an event we all ride in a certain way and in a professional manner. All members must have a set riding proficiency. We are known within the community and have a good reputation. We take extreme pride in the way our club rolls and that gives us all pride and a sense of achievement. We work hard to maintain this, which brings us all closer together. As stated earlier, motorcycle clubs in general have gotten a bad rap. We roll the way we do to change the public's perception about motorcycle clubs. We do everything we can to let them know that 99% of bikers are good law abiding people. So, we are not just professional for the reputation of our club, but for all law abiding motorcycle clubs. We believe it is all our responsibilities to change public's perception. We are making sure the mystery of the 3 piece patch goes away. Law abiding biker clubs are growing faster than ever and that will continue.
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We are involved in some fundraising and charity, but we don't let it rule our club. First and foremost we are about hard core riding and brotherhood. A big reason we became an actual club is because we were able to obtain a non-profit tax exempt status for fundraising. You could not do this without organizing and having a club structure. To be a non-profit you must have officers and regular meetings with notes. So, just “getting together” would not cut it.
We have a very strict if not the most strict processes for obtaining full membership and we are proud of that. Nobody sneaks in the back door of the Sworn Few LEMC. Because of the very hard work, time, and dedication it takes to get into the club, brothers feel a huge sense of achievement that can never be taken away. We don't recruit and only the strongest of law enforcement bikers seek us out for possible membership. You won't find these sorts of things if you just “get together.” Running these strict membership processes brings our brotherhood even closer together. We are all vigilant to make certain we get nothing but the highest quality of members.
I will say that for many years some of us used to just ride together and were not in a club of any kind. We were brothers, but the pride that comes along with what we have established made us that much closer. Each of us earned our place, worked very hard, and bonded in the processes. We enjoy riding with our colors and letting all other biker clubs and the community know that we are always out there. Wearing that earned vest and 3 piece patch is something to be proud of and you can't get that feeling by just “riding together.”
In closing, as you can see a motorcycle club is no different from any other organized club, team, or group that are all around us. Humans have an inherent need to belong and bond with like-minded people. We just happen to ride a motorcycle instead of swing a golf club. There are many considerations to take into account before joining a club, but hopefully this will help you make your decision and answer your questions. There are an array of different motorcycle clubs out there and operate in completely different ways. Take your time and be cautions and educated before jumping into things.
The most important thing is if a motorcycle club just sells its patches to you and you are granted instant membership then you will likely not enjoy any of the benefits you have just read about. That is not much different than just “getting together.” Understand, I am not speaking badly about clubs that do that, but just something for you to consider. For many it is all they want and it works just fine. It all comes down to what you are looking for and your personal needs and wants.