Just like a book club or a gardening club, a motorcycle club is a gathering of individuals with the same interests. But they have a fascinating history behind them, as well as the paraphernalia and accessories used to promote and advertise one’s inclusion within a motorcycle group.
The Birth of the AMA
The birth of motorcycle clubs started back in 1924 when the American Motorcyclist Association, or AMA, was organized as a division of the existing Motorcycle & Allied Trades Association (M&ATA) in Cleveland, Ohio. The organization has one mission in mind: “to protect and promote the interests of motorcyclists while serving the needs of its members.” The AMA charters biker clubs around the United States, and currently helps lead approximately 1,200 clubs across America. The AMA assists these various chartered clubs in running events, promoting their club, and gives these clubs the opportunity to vote on matters that affect AMA clubs and members.
While the AMA is considered one of the largest motorsport organizations in the world, it does not oversee every motorcycle group in America. Many clubs are formed outside of the AMA rules and regulations, and these clubs are called “outlaw motorcycle clubs.”
Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs
The American Motorcycle Association enlists some rules and regulations for their chartered clubs to follow and maintain. But as with rebellion in anything in life, biker clubs were formed outside of the AMA rules and were quickly dubbed “Outlaw” clubs or “One Percenters.” Some popular outlaw clubs that developed outside of the AMA include the Hell’s Angels and the Bandidos Motorcycle Club. They grew extensively after World War II when American soldiers were coming home from war and looking for adventure or companionship with other World War II veterans. Many bonded over motorcycles, which led to the development of hundreds of outlaw clubs–as well as more sponsored clubs within the AMA admission. Many motorcycle clubs are created for those who have a particular loyalty to a specific brand, such as Harley Davidson, BMW, and Honda, to name a few.
The Negative Perception of Motorcycle Clubs
Motorcycle clubs have gotten a bad rap in the past. Due to the “outlaw” nature of many of the clubs, as well as the frowned-upon lifestyle and unfavored appearance of those riding the road, biker clubs and those who are part of them have not always had a positive reaction from others. Throw in a few Hollywood movies that gave the groups a negative connotation and made them out to be violent and favor illegal drugs and activities, and one could see why these clubs were portrayed in such bad light. However, over time, motorcycle clubs and members of them continue to go about their hobby without concern as to what others may think of them, and many are realizing the assumptions and rumors of motorcyclists and their hobbies have been very much off the mark. The assumed lifestyle of motorcyclists has changed over the years, and others are more accepting of those who enjoy the hobby and involvement in the motorcyclist community.
Identification of Motorcycle Clubs
To show one’s participation and acceptance into a particular motorcycle club, many members will sport leather jackets with club patches and paraphernalia. As with membership and relation to any other specific club or social group, leather vests, patches, vest pins, and zipper pulls. Each biker club will have a certain design and color that represents their organization, and members of particular motorcycle clubs will don these colors and patches to serve their membership with a certain organization, whether or not it is sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association or is an outlaw club. Motorcyclists typically wear leather jackets because of their high quality and ability to withstand excessive wear and tear while on the road while offering protection from dirt, debris, and the weather during one’s ride. Many will stitch on biker club membership patches onto their jackets, as well as add zipper pulls and vest pins that match their interests, their history, or their club.