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Why are motorcycle clubs so popular?

Motorcycle Clubs Ulysses peer

New motorcycle clubs continue to spring up and many established clubs are brimming with members.

Some riders love the freedom of the open road and being isolated, alone and one with their bike. They ascribe to the Groucho Marx adage: “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

However, other riders love to ride with others and belong to a group or club.

Human condition

Our resident Motorbike Writer psychologist and Indian Scout rider Sharon Ledger says it’s all part of the human condition.

Clubs Sharon Ledger
Sharon and her Scout

“There’s safety in numbers, a sense of belonging and identity,” she says.

While some riders like the solace and anonymity of riding in a motorcycle helmet that disguises their identity, some may feel alone or isolated.

Identity is very important and being just a “rider” may not be enough, she says.

“If I’m no one, then I don’t matter, I’m unimportant, I have no identity,” Sharon says.

Motorcycle Clubs Ulysses“So the less confident you are or lower your self esteem, the more you need to be a member of something greater.

“Like with church, when people are struggling with life, they feel alone and turn to the church.”

Interestingly, some motorcycle clubs refer to their club meetings as “church”.

And while church attendances are down in many places, motorcycle club membership is mainly increasing.

Some riders even mix their motorcycle passion with religion and belong to religious-based motorcycle clubs.

Sikh Motorcycle Club rides skihs for charity
Sikh Motorcycle Club

Growth of new clubs

The Ulysses Club for mature-aged riders has experienced a huge boom in numbers in the past couple of decades, but that has since plateaued and declined.

Members and past members point to many factors for the decline, including mature-aged members dying off or getting too old for riding.Ulysses Club membership clubs

However, it could also be the fact that some clubs just get too big and people feel lost in the ranks.

That’s why a number of smaller niche motorcycle clubs have sprung up. They centre around a locality, gender, riding style, motorcycle style, motorcycled brand or even one particular model.

Outlaw clubs

New York bikies Redrum motorcycle club revenue raising banned

As for Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs, they are in the minority and getting smaller.

They are suffering as more and more governments crackdown on their membership claiming they are involved in criminal activity.

Interestingly, the historical reason they are called “outlaw motorcycle clubs” is because they refused to belong to the American Motorcyclist Association.

The AMA outlawed these clubs from AMA-sanctioned events, so they became “outlaw clubs”.

They often refer to their groups as “one-percenter” motorcycle clubs. The term “one-percenter” originates from an AMA statement after a 1949 motorcycle rally in 1947 in Hollister, California,  turned violent.

The AMA said that “99% of the motorcycling public are law-abiding; there are 1% who are not”.

Club benefits

Steel Horses clubs
Steel Horses Cruising Motorcycle Social Club

Apart from the psychological reasons for belonging to a motorcycle club, there are also many practical benefits.

Club members have a wealth of information they can pass on to other riders, including technical and mechanical information, riding tips, interesting routes and more.

Clubs also like to have a sense of purpose and community which often results in fundraising for charities, so the whole community reaps the benefits.

There is also a sense of protection in a motorcycle club. Members rally around other members when they experience troubles whether it be a crash, bereavement or even financial crisis.

  1. I like being no-one and making my own decisions about when, where and if I stop. A lot of club members when out riding seem incapable of riding past a coffee shop and they can’t all get fuel at the same stop because some of them can go another 50 km before they have to fill up, delaying everyone else. They imagine other people are looking at them with envy while they sit around drinking their lattes or whatever the latest fashion is. The South Park episode about “gay” Harley-Ferguson riders captures this perfectly. Give me solitude any time. I ride with one friend only, whose riding habits are similar to my own. I’ll never join a motorcycle club again – the BMW club in a capital city starting with “C” turned me off them for life.

    1. Different clubs vary enormously, full spectrum plus more & the tone of a club also varies over time. I’m a member of several groups, all very different.
      Know what you mean about BMW clubs, lots of people in them OK & also quite a few who take themselves too seriously, great fun winding them up 🙂

  2. I enjoy riding in a group. The social interaction, the camaraderie and the friendships are the pulling factors to be with a group. Stopping at a watering hole, interchanging observations gathered earlier in the ride and swapping stories real and fictional over a cup of any sort makes life really worthwhile. Equally, I enjoy riding alone. During such occasions, I have no particular desire to be recognised as part of a group. When riding alone, I am a combination of the environment, my bike and me. I often have no routes picked out. The enjoyment I get is to be one with my bike, taking in the fresh country air, the iconic Australian scenery, brown and dusty at times and green and lush, perhaps, after the next turn and of course, going through the many twists and turns that the rural roads present. Your resident psychologist may diagnose me as being crazy-mixed-up. I am just me. 🙂

  3. “So the less confident you are or lower your self esteem, the more you need to be a member of something greater.”

    So club riders lack confidence and have low self esteem and solitary riders don’t.


  4. I think your comment about some clubs becoming too big and maybe a bit impersonal is on the mark. I’ve been a member of an over 40’s only club for some 25 plus years and a big twin owners club on and off for about the same amount of time. I do find there is a big difference in attitudes to life and egos, between the two ages. I have drifted to smaller clubs where maybe only a dozen will be on a ride. Everybody gets to know each other, there is no bad attitude about bike brands and egos are left at home. Maybe I’m just getting too old to care….

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