Anyplace they want, pal. And don’t ask questions. It’s disrespectful. End of column. Meet you back here next month, when we’ll help out someone who knows to mind his own business. In the meantime, pick your broken teeth up off the pavement. We don’t need any flat tires.
Relax—we’re kidding. Sort of. The world of motorcycle clubs (best not to call them “gangs” unless you work for the Department of Justice) is a byzantine maze populated by diverse enthusiasts who organize themselves in a variety of ways to pursue disparate goals, all governed by an etiquette calculated to ensure everyone’s dental work remains intact.
A full taxonomy is beyond the scope of this article, but the most important distinction is between clubs made up of so-called one-percenters, and everyone else. The one-percenters, who generally display a diamond-shaped patch with a “1%” logo on their vests, or “colors,” are what we civilians would consider “outlaw” clubs: the Hells Angels, Pagans, Mongols, Bandidos, Sons of Silence, Gypsy Jokers, et al.
This designation, proudly claimed by those who qualify, has its roots in a famous biker—perpetrated punch-up in California in 1947, after which the American Motorcyclist Association, defending the integrity of the pastime, allegedly argued that “99 percent of the motorcycling public are law-abiding; there are 1 percent who are not.”
Indeed, there are plenty of legit motorcycling collectives, some of which call themselves riding clubs—as opposed to motorcycle clubs—to further distinguish themselves from the outlaws and thereby minimize potential conflict. (For the same reason, many riding clubs omit chapter-location patches from their vests, lest they be construed as territorial claims.)
These good-guy groups may be populated by folks with common cause, such as veterans, Christians, or cops; or simply represent a bunch of born-to-be-mild regular Joes who happen to get off on a little of the old “heavy-metal thunder” between preparing tax returns.
So where are all these folks going, riding in those big packs? It depends. They may be headed to a biker rally—Sturgis, South Dakota, hosts the best known, but there are many more. Or they may be engaged in a charity event; many clubs host “toy runs,” especially around Christmas, wherein participants donate presents for kids in need, then motor off to a barbecue or another end-of-the-road throwdown. Mostly, though, they’re just riding around for kicks.
“It’s a cliché, but it’s two-wheel therapy,” says Matthew Sabini, New York City chapter president of the Florian’s Knights Motorcycle Club, composed entirely of firefighters. “The objective is to spend time with your brothers and just kind of relax and lose yourself in the ride. It’s more about the ride itself—not necessarily where you’re going.”
Ray Lubesky, international president of the Iron Legacy Motorcycle Club (a “proud member of the Alliance of Law Abiding Motorcycle Clubs,” per its website), further explains that riders employ a pack formation for safety. The idea is to prevent a car from merging into the pack.
Motorcycles can’t slow down as quickly and safely as cars, so if a car were to invade the formation and abruptly brake, riders might not be able to compensate in time, says Lubesky. One reckless driver could easily kill or injure several riders. And that’s probably the best reason to steer clear of bikers—literally.
This article appeared in the June 2019 issue of Seniorhelpline. You can .