Friday, September 26, 2008

Clubs of Structure and Chaos

Yesterday evening, I took a ride with a gal who's been hanging out with our riding club lately. She bought her motorcycle only last January, and it was her first motorcycle ever. Since she's been riding with us a lot, I figure she's found it comfortable and likes the people.

She tells me that years ago she used to be the "property" of a local 1%er club member, and recounted her relationship with him and his buddies. There was a lot of structure in that organization, and he had responsibilities to take care of. That often contradicted with their relationship.

Today, she just wants to enjoy the freedom of riding, riding her own bike, and being free to live her own life, instead of being tied down to responsibilities and expectations.

So we were hanging out at Paradise Corners, a place moderately popular with bikers up in the Santa Rosa mountains, east of Hemet, CA. She was telling me about a womens-only club that she had considered joining. She had signed up for their activities calendar, to receive notices of their events, but never really signed up to become a member of the club. She received a note from one of their members, advising that she needs to visit their national website, become a member there, and then also apply for membership with the local chapter.

However, she was reluctant to do so because she saw the "structure" that this organization was built around. She also noticed the requirements to attend monthly meetings, and the rules of conduct, and the expectations towards maintaining one's membership in good standing. She related all this to her past experiences, even though it was a stretch to associate the two together. After she had hesitated to sign up for sometime, the club removed her subscription to the activities calendar, and that was the end of that.

All clubs have some kind of structure, even if its an absence of structure, it's still a structure at least in the sense that members have an understanding of how things work. Some people need structure in their lives, and you may not think about it, but that's a very big reason why people join clubs.

Clubs provide the framework people need to find order out of chaos. Within that framework, they can settle into a niche and gain a sense of stability. They now know how they relate to others, who has more authority than who, and what they should be doing. They can see limits and boundaries that define right and wrong.

That framework gives its members something to climb on, and eventually gain stature among their peers. They can climb the "corporate ladder" of their club and make achievements that give them a sense of pride.

The first riding club I was in had a lot of structure, while the next club after that had much less, and then the club I'm in today has even less. Perhaps that's a natural progression, but then again, I know people who seemingly have gone the opposite direction, from less structure to more.

So I explained all that to this gal who responded that she likes our way of being less structured. She feels more comfortable associating with a club that'll never impose expectations, consequences, or membership fees. To other people, they'll the see our absence of structure as a reason for saying it's not a club. But that's just a difference of opinion on what a club means each person.

I'm not exactly sure why there's people like us who don't want "structure", and why there's people who do. I look at everyone in our club and I see people who already have structure in their lives, whether they have a large family, a job at a large corporation, or service in the military. Perhaps they see the club as simply a chaotic "getaway" from the rules of order that they currently deal with.

It could be that people who hold positions of power in their jobs need to join a club that makes them subordinate as their own kind of getaway.

I suppose our club is looking for folks who already lead a structured, orderly life, and needs to hang out with a club that let's everything hang loose and let's you run at your own speed. Maybe another club is looking for people who have no structure or purpose in their lives, and needs a place to fit into.


  1. Patting yourself a little bit hard on the back there, don'tcha think?

    I found the entire tone of this post to be smug and condescending to people whose clubs have a structure different from yours. Structure -- or the lack of it -- may be a motivating factor to YOU, but there are a thousand other reasons why people choose to join a club.

    From what I can see, your club is built around "follow me while I ride without stopping all day long," and then you all just scatter and go home. I don't see how taking long solitary rides with people you only see on the rides and only talk to at gas stops or in email can build much of a relationship or brotherhood, but that's clearly not your aim. It seems that feeling superior about your miles is part of the goal, I don't know.

    For me, a club like yours is a complete waste of time because there's no commitment and no standards. Any schmuck can buy the patch and play biker on the weekend. For you, a club like mine where you have to earn entry and you're held to high standards, well, maybe that's too much work.

    Different strokes for different folks...

  2. All I said is that some people need one thing, and other people need the other. I never said a word about one club being better than the other.

  3. I feel that the motivation for people to belong to clubs, any group for that matter, -is just human nature. Just as sure as Pavlov's dogs slobber at the sound of stimuli, humans want to belong to a group. Look at people in the stands at a San Diego Chargers game. They are acting out ancient tribal instincts. The warriors of their tribe doing battle with the other tribe. Am I saying that's a bad thing, nope. Having pride in community and acting for the benefit of the group instead of the individual can be a good thing. I agree with you that different people have different needs when it comes to groups. Having spent a lot of time in the military, where things were very structured, I tend to want to go the other way as a civilian. I value freedom more than structure and would far more likely associate myself with your club vs. a strict, authoritarian bunch of folks.

  4. Was just wondering why your comments here and on my site have changed from Steve (which is much more personable) to Motorcycle Philosophy?

  5. I dunno, I guess I can't make up my mind on who I want to be!

  6. I like to ride. The last thing I want is to have someone telling me what to do, and that I have to do this and that. Screw that. I have enough of that going on just living.

    I went on a HOG ride once just to check it out. Almost got killed from all the stupid shit they were doing and the final straw was when the Road Capt. told me I had to have both feet on the ground when I stopped. heh, f'you!

    If you respect the guys/gals your riding with you know what to do without all the rules and regs. You just have a great time riding and mutual respect without the need for structure. It's a natural respect. A free respect. Commitment? pfffttt...When your down and out your "yellow bellied star sneeches clubs" will not be there. At least my "loose" and "unstructure" riding friends have my back no matter what happens.

    Anonymous doesn't like to ride motorcycles. He/She just wants to be seen on the bike. Screw that. If anyone was being "smug and condescending" it was "anony-puss".

    Oh yeah, I agreed with the author of this post.

  7. Dave, I don't get where think I'm all about being seen on the bike when part of my criticism of Steve's club was that ALL they do is ride. I think that's just the first knee-jerk criticism you came up with and you ran with it without further thought. Whatever.

    As far as your loose and casual buddies having your back... Good luck with that. You think people you only know on weekends at gas stops are going to inconvenience themselves for you, even a little bit? I doubt it. My yellow-bellied sneetches will drop everything for a brother, even if they've never met him, even if he's five states away. They've done it, I've done it. We'll bleed for each other if it comes to it. We have each others backs always, everywhere, no matter what. I'm 100% certain you can't say that about your weekend riding pals.

    We share a bond you guys don't respect because you don't understand it, live a commitment you're not willing to make, and we wear a patch that has to be earned, not bought. It's easy to dismiss what you don't understand or respect, but we're the real deal, and RCs with their cute little patches are the real posers trying to don an image we live.

    And Steve, I tried to clue you in once before about RCs emulating MCs and you blew me off, but now that I've seen your patch I have to tell you again. You're asking for real trouble with that patch, especially the SoCal rocker. You're claiming territory -- or appearing to -- and that won't fly with your local power club. You must be under their radar, because with your attitude I'm certain you haven't cleared it with them. They're not going to laugh it off when they finally notice you.

  8. The So Cal on the patch is not anymore of a rocker than the HOG patch or the STAR patch having their location displayed. And it's not a rocker patch either.

  9. We have 1%ers MC's HOGs Independents and Posers. That will never change. I hope we can all share the road. As long as you're not trying to be something you're not then I think you should get respect. Posers are a joke and we shouldn't get all bent out out of shape about it, just get a good laugh.
    I can't speak or vouch for all HOG Road Captains but most of us are just trying to enjoy riding our Harleys and help others do the same safely. Many of our members are newbies and need structure, so we strive to provide it for safety sake.
    I personally like structure.

  10. STAR and HOG are both brand-specific clubs known and accepted by the power clubs, that's why they can fly a location "patch" without fear. You guys? Not so much.

    Whatever. I've tried to educate you twice now and you don't want to hear it. I'm done. Good luck.

  11. Not that I know everything about patches but the HOG patches are designed to fit together to form one piece. I believe it is understood that they constitute a one piece patch even if there is a third location patch sewn underneath the HOG patch as long as there is no space in between. Please correct me if I am mistaken about this.

  12. This is America. You said what you had to say and I said what I had to say. The rest will settle itself one way or another.

    R/C is correct as far as I know.

    Anonymous - What M/C are you riding with? Just curious.

  13. Your right about the "knee-jerk" reaction by the way. I have been meaning to fix that for the last 40 years or so.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Last time I checked (2 seconds ago, for accuracy) a club was defined as "a group of persons organized for a social, literary, athletic, political, or other purpose". Anonymous, can you show me in this definition where it says that you need to earn the right to be allowed to be a member of a club? Can you explain to me where fellow club members have the exclusive right to come to someone's aid when they are in need? (I will not inquire as to the life experiences you've had that brought you to believe no friend or family member capable of such altruism)

    Each of us has our own level of structure that works for us in our lives. No one said here, or even implied, that any one particular kind of club with any particular level of structure was inherently superior than any other...only that each of us needs to find something that makes us happy.

    It is obvious that you do not understand why anyone would be perfectly happy to follow someone along on a nice ride and then go their merry way. You seem to be lashing out at Steve's club because you don't understand the motivation that he and his friends have behind it, much in the same way that you are accusing everyone else of lashing out at your club and ones like it because you seem to think that they don't understand your motivations.

    I suggest that you stop being so paranoid that everyone is out to attack you and the brotherhood that you hold so dear (I can only assume that you refuse to identify yourself out of fear of exposure), and learn how to "play well with others."


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)