Friday, November 9, 2012

The Irony Behind Riding Clubs

motorcycle in a curve
Lewis was a short, chubby, ugly Hungarian immigrant who worked as a cab driver in Riverside, CA.  I can remember his accent, his fiery personality, and his preference for the practical over the cool.  Yeah, he could ride, and yeah he could tinker with that old Yamaha V-Star 650, but he was still ugly.

I remember the afternoon when he and I took off for the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve to see the fields of gold in the middle of April.  He and I were both original members of the Iron Horses Riding Club, now defunct, based out of Temecula, CA.  I had put together the ride because no one else was putting together rides, and we were supposed to be a riding club.  So, someone had to step up and keep the club riding.

But only Lewis showed up to ride.

The rest of the members were fighting.  Not fighting other people or other clubs, but between themselves.  Riding clubs don't fight, except to cry and whine about the direction the club is going.

Lewis and I only wanted to ride bikes.

So off we went.

Brotherhood is not earned.  It's not measured by earning colors, and it's not even something you deserve.  It simply happens between two people whether they want it or not.  You can't stop someone from loving you anymore than someone can stop you from loving them.  Brotherhood just is.  Patch or no patch, club or no club.  The harder you try to find brotherhood, the less likely you'll get it.

I mean, we were a riding club, we were supposed to ride.  Even though there were disagreements between folks, I figured members could pull together for the sake of the club.

I guess not.

I knew that some members wanted the club to gravitate towards Harleys, where the only rides we took were to other bars and clubhouses, and where the members were younger and tougher, not older and grayer.  And I also knew that some members didn't want to ride that far, or do that many twisties, but instead do more poker runs, hang out with more bikers, and see more biker chicks.

Yeah, you can tell I'm being cynical.

But a true riding club doesn't exist.  The freedom of riding, of exploring, being in the great wide open, with no rules, no limits, and no expectations, can't be contained within a club.  A club means, by definition, to limit your freedom.

If you limit motorcycle riding to a set of policies and procedures, then you don't have freedom.

So, riding clubs are technically an irony.

If there are any riding clubs they're really just motorcycle clubs that use the term "riding club" to avoid the responsibilities and headaches associated with maintaining position in a pecking order of local area dominant clubs.  Both motorcycle clubs and riding clubs have less to do with motorcycles and riding, and more to do with organization and power, both of which I want less of.

Lewis and myself, 2005

When Lewis finally moved away to Northern California, I could tell the club would never be the same.  Even though there were other riders in the club, they still had their issues with me putting together 200+ mile rides, picking routes through tight twisties, or going to bars where bikers tended not to congregate.

The finger pointing started turning towards my direction, and at that point I put threw my hands up in the air and quit.

I tried my hand at getting involved in another riding club, one that promoted more freedom, but the less organization you have, the less of a club you have.  So, it never gained traction, and now I find myself doing a lot more solo rides.

I ran into Lewis a few years after he moved away.  He had traded in that V-Star 650 for an old V65 Sabre, which I felt was more suited for his style of riding.  We tore up some roads through the Redwoods and relived the memories of the old days.  I said goodbye to him and haven't heard from him since.

There were newer riding buddies I met, and I created many more great memories with them.  But in the past year I moved away from my old stomping grounds and now all but one of those buddies have stopped calling me.  I guess I'm just like Lewis, moving away.  

Somehow, the best riding buddies never seem to stick around.

I guess not sticking around is what a tried and true motorcycle rider does.



  1. Yeah, you pretty much nailed it. Unfortunately.

    Coming from a guy in no less than THREE motorcycle clubs (my friend calls me a "serial joiner") I agree that most clubs destroybthe exact thing they're trying to build.

    I've spent way too much time sitting in meetings talking about where we were going to ride. I want to RIDE not discuss it.

    And now with the holidays upon us, those clubs are talking about Christmas parties. Sure, I like the other riders--I really do--but I'd prefer to ride with them and spend Christmas with my family.

    Maybe a network of motorcycle enthusiasts is better than actual clubs. I mean, I'll still wear my "Wild Hogs" jacket and faux leather chaps...

  2. Once again you got it right as Danny D. said.
    When I got back into motorcycles and was loured into a club that I discovered locally here and after one riding season I realized they spent more time talking and hitting the same locations with the usual 2-3 hour rides. Not for me.
    When I turn that engine over in the morning on weekends. It's for a 300 + mile run minimum.
    I can't seem to find people around here who are into that. Their probably out there. But I can't seem to find a media source to meet them without seeming creepy.

  3. My Dad was in an MC and as a kid, I was deeply jealous of his commitment to his brothers in the club. It made me feel like we came second. As an adult I realize that wasn't the case at all, it just seemed that way to a little girl.
    I thought I wanted to join a club, but the more riders I meet, the more I realize that most every rider sees riding differently and ride for different reasons. Finding someone who wants to ride like I do is probably as rare and difficult as finding the right spouse or a true best friend. I'm lucky. I found all three in the same guy!

  4. It's here in Australia too. It's power, it's control. It's a great point you have that it's ironic.

  5. "Riding Networks" are the way to go.

    1. Create an online group and encourage riders join it.

    2. Any rider can announce a ride through the group.

    3. Whoever wants to join in on that ride can. Whoever doesn't, so be it.

    The ride should be for YOU and no one else. If others want to join, great!


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...)