Women Riders

RC’s, MC’s, and Women

Written by  January 31, 2009

There are fundamental differences between riding clubs and motorcycle clubs. Motorcycle clubs (MCs) are the more exclusive of the two. Like any private organization, MC’s typically have a board of directors led by a president and have a protocol distinctive to the club for accepting members. Members pay dues and attend scheduled meetings to discuss club issues. They often are exclusive to makes of bikes, most notably Harley-Davidson, as well as being exclusive to the gender of their members. Women-only MC’s have increased in numbers, but their legacies are short and traditions are still being developed. In researching women’s MC’s, I found many that had been included in listings to be currently defunct.
Riding clubs (RCs), on the other hand, do not have any distinct protocol for joining, do not have board members or necessarily base their decisions on member voting, but they will have a president or captain and other officers, generally on a volunteer basis. Riding clubs mostly sell their patches to members, but one has to earn an MC patch and show their commitment to the club in order to keep it. RC’s are not gender exclusive by and large and do not prevent “newbies” from joining and riding along. Their rules, if any, are not based on membership loyalty. In short, the basic differences are tradition, commitment and exclusion.
In interviewing one MC President for this column, it was made clear he did not think much of riding clubs and their lack of exclusivity. He was also adamant that women would never be allowed to join his organization and gave a couple of reasons for that choice. One was, simply, tradition. After WW2, motorcycle clubs were men-only because they were made up of soldiers, sailors and pilots who had ridden during their service, came home and wished to continue their brotherhood and their love of riding. Women simply were not part of that camaraderie and were excluded from participating. It is this tradition of brotherhood that prevails today within the MC world.
Another reason was a bit more practical; women coming in would lead to inter-competition for attention and conflicts borne of jealousy or ego and the club has no desire to have those issues. He did say he had no problem riding with women as his club’s guests and stated that women can do just as well as men within their own clubs.
Many national MC’s are not gender exclusive. These include Blue Knights and Rolling Thunder, two of the largest national clubs. I have not yet found any chapters that have women in positions of authority, however. This is not to say there aren’t any, but MC’s that large are harder to research as their chapters are so numerous. Also, those I did attempt to contact for this column have not responded back.
Ninety-nine percent of the motorcycle clubs, according to the American Motorcyclists Association, are good clubs with law abiding members. Clubs that developed an outlaw attitude and generally were made up of the criminal-minded became known as 1% clubs.
A friend I ride with is married to a 1%er and the attitudes toward women in that area are decidedly different than in most others regarding clubs. Women are kept apart from any club activities and don’t ride with them except on the back of the man’s bike. Even if a woman has her own bike, it is never used with the club; she rides on back or she stays home. Women will never hold any position or be prospected into any 1% MC, being considered inferior as riders at least and nothing but trouble otherwise.
There are some admittedly outdated issues of protocol that women have to follow when in the presence of a male-dominated Motorcycle Club. Whether it is a 1% club or not, these suggestions, found in several places on the Internet, should be adhered to. Now that women-only MC’s are being founded, it would be assumed that men would follow their own rules, but I can’t vouch for that. However, there is the main protocol of respect and that will more than likely keep everyone from behaving inappropriately.

Never approach a member and introduce yourself. If you are riding alone at a function, wait to be acknowledged and don’t take it personal if you aren’t. If you are a friend of a member, you may ask them to be your escort, but they will know not to approach a higher ranking member just to introduce you. Let your escort wait to be acknowledged and then they can speak on your behalf. If you are an officer in an MC, your escort should introduce you as such. If you are approached for introduction, it is OK to state something like, “Lou R., Treasurer, Lone Wolves.” If you put out your hand, do not take offense if it is not taken. Some may feel they have to know you to shake your hand.
Do not comment on a member’s “colors”(the three-piece rocker patch on their back) or question its meaning. Never ever touch it or their person! I was informed that if you see rockers on the backs of men wearing denim vests with the collars ripped off, they are 1%ers and it is best to just steer clear, but remain respectful at all times.
If you see someone you know to be a member of an MC outside of MC activity, a nod of acknowledgement may be OK, but don’t talk and never mention the club in mixed company. Always allow the member to take any initiative when speaking. Do not be offended if you are not acknowledged or make it a point to be so.
Remember, you are a woman and your opinion holds no weight, so don’t offer one. If you see something you don’t like, walk away silently. MC’s have their own codes of behavior within their group and it’s no-one’s business but their own. If you belong to an MC or RC, do not speak on its behalf unless you have the authority to do so. Conversely, do not ask questions of another MC member about their club unless you know they are authorized to answer them. If in doubt, don’t ask anything at all.
Do not interrupt members when they are speaking to each other.
If you belong to both RC’s and MC’s, never wear the patches together. If you are at a club function and you are asked to remove your vest or jacket because of your patch, do so out of respect as their guest.
Never brag about your club or your spouse’s club or any other or compare clubs. MC members have private lives like everyone else and you never know who the man in the suit is that overhears your conversation.

If you are looking to join a riding club or motorcycle club, there are numerous listings for state and national associations. There are a few clues in the listings as to what kind of club you may be looking at: If it says or contains the word, “brotherhood” in its description, it is a men-only MC. Some may say “family-oriented brotherhood” which means they aren’t outlaw and involve their families in events, but they are exclusive nonetheless. If they include the words “all bikes and riders welcome,” they are more than likely a riding club, even if they do not state as such in their listing. Take advantage of the club web sites and look through their photo galleries to see what kind of members ride. You wouldn’t want to join a club only to find out at the first outing that they’re all 20 years older or worse, 20 years younger because the person you contacted about joining “failed” to mention it. By doing a little research before deciding what group to join, or to join one at all, you can make the best decision for yourself without any surprises and get down to the business of enjoying the ride.

By Louise Reeves