Motorcycle Clubs

  1. I. General

    This is meant to be basic information, to inform men of what is in store for them if they are interested in becoming a member of a Motorcycle Club (distinguished by a "Three-Piece" Patch). This information has been obtained from many sources and represents what is indicative of the membership process for most motorcycle clubs. However, the process does differ from club to club and that must be taken into account when reading this. Consider this as general information only.

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    The material on this page is intended to inform the reader in the processes involved in attaining Patch-holder status in the traditional MCs. It will also provide you with a sense of the level of commitment that has been required for Patch-holders to obtain and keep their colors.

    Understanding the commitment others have made in becoming Patch-holders, you should examine your feelings and question your motivation for wanting to become a part of the Brotherhood you are joining. Be certain that you are both willing, and able, to commit yourself to the level that will be required. Be certain that your family understands the demands that the Club will make on your time, and that those demands will continue to an even greater extent once you become a Patch-holder. There are many riding clubs, touring Clubs and motorcycle associations that expect and receive only casual participation. True Motorcycle Clubs are not among them.

    If, after reading this, you have any doubt about being able to meet the responsibilities outlined here, it would be better not to consider moving forward at this time. Instead, continue your association with the Club in your present status until you feel you are ready and are confident of your success. Such a decision would be respected and would be to your credit.

II. The Club, the Officers and Glossary of Terms

    The intent of this section is to give you an overview of the structure and philosophy of the traditional Motorcycle Club (MC). This does not necessarily express the feelings or priorities of any particular Club, as all Motorcycle Clubs differ on some points. Regardless of the basic philosophy of your Club, it is important that you understand the perspectives of other Clubs that you may be associating with from time to time. If motorcycles influence your lifestyle, then you are part of the motorcycle community. Of all the types of organizations found within that community, the traditional motorcycle Club stands apart and ranks highest in stature.

    Within a Club, officers hold the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Sergeant at Arms. Other less traditional posts are Road Captain and Enforcer. The following is a glossary of the more traditional terms frequently used in the MC world.

Acquaintance – Someone that is well known by the Club, usually for a fairly long period of time. This is the first step taken to a major Club. The next step is "Hang Around".

Bad Standing – A member in bad standing in the Club is not in approval of his Club Brothers and has no rights or privileges within that Club. A member can also be removed from the Club in bad standing, which forfeits his right of returning to the Club for any reason. This is usually the result of a vote taken at the local chapter level.

President – The President is the Chief Executive Officer of the club chapter. All matters concerning relations between the club and any outside person or organization should be routed to the President for appropriate action.

Road Captain – The Road Captain is responsible for all club runs. He shall research, plan, and organize all runs. During actual time on the road or at intermediate stops during a run, he shall act as ranking club officer, deferring only to the President or Vice President.

Sergeant at Arms – The sergeant at Arms is responsible for ensuring that the Bylaws and Standing Rules of the club are not violated, and that orders of the Chapter Officers are carried out in an expeditious manner. He is responsible for policing and keeping order at all club events. He is responsible for securing any patches or colors from any Member who resigns or is expelled. The Sergeant at Arms is responsible for the safety and security of the club, as well as the protection and defense of its Members and Prospects.

Secretary – The Secretary is responsible for making and keeping all club chapter records, including: the membership list, the Bylaws, Rules of Order, Standing Rules, records of all committee appointments, all written reports, copies of all correspondence between the club and any outside person or organization, and the minutes.

Treasurer – The Treasurer keeps all funds of the club chapter, as well as a record of colors, patches, or reproductions thereof issued to members. He may disburse funds to pay expenses as prescribed in the By Laws and Constitution.

Vice President – The Vice President shall coordinate all committees, and supervise plans for all club events. The Vice President shall act as an intermediary between the President and the Members or Prospects. Additionally, the Vice President is second-in-command to the President, and shall assume all responsibilities and duties of the President in his absence.

Good Standing – A member in good standing in the Club is in approval of his Club Brothers and maintains all rights and privileges within that Club.

Hang-around – Someone that has been an acquaintance, but has been raised a notch and who has been permitted into a more intimate relationship with the Club. They are expected to "hang around" the Club and its members for a period of time, depending on the Club. This allows Club members to gauge whether they want to let him in. The next step is "Prospect".

Nomad – Usually a Club member that has no Chapter affiliation but is involved in much the same functions as the Enforcer. The Nomad usually serves at the pleasure of the President and assists in carrying out orders and policy. The Nomad title allows him to carry out these orders without being "beholding" or having loyalty to a specific chapter. In some Clubs, the Nomads belong to a chapter but usually live far away and are not required to attend as many of the Club’s activities.

National Board – Consists of the National President, National Vice President, National Secretary, National Treasurer, and sometimes the National Sergeant at Arms. It is the main policy making body within the Club and directs policy downward through the State officers to the general membership.

National Enforcer – Responsible for enforcing by-laws, rules, and orders at the National level, and is usually responsible for planning and carrying out retaliation. Sometimes also called "Warlord".

National President – This position is either elected or appointed and is responsible for directing Club policy and procedure at the National level.

National Road Captain – Responsible for Club movements, i.e. route planning, logistics, lodging, etc at the National level.

National Secretary – Responsible for maintaining a written record of all national meeting minutes and the records and files of all members at the National level.

National Sergeant at Arms – Responsible for Club security at the National level, especially at National meetings but also in the more general sense.

National Treasurer – Responsible for maintaining control of all Club funds, including contributions, donations, as well as bills and debts at the National level.

National Vice President – This position is either elected or appointed and is responsible for directing Club policy and procedure at the National level in the National President's absence. This position is also frequently utilized as a "go-between" between the State level officers and the National Board. It allows for a "buffer" when there are conflicts in Club policy or disputes between States and between the States and the National Board.

Patch-holder – This is the culmination of literally years of service to the Club. He now has full rights within the Club and is accepted by his peers as their equal. Full Patch-holder status in one of the major Clubs is usually a '''til death do us part" kind of thing. Which is the reason this decision is not taken or looked upon lightly.

Prospect – A Hang-around moves to prospect when the Club thinks he's ready. This period, when he usually wears a portion of the Club colors, (sometimes just the bottom rocker, sometimes a specific prospect patch) is when he goes through the final testing that allows full members to gauge his worthiness. This period lasts anywhere from a little less than a year to two years or more. The final step is "Patch-holder".

Retired Patch-holder – A member can retire from active status within a Club, usually after a prerequisite number of years of membership have been attained. The retired member is usually allowed to retain his colors, but is normally not allowed to wear them ever again.

    As you can see, there is a strong organization within a Motorcycle Club. You can also see what some of these Patch-holders have gone through to literally earn their status. This is the biggest reason why we must show them the respect they deserve. It's also the reason you are shown respect by other Patch-holders. They expect you to know what they have gone through and assume that you have done the same thing to earn the right to wear your colors. Honor and respect are paramount when dealing in any MC situation. Being a Patch-holder in an MC is an honor not to be taken lightly. You will be looked up to by independent bikers; you will be looked at as an equal by other patch-holders; and you will be looked at with curiosity and, in some cases, disdain, by the new, casual, or "wannabe" bikers that are out there. These are the reasons why we expect and demand that you behave in a way that brings no dishonor or disrespect to the Club. You will be watched, and everyone you see will note your behavior accordingly.

III. Respect

    Those who are correctly informed recognize the deep level of personal commitment and self discipline that a man has to demonstrate and sustain in order to wear a patch. They understand that it is akin to a religion or vocation to that man. They realize that a Club's "Colors" are closely guarded and the membership process is long and difficult. Other factors notwithstanding, they respect Patch-holders for what they have accomplished by being able to earn and keep the patch they wear. This is respect born out of recognition of dedication and accomplishment.

    Those who are less informed see only the surface. They see the vigilance of mutual support. They see the potential danger of invoking a response from a well-organized unit that travels in numbers and is always prepared for confrontation. They know that no one can provoke one Club member without being answerable to the whole Club, and that such an answer is a point of honor that must come, to the last man. The type of respect that this generates is one born out of fear.

    We strive for respect for reason number one, not reason number two! This is especially true as it pertains to those persons outside of the motorcycle community. This segment of society is by far the larger, and therefore represents a larger market for any fund raising activities that the Club might undertake. It stands to reason that cultivating a relationship with these people is important, and to be perceived by them as "Biker Scum" would not be advantageous to the Club. We therefore will conduct ourselves as upstanding citizens in every way, "good neighbors" so to speak. The goal is to be admired and respected by the general public rather than feared.

    The serious Club, and all of its members and prospects, will always conduct themselves publicly in a highly professional manner. They will not go out of their way to cause trouble or to present themselves as an intimidating force without purpose or provocation.

    There is also a natural hierarchy that is recognized between motorcycle Clubs themselves. The strongest and most established Club assumes charge of the particular state in which they ride. This dominant Club will, for reasons that are beneficial to all, authorize the establishment of new Clubs within that state and disband Clubs that continually create problems. They will act as mediators to resolve problems between existing Clubs; and will step in and enforce their own solution if the feuding Clubs cannot come to terms on their own. They will provide communication links and coordinate inter-Club events. They may call on the Clubs within a state for additional support if needed when dealing with a threatening external force. It is also not uncommon for the major Club in an area to select some of their prospects from the best ranks of the other Clubs. In fact, some Clubs have been established with this sole purpose in mind.

    If it were not for the major Club of a state taking this leadership position, the smaller, less dominant Clubs would not enjoy the luxury of putting their time and resources to the benefit of their individual brotherhoods. Nor would they enjoy the mobility and freedom of movement that comes with peace and order.

IV. Club Colors

    The general public does not draw a distinction between different Club colors. In many cases, they simply can't tell the difference: we're all "biker scum" to them. If one Club causes a problem that touches the public sector, the offending Club's identity is either confused or ignored and the heat comes down on all Clubs. The Clubs tend to police themselves to avoid such incidents.

V. The Process

    In most cases, the Patch-holder was a Hang-around with the Club for about a year. Before that he was a long standing acquaintance and his attitude and overall conduct were well known. He then prospected for the Club for one to two years before he got his patch. Of all things in this man's life, his loyalty and commitment to the well being of the Club comes first above all else. There is never any doubt that comes first. Though most things in life can let him down, he knows that his Club and his brothers will always be there because he is always committed to being there himself.

    To be sure that this ideal and attitude continues on with any new members, he participates in teaching, conditioning, and even testing the Club's prospects. The term "prospect" comes from the words "prospective member". Before he allows another man to wear his colors, he is sure that the prospect is as dedicated as he is.

    A Patch-holder has the attitude that there are only two types of people, those who are brothers and those who are not. For this reason he will not discuss any Club business with anyone outside of the Club. He will keep his voice down when discussing Club business and he will be aware of anyone coming within listening distance. He understands that he is a Patch-holder 24 hours a day whether or not he is wearing his colors. Everything he says or does in public can affect the Club or the brothers. He also understands that if he gets out of line, that he is subject to be counseled by his brothers for his own good and for that of the Club.

    Wearing a patch is more than getting together for good times. It also means getting together for the other times, too. It constitutes a lot of work. It's committing yourself to a lifestyle in which you do not look for how your brothers can help you, but for ways that you can be of help to your brothers. You always look to give rather than to receive. All of this may seem very idealistic, and in some cases it's just that. But it is an ideal that all Clubs profess and are always striving for in principal and practice. You should be aware of the "Golden Rule" of conduct while traveling in Club circles: If you give respect, you'll get respect. If you act like an asshole, you'll be treated like one.

VI. Levels of Commitment

    When a man earns his patch, it does not mean that he has reached the ultimate goal and from that point he can kick back and coast. Moving from acquaintance to Hang-around to Prospect to Patch-holder is not climbing from the bottom to the top, but rather more like climbing a constantly ascending slope, and in time becoming a stronger and more committed brother.

    A man's prospecting rocker and later his patch are merely presented in recognition of what he has demonstrated along the way. In this fashion, the more senior the Patch-holder is in the Club and the more he experiences, the more of a brother he should be to all.

VII. Purpose of Prospecting

    Prospecting is not an initiation, as you would find in a fraternity. It is, instead, a period of training that is sustained until the prospect, in every sense, conducts himself as a Patch-holder. It's a time in which:

1. The man's attitude is conditioned so that he displays a sense of responsibility and respect toward the Patch-holders of the Club, without which he will not develop a sense of brotherhood.

2. He is educated in basic MC protocol and etiquette.

3. He is given time to develop the habits that are basic to good security and good communications.

4. To get the man into the habit of participating.

5. To give his family time to adjust to the demands of the Club.

6. To experience and learn an essential degree of humility.

7. To become accustomed to trusting the judgment, at times blindly, of those Patch-holders who will someday be his brothers.

8. To break the man of habits that are self centered and self serving.

    The list could go on but the point here is to demonstrate that prospecting has definite objectives and that a prospect will go nowhere in the Club if he is not aware of this and does not apply himself to those ends.

    It's not possible to make a checklist of what is expected from a prospect in all cases. There isn’t any formula for success, but the key is ATTITUDE. Everything else can be learned in time, but a man's attitude comes from the heart.

    The testing of a prospect may come in many ways. It may be planned or spontaneous. In any event, when a prospect is given a task, the Patch-holder is going to be looking for the man's attitude and the spirit in which he carries out the task. The prospect should be alert and always attentive in looking for more to do. If he is ever in doubt of his priorities or he can't find something to do, he should ask. The Patch-holders know which of the prospects hustle, and those are the prospects that are spoken of with the greatest pride and respect. It is also the way by which confidence and trust are developed. These are the seeds of brotherhood.

    Remember that you will be prospecting for the whole Club and not just one individual or individual chapter. The Patch-holders of one chapter are always held accountable for the actions of a Patch-holder of another chapter. It is therefore only right that the Patch-holders of all chapters have a hand in developing the prospects on their way to becoming a full Patch-holder.

VIII. Some Do's and Don'ts for Prospects

1. As a prospect, strive to conduct yourself as a responsible Patch-holder at all times.

2. Always display a positive attitude.

3. Participate as much as you think is acceptable; then participate more.

4. If you see a Patch-holder of your Club that you have not met, take the initiative to introduce yourself. Always introduce yourself as "Prospect (your name)".

5. At all gatherings, make it a point to circulate when you have the time to do so and greet every Patch-holder who is there.

6. Anticipate the brothers' needs and offer to supply them. Don't wait to be told.

7. Don't get overly friendly with someone that is not a regular acquaintance of the Club. If someone outside the Club has questions, refer him to a Patch-holder.

8. Never give out a Patch-holder's name, phone number, address, or any personal information to anyone outside the Club.

9. Never give out any information about the Club itself to outsiders. This includes, but is not limited to, where the Club is based, how many members are in the Club, etc.

10. Always be security minded, look around and see what’s going on around you in public places and report anything that seems suspicious.

11. While in public places, always conduct yourself with your association with the Club in mind. Remember that what you do people will remember; good or bad.

12. Never let a Patch-holder walk off alone in an unsecured area. If he is going out to his car, his bike, or even just out to get some fresh air, go with him. Watch his back at all times.

13. If you are at an open function and pick up on some negative attitudes, especially if from another Club, quietly alert a Patch-holder immediately.

14. Keep your ears and eyes open and feed any information that you may pick up on to a Patch-holder, especially information regarding another Club.

15. Remember that you are a prospect 24 hours a day. Your association doesn't go on and off with your colors.

16. Remember that you are every Patch-holder's prospect, not just your sponsor's or just your chapter's.

17. Never wear your colors out of your area without your sponsor's approval and never out of state unless you are with a Patch-holder.

18. If two or more Patch-holders are having a private conversation, don't approach them within earshot, especially if they are talking with a Patch-holder of another Club. If you need to interrupt put yourself in a place of visibility and wait to be acknowledged. If it is important that you interrupt, ask another Patch-holder to break in for you.

19. Never use the term "Outlaw Club" when speaking to a member of another Club.

20. Never lie to a member of another Club. If you are in a situation where you are asked about the Club or its membership, it is acceptable to say "That seems like Club business and I really can't talk about it”. If this doesn't put the subject to rest, offer to put him in touch with a Patch-holder for him to speak with.

21. Always show respect to a Patch-holder of another Club. Even though he's with another Club he's earned his patch; you haven't.

22. Always carry a pen and a paper, a watch, and a calendar.

23. Frequently ask the Patch-holders how you are doing and if there's anything you should be doing differently.

24. Never ask when you may be getting your patch.

25. Never call a Patch-holder "brother". He's not your brother.

26. Never call a Patch-holder of another Club "brother". He's not your brother, either.

27. Remember that your patch is earned; it is not given to you.

28. Never bring a personal friend or a stranger into the presence of Patch-holders without asking permission to do so first.

29. At an open function, never turn your back to a Patch-holder of another Club. This is not so much for safety reasons, but as a show of respect.

30. Always show respect and courtesy to Patch-holders of other Clubs. Don't come across like you want to be best friends. Be professional in such encounters; keep it short, then move on.

31. Keep away from women associating with other Clubs.

32. Never be quick to walk up to a Patch-holder of another Club in a public setting, even if you know him well and the Clubs are on friendly terms. If you want to greet him, walk up slowly and wait for him to indicate that he wants such a public display to take place. He may be on some Club business and may not want to give the general public the impression that the Clubs are on such friendly terms. If he looks like he's going to ignore you, accept it and keep your distance. The best approach is always to wait for them to come to you, and to let everyone else see that.

33. Learn what different parts of our patch represent and what the different color combination of yours and other Clubs represent.

34. As you gain experience with the Club, you will begin to see the importance of some of the points discussed in this document. Although no amount of writing can convey all that you will need to know, it is hoped that this will at least help you get off on the right foot.

    What you have just read is a brief overview of the structure and philosophy of a majority of the traditional MCs. Additionally, a brief overview of the standards of conduct of "Prospects" to those Clubs was presented. The importance of you absorbing and understanding the information contained in this cannot be overemphasized. Your understanding of what wearing the MC patch means and of conducting yourself appropriately is paramount to the continued recognition and credibility of your Club.