Motorcycle Clubs 101

So You Want To Start A Motorcycle Club Series?

Motorcycle Clubs 101 “Bylaws”

The heart of a well-run motorcycle club can be found in its adherence to its bylaws. So whether you are starting an MC, taking one over or trying to make yours better your first goal should be to establish or strengthening your club’s bylaws.

What is so great About the Bylaws?

Think of the bylaws as being as important to your club as the United States constitution is to our country. The bylaws are the constitution of your motorcycle club. If you have strong bylaws that are coherent, fair and adaptable, and your MC strictly adheres to them-your MC will have discovered a recipe that will set it up to last for 50 years or more with great success! No member will stand above the bylaws and that fact serves to keep everyone honest-thereby keeping the MC eternally strong!

What Sorts of Things are Contained in the Bylaws?

The bylaws are your club’s bible. They document the history and beginnings of your club. They state the mission and the motto of the club. They specify how club members and officers will conduct themselves, chain of command, order of succession, how dues will be paid, how fines will be levied and how much fines should be, how and when elections will be carried out, how prospects (or probies) will be initiated and how punishment will be meted out. Bylaws also specify the powers and responsibilities of club officers, terms of office, financial protocols the club will follow, dates for annuals and other historical functions, as well as the qualifications for club membership and the criteria by which members may be dismissed. The bylaws are in fact the very document that give your MC the authority to exist and operate.

Should your Bylaws be set in Stone?

For the most part your bylaws should be set in stone; however, every set of rules must have the ability to adapt to changing culture, technology, people and times if they are to remain relevant. So your bylaws should be a rigid but flexible document and should be set up so that a two-thirds club majority can amend them during a normal or special vote. This is a key element to having great bylaws.

From Where Should You Obtain Your Bylaws or is it Better to Just Write Them?

When looking for a source for your bylaws you should never just sit down and write them from scratch. There is no need to reinvent the wheel in this case. Consult a motorcycle club that you hold in high esteem and ask them if you can obtain a copy of their bylaws so that you can base your club’s bylaws upon theirs. Oh, by the way, the club you should ask should be thirty years old or older. The reasons for these suggestions are:

  1. It would take you perhaps six months to think of and write everything from scratch, that the bylaws should contain in them.
  2. An older club’s bylaws have been “matured” over time and well-tested. They will contain subjects in them that you may never consider because in the past 30 or more years they have seen basically everything and their bylaws will contain the answers you will need to handle the best and worst case scenarios your club is bound to experience.
  3. Bylaws strong enough to keep a club running for three decades will be strong enough to get any new club started.

We’ve got a Set of Bylaws, Now What?

After you obtain a set of bylaws you should sit with your prospective club members and amend those bylaws until you transform them into bylaws that work for your proposed motorcycle club. Notice that I said proposed motorcycle club. No motorcycle club should form until those bylaws have been written. This way you will have an operations guideline from day one that clearly spells out everyone’s responsibilities, positions and requirements. This will keep you from going down the wrong road before you head down that road.

One More Thing about the Bylaws!

President’s, I get so damned sick of club members coming up with suggestions or asking me things that are clearly stated in the bylaws, don’t you? New Presidents, after you get a good set of bylaws written and adopted insist that your members know them backwards and forwards if you want your jobs to be easier. The best way to do that is to have a reading of a chapter or two of your bylaws at the start of each club meeting. And always, when one of your non-reading club members asks you something silly that has been covered in the bylaws-make them LOOK IT UP instead of telling them the answer! This will make your club member stronger in their bylaws knowledge and that cannot be bad!

Motorcycle Clubs 101 – How to Create Motorcycle Club Bylaws Part I

Bylaws create the solid foundation that will hold your motorcycle club together. If they are written careful and strictly followed they will ensure that your club will survive the many challenges that will confront it over the years and decades. If you look around forty years from now and your motorcycle club is still around it is likely that the constitution you create today will be largely responsible for your club’s success.

When you create your bylaws you should keep in mind that this document will be the great club equalizer that will be the law from which no single club member can out rank, disregard or move against. There should be great consideration and thought put into the creation of this document. Once written, the bylaws will be the roadmap that will guide your members.

This article series will show you what your club’s constitution should contain and give you basic instructions on how to write them:

· The bylaws should begin with a creation/amendment date prominently displayed at the top. This date will allow all members to know that they have the most up-to-date version with a quick glance.

· There should be a table of contents to allow members to quickly search and access desired sections.

Article 1 should stipulate the date of the inception of the motorcycle club. Along with the club’s birth date it will state what the name shall forever be. It should give the physical address and the website URL, Facebook page URL, email, phone number and other contact information.

Article II

Section 1 The Club:

Section 1 of Article II should explain what the physical makeup of the club should be. It will state how many members a club contains (or an unlimited number of members) and what the male and female members shall be designated (i.e., property vs. members). It will designate what percentage of the membership must own motorcycles (in Georgia this is 80% of the club’s members) and how long a membership will last (i.e., until the member dissolves their membership or violates the constitution).

Section 2 Membership:

Section 2 of Article II generally states what is required to be a member of your motorcycle club. It should state the requirements of regular or prospective (probationary) membership. It will state the minimum age of a member and what qualifications the member should have on their driver’s license before they can join. It will stipulate how a prospective member (hang around) will become designated as a Prospect and how the Prospect will become a regular member. It will also state the minimum age required for membership.

Section 2a: Prospective Membership:

Section 2a of Article II will detail the conduct of a Prospect during the prospecting period. It will specify the duties of the Prospect’s sponsor and the duties of the Prospect. It will list all requirements of a Prospect and specifically state what a Prospect cannot be asked to do and what cannot be done to a Prospect by regular members.

Section 3a: Auxiliary Membership

Section 3a of Article II will discuss auxiliary membership or the duties of club Property. It will tell how old the auxiliary members should be and discuss the nature of their association with the club and what it will take for them to gain their colors.

Section 4: Initiation

Section 4 of Article II will state what is required during the club’s initiation of a new member.

Section 4a: Inactive Members

Section 4a of Article II will specify how inactive members will be treated and what will be considered a period of inactivity. It will detail how the MC will grant members a leave of absence, emergency leave or relieve duty responsibilities from a member for special circumstances. It will also state how long leave periods can be granted.

Section 4b: Continuous Good Standing

Section 4b of Article II will specify what is required for a member to be in good standing with the MC. Usually if a member is current on dues, stands duties, and has completed a specific membership period of time; they could be considered in “Good Standing,” for example.

Section 5: Discrimination

Section 5 of Article II will contain the motorcycle club’s anti-discrimination clause if one is desired.

This article has been an examination of what general subjects are contained in Article I and II of well written motorcycle club bylaws. Join me in my next article as we delve deeper into how to write motorcycle club bylaws.

The History of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs

Outlaw motorcycle clubs have existed almost since the origin of motorcycles. Almost as soon as motorcycles began production in the early twentieth century, clubs began emerging around the United States, although the outlaw label would come about later. These clubs brought together motorcycle enthusiasts for rides and other events.

One of the first long lasting motorcycle clubs to emerge was the McCook Outlaws in 1936. The group would later be called the Chicago Outlaws and is now known as the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. The group supposedly formed for long distance touring and racing. Alcohol consumption and partying were secondary, but important, reasons as well.

With the end of World War II in 1945, young soldiers returned home looking for more adventure. Veterans often sought other war survivors out for companionship and understanding and the lure of motorcycle riding became entwined in some of these relationships. The American Motorcycle Association or AMA sponsored many clubs during the post war years.

In the late 1940s, after a disturbance in the town of Hollister, California, some individuals responded to a Life article by stating that the disorder was due to only a small percentage of the motorcyclists there. The statements seemed to many to have come from the AMA and some biker clubs broke away from the organization. Clubs not associated with the AMA would come to be known as the One Percenters or outlaw clubs.

Outlaw motorcycle clubs started emerging all over the United States and included clubs like the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, the Pagans Motorcycle Club, and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. With the arrival of the Vietnam War, the clubs experienced sharp increases in membership as disenfranchised veterans found acceptance and solace in the clubs.

The influx of Vietnam vets also brought drug culture into the clubs, as many soldiers had been introduced to illegal drugs in Asia. The clubs received negative labels from the outside and were often targeted by law officials. Hollywood presented a number of movies that built on this negative, violent perception. A sub-culture developed surrounding the groups. Many members of the outlaw clubs insist that illegal activity happens with only a small percentage of the members and shouldn’t be used to label everyone.

While places like Canada have seen more violence and illegal drug activities in recent years (in what is known as the Quebec Biker War), perception in the United States has seem to shift somewhat. Popular television series, like Monster Garage, portray members of an outlaw motorcycle club in a more favorable light.

Outlaw motorcycle clubs have an important place in the history of the twentieth century. Although their image has not always been positive, the sub-culture of the clubs has influenced American culture.