Sharing the open road with a group of like-minded motorcyclists has quickly become a new trend, with riders joining organized motorcycle clubs for camaraderie and group-planned routes and day trips.
These social groups exist across the country and were formed by motorcycle enthusiasts who love to share their passion with fellow riders. Many groups are themed membership clubs, and here are some of the themes:
--Veterans and active-duty military members.
--Police officers, firefighters and EMTs.
--Families, including teens and children who ride with parental supervision.
--Christians and other religious communities.
--Lean and sober groups, with members in recovery and the rides as part of their supportive community.
--Charitable-minded groups who plan fundraising rides.
--Owners of particular motorcycle brands, such as Harley Davidson, BMW, Suzuki and others.
--Owners of particular motorcycle designs, such as cruisers and custom bikes.
These groups welcome members with or without paid membership, but often they require you to take a certified motorcycle safety course as a part of their entry requirements. This step protects them from liability, as does a waiver that many group rides require. Safety is always a first priority in any motorcycle club, quite smartly.
*What Motorcycle Clubs Do
As a member, you'll receive an email -- or an event invitation through the club's Facebook page -- that a ride is set for a certain date. The route is included, as are details about the ride's attractions. The group might, for instance, stop at an eatery for lunch, or stop at tourism sites at the destination. On the invitation, you'll find out what you need to bring with you and whether guests are permitted to join the group.
Many motorcycle clubs hold events for charity, such as a 100-mile ride to raise awareness for a particular health charity, or to raise funds for a veteran's hospital, volunteer fire department or other noble cause. "I joined my husband's motorcycle club because I loved that they chose a different charity each month," says motorcycle enthusiast Sarina Block. "I now help run the fundraising events, and we've helped children with cancer, environmental groups and our local animal shelter's adopt-a-thon."
Some motorcycle clubs even arrange for the prize of a new motorcycle to be auctioned off at elite charity events.
And some clubs are purely tourism-inclined, with rides planned to wine country and scenic areas. "Joining the motorcycle group put an end to my retirement boredom," says group member Saul Parrish. "Once I joined the club, I was no longer depressed, and my doctor said that the increased social activity and exercise was good for my heart and health."
*How To Find a Motorcycle Group
A simple Google search will locate existing motorcycle clubs in your area. Or visit MotorcycleClubsIndex.com, which lists accredited motorcycle clubs' websites, themes and the types of rides they plan.
You also can ask motorcycle owners you know whether they belong to a reputable motorcycle club. They may be able to sponsor you for membership.
And of course, local motorcycle dealerships are a hotbed of information on motorcycle clubs and upcoming charity rides. Stop in to ask the knowledgeable staff members whether they can recommend a local club. Very often, shop owners either run or belong to local clubs.
*Starting a Motorcycle Club
If you can't find a motorcycle club local to you, or if you feel your existing social group -- such as an Elks Club or a golf club -- would be interested, you might wish to found your own motorcycle club.
This is quite easily done through sites such as MeetUp.org or through a Facebook page that you create. Invite friends and colleagues to spread the word just to gauge interest at first, and once you have people signed on to your page, you can then take the next steps toward making your group official.
The first course of action is always drawing up a membership contract that protects you from liability. A "ride at your own risk" clause is essential, as is a list of requirements, such as wearing a DOT-certified helmet at all times during rides and wearing protective gear. Look at the membership requirements on other motorcycle group webpages to see how they list their rules, and use those details to finalize your membership forms. Choose a name for your group that differs from nearby existing motorcycle clubs as a matter of proper etiquette.
You can then start planning your motorcycle rides. Choose a scenic route near you and the best date and time for the ride, and perhaps pick a spot to stop for lunch. Keep this first outing simple until you find that members are eager for more extensive rides and charitable events. If you do wish to conduct events for charities, you'll need to apply for 501(c)(3) charitable organization status through official channels.
Your new club could become the hit of the region, and you'll provide members with a fantastic new social group with which to share their motorcycle passion.