Bikers Subculture Examination. By: Paola Soto


Riding motorcycles has been part of human transportation for years. However, motorcycle riding as a hobby was not popular until 1936. As explained by William L. Dulaney, "Perhaps the first emergence of an enduring motorcycle club, one that still exists as of this writing, appeared in 1936. This group was called the McCook Outlaws, hailing from Cook County, Illinois, which encompasses the city of Chicago. The McCook Outlaws were later to become the Chicago Outlaws, now known as the Outlaws Motorcycle Club (Outlaws Motorcycle Club or Outlaws MC). According to a member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club for more than twenty five years who currently resides in northern Florida, older members of his organization related to him that they congregated for the purposes of long distance touring—which was quite an adventure aboard a foot-operated clutch and hand-shifted motorcycle traveling largely on unpaved dirt roads—and racing, which included hill-climbing, flat quarter-mile dirt tracks, and oval wooden board tracks." (

Original Patches

Difference between Riding Clubs and motorcycle clubs

Many people believe that people who ride motorcycle are automatically outlaws who commit crimes and are rebels. However, this is not the case because the biker subculture consist of mainly two clubs, the riding and the motorcycle clubs.

RIDING CLUBS are for people who believe that "riding motorcycles is the primary purpose of a riding club. It's mission is to enjoy in the spirit of riding together, with no other commitments or requirements. People join riding clubs because they want to find friends to ride with, they want to improve their riding skills by learning from others, they'd like to learn more about group riding, but they don't want the lifelong commitment to the club. Some riding clubs require only that the rider submit an application, and pay membership dues, and then they can be considered full fledged members. Yet other riding clubs have some kind of prospect period that allows them to evaluate someone before making them a full fledged member. A few riding clubs acquire members by invitation only. In a riding clubs, the back patch is purchased once membership is obtained. In some clubs, the patch can be kept after you've left the club. In others, it must be returned to club. Members of a riding club are free to quit at anytime. There is no lifelong commitment required, though it's common for some people to remain in a riding club for their whole lives. The riding club is not the most important part of a member's life. However, some riding clubs do demand that their members place some importance in the club." (


MOTORCYCLE CLUBS are for people who believe that "riding motorcycles is not really what a motorcycle club is about. It's more about the social aspects of being together, the brotherhood, creating a family, or creating a framework by which members can find their place in a common goal. Riding motorcycles is just something that members do together. People join motorcycle clubs because they seek a brotherhood bond with other riders, they want the unconditional support from a family, they want an organizational framework that they can find their place in, they want to be associated with the club's image and reputation, and they want make a lifelong commitment to the club. In a motorcycle club, membership normally starts out by "hanging around" a club, such as attending public parties, rides, and events, and getting to know the various members. After awhile, a member that you have gotten to know really well may offer to sponsor you as a prospect. If you become a prospect, you're then put to a test of will, after which you'll earn your membership. This test of will varies from club to club, and can be almost no test of will, to an extreme test of will. In a motorcycle club, the back patch is earned along with membership. Should you get kicked out of the club, the patch is returned to them. Members are not expected to quit. Joining a motorcycle club is a lifelong commitment. Some clubs don't allow their members to quit, or else suffer some kind of retribution. All motorcycle clubs demand that their members attend every meeting, and demand that their members participate in all major events. Some motorcycle clubs even demand that their members make the club the most important part of their lives, above their own families, jobs, and religion." (

Major Motorcycle Clubs

Specific Clubs

Some bikers join clubs that are very specific either because of religion, political views, organizations, etc. Here are some websites of different clubs that offer a specific reason for riding.


After researching of bikers sub culture I connected many important issues that bikers face everyday with Nakayama and Martin's book. I believe motorcycle clubs are more related to a performative approach in an intercultural communication perspective. This is because it almost seems as they are "acting or presenting oneself in a specific way so as to accomplish some goal." (Martin & Nakayama, p. 108). Every motorcycle club has different goals that they want to accomplish by being a member of that specific club; either by having a successful social life, gang/criminal life, social status, etc...

Dykes on Bikes

Short History

"In 1976 a small group of 20 - 25 women motorcyclists gathered at the head of the San Francisco Pride Parade and, unbeknownst to them, a tradition began. One of these women coined the phrase “Dykes on Bikes®” and the San Francisco Chronicle picked it up and ran with it. For the next several years, riders just showed up and rode—no formal organization or registration. It was this way for several years until the middle to late 1980s. However, as SF Pride became more structured and our numbers kept growing, the need to organize Dykes on Bikes® became necessary; thus, the Women’s Motorcycle Contingent (WMC) was born. However, in the press and LGBT culture, we continued to be known as Dykes on Bikes®. This is is an organization committed to creating a local, national and international community of women motorcyclists and friends of women motorcyclists. Our mission is to support philanthropic endeavors in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and women's communities, and to reach out to empower a community of diverse women through rides, charity events, Pride events and education." (

This motorcycle club has suffered for years what is called identity development issues. "People can identify with a multitude of groups: gender, age, religion, nationality, to name only a few. How do we come to develop a sense of identities? Our identities develop over a period of time and always through interaction with others. How an individual’s identity develops depends partly on the relative position or location of the identity within the societal hierarchy. Some identities have a higher position on the social hierarchy. For example, a heterosexual identity has a more privileged position than a homosexual identity." (Martin & Nakayama, p. 172). In this case the motorcycle club of Dykes for Bikes were not allowed to patent their name until 2016. However, heterosexual clubs go to a more easy process to patent their club names and this is because they are in a more social privileged position.


Unfortunately, riding clubs are effected by stereotypes. Many have bad experiences with non riders since they are stereotyped and sometimes misrepresented as outlaws. Martin and Nakayama explained why this tend to happen. "We necessarily categorize and generalize, sometimes relying on stereotypes —widely held beliefs about some group. Stereotypes help us know what to expect from others. They may be positive or negative. Even positive stereotypes can be damaging in that they create unrealistic expectations for individuals. Stereotypes become particularly detrimental when they are negative and are held rigidly. Research has shown that, once adopted, stereotypes are difficult to discard. We pick up stereotypes in many ways, including from the media, which make motorcyclist as criminals and outlaws. Stereotypes can also develop out of negative experiences. If we have unpleasant encounters with people, we may generalize that unpleasantness to include all members of that group, whatever group characteristic we focus on." (Martin & Nakayama, p. 205 & 207).

The Harley Davidson Event

I assisted a small event held by the Harley Davidson in the Morena Blvd location. They were showcasing new motorcycles, they had food and music. At the event I met a very nice rider, America Salvatore. She forms part of the riding club of The Chrome Divas. We had to step away from the music and event because I only had my mobile device to record the interview and the loud music was not helping, I apologize in advance if the sound is low.

America with some Chrome Divas @ the event.

what i learned

Reading and researching might help you with an insight of whatever culture of subculture you might be learning from. However, assisting to a related event of that culture or subculture really helps you understand what you have committed yourself to learn. Assisting the Harley Davidson event really helped me break the previous views and stereotypes I had towards bikers. I got to meet mostly people that pertain to a riding club, this is because they were more approachable. I now understand that not every biker is an outlaw and many of them have successful lives and have excellent professional careers. They made me feel very welcomed at the event and I felt like one of them for one day. The reason why I used to believe that bikers were outlaws is because of my Mexican culture, my family always made me believe that bikers were criminals and since then I have viewed them that way, with the help of media my family's statement was stronger. However, while I was trying to find a culture or subculture to talk about I came across motorcycles, this made me think how little I knew about the subculture. I know respect and understand the sub culture. I understand how much passion, love, respect, loyalty and commitment every club provides. Martin and Nakayama helped me understand why motorcycle clubs act the way they do, why the Dykes on Bikes did not get their name patent until 2016 and lastly and most importantly, why many bikers are stereotyped every day. This was a project that I enjoyed researching and creating and will definitely enjoy to keep learning of the bikers sub culture.


Dulaney, William L. "A Brief History of "Outlaw" Motorcycle Clubs." IJMS/Articles/Dulaney. N.p., Nov. 2005. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.

Martin, Judith N., and Thomas K. Nakayama. Intercultural Communication in Contexts. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.

"Our History." N.p., 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.

"Riding Clubs versus Motorcycle Clubs." Riding Clubs versus Motorcycle Clubs. N.p., 2008. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.


Created with images by dok1 - "Motorcycle" • Ted Van Pelt - ""Biker Chick" "Harley Girl"" • zjazjazoie - "bubbles rainbow colourful" • dimitrisvetsikas1969 - "motorcycle old rusty"

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