The motorcycle community is an organization of bikers united by a common interest in motorcycles and adhering to certain hierarchies, rules, and symbols within the club.
The first motorcycle clubs emerged in the late 1940s in the United States and were actually criminal gangs consisting of former military men. The ordinary guys from the rural hinterland or poor working outskirts were used to racing across European battlefields on Harley-Davidson, which had a contract with the American army to supply motorcycles. Having returned home and found no place for themselves in a peaceful life, they did not think of anything better than to get back on the bike and engage in a risky criminal craft. These prototypes of modern motorcycle communities fathered the fundamental values of bikers – the desire for unlimited freedom and revolt against the system.
The history of motorcycle communities
In the 80s, nobody knew the foreign word “bike” here, so no one called motorcyclists “bikers.” Instead, the name “rocker” was typical because the motorcyclists of the day looked very much like famous rock stars. They were law-abiding guys, unlike some of their American counterparts. In general, they could be called laid-back petty street hooligans: they only rolled at breakneck speed through the streets with deafeningly roaring engines scaring passers-by and enjoying loud music.
The first official motorcycle community that appeared in Moscow in 1989 was the Night Wolves. Subsequently, in 1995, the club re-registered as a non-profit organization and opened branches in Belarus, Ukraine, and some European countries (Bulgaria, Germany, and Serbia). This is the largest biker association in the CIS.
In general, motorcycle clubs are not a rare phenomenon in Russia and the CIS. They are usually found in most major cities. Bikers are united according to their geographical location – by city or region or based on their favorite motorcycle brand. For example, in Ukraine and Russia, there are motorcycle communities of Harley-Davidson owners.
Traditions and symbolism
The most important symbol of bikers is the obligatory sew-on patches on a leather jacket or a vest. There is no greater humiliation for a biker than to be “de-patched,” i.e., allow badges to be torn off by anyone, especially members of a hostile biker gang. In addition, those who are expelled from the motorcycle club are subjected to the “de-patching” procedure.
The patches indicate the bikers belonging to a particular community. Traditionally, they consist of 3 parts (two-part ones without a bottom rocker are less common) and are sewn to the back of a leather jacket or vest:
- Top rocker has the name of the club.
- Central part features a graphic community logo. Biker clubs involved in criminal activities sometimes use the inscription “1%” here. This is a particular sign that distinguishes them from law-abiding bikers.
- Bottom rocker, where the geographic location (city or country) is specified. Criminal biker clubs don’t use it to make it difficult for law enforcement agencies to search for organization members.
A distinctive feature of Russian motorcycle communities is using three-part patches with the obligatory indication of the city or country, which is not very common in Europe or the USA.
Also, there is such a tradition among bikers: when a newcomer is accepted into the club, they don’t get the entire set of patches right away. They can get them gradually only as they move up the club hierarchy. Thus, the number and size of patches determine the biker status within the community.
It is also interesting how the perception of leather jackets changed among motorcyclists and the townsfolk through time. Now it is seen as a symbol of bikers – of their bold and proud freedom from restrictive social customs and laws. Hard to believe, but initially, motorcyclists thought of the biker jacket not as a symbol, but simply as functional clothing that protected well from fractures and abrasions when falling on asphalt.
I want to become a biker: what to do
The entry process largely depends on the club size, the formalization of the rules, and the club’s purpose of creating. There are two main options:
- The first way is typical for large motorcycle communities and criminal biker associations. First, the newcomer must get acquainted with one of the club’s regular members and be recommended by them. The recommender becomes the guarantor and is fully responsible for the actions of the new member. Then you need to please “experienced” bikers, i.e., actually demonstrating adherence to specific community values and passing the proposed tests. In the third stage, a probationary period is to be passed, and only after that the former rookie can consider themselves a real biker.
- The second way is used in small or local groups. There are no strict requirements, and it is often enough to dress as is customary in the club, learn the rules of conduct, and follow them when hanging out with clubmates.
Forecast for the motorcycle communities’ development in Russia and the CIS
In short, in Russia, there will be complete uncertainty with the supply of products, crazy prices for used spare parts, possibly, the occurrence of multiple bike salvage yards, an increased risk of theft of famous brands of motorcycles, a high probability of closing dealers of foreign brands.
In more detail, popular brands in Russia have already refused to supply new products. These include Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Ducati, Suzuki, and BMW.
Russian motorcycle manufacturers are moving their business to other countries. For example, the Ural motorcycle plant was relocated to Kazakhstan from the Sverdlovsk region to be able to receive components freely.
Based on that, we can conclude that the 2022 biker season in Russia will most likely be pretty much truncated if it takes place. Small motorcycle communities can completely disintegrate because their members will be busy surviving and obviously will not have time for their favorite pastime. It will be much easier for large motorcycle clubs as they can count on state support and cover part of the costs through donations.
As for Ukraine, now it is more likely to see a biker with a gun than on a motorcycle, so the 2022 season will be nonexistent with a probability close to 100%. In other CIS countries, the situation will be much better. The only significant risk that may graze motorcyclists is that due to the “special operation” carried out by Russia, prices for goods, including motorcycles and spare parts, may rise. I think that the rise can be in the range of 10-20% but not higher than 50%.