The Yamaha 650 Society
by Joseph Gangloff
Just another Motorcycle Club or is there more to this "biker club"?
Copyright by Joseph Gangloff, 13 April 2006
'T he words Hells Angels and the Deaths Head Logo are property of Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation, Inc. (HAMC) and protected by one or more Trademarks, Service marks, and Collective Membership Marks owned by HAMC. All unauthorized use is strictly forbidden, including reproduction in any manner. All Rights Reserved'
Surprised? I certainly was when I came across this fact while doing my research for this essay. The Hells Angels, the epitome of the "1%" motorcycle club is a corporation. 1% refers to the small percentage of all bikers that belong to "outlaw" clubs. This certainly does not reflect how the media has portrayed the Hells Angels especially early in their history. "The counterculture's view of the Hells Angels was largely shaped by 1950s pop culture, which portrayed the biker as an individualist hero, and incorrectly linked bikers with the counter cultural elements of the period" (Wood 336-350). I read many articles concerning the painting of the early years Hells Angels as fellow rebels against the establishment when in all reality they "would be transformed into a group as organized and businesslike as any corporation operating within mainstream America" (Wood 336-350).
I reviewed other sources of information about motorcycle clubs and I would say that 90% of them concerned themselves with the "1%" clubs. In general terms, motorcycles clubs can be classified as conventional, behaving according to societal norms, and deviant, which relates to violating the norms of society. "Deviant club members engage in non-conformist behavior, including anti-social and criminal behavior, and could not or would not join traditional associations such as the AMA (American Motorcycle Association). Deviant clubs, i.e., norm-violating clubs, from a sociological standpoint would include clubs not AMA sanctioned; of all one race, sex or sexual orientation; or those labeled as one percenter (by others and themselves) and Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs/Gangs" (Barker 101).
Although there seems to be an on-going fascination with these deviant motorcycle groups, fueled by media sensation, their traditions and culture are not reflective of the general community of conventional motorcycle clubs who are not the focus of the eyes of the media. Also, trying to research these type of biker groups has it's own problems. "The world of the 1% biker is secretive and dangerous, many are involved in serious crimes and they are well known for their violence and unpredictable behavior" (Barker 101-102). Although 1% motorcycle club/gangs have a culture and tradition of sorts I have decided to look away from the fringe element and concentrate on a club that is comprised of everyday middle class men and woman, who have no need to strut their "colors", and will go to extraordinary lengths to help their club members, who share a common desire to promote and maintain the integrity of an antique, legendary motorcycle and like craftsman of old, they do most of it with their own hands in a tradition of the passing on of the knowledge and skills required.
Motorcycle club members are considered "bikers" and can be defined as "Persons whose individuality and social identity are in good measure expressed through motorcycle riding, modification and decoration" (Karen Baldwin 81-83). Maxwell develops an inside view of bikers. His main argument is that motorcyclists constitute a community linked by solidarity. This solidarity crosses the social boundaries (gender, race, age social status) (Maxwell 270). I am a conventional "biker"; I own two Yamaha XS650s and like the members of the group I belong to, maintaining and restoring this motorcycle is a labor of love. This common thread which provides for the solidarity of our group meets the definition of the first part of "folklore" as defined by Oring: "The common factor creates a sense of collective identity, so that any population with such a sense could be regarded as 'folk,' according to Dundas" (Oring 1). In this essay I will examine the "lore" genres particular to this club and from the data provided show that this motorcycle club can also be considered "folk group" with its own folklore.
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