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| Michael P. Ehline

The Reason Harley-Davidson Leads With Motorcycle Clubs

Harley-Davidson is one of the most iconic motorcycle brands in the world. Owning and riding one has a special place in the hearts of American motorcycle enthusiasts in the country and others, including rebel hog bikers in Germany, Italy and Australia. It is a brand that has been associated with motorcycle clubs and the biker lifestyle for decades. But how did Harley-Davidson become the favorite bike of American motorcycle clubs? In this article, we will take a closer look at its history and association with motorcycle clubs (M/Cs), and why it remains a favorite among riders, even women. (2018 statistics show around 19% of all motorcycle owners were women.)

History of Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson was founded in 1903 by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson as a small business catering to people who rode bikes. The company started out small, producing just a handful of motorcycles each year. But by 1920, it had become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, producing over 28,000 motorcycles annually.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles were initially used for transportation but soon became popular for racing and touring. The company’s success in racing helped to establish its reputation as a manufacturer of high-performance motorcycles. Over the years, the motorcycle maker has produced many iconic models, including the Knucklehead, Panhead, Shovelhead, and the Evolution engine.

Association with Motorcycle Clubs

Most Harley riders are aware that the company’s association with M/Cs dates back to the 1930s. Still, newer motorcycle riders may be unaware that these iconic motorcycles, called Harley Davidsons, are the only bikes former Hells Angeles President Sonny Barger (RIP) would ride, dead or alive, stating:

“When I die, bury me with my Harley-Davidson.”

During this time, motorcycle clubs were gaining popularity among American youth, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles became the bike of choice for many of these clubs.

One of the most well-known motorcycle clubs is the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC). The Hells Angels were founded in 1948 and quickly became one of the most infamous motorcycle clubs in the world. The club’s association with the USA bike maker is well-documented; many members still ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles today.

But the Hells Angels are not the only motorcycle club to have a close association with Harley-Davidson. Many other clubs, including the Outlaws, the Bandidos, and the Pagans, also ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Why Harley-Davidson is the Favorite Bike of American Motorcycle Clubs

So why is Harley-Davidson the favorite bike of American motorcycle clubs? There are several reasons:

  1. American-made: Harley-Davidson is an American-made motorcycle, and it has become a symbol of American pride. For many motorcycle club members, riding a Harley-Davidson is a way to show their patriotism.
  2. Iconic styling: Harley-Davidson motorcycles are known for their iconic styling. The company’s motorcycles have a distinct look and sound that is instantly recognizable. This makes Harley-Davidson motorcycles stand out from the crowd and adds to their appeal.
  3. High performance: Harley-Davidson motorcycles are known for their high performance. The company’s engines are designed to provide a smooth ride and plenty of power. This makes them ideal for long rides and touring.
  4. Customization: Harley-Davidson motorcycles are highly customizable. Riders can personalize their bikes with a wide range of aftermarket parts and accessories. This allows riders to create a unique look and feel for their motorcycle, which is important for many motorcycle club members.
  5. History: Harley-Davidson has a long history of association with motorcycle clubs. This history adds to the appeal of the brand and makes it a natural choice for many club members.

Motorcycle Club Culture

The culture of motorcycle clubs has become intertwined with the image of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the popular imagination. From movies to television shows, to countless books and articles, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and motorcycle clubs have been portrayed as symbols of rebellion, freedom, and camaraderie. Motorcycle clubs have a unique culture that is often misunderstood by those outside the club. Many motorcycle clubs have their own set of rules and customs that members are expected to follow. This can include everything from the type of motorcycle a member can ride to the way they dress.

One of the most important aspects of motorcycle club culture is brotherhood. Members of a club are considered brothers, and they are expected to support each other no matter

Members of a club are considered brothers, and they are expected to support each other no matter

The Importance of Brotherhood in Motorcycle Clubs

Motorcycle clubs are built on a foundation of brotherhood. Members of a club are not only fellow riders, but they are also considered brothers. This bond between members is formed through a shared passion for riding and a mutual commitment to the club’s values and traditions. In this section, we will discuss the importance of brotherhood in motorcycle clubs and how it affects the club’s culture and identity.

The Benefits of Brotherhood

One of the most significant benefits of brotherhood in motorcycle clubs is the sense of community and belonging it provides. Club members share a common interest, and their shared experiences create a tight-knit community. This community provides a sense of identity, pride, and loyalty that members carry with them both on and off the road.

The brotherhood in motorcycle clubs is also essential for safety. Members trust and look out for each other, making sure everyone is safe while riding. This trust and support create a safer riding environment for everyone in the club. In addition, the sense of accountability among members ensures that everyone is held responsible for their actions, which can help prevent accidents and other mishaps.

HAMC Example

This isn’t a fair-weather riding club full of Sunday riders. Your average HA will ride perhaps 20,000 km per year, often in disciplined, strict riding formation. Usually, the M/C President lead the pack, with his Vice President trailing number two, then the Road Captain, followed by the Sergeant at Arms. All Prospects ride in back, and other riders and patches follow order of rank, or power as ordered. Once created, the M/C riding formation tried to hold firm until at their scheduled destination. If one member of the group gets pulled over by the police in a traffic stop, it is not uncommon for the entire group to stop and provide support to their fellow member at a distance.

The Challenges of Brotherhood

While the brotherhood in motorcycle clubs is undoubtedly a positive aspect, it can also present some challenges. One potential issue is that the strong bond between members can sometimes create an “us vs. them” mentality. This mentality can lead to conflicts with other clubs or non-club members and can sometimes escalate to violence.

Another challenge is the potential for groupthink. When members are deeply committed to the club and its values, it can be difficult to question or challenge those values. This can create a situation where dissenting opinions are not heard, and decision-making becomes skewed. There have been reports of M/C rivalries in battles for the presidencies of many outlaw and non outlaw organizations, not just the HAMCO brand.

The Role of Brotherhood in Club Identity

The brotherhood (no ladies allowed to wear patches) in motorcycle clubs plays a critical role in defining the club’s identity. The shared experiences and sense of community that come from being part of a club are what set it apart from other groups. These shared experiences create a unique culture and identity that members are proud to be a part of.

The brotherhood also helps to maintain the club’s traditions and values. Members are committed to upholding the club’s code of conduct and preserving its history. This commitment to tradition and values helps to ensure the longevity of the club and its continued success.

Brotherhood and Philanthropy

Many motorcycle clubs are also committed to philanthropy and giving back to their communities. The sense of brotherhood within the club can be a powerful motivator for members to engage in charitable activities. Clubs often organize charity rides, fundraisers, and other events to support causes that are important to them.

The brotherhood in motorcycle clubs can also be a source of support for members who are going through difficult times. Members can rally around each other to provide emotional support and assistance when needed. This support network can be especially valuable in times of illness, injury, or other crises.

How did Harley-Davidson Motorcycles become so closely associated with motorcycle club culture?

The roots of Harley’s connection to motorcycle clubs go back to the company’s early days. The first Harley-Davidson motorcycle was built in 1903 by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson in a small shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company quickly gained a reputation for building tough and reliable motorcycles that could handle the rough roads of the day.

Sure there are other cool British bikes such as Triumph, and the UK’s BSA brand. There are even amazing USA bikes like Indian and Victory (R. Lee Ermey’s favorite bike).

But as Harleys became more popular, they began to attract the attention of a new breed of rider:

  • The outlaw biker. These 1% er motorcycle riders rejected mainstream society’s conventions and embraced a more rebellious and independent way of life. They formed motorcycle clubs that were often associated with criminal activity and lawlessness.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the media began to portray outlaw biker clubs as a dangerous and subversive element in society. But at the same time, these bikes were gaining a reputation as the bike of choice for these rebels. The company capitalized on this image by sponsoring motorcycle events and races and by producing motorcycles tailored to the outlaw motorcycle riders and their needs.

Over time, Harley’s association with motorcycle clubs became even stronger. The company’s motorcycles were featured prominently in movies and television shows that depicted the outlaw biker lifestyle. And as their popularity grew, so did the popularity of motorcycle clubs.

Today, they remain the most popular brand of motorcycle among members of motorcycle clubs. The company’s motorcycles are still seen as a symbol of freedom, rebellion, and brotherhood. And while the image of the outlaw biker has changed over the years, their connection with motorcycle club culture remains strong.

But while their association with motorcycle clubs is powerful, it is important to remember that not all motorcycle riders are in M/Cs, and not all clubs are affiliated with criminal activity. Many riders choose them because they are well-built and fun to ride, and there are plenty of fellow riders to give them relatd tips when in a pickle. This alone helps keep sales high. There are plenty of new and used parts on the market, and repair shops as well. Compared to Indian, it might be better to have a supply truck in two with plenty of parts. “There are just not a lot of parts if you break down on an Indian, or a Victory,” according to Dan the Chief, an old school “independent” Harley rider of many years in San Bernardino.

And while the image of the outlaw biker may still be prevalent in popular culture, the reality is that most riders are law-abiding citizens who simply enjoy the freedom and thrill of riding a motorcycle. Sure, speed and performance won’t get to the level of a Ducati, but that is not the stuff riders want. The Harley is more like the classic 45 COLT ACP. A heavier, slower trajectory that packs a mighty punch in all weather, including the rain when you have no choice but to pull over in a sport bike.

The booming exhaust sound alone is enough to understand how: “Loud pipes save lives.”


In conclusion, the association between Harley-Davidson and motorcycle club culture is a complex and fascinating one. From its early days as a tough and reliable motorcycle for hard-working Americans to its current status as the bike of choice for rebels and outlaws, the manufacturer has played an important role in shaping the image of motorcycle clubs in popular culture. And while the reality of motorcycle clubs may be different from the image portrayed in the media, the connection between “Hogs” and motorcycle club culture remains a powerful one.

The brotherhood in motorcycle clubs is a powerful force that shapes the club’s culture, identity, and success. It provides members with a sense of community, safety, accountability, and support beyond the road. However, on a related issue, staying on point as a legit rider is not without its challenges, and it is essential for members to remain mindful of these challenges and work together to address them.

Understanding the importance of brotherhood in motorcycle clubs for student riders can help foster a sense of community and safety while riding. It can also provide a framework for engaging in philanthropic activities and supporting fellow riders both on and off the road. By embracing the values of brotherhood, student riders can create a strong foundation for their riding community and ensure its continued success for years to come.

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