A motorcycle club is a group of individuals whose primary interest and activities involve motorcycles.
In the U.S. the abbreviation, MC or MCC, can have a special social meaning from the point of view of the outlaw aka one percenter subcultures, and is usually reserved by them for those clubs that are mutually recognized by other MC clubs. This is indicated by wearing the MC patch, or a three piece patch, or colors, on the back of a club jacket or vest. Outlaw or one percenter can mean merely that the club is not chartered under the auspices of the American Motorcyclist Association, implying a radical rejection of authority and embracing of the "biker" lifestyle defined and popularized since the 1950s and represented by such media as Easyriders magazine, the work of painter David Mann, and more. In many contexts the terms overlap with the usual meaning of "outlaw" because some of these clubs, or some of their members, are recognized by law enforcement agencies as taking part in organized crime.
Outside of the outlaw subculture, the words "motorcycle club" carry no heavy meaning beyond the everyday English definition of the words – a club involving motorcycles, whose members come from every walk of life. Thus, there are clubs that are culturally and stylistically nothing like outlaw or one percenter clubs, and whose activities and goals not similar to them at all, but still use three-part patches or the initials MC in their name or insignia.
Types of clubs, groups and organizations
Motorcycle clubs vary a great deal in their objectives and organizations. Mainstream motorcycle clubs or associations typically have elected officers and directors, annual dues, and a regular publication. They may also sponsor annual or more frequent "rallies" where members can socialize and get to know each other. Some publish in book form lists of members that can be used by touring motorcyclists needing assistance.
There are a great many brand clubs, or clubs dedicated to particular marques, including those sponsored by various manufacturers, such as the Harley Owners Group and the Honda Riders Club of America. There are large national independent motorcycle clubs, such as BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, the STAR Touring and Riding Association, and the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA). In the United Kingdom, there are brand clubs such as the Triumph Owners' Motor Cycle Club (founded in 1949).
Clubs catering for those interested in vintage machines such as the Vintage Motor Cycle Club are also popular as well as for those centered around particular venues. Clubs catering for riders' rights such as the Motorcycle Action Group, and charities such as the 59 Club are popular, many affiliating with the umbrella organization, the British Motorcyclists Federation. National and local branch club magazines and events are typical characteristics of such clubs. More informal groupings continue to exist though for riders local to each other.
Other organizations whose activities primarily involve motorcycles exist for a specific purpose, such as the Patriot Guard Riders, who provide funeral escorts for military veterans, and Rolling Thunder, which advocates for troops missing in action and prisoners of war. While neither of the latter two groups require a motorcycle for membership, they are motorcycling-oriented and much of their activity involves ride. The Christian Motorcyclists Association is a biker ministry. In the United Kingdom, Freewheelers EVS is one of a number of similar charities, which use motorcycles to provide an out-of-hours emergency medical courier service. Some clubs attract membership from specific groups, such as the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, consisting of law enforcement personnel.
The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is the largest American motorcyclist organization. It serves as an umbrella organization for local clubs and sporting events. As of March, 2006, the AMA counts 269,884 active members and many chartered clubs.