When I was 12 years old, I was riding Bill Bowdoin’s small motorcycle down Habersham in Carrollton when I wrecked and broke my shoulder. I have not sat on a motorcycle since.

I do not own a motorcycle, a motorcycle jacket, helmet, or any other gear associated with riding. I probably could not crank a Harley-Davidson if forced to at the point of a bayonet.

So why do I even care to discuss motorcycle clubs? As with most topics, justice.

I have noticed that some people in Georgia associate or confuse “motorcycle clubs” with the notorious “motorcycle gangs” seen on the Discovery Channel and History Channel.

First, a motorcycle club is simply an organized club of dedicated motorcyclists who join together for camaraderie, strength of numbers, companionship, education, rider training, recovery, or socialization.

Motorcycle clubs vary a great deal in their objectives and organizations. 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, such as BMW MOA and BMW RA annually publish in book form lists of members that can be used by touring motorcyclists needing assistance.

There are a great many motor cycle riding clubs, including those sponsored by various manufacturers, such as the Harley Owners Group and the Honda Riders Club of America. Large national independent motorcycle clubs, such as BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, BMW Riders Association, the STAR Touring and Riding Association, and the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA), are abundant.

Other riding clubs exist for a specific purpose, such as the Patriot Guard Riders, who provide funeral escorts for military veterans.

There are even some “Law Enforcement Motorcycle Clubs” (LEMC’s). An authentic LEMC consists of at least 75% Law Enforcement members and every Officer in the Club is a Law Enforcement Officer.

Unfortunately, because of television and prejudice, members of motorcycle clubs are often viewed in a negative light by traditional society.

Historically, only about 1% of motorcycle riders openly engage in criminal activity in furtherance of their organization. These are called “one percenters” motorcycle gangs. These are the motorcycle gangs that you see in documentaries trafficking drugs and committing acts of violence.

While one percenters garner much publicity for their activities and misdeeds, there are many, many more motorcycle clubs and bikers that instead identify as ninety-nine percenters, that is to say, not one-percenters. These are the folks that you see every day riding the highways of our state. They hold charity rides, travel rides, and simply enjoy the companionship of loyal friends riding freely in the open air

These clubs stress safety and rider skills. Most will have a “road captain” that is responsible for safe riding. The members will generally have a pre-run safety check where required equipment, tires, etc are checked. This is both for member safety and prevent giving the police any justification for stopping the group.

I don’t foresee myself joining a motorcycle club in the near future. However, I hope that the next time you see a group of riders going down I-20 you will realize that these men and women are not “Hell’s Angel’s.” They are likely just a group of people who are not very different from you or me.