The following story was written by Johanne Cardinal, a 3rd season 'veteran' rider and a member of the Upper Canada Cruisers Club - one of the Spring Show's exhibiting motorcycle clubs
Why join a Motorcycle Club and how to shop for one at the upcoming Spring Motorcycle Show, Toronto's International Centre, April 5-6, 2003
A sure sign of Spring for motorcycle aficionados is the aptly-named Spring Motorcycle Show, April 5-6 at the Toronto International Centre. One of the many attractions at the Show is the presence of several motorcycle clubs, their booths filled with enthusiastic members looking to attract you into their fold. Why should you join? Well, there are lots of good reasons, whether like me, you’re getting started in the sport or are an experienced rider.
When I joined a motorcycle club three seasons ago (Upper Canada Cruisers), I was mainly looking for an opportunity to gain experience riding in the safety of a group. But I was so nervous! With a mere two novice rides under my belt I didn't want to 'slow them down' or worse, cause an accident. They welcomed me and reassured me . . . they had all been there before! I was encouraged to practice my newly acquired riding skills in the 'bosom' of the club. It did indeed boost my self-confidence as a new rider, and I also got a lot more unforeseen benefits than I expected.
So whether you're a new rider or a more experienced one, let me share with you some obvious and perhaps not so obvious benefits of motorcycle club membership:
- There is safety in numbers. Safety is and should always be the # 1 concern. A group of 10 or 12 motorcycles riding in staggered formation occupies the same space as a long-haul truck thereby reducing the chances of cars cutting in.
- Sharpening your awareness, Part 1: It is the leader's responsibility to watch for potential road hazards and pass warning signs along to other riders behind. I've learned to safely dodge road kill or slippery surfaces, ride in single lane when pedestrians or cyclists are spotted on the side of the road, or simply prepare to stop or slow down, thanks to hand signs from other riders ahead of me; I've also learned to do the same for my fellow bikers behind me.
- Sharpening your awareness, Part 2: Group riding means that you have to watch for other riders' movements, slow down or pick up speed as required by the group and road dynamics. This awareness skill is in turn transferred to other riding situations when motorcycling on your own or with just one other rider.
- Building up confidence. A group of riders will usually ride at a slower pace, allowing new riders to concentrate on their skills, and sometime even relax and enjoy the scenery!
- Picking up practical and safe tips: Riders love to display their latest bike accessory, clothing, packing gear or latest gizmo. Learn the 'tried-and-true' from other people's experiences, from what rain gear really works in a downpour to best leather chaps and jackets, to what kind of snack food is best to eat on long haul trips. Hey! I even purchased my second (more powerful) bike from one of my fellow club members – Got a good deal, and best of all I knew where my bike came from!!
- The discovery of great new routes and tours, not necessarily found in motorcycle touring books, is a great way to expand your touring repertoire.
- Membership fees are nominal (usually well under $100 per year) and calendar events often run throughout the year, with regular meetings and social outings during the year, keeping the riding flame alive through long winter months.
How to 'shop' for a motorcycle club:There are literally hundreds of motorcycle clubs in Canada and just as many reasons to join. Riders form clubs by motorcycle make (Harley, Honda, BMW, etc.), by models (hogs, Shadows, Viragos, etc.), by styles (sports, enduros, cruisers, classics), by lifestyle (women, couples, gays), by religious or charitable affiliations . . . etc., etc.
It can be a pretty overwhelming task to find the right one for you. That’s why the upcoming Spring Show can be such an invaluable ‘shopping’ tool. First, prepare your show visit by going on the internet - links to all of the clubs represented at the Show can be found in the SUPERSHOW web site. You can check out each club mission, the rules and regulations, etc. Take note of the ones that most appealed to you and drop at all the club booths at the Show to speak with members.
Be clear on your reasons and needs for joining a club, and keep these firmly in mind during your 'shopping' expedition. Don't be shy and ask lots of questions about what matters to you. For instance, if you wish to keep a balance between your club outings and your solo ridings throughout the season, look for a club that will offer this type of flexibility. Wish to belong to more than one club? Shouldn't be a problem. Beware of a Club armed with too many exclusivity rules! Arrange to go on 'test' rides with each of them—it's your first-hand opportunity to experience the club's raison d’être.
For me, one of the best unexpected perks of joining a motorcycle club has been and remains the joy of riding with likeminded souls: members of a motorcycle club have at least one thing in common: their love of riding. Everything else, age, gender, race, looks, economic background, etc. disappear under the leathers. You can relax, laugh, talk or simply observe, it's up to you . . . it's your opportunity to be free and to unleash that part of yourself which has been hiding all these years . . .
So go ahead, invest the time in finding a motorcycle club for you . . . it’s time well spent and a great way to indulge in your passion for the sport with new friends.
Upper Canada Cruisers Club