The Foundations of a Motorcycle Organization


The freedom and individuality we experience through motorcycling, coupled with the fact that our machines carry only one or two, tend to make us rather independent. Whether it’s race trophies or mile markers, we usually measure our accomplishments as motorcyclists in personal terms. However, before you become too comfortable with your motorcycling habits, perhaps you should ask what you and the other motorcyclists you know have done to help ensure the future of motorcycling, particularly at the local level.

There are always challenges facing us: the “outlaw” image that TV and films still turn to when an easy villain is needed -- bike bans in our communities, land closures, complaints about irresponsible riders on loud motorcycles, helmet laws and employer health insurance restrictions on motorcycling.

Working together, we have overcome many problems and can more easily confront the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Despite the image of the solitary motorcyclist riding into the sunset, motorcycling is also a tremendous social activity—if for no other reason than because it’s highly visible nature makes its followers responsible to one another for maintaining a good image. In essence, if it’s good for one of us, it’s good for all of us, and vice versa. This is a primary reason why the concept of the motorcycle club is so important to us all.

But there’s much more to it than that. Motorcycling is fun. You know that or you wouldn’t be involved. The obvious extension of the pleasure and satisfaction you gain from riding your motorcycle is in sharing your enthusiasm with those with similar interests. Remember the first time you met someone else who had ridden your favorite road or tough stretch of trail?

It’s this kind of shared experience and interest that forms the basis for all social activity and provides the foundation for the political and community relations activities that will ensure the future of motorcycling.

All this is best and most logically done within the structure of an organization.

It is the purpose of this guide to describe the structure, function and potential of motorcycle organizations and how to make motorcycling enjoyable not just for you but for the community at large.

In the Beginning

The concept of a large national organization with affiliated, smaller local groups is the key to the founding philosophy of the American Motorcyclist Association. In fact, it was such a local group -- the New York Motorcycle Club -- which laid the groundwork for establishment in 1903 of the Federation of American Motorcyclists, the AMA’s forerunner.

The wisdom of such a structure is obvious. It works in democratic governments and for over 80 years has worked with a great deal of success for the AMA. Information and strength in numbers flow from the grassroots level to a central location, where it is channeled to improve motorcycling.

Getting Organized

Frequently, organizations are formed to bring together riders with one particular interest—road riding, racing or brand orientation. You probably have some riders in mind who would be interested in joining your club. While the natural evolution of your organization may be toward one of these areas, try to give your organization as broad of a base as possible. Many times it is desirable for an organization to be composed of motorcyclists with a wide range of interests. There’s no reason why a road rider can’t help score at a motocross race promoted by an organizer, and an enduro rider couldn’t help lay out a road poker run.

Once a general agreement has been reached on the direction of your group, you should begin to prepare a constitution and a set of by-laws. To help you, view the following pages for samples:

To find a place to hold meetings, you may discover that the dealer who sold you your motorcycle is happy to provide meeting space.

If this can’t be worked out, don’t hesitate to contact municipal officials about using a community center, public meeting room or school for your meetings. You will be working with these officials in the future, so this is a good time to begin developing good relationships.

Restaurants often will supply a meeting room, provided those in attendance buy meals or refreshments. Another suggestion is to call on the church of a member of your group. Churches frequently provide meeting places at no charge or for a tax-deductible contribution.

Money Matters

Nonprofit or not, your organization will find itself handling money, and it’s too important to be dealt with carelessly. It’s necessary to include a treasurer among your officers.

It’s often suggested that the position of treasurer be voluntary rather than elective, since the individual concerned enough to volunteer is probably also skilled and concerned enough to handle the details on a consistent basis. Because the successful operation of a treasury depends on a timely flow of paperwork, the treasurer should be a member who understands the formalities of AMA referee and event reports, sanction requests and other club business documents.

The treasurer should make disbursements from a special checking account whenever possible, since each canceled check provides a written record of payment. Excess cash should be deposited promptly in an organization’s savings account. Such an account is a good idea because the organization is more likely to carefully consider every expenditure if it means a bank withdrawal.

It’s the treasurer’s responsibility to keep financial records, including all income and expenditures. These records should list the source of income (ticket sales, concessions, entry fees, etc.), date and amount. Expenditure records should show who was paid, how much and the reason for the payment. A computer and inexpensive financial-management software can be very useful for simplifying the maintaining of financial records, a computer is invaluable for correspondence, event fliers, etc.