Although you may call yourself a ‘motorcycle enthusiast’ to keep up the impression of respectability, in your heart you know you’re really a biker. Whether you ride British, American or Japanese, you are a biker. What this probably means is other than a bike, you have a really awesome jacket. Not only is it going to protect you from the inevitable spill on tarmac, but it is also the perfect place to show your personality off to the world.
Bikers have been wearing motorcycle vest patches since the AMA had the idea back in the 1920s, and have been using them to denote a range of ideas and to loudly shout to the world that they are riders, they love bikes, and they’re proud to be caller a biker.
Who Are Bikers?
Although there is the type of gang associated biker that the media adores, most bikers are law abiding (except occasionally going over the speed limit), working, normal every day folks. They just love their motorcycles. Motorcycle clubs have become synonymized with gangs through news articles and movies, however many people who ride love the social aspect of spending time with other riders and the safety of going on rides in a group – with the only drugs involved being coffee mid way or a beer if they’re camping overnight. There are clubs all over the world, brought together by a common love of their motorbikes. Sometimes clubs are based around a particular type of bike (maybe Harleys, maybe British), or they may accept all bikes, but membership is based on location. In America most clubs are part of the American Motorcyclist Association https://www.facebook.com/AmericanMotorcyclist/ and it has been suggested that the bikers batch originated from members back in the 1920s wanting to identify themselves as part of this new group.
Why Biker Patches?
The real question is probably ‘why not’? Non-riders might see a group of motorcyclists as being all the same, but bikers know the vast differences that create their own identity. Although you may notice the large back patches worn by ‘outlaw’ motorcycle clubs, but mostly bikers will wear patches on their vests and jackets to show support for their charities or interests. Patches might show that the biker has been on a charity poker run, at Sturgis or simply to state that the rider is a proud motorcycle grandma.
Biker patches are simply another way to express yourself and show the world what you care about. Of course, many of the patches are more ironic and humorous offering suggestions about what car drivers should do if they can read the patch while driving.
What About Those Huge Back Patches?
The large patch that usually covers most of bikers vest or jacket back can have a variety of meanings, however although they are often associated with gangs, and certainly several outlaw motorcycle clubs can be considered gangs, this is not the case for all.
Members of the American Motorcycle Association will usually have a patch that is a full round circle, while those motorcycle clubs that do not wish to join the AMA or follow their rules tend to have a back patch that has been cut into three separate pieces.
How to identify the patches?
For instance, both types of group wearing an identifying patch you will usually find that the top ‘rocker’ or section states the name of the club, the bottom section has the location of the branch and the middle section is a logo or image associated with the club. Generally, you are unable to purchase outlaw motorcycle club patches yourself, as there is a membership procedure that is unique to each group that much be followed in order to ‘earn’ the patch. However, you may be able to purchase a patch for a local motorcyclist organization that you wish to become affiliated with.
Of course, you don’t actually have to be part of a group to wear a biker’s back patch. Mostly, they are customized by the rider to state their passion. This can include things like “I Ride With Jesus”, “ Live To Ride” or “Independent” on either top or bottom rocker positions, rider location might be added, and there are a variety of different images and symbols that can be used for the middle section (whether cut up or in one piece).
One image that you might see is the wolf, often howling or snarling. This usually indicated that the rider is a “lone wolf” (sometimes they even have this written on the rocker), that they aren’t affiliated with any club or organization. This isn’t to be confused with a “nomad”, which is someone who is affiliated with a club or organization, but doesn’t have a “home” branch, usually because they live a transient lifestyle meaning they have no one area that they can affiliate with directly.
This one generally doesn’t have any strong meaning unless it is used as part of an emblem of a particular group or club, but it is a popular option just because most bikers have a black sense of humor and like to embrace the stereotype that they have been given. Generally, it’s just fun and certainly doesn’t mean anything sinister.
Shoulder & Arm Bar Patches
You won’t often find a biker’s back covered in a multitude of patches – but the same cannot be said about the rest of their clothing. For instance, one popular item for bikers to wear is a patch that goes on their shoulder or sleeve. Particularly popular are American military flags and emblems, as well as symbols that denote the riders’ national pride. Sometimes these are simply a way to show the biker’s sense of humor “I don’t Snore I dream I’m a Motorcycle”.
This is a patch that denotes the rider has undertaken a road trip down the original Route 66, the “Mother Road” (see here) which goes from Chicago to Los Angeles, and crosses eight states. It was the original route that settlers took when heading out west, but as America developed other roads were used and route 66 started to fall into decline. However, it is thriving again as an historical trip through time, with an emphasis on 1930s – 1950s era experiences – old style petrol stations and charming diners. Route 66 is part of biking culture through a multitude of books and movies, making it an ultimate experience of lifetime.
To be a biker is a privilege, similarly to own a biker patch is matter of pride.