Charity & brotherhood at heart of motorcycle club culture
William Fazzolare has been a motorcycle club veteran for over thirty years. His initial interest came after leaving the United States Marine Corps.
“I was looking for that same kind of brotherhood that I had in the Corps,” Fazzolare said.
Since then, he has belonged to multiple motorcycle clubs, most recently the Road Dogs that merged with a larger club a few months ago. He has since left the lifestyle due to demands of the club beginning to take precedence over his family. Luckily, he agreed to sit down and share an inside look into how motorcycle clubs operate, beyond what one can read on wiki.
Although clubs have been around for over a century, enthusiasm for banding together came with soldiers returning from World War II. In fact, it exploded. All clubs fall under one of two categories, Biker Clubs which are also known as the one percent. These are your outlaw bikers that live strictly by their own code. Generally, they have built a reputation from doing things that may fall outside traditional law of the land activities. The second type, motorcycle clubs, encompass the other ninety-nine percent. Mr. Fazzolare belonged to each in his biker life, but spent most of his time in motorcycle clubs which I will be talking strictly about for the remainder of the article.
Motorcycle clubs are simply a gathering of like-minded individuals who are seeking a brotherhood with a commonality. It can be a type of motorcycle, military affiliation, church groups, anything. There are thousands of them. Each club has an internal structure and by-laws. The organizations include a chapter President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Sergeant at Arms and Road Captain. Other than the obvious positions, the Sergeant of Arms responsibility is to ensure the bylaws are followed and punishment is enforced for any violations, monetary or punitive. Bill served as Vice President and Sergeant at Arms before his departure from the Road Dogs.
“There are basically two laws that you have to follow, the law of the land and the club’s bylaws. It’s tough some time as one of your best friends may have broken a bylaw and the punishment in a punch in the nose,” Fazzolare said. “As the Sergeant at Arms you have to do it because it’s your job and if you don’t, you lose respect with the club and it looks bad on them overall.”
The other officer is the Road Captain. We’ve all see the caravan of motorcycles at one point in our lives riding on the highway. It’s the Road Captain’s responsibility to plan the trip. Everything from planning the date and time to coordinating pit stops, to calling ahead to dining establishments to ensure they are prepared for a large group.
“The Road Captain has a demanding job as most groups are frequently on the move,” Bill added. “From funerals to charity trips, it all has to be worked out ahead of time, based on the weakest link.”
The weakest link he is referring to is the motorcycle with the least amount of mileage per tank of gas. If one motorcycle can make it three hundred miles, but another in the same club only has a capacity of ninety miles, a fuel stop has to be planned for ninety miles. It is that precise.
The road trips can be just about anything. The individual chapters have national events that take place all around the country. There are swap meets where clubs get together for selling or trading parts for their motorcycles. Funerals of members are the most frequent. Fazzolare himself said that he had attended nine in a four month period at one point.
“The thing about the clubs – the brotherhood, is that if you get a call at 3:00 am that you need to be somewhere, you get up and go, no questions,” Bill said.
Of all of the events participated in by clubs, charity work is the commonality. Each club has several charities that they support and work diligently to help. Some of the functions are straight donations, but many are fun and creative and built around the lifestyle of any particular membership. One that they do that I found intriguing is called “Poker Runs.” Members draw five cards, each from a different location. Members bet at each and get together at the same location for the final card. The winner splits the take from the blind bids with whatever
charity they selected for the evening. It’s just not restricted to monetary donations. Fazzolare was involved with one drive that gathered 376 winter coats for the homeless.
“Charity is a major part of every club I’ve been in. It’s at the core of every club there is,” Bill added.
Of course with any club, particularly one’s that have either been romanticized or demonized by pop culture, there are related stigmas associated. Most people see a biker gang and think of rowdy, up roaring law-breakers who start fights and kidnap your girlfriend by throwing her over their shoulder.
“The one thing that always gets me angry is when I see clubs portrayed that way. It’s that ‘live free’ label that some riders use,” Fazzolare said. “It’s not freedom as we are all bound by two sets of rules, the law of the land and the clubs bylaws. We are bound by and respect both. If any member gets in trouble with the law, another brother or sister is there with them right away to ensure justice is done.”
As far as dealing with other motorcycle clubs, outside of the one percent, there is a general cooperation and exchange of respect, as long as respect is returned. Everything reflects back on the club over all as mentioned previously.
“There are occasions when RUBS (Rich Urban Bikers), a term referring to those riders who buy top of the line everything from helmets to bikes but don’t live the lifestyle, may come to a swap. As long as they respect the culture, there isn’t any problem.”
In closing, I asked Bill if there was anything he wanted to add about belonging to a motorcycle club.
“We have a name for people outside of the lifestyle, they are called ‘citizens,’” said Fazzolare. “We too are citizens. We’re someone’s dad, mom, brother, sister, aunt and uncle. Respect is everything. Respect us and we’ll double up on the respect back to you. It’s not really a lifestyle that you choose, it chooses you. It’s a brotherhood and sisterhood that is second only to your family.”
Story by Fred Terling, with William Fazzolare, for Pennsylvania Bridges