Outlaw motorcycle clubs like the Hell’s Angels are known for being fierce tribes of rabble rousers that destroyed the post-war American status quo with pirate-like fervor, raining hellfire on anyone who stood between them and a good time. When it comes to Beijing’s own motorcycle clubs like The Long March (LMMC) and The Expendables, though they might look a little rough around the edges, it’s less about being transient bandits than about having fun with the club on the back of a motorcycle. Here’s where they came from and why they exist, and some ways you can get involved.
LMMC was initially founded as a sidecar club in 1997 by a bunch of Scandinavian engineers living in Beijing. It was eventually inherited by longtime American biker, Clay Jones, who transformed the group into a fully developed Chinese motorcycle club (MC) with all of the necessary Protocol, ranks and patch systems in place that go along with this kind of organization. Clay explained that “first and foremost the purpose of our MC is to have a good time.” Although this is the foundation for the LMMC, they are also very dedicated to the mechanics of their motorcycles and the principles of taking part in a more disciplined and active motorcycle club than you would normally find in China.
The Expendables, on the other hand, began as a scooter club in 2010, and have since turned into a similar organization to that of the LMMC, with a system of patches and a governing body, but are less focused on the gear, as they normally ride less expensive, locally-made Chang Jiangs. This allows for more focus on the camaraderie that is created by riding around and partying with fellow club members. Club secretary Jimi Sides mentions that with an MC like The Expendables, “you have this brotherhood of guys creating a bond together through group rides and activities. It is less about being like a fraternity or something and more about the responsibility there is between brothers to help each other out.”
One of the most important skills these Western influenced Beijing clubs bring to the scene is the way they ride together in a formation. If you encounter them on the road they may appear like a football team, using the classic formation of a blocker in the front and a sweeper in the back to prevent drivers from passing and making sure all riders reach the destination safely. This helps the club get the most out of their rides while maintaining a kind of badass safety in numbers approach to the road.
China is apparently a cool place to ride and in the 15 years Clay Jones has been blasting about on his machine here, he has never once been cited for a traffic violation. Recently he was featured on Beijing TV's program Beijing, appearing with China's oldest active motorcyclist, who will soon ride cross-country in the US at the age of 89. He asked Clay the number one consideration for riding a motorcycle in America and what he should be the on the look out for. Clay answered "da police!" The laws of the road are more enforced in the US.
While these clubs are gaining traction throughout China, these organized bodies of motorcycle wisdom aren’t the easiest institutions to join. Primarily, it is getting increasingly difficult for riders to obtain all of the permits necessary to ride legally, as it now costs about RMB 100,000 for a Jing A tag – and that’s via a secondary market, as new plates are currently not being issued. Also, these motorcycle clubs will only allow new members that exhibit trustworthiness as a rider, promising safety and adherence to the rules of the road so as not to give the club a bad name. Above all, these clubs are about education and creating a proactive community of motorcycle worship and comradeship to develop skills as a road warrior so that members can be free to ride their bikes without being hassled by The Man.
Motorcycle Friendly Venues and Club Hangouts:
Punk Rock Noodle
25 Donggong Jie, Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District (No phone)
Jingyuan Art District, 3 Guangqu Donglu, Chaoyang District (158 0142 8521)
Café de la Poste
58 Yonghegong Dajie, Dongcheng District (6402 7047)
More stories by this author here.
Photos: Jimi Sides
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