I started considering what it meant to be a member of our Chapter. You might be thinking, what is there to know? Just show up and ride! Well, not exactly, which is why I am going into more detail.
Various Types Of Organizations
Most riders understand there are a lot of different types of motorcycle riding groups and each has its own requirements for membership. MCs have a hang around, prospect, and patch in. LEOs require you to be or have been part of law enforcement, and MM (Motorcycle Ministries) may require you to attend worship services regularly and participate in outreaches. Some meetup riding groups I have ridden with have no requirements at all. Some groups look down at HOG Chapters with the incorrect analysis that there are no requirements that must be met to join and remain a member.
The Basic Requirments Of HOG
I believe there is a misconception that being a HOG Member means just pay your yearly dues. To some degree, there is truth to that statement. Yes, you pay your dues, buy your patch, and become a member. That is the first step of membership that precedes other requirements. The next requirement is that you have to ride a Harley. It is Harley Owners Group (HOG) after all, not Honda Owners Group(hog). Even some MCs have relaxed their American-made bike requirement and now allow cruiser and touring metrics with a minimum engine size. HOG however has stood firm, strong, and proud not to bend on bike brand requirements.
HOG Riding Guidelines
So you've got your Harley and your membership, now what. How about group riding guidelines. None of us want to become victims of an accident due to the neglect or the dis-concern of a rider that chooses to do his own thing while group riding. Chapter guidelines are designed to make our rides safe. You won't be riding with the Chapter long if you can't or won't follow the ride guidelines. Riders are expected to wear proper gear. Shorts and tennis shoes are not allowed. They are expected to pass signals back, not break formation.
This might seem harsh to some but, follow the ride guidelines or get out. This is no different than most MCs. You'll be expected to follow whatever standard riding procedure they have or you'll be asked to leave. The ride guide even states on page 2- The Chapter expects all riders to ride safely and ride within their experience and comfort level at all times. It goes on to read, "New riders should learn the fundamental skills of motorcycle riding and gain some experience before joining a group ride." You can buy a Harley, join the Chapter, and get started in group riding right away, but, if you're a danger to other riders around you, it will be addressed.
Respecting Others In The Chapter
So you are a solid safe rider with a good riding reputation. None of the other Chapter members is saying behind your back, "Don't ride too close to that person, they're dangerous!" What about your actions off the bike? If you were to face a review about your attitude or respect towards others within the Chapter how would you score? As with any MC, MM, RG, etc., your attitude will play into your continuance within that organization. Thus the reasoning behind the prospecting phase of an MC. They want to get to know you and give you a chance to get to know them to see if it's a good fit. If not, you'll be asked to leave and not earn your patch.
Representing Your Chapter Positively
In regards to HOG, even though there is no prospecting period, we should conduct ourselves respectfully. We should represent our Chapter and sponsoring dealership with integrity. If it wasn't for our dealership we wouldn't even have a local Chapter to be part of. The annual HOG Charter even states in Article VI, "the sponsoring dealer may suspend or terminate a person's membership in the sponsored Chapter if they determine that a member's conduct is undesirable or contrary to the sponsoring dealership's interests."
For the people that say being a HOG member is an easy street and that you only have to buy your way in, try coming around and acting like a moron, throwing around an attitude of disrespect towards your HOG family and sponsoring dealership and see how long you remain a member.
Limits About Having A Good Time On Rides
Everyone likes to have a good time. Everyone's idea of a good time is different. Alcohol often factors into the idea of having a good time. It's interesting to watch people upon arrival at a destination, especially some of the biker-friendly bar and grills. I've seen groups of riders ordering buckets of beer, drinking, drinking, drinking more…. then leaving their beer bottle littered table and zooming away in close formation down the road. Sure you can drink but you won't be riding with the group from that point.
Find Another Group If You Have To Drink On Rides
I have seen members drink on occasion. They didn't continue on with the group afterward though. It's my opinion that it takes more control to not have a drink while group riding than to give in to have a "good time" and put others' lives at risk. If you think you need to have that drink on a ride then don't ride with the group afterward. If it's something you feel you have to do all the time, then finding another group that does drink and ride might be better for you. There are plenty of groups that don't care and would be glad to have another party-er on board. My wife and I have no problem having a wonderful day of riding without the need to involve alcohol. It's also considerate, respectful, and responsible towards your HOG family not to drink and ride.
HOG Is Family Oriented
There are a lot of different organizations and every one of them has their own rules to follow. I wrote this to highlight a couple of the dominant aspects of what it means to be a HOG Member. We are expected to uphold reputable conduct to our Chapter, dealership, and community. When motorists see a HOG patch on your back they should know that we are representing a responsible riding organization. Our local community should know that when a HOG ride shows up that we will be considerate, respectable, courteous, and safe.
HOG is a family-oriented riding group, not hell raisers and road terrors. We have a great time on rides, dinner runs, charity events, and dealer events. It's a wonderful family of people to become part of. This type of riding group may not be what you're looking for. That's fine, but this is some of what it means to be a HOG Member.