story and photography by Paul Garson and courtesy of MC, OMC, SFMC, PMC
Setting goals keeps us focused, be they geographical or chronological in dimension. Being able to throw a leg over a motorcycle at age 100 (and getting the other one on as well) is one of mine. Four U.S. clubs have reached that century milestone and beyond, inspiration for us all.
Number 1 Oldest MC: Yonkers MC, New York, Founded 1903
How old is old? The year was 1903, notable for several important birthdays. Individual arrivals included Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Eliot “Untouchables” Ness. Meanwhile those Wright brothers got it right at Kitty Hawk, and a new company called Harley-Davidson tried to sell its first motorcycles. Plans had progressed for the Panama Canal as well as the first tunnel under the Hudson River near Hoboken, closer to home for members of the new Yonkers MC.
Under the apparently far-seeing leadership of its first president, one George Eller, the Yonkers Bicycle Club morphed into the Yonkers Motorcycle Club. The club had already sponsored an endurance run before the Federation of International Motorcyclists (FIM) was formed a year later in 1904, some 23 years before the founding of the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) in 1927.
In fact, the YMC was chartered by the AMA as its No. 6 member, so it was there when it all began. Later on during World War II, club members served as Civil Defense messengers for the city of Yonkers, a long-standing tradition of community service in the club’s history. It supports the work of the Yonkers Enrichment Center, a facility that cares for handicapped children, and comes to the aid of injured motorcyclists, recently donating an electric chair to a disabled rider.
The club currently sponsors an annual AMA-sanctioned Road Run; other events include a Toys for Tots Party, a Chili Party and a Spring Break Out Party. It still keeps links to the past in its YMC clubhouse, which sports a trainload of trophies, banners and memorabilia dating back to the 1920s, even a classic 1913 Pope.
Bob Stackhouse, president for eight of the last 15 years, said, “This year is our 105th, and the fact that people from all walks of life have held the club together for that period of time is a feat in itself, and we’re very proud of our standing as the oldest bike club in the world.” At the 2007 Sturgis Rally the Yonkers MC was spotlighted at the Sturgis Museum exhibit of famous motorcycle clubs with a photographic display of 100 years of two-wheeling history.
Yonkers Motorcycle Club, 152 South MacQuesten Parkway, Mount Vernon, New York 10552; (914) 663-2773; http://yonkersmotorcycleclub.net
Number 2: San Francisco MC, November 1904
The very first SFMC meeting, attended by 12 charter members, took place in November 1904 at A. Freed’s Thor Motorcycle Shop near famous Fulton Street. A year later the club sponsored its first run, a five-miler from the clubhouse to the top of a hill in nearby Daly City, although rain bogged all 12 riders down in the muddy “road” after a couple streets. The infamous April 16, 1906 great San Francisco earthquake laid waste to the clubhouse, but as the story goes, one brave soul, J.L. Tormey, entered the burning clubroom and rescued the gavel, thought lost until presented at the club’s 40th Anniversary party in 1944.
The club bounced back and has been rockin’ and rollin’ ever since. By 1911 it counted more than 500 members, including SF city mayor P.H. McCarthy. In 1913 the famous H-D hillclimb champion Dudley Perkins Sr. joined the SFMC, a year later opening his now iconic Dudley Perkins dealership. By 1927 SFMC was an AMA member, and 10 years later Indian rider Hap Jones, another famous club member, would be the first to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The club’s award-winning Drill Team also made an appearance at the semi-infamous 1947 Hollister rally, another club milestone of sorts. In 1949 a club benefit auction included a 1904 Curtiss, but nobody bid on it so it went on display, still to be seen today. In 1987 Hap Jones returned to lead the 50th Anniversary Crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge. On June 17-20, 2004 the SF MC celebrated its 100th with a three-day event that included a street fair and ride to SF’s famous landmarks.
The club actively supports the motorcycling community in San Francisco. Describing its members, one offered the following: “We have male and female members, members with Harley choppers, we have criminals and lawyers, we have members with dirt bikes, we have racers, we have members who commute to work on motorcycles, who like to take month-long trips on motorcycles, who like to work on motorcycles, who only have antique bikes, who only ride on weekends, etc. We all have motorcycle licenses and we get along about as well as most families.”
San Francisco Motorcycle Club, 2194 Folsom Street, San Francisco, California 94110; (415) 863-1930; www.sf-mc.org
Number 3 (Tie): Oakland MC, August 1907
Three of the four oldest historic motorcycle clubs were founded in California, including the Bay Area’s Oakland MC “discovered” in 1907. The club celebrated its 100th last August with a series of events centered around its member-built Club Hall constructed in 1983.
The club’s current events include the annual Three Bridge Run. The evening ride, often attracting some 400 riders, starts at the clubhouse and rolls over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, then the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County, and finally over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and back to the clubhouse.
Another popular activity is the two-day, 300-mile Sheetiron Dual-Sport run, taking a route from Fouts Springs to Fort Bragg over a choice of country roads, dirt roads, and for the hardcore off-roaders, single-track trails.
Number 3 on the menu is The Jackhammer Enduro, first run in 1971, a 100-miler through the Mendocino National Forest stepping off from Fouts Springs. Members have ridden far from home as well, including treks to the Antarctic and through Nepal, Russia and Turkey. In fact, a large percentage of the bikes owned by club members are BMW GS adventure tourers.
The club is open to all kinds of motorcycles and offers all kinds of strokes for different folks, from street to offroad. The 80-some member club is supported by a woman’s auxiliary, the OMCA, which organizes its own rides as well. Speaking with OMC President Larry Stewart, himself a BMW and Gold Wing rider and a member of the club since 1993, he said, “The essence of the club centers around its diversity, the friendship and spirit of adventure that’s made it last for 100 years.”
Oakland Motorcycle Club, 742-45th Avenue, Oakland, California 94601; (510) 534-6222; www.oaklandmc.org
Number 3 (Tie): Pasadena Motorcycle Club, Founded 1907
The PMC was started by offroad and enduro riders, focusing on Hare and Hound races zipping around and through the local orange groves (now since paved over). By the 1990s it had evolved into a street-riding organization that focuses on monthly meetings and its two annual rides, one being the PMC Poker Run, the 30th annual event held February 2006. The other major club event, a more-than-60-year tradition, is the Green Horn Road Tour, but you don’t have to wear green horns or be a newbie rider to join the fun.
Way back in 1911 the club took part in the annual Pasadena Rose Parade, entering its own club float. For many years PMC members rode their bikes as parade escorts, and then began piloting the giant flower-decorated floats via ATVs, now one of the club’s honored traditions.
Activities include Saturday breakfast rides, summer Monday night rides and the annual June PMC Picnic, the October campout, Christmas Potluck dinner and the Officer’s Installation & Awards Banquet held in January. Club membership is open to all brands of motorcycles, regardless of age, and you don’t even have to be from Pasadena to join up.
Asked why he joined the club, President Paul Barber says, “I found out about it in a motorcycle magazine ad and then discovered it was really the only organization I’ve ever joined that I wanted to go to every week, because it’s a bunch of people who aren’t uptight about anything and the meetings are just great fun.”
Pasadena Motorcycle Club, 21 E. Howard Street, Pasadena, California 91104; www.pasadenamc.com[From the March 2008 issue of Rider]
Please help me contact riders club of america (motorcycle) as any #’s listed for them are no longer working. My husband William is a lifetime membership # 90010140 since 2/2008 thank you my #is (740)391-3680 and my address is 119 mound st. Tiltonsville, OH
43963-1014. Again thank you for any help you may be
able to provide
We ended our affiliation with them back in 2012. The phone number we have for the Motorcycle Riders Club of America is no longer active, but their website appears to be current: www.http://motorcycleridersclubofamerica.com. It does not list a phone number, but an email address is provided: email@example.com. Best of luck!
I’m the Star Riders MC
Tiverton Rhode Island
We have been around since 1929
we have documents showing it
How do we get on the list
The oldest motorcycle club I know of portsmouth ohio motorcycle club 1893 (not a 1% mc) they are still around and a great group of riders.
That is not accurate.
According to a mural in Portsmouth, Ohio, this list is wrong. Here’s a link to the image:
You make a valid, point, Stephen. The American Motorcyclist Association addresses this issue in its profile of the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club:
The first AMERICAN motorcycle wasn’t made until 1898
Unless they made their own.
Queensborormc was Estate in 1910 and there still going strong
My husband is a 56 year member of the Portsmouth Motorcycle club and you are right right. joined in 1962 at age 16 and later on they went to age 21. We are having are 125 anv. in June and if you would like to join us you are weldcome.
Tasmanian Motor Cycle Club 1905 makes them 3rd
[…] for that long as well. Motorcycle Clubs are not far behind them. According to an article by Rider Magazine the 4 oldest motorcycle clubs […]
San Jose Motorcycle Club ” The San Jose Dons
MC” been traced back to 1905. So far the AMA has yet to acknowledge all of the proof however, 1905 is when the San Jose Motorcycle Club began. Lots of love to our Good Friends and neighbors SFMC and Omc and Pasadena and our far away friends in Yonkers. Chrism SJDMC
There of those of us in the San Antonio Dragrons MC, EST.1928, AMA #17 who still believe in the ride despite all the ancient threats of violence still ride on with pride.
Good Morning Riders !
I am an associate member of the Manchester Motorcycle Club out of Manchester NH. In looking up some of the oldest motorcycle clubs, I see we are not listed, how do we go about getting listed ??
I have not gotten any magazines in the mail for months now and I did pay for a lifetime subscription to your magazine.
Does anyone know anything about the Elkhart Rangers MC, from Elkhart, IN.? I know they were around in the 1930s. Not sure when they started though. I am trying to get info on the club, and a member named Dick Foreman.
Does anyone have any additional information of the SF/Bay Area AMA or MC chapter? My dad was a member in the 50s & 60s and was a flat track racer. I’d love to pull some documentation for him to have again. Thanks!
Regarding the Portsmouth OH debate: the link to AMA is broken, but there is an article on American Motorcycle, which clears it up with this:
“According to club President Dan “Dirty Dog” Belcher, the club traces its history to 1893 when it was founded as the Portsmouth CYCLING Club. The club changed its name and became a motorcycling club in 1913.”
Thee Historian is about to drop some historical knowledge for those that may be new to this page. We understand that facts may get distorted over the years but let me execute a knowledge drop for one of our fans…. The Yonkers Bicycle Club was formed on November 19th, 1879 by Elliot Mason and transitioned to a motorcycle club, officially becoming The Yonkers Motorcycle Club in March 1903.
The Portsmouth Cycling Club formed in 1893 some 14 years later as a bicycle club and officially became a motorcycle club in 1913.
1) An article taken from “The Wheel World” in 1881 lists Yonkers Bicycle Club and their organization date as November 19th, 1879.
2) An article from “LAW BULLENTIN and GOOD ROADS” 1898 lists American bicycle clubs and the order of their inception into the League. Yonkers Bicycle Club is clearly numbered 10 and Portsmouth Cycling Club is numbered 562.
3) An article taken from the “Archery World” dated December 3rd 1880… “this club held its annual meeting on the evening of Friday November 19th and elected officers as follows…
Yonkers Motorcycle Club pays respects to all those that helped shape and influence the era of motorcycling over the years and for that we must come correct when honoring these clubs and the achievements they made.
For more club history check us out on
READING MOTORCYCLE CLUB Founded 1903 I believe should be on your list..