MC Protocol 101 – The Introduction

There is a new TV show on iTunes called American MC.  It purports to show a bunch of guys who are trying to start an MC (Motorcycle Club), and they make the claim that they are going to do it the right way.  However, the show should be subtitled ‘How not to start an MC’ as these guys, who seem to all be seasoned riders, know nothing about Motorcycle Clubs.  Real Motorcycle Clubs are built around established traditions and protocols that define our culture and failure to follow those traditions and protocols, or even worse, deliberately disregarding them, is a huge part of why most new clubs are denigrated, never recognized in the community, and do not last.

In American MC, there are is a scene where the stars of the show are sitting inside of a bar when in walk several members of the local dominant club.  The American MC cast all sit around staring at the Dom members, debating over whether someone should go talk to them and finally get their prospect to be the first one to approach the Dom club.  A second scene is almost as bad.  While filling up at a gas station, another club pulls in to the gas station.  The other club is a well-established, and respected, MC.  Again, the American MC cast simply stand around and it is left to the other club to walk over and ask the American MC riders who they are.  If these guys were serious, they would have taken the initiative to introduce themselves in both situations, being respectful to both a dominant club and to a long-time established club.

One of the most important things that anyone involved in MC culture needs to learn is how to introduce themselves.  It seems to be a lost art form in most cultures these days as most kids want to just walk up to someone, and say something asinine like “whaz up bro,” as if that were a proper introduction.  Or worse, they ignore the other person and don’t introduce themselves at all.  So, we’re going to look at two different types of introductions which every member and aspiring member of any motorcycle club needs to know.

The personal introduction.

The single most important thing you can do as a biker is to be respectful to other bikers.  And showing that respect always begins with a personal introduction.  That is to say, you actually walk up and introduce yourself.  Not some half-ass nod or wave from across the parking lot, an introduction is always face-to-face, man-to-man.  Before that introduction however, a few things need to happen first.  Gloves need to come off and sunglasses need to come off.  And there are no exceptions.  If your hands are cold, suck it up.  If your sunglasses are prescription, take them off and be blind for a moment, or swap them for normal glasses, or wait for them to transition, then put them back on after you introduce yourself.  When you walk up to another biker to introduce yourself you will look them in the eye, and you will shake their hands firmly.  This is no time for limp-wristed handshakes, and if you have a weak grip you’d better work on it fast ‘cause that ain’t gonna fly.  Real men shake hands, it is a solid handshake, a handshake between men, and nothing else matters at that moment but the respect you are showing to one another.

Along with that handshake, and equally important, is looking another man in the eyes when you introduce yourself.  If you have a problem with looking people in the eyes, or get nervous that close to people, all I have to say is get over it.  The MC community is not a place for being timid.  If you can’t walk up to someone, look them in the eyes, shake their hands and introduce yourself, then you will never make it around real bikers and real men.  That is not to say that you won’t be nervous.  Everyone, when they are first around the MC community, especially when they start meeting members of the 1% community, get nervous at first.  Eventually you realize that there is nothing to be nervous about, there is no reason to fear other men, especially when you are showing respect and following protocol, that’s why we have these traditions to begin with.  Almost every issue that arises in the MC community between clubs or individuals can be traced back to someone failing to follow protocol, whether intentionally or not.

So, you’ve walked up to someone, you’ve removed your gloves and sunglasses, you’re shaking their hands and looking them in the eyes.  All that is left is to introduce yourself.  And that is pretty easy: who you are, and who you’re with.  You’re identifying yourself to the other person, and as a member of the MC community that identity begins with who you are and ends with the club that you’re associated with.  For example, I might say “I’m Joe, a supporter with Disciple Christian Motorcycle Club.”  Or, “I’m Joe, a guest of Disciple Christian Motorcycle Club.”  If you are not a full-patch, you need to identify yourself as such and it is important that you clearly indicate that you are a guest, supporter, hangaround, or prospect.  Simply saying “I’m Joe with Disciple Christian Motorcycle Club” is claiming full-patch status and is disrespectful not just to the person you are meeting, but to your own club and to those men who have earned the right to wear that full-patch.  Then shut up and listen to their reply, pay close attention to it and acknowledge them by saying something like “It’s good to meet you” or “it’s good to meet you Steve.”  Repeating their name reinforces that you were listening to them and it helps you remember who they are later.

A few other small pointers, don’t walk up on anyone’s blind spots, always approach people face-to-face.  Don’t act fidgety, or jumpy.  Don’t have your cellphone out or being talking on it when you approach someone.  Keep both hands out where the other person can see them and when you shake hands don’t do anything that might be considered threatening or furtive, keep that other hand in plain sight.  Don’t be clingy, don’t try to mad dog anyone or act like a badass.  And don’t try to carry on a conversation unless they seem interested or start one themselves.

Introducing yourself is quick, simple, and to the point.  It is mostly common sense and basic etiquette.  You don’t walk into a job interview without introducing yourself, you don’t go to a new girlfriend’s house to meet the parents and not introduce yourself, so why would you roll into a MC event and stroll around without introducing yourself.  You wouldn’t, and you don’t.  So, one other thing that needs to be covered, timing and who to introduce yourself to.

When you walk into an event, feel free to introduce yourself to pretty much everyone you pass on the way in, nothing wrong with that.  Don’t pass people by when they are wearing cuts without introducing yourself, unless they are clearly not interested or having private conversations.  You can come back to them later.  Your goal should be to get to the host club, and particularly the President, VP, and SAA, and introduce yourselves to them and thank them for allowing you to attend.    Few things will burn your reputation in the community faster then failing to introduce yourself to the Dom or host club whose hospitality you’re enjoying.  Also, you need to time your approach to other people.  Don’t just walk up to the person you are wanting to introduce yourself to and thrust out your hand.  Especially if they are involved in a conversation.  When you walk up to someone who is speaking with another person, stand back where they can see you, but not close enough to hear their conversation (which is none of your damn business).  They will acknowledge you when they are done and then you can pay your respects and introduce yourself.  By the way, never approach the officers of a club without first introducing yourself to that clubs SAA and asking permission.

For new members, supporters and hangarounds particularly, you will be at events with a full-patch.  It is their responsibility to handle these things and for the most part you will simply follow their lead and introduce yourself in order.  Do not be offended if a member of another club refuses to acknowledge you or shake your hand.  Some clubs have a tradition of not introducing full-patches to prospects and below.  One final note, never shake the hand of another club member or introduce yourself to someone until after they have met your full-patch.  It is quite common, and happens all the time, for full-patches (especially in the older clubs) to try and introduce themselves to you first.  When this happens simply guide them to your full-patch and say something like “this is my full patch” or “let me introduce you to my full-patch.”  None of them will be offended, it is the proper thing to do, and most of the time it a way to test new people to see if they are learning properly.