By NINA GOODBY
The San Francisco Motorcycle Club, the second oldest club of its kind in the country, celebrated its 105th Anniversary on Saturday with a garage sale, public open house, and live music at their clubhouse at Folsom and 18th streets.
Members of all ages gathered with their families to snack on hot dogs in the large, wood-paneled clubroom – the club’s home since 1947 – strewn Saturday with blue and yellow balloons for the celebration. Kids, some of them honorary members called “mascots,” migrated toward a large screen that projected Monsters Inc.
“We’ve always been a very family-oriented club,” said 12-year club member Jim Hoogerhyde, a wiry rider with tattooed arms and a narrow face.
Hoogerhyde drives fast. Clocking in at 215 miles per hour two weeks ago at Bonneville, the Potrero Hill electrician set a world record for land speed racing.
“We’re a mixed group,” said Cary Speidell, a member since 2004 and one of ten female members. “It’s probably our biggest challenge, but it’s also what makes us so cool. There’s no one bike, there’s no one profession, there’s no one type of person here. We have lawyers, construction workers, we have artists, electricians.”
S.F.M.C.’s 115 members ride an array of bike brands and types. When someone mentions a trade name during club meetings, the 25-cent fine established by club founders is still imposed.
A dozen old photo albums spread out on folding tables for today’s event showed faded photos from the 1920s of women on bikes.
Women have been allowed in as voting members since 1910 – six years after twelve people founded the club in 1904. The Yonkers Motorcycle Club, founded in 1903, is the oldest club.
Tegan Hetzel-Dobbins, a cheerful blonde with glasses, was elected the club’s first female president this year. “Being the first female President is huge,” she said. “The club is growing in a positive way and it’s cool to be a part of that.”
Katrina Decker, a lawyer who has been a member for ten years added, “Some of the guys are a bit rough around the edges, but there’s also lot of young blood coming in.” She said women gained respect by “going out and riding.”
Club members ride together about 25 times a year.
To join S.F.M.C. riders must have an M-1 license, their own bike, and an invitation from a current member.
After a probation period there’s an initiation hazing that tends toward the silly, members said. One initiate, for example, had to dress up in a bunny suit for a ride around the city.
Membership has risen steadily over the last fifteen years. It peaked in 1911 with 500-plus members, but by the early 1980s only a dozen riders remained.
Member Brian Holm attributed the drop to competition from other clubs, television, and a generational handoff that occurred in the late 1970s.
“People didn’t need each other as much for entertainment,” Holm said as he relaxed into a small plastic chair on the side walk to smoke a skinny cigar.
As an organization, the S.F.M.C has never been of the outlaw breed. “I won’t say there’s never been anyone in the club who’s the outlaw type,” said Holm. “But we’ve never been an outlaw club.”
Relationships with other clubs kept the club alive when only a dozen members remained, he said. Those connections still exist.
“The sense of community we have, you don’t get this from a lot of things,” said Todd Hodge, one of 17 members from the Pasadena Motorcycle Club, established in 1907, that rode up for the S.F.M.C.’s anniversary.
Hodge is working to rekindle camaraderie between the clubs, which reaches back to the early 1900s. In particular he is working to recreate a ride from both clubhouses to meet in Pismo beach, a tradition that happened several times in the 1920s.
The club’s community also reaches into the Mission District. Members hosted a fundraising event last Friday for the Clinica Martin-Baro, and regularly participate in blood drives. “Occasionally we make withdrawals so we should make deposits too,” said Holm.
Like most motorcycle clubs, it has its share of injuries and loss. Seven years ago Decker had an accident that left her left arm paralyzed, and two weeks ago she began learning how to ride one-handed. “If it’s something you love you can’t give it up,” Decker said. “You have to follow the dream.”