On a recent Saturday night, we donned a leather jacket and boots and crashed the 105th anniversary party of the San Francisco Motorcycle Club (SFMC). We maneuvered between the dozens of hogs parked outside the 19th and
Folsom clubhouse in the Mission, and two men in official club biker vests
welcomed us at the door and said first beer was on the (club)house. I liked this SFMC place already.
The SFMC traces its origins back to 1904, and has the vintage photographs on its wood-paneled walls to prove it. Members claim it's the second-oldest bike club in the country after the Yonkers Motorcycle Club in New York, which edged out their West Coast counterparts by starting one year earlier in 1903.
Inside, biker dudes from clubs around the state milled about and slammed back beers at the bar, identifying themselves by their leather jackets: Capital City from Sacramento. East Bay Rats. The Mad Dogs from Oakland. The Pasadena Motorcycle Club.
We asked for the guy in charge.
The men pointed us to a biker wearing a blue wig and theatrical blue and gold eyelashes. Yep, for the first time in its 105-year history, the president of the San Francisco Motorcycle Club is a she.
We're sure you can spot her in this snapshot of past club presidents.
It seems this is the year for precedent-setting presidents. While the country and media was endlessly analyzing all the historical significance of electing a black president at the end of last year, the 95-percent male San Francisco Motorcycle Club voted in its first female prez without so much as garnering a blog. (Until now.)
Madam President Tegan Hetzel-Dobbins didn't grow up thinking she'd end up leading some 50
male bikers blasting down Northern California highways. The 33-year-old admits she got into the motorcycle thing less because she wanted to infuse the testosterone-fueled biker world with girl power than because of her husband, Chuck. As the story goes, the couple was on the way to check out a boat for sale when they passed the Harley dealership. Chuck suggested they buy one of those instead.
Hetzel-Dobbins, a customer service rep for a chocolate distributor with a voice as sweet as molasses, first rode on the back of the motorcycle like your typical biker wife. But enough of that. She then learned to ride herself. Now, she has three bikes of her own.
Hetzel-Dobbins says a female president is fitting for a club that accepted women into its ranks before women had the right to vote in this country. At first, though, she wasn't so gung-ho. Her husband, Chuck, was the first to attend a few of the SFMC's meetings, and then invited her to "prospect" with him, the three-month trial period before the members vote
you into the club. "He's like, 'You gotta come,' and I'm like, 'A motorcycle club?'"
Of course, this is 2009, and girls are nothing new in the San Francisco cycling, scooter, and mo-ped scenes. Yet, all-female Devil Doll Motorcycle Club aside, the biker world is still largely a male realm.
Only six of the San Francisco Motorcycle Club's roughly 100 members are female. "I think to a lot of women the club is a little daunting at first ... not necessarily scary, but intimidating to go to a club by yourself," Hetzel-Dobbins says.
But her hesitation soon vanished. Hetzel-Dobbins earned a perfect score (you get points for attending the weekly meetings and the bi-monthly rides) her first two years in the club, and high points in 2007. She was the club treasurer in 2008, and must have earned her stripes, because she was nominated and then elected president at the end of the year.
The club's tradition is that the new president lead the meeting during which he/she
is elected. "I got a standing ovation, so that was kind of a big deal."
Hetzel-Dobbins is humble about her accomplishment, saying if anything, she's surprised a female president wasn't elected sooner, given that there were women in other club officer positions going back years. The coyness ends there. The bumper sticker on her bike reads, "Girls Kick Ass."