Lots of motorcycle clubs exist here, but there’s only one genuine Harley Davidson owners’ club
IN the movie ‘Wild Hogs’ John Travolta and his ageing mates go on an adventure-filled motorbike trip across the United States. But what are Hogs? In fact, HOG is the acronym for Harley Owners Group, a motorcycle club with a difference. And as the name implies, a pig or a boar’s head is the emblem of HOG groups worldwide.
In Thailand there are over 50 motorcycle clubs (MCs as bikers refer to them), but only one HOG club.
A HOG club can exist only if there is an official Harley Davidson dealer in the country. It was therefore a long and bumpy road to the formation of HOGs Thailand. The present club is young, having been legally registered as recently as 2012.
This however was not the first attempt in putting together a Harley riders club. In the mid-1980s the then Harley dealer, G-Force, formed an unofficial club with the name of HOG Krungthep, which lasted for ten years. The club met its demise with the onset of the economic crisis of 1997 which affected many of its members. After floundering for a couple of years, the club closed in 2000.
The Harley Davidson Group (HOG) organization is well structured. Founded in the United States in 1983 and centered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it boasts over 1,000 HOG chapters worldwide with a membership of over one million people.
To create a new chapter certain steps must be followed. Initially, a prospective club must register in the United States and join HOG International, a step taken by the Thai chapter known as Samakom HOG Prathet Thai (the HOG Association of Thailand) about ten years ago.
Around the same time the now official Harley Davidson dealership opened its doors in Thailand.
The current dealership, Power Station Motorsport, is owned and managed by Kim Swensson, a US citizen, who employs four expatriates well versed in motorcycle mechanics. The company was vetted for performance by the Harley home company, which sends experts from the United States from time to time to train and acquaint the staff with new features of the motorcycles.
HOGs Thailand is defined as a riding club and is the marketing arm of this Harley Davidson store which moved to its new location on the east section of Rama IX Road over a year ago. Beside the numerous motorcycle models, the store showcases Harley merchandise, including clothing, mugs, glasses and wall hangings.
The HOG club is run like a business. There is a thirteen-person board of directors, eleven men and two women, comprising affluent and influential members of the Thai society.
Harley Davidson bikes are not cheap, costing anywhere from 630,000 baht to over two million baht. The Rama IX store displays 32 models, from the heavy duty custom-made bikes and tourers to the lighter weight Dyna and Sportster. The latter is the best seller and popular with women and teenagers; although the average Harley owner is over thirty years of age there are some avid teenage owners.
People who wish to join the HOG chapter must be residents of Thailand and own a Harley Davidson bike. Membership fees are reasonable at US$45 for an annual membership in HOG International (a requirement) and B1,800 for the Thai chapter.
Benefits of membership include bike tours, experiencing new adventures and meeting people who share similar interests. Member Khun Anuthep Srichawla says: “Riding brings us closer together, even the newcomers. There are numerous activities on the annual calendar and members are connected via an electronic newsletter. As most members are upstanding people in Thai society, they take their social responsibilities seriously by organizing fund raisers.
“Although supporting a charity is not a requirement of a HOG chapter, it is encouraged. In the US, the official charity supported is Muscular Dystrophy while the Thai chapter selects local needy organizations and causes.”
While the original company dates back to 1903 when a Mr Harley and three members of the Davidson family opened a factory for motorbikes in Milwaukee, the name hog came about in the 1920s, when farm boys would mount a live pig on their bike to celebrate winning a race with other bikers.
Harley clubs known as Road Hogs can be found in the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe. Members tend to be serious bikers who often include family members on their road trips. The emphasis is on a riding brotherhood, avoiding conflicts with other riding clubs.
The Mild Hogs are mature (older) riders whose motto is “Ride for the journey not the destination!”
Iron Hogs is for current and retired law enforcement officers and firefighters. Members are required to own a v-twin engine, which must be manufactured by a North American company. The club is known for raising money for worthy causes.
Then there are the Vicious Hogs, an all-African-American riding club, and the best-known club of all, Hells Angels.
Giving motorcyclists a bad name are Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs, also known as One Percenters because of their limited following.
HOG Thailand’s annual calendar includes rides in Thailand and abroad, such as the recent outing to Sipsongpanna in southwest China, and along the spectacular Route 1 in California where they joined a US HOG group. Their motto is “Our goal is the trip not the destination!”
And for members like Thassaneeya Pimpila, better known as Poo Lyman, motorcycle outings have another meaning: “It is more than just riding – it is a meditation for me. When I ride I concentrate on myself and forget everything.”