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Behind the Motorcycles

By Tiara Strong

With summer approaching, more motorcyclists will be taking to the streets. This comes along with more complaints from the residents of Pittsburgh. The motorcycle community receives complaints about various reasons, which contribute to the negative motorcycle culture in Pittsburgh.

According to padmv.gov., there were a total of 810,858 licensed motorcyclists in Pennsylvania in the year 2020. The 2021 statistics have yet to be released. Motorcyclists make up a small percentage of people on the roads. When some people see motorcyclists, all they can think of is the typical cliché of a bunch of tattoo-covered people riding on noisy motorcycles. For those that are not in the biker community, what they don’t understand is there are more to the loud noises. It is a sense of community for those who share a love for riding bikes.

A particular motorcycle club, RONIN MC, based in Pittsburgh, is active on and off the motorcycles. RONIN MC was founded in 2007. The Vice President of RONIN MC, Omar Smith, a 42 -year-old Pittsburgh native, has been a part of the club for 14 years. He has experienced feeling uninvited by establishments due to simply riding his motorcycle in a large group setting, but he doesn’t let that affect him.

What people do not know is that Smith is a part of a motorcycle club that does a lot of positive and charity work within the inner city. Smith has been a part of charitable efforts for lupus and cancer organizations to bring awareness to disorders and diseases that are common within the Black community.

“We’ve attached ourselves to two different organizations,” Smith said.

Smith recognizes that there can be a few situations that can spoil or mess things up for the biker culture as a whole. However, he wants everyone to understand one thing.

“The big bad biker cliché isn’t always the case. We are just people who enjoy the camaraderie of riding bikes and what comes with that,” Smith said.

RONIN MC is a unisex motorcycle club that wishes to be viewed as more than just a group of bikers. Public Relations Officer, Ron Johnson, a 50-year-old Pittsburgh native, has also been with the club for 14 years. Johnson works very hard to try to beat the stereotypes placed on those within the biker community.

“As with anything else, people need to stop judging according to stereotypes. A lot of us are professionals, providing for our families when we are off our bikes.  We follow the rules and have a lot to lose if we were to act outside those rules/laws.  It needs to be made more noticeable to the public all the charities and the giving back that we do. A lot can be achieved with simple conversations,” said Johnson.

Johnson has made it a priority that RONIN MC be front and center when it comes to working toward a greater good. Johnson has been a part of and coordinated many charitable events in the Pittsburgh area.

“We’ve sponsored some of our own charity events, which were an annual charity ride and cookout for Lupus.  We’ve also done a charity ride and charity basketball game for The Ford Foundation: Child Victims of Domestic Violence,” Johnson said.

It doesn’t stop there either. There are many near-future events that RONIN MC will be participating in.

“We are preparing to do a charity event for colon cancer this year. We have participated in numerous charity rides and events from “Bikers for Babies” to “Sickle Cell Awareness” and the annual “Ride for Peace,” Johnson said.

There are lasting impressions Johnson wishes to leave for those who may not be able to see past the bike itself. He wishes to be viewed like any other group where a common love for something brings people together.

“Us as bikers and especially as motorcycle clubs, are no different than an Elks Lodge, a VFW, or any other social club or group entity once we put our vests on.  As it is with them, it is our uniform and doesn’t change who we out outside that uniform,” Johnson said.

Seven-year club veteran, Dennis Washington, a 31-year-old Pittsburgh native, recalls joining RONIN MC after hearing about them through different events and spending time with them. He attributes joining the club for the reasons that everything he stood for aligned with the club.

“RONIN MC was big on family values and that was a perfect fit for me,” said Washington.

Washington specifically chose to join RONIN MC because they were more than just a group of bikers. He enjoyed doing charity rides every year and raising money for greater causes. He wants everyone to know one thing about RONIN MC.

“RONIN MC is a club full of various professionals that come together for the thrill of riding motorcycles,” Washington said.

RONIN MC continues to give back to local communities and raise money for organizations. They want to be viewed as a brotherhood that comes together to do more than just ride bikes but also contribute to society.  They are active in the inner-city communities and leave a footprint everywhere they go. They want all the good they do to be seen and not overshadowed by what people hear about motorcycle clubs.

Omar Smith, Ron Johnson and Dennis Washington are three men who joined RONIN MC for the same reason, their love for riding and a sense of brotherhood. Yes, they ride motorcycles but there is more to them than simply riding. These are a group of men who represent RONIN MC that make great contributions to society.

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