Russia: A Motorcyclists’s Haven

As an avid road tripper, I’ve seen many motorcyclists roaring down the highway, clad head to toe in leather and sporting the most enviable of hogs.¬† I would have never envisioned such a site on the streets of Moscow, but apparently¬† biking has become quite a popular hobby there. The Night Wolves are a motorcycle club that began in Moscow in the 1980’s. According to this article in the Times Europe, they used to be kind of rough at the beginning but have since developed, as the article says, “from social rebels to civic-minded entrepreneurs”.

I first heard about the organization when Russia Today featured a video of members roaring through Moscow streets.

In this video, it looks like the Night Wolves are more than just an organization, they almost seem like performance artists. They are shown doing motorcycle tricks amidst a backdrop of a stylish pyrotechnic display. Yeah, I’ve definitely never seen the Hell’s Angels do that. Their gatherings almost seems like some kind of fair, an event similar to a Renaissance Fair where, instead of dressing up like elven kings, the attendants wear leather jackets and elaborate tattoos.

Though their attire may look rough, they are reportedly model citizens. Members have started taking action in Moscow to create a larger biking community. According to the Times Europe article, in 2000 they partnered with the Irbit Motorcycle Company to design a bike similar to a Harley Davidson model, which they have named “The Wolf”

Igor Siletsky, a blogger for Voices of Russia, talks about how Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with the Night Wolves this past July. Putin, sporting a black leather jacket himself, went to visit their “club-house” and talked to the organization’s president, Aleksandr Zaldostanov. Apparently, Zaldostanov is referred to as “The Surgeon” since he actually was a surgeon before helping to found the Night Wolves in the 80’s. Siletsky points out how it was strange to see Putin hanging around with a crowd of bikers, but that it’s simply a testament to how the organization has changed from a group of rough-riding outlaws to active citizens. Russia Today also has an article about the encounter, citing friendly conversation between Putin and The Surgeon.

Vladimir Putin meets with The Surgeon of Russian motorcycle organization the Night Wolves.

Vladimir Putin meets with The Surgeon of Russian motorcycle organization the Night Wolves.

I originally thought to compare the Night Wolves to the Hells Angels. But, upon further research, I found that the two are vastly different. Although they both had rough beginnings, the Night Wolves have evolved into social servants. The Hells Angels, however, are still criticized for gang violence and criminal activity, as can be seen in this article from the Las Vegas Sun.

A more appropriate comparison to the Night Wolves would probably be American organizations that are registered with the American Motorcyclist Association. The members of these organizations usually ride their bikes for leisure and don’t necessarily adhere to the “biker lifestyle” of the Hell’s Angels. The Night Wolves gatherings also remind me of the Sturgis Bike Rally. Sturgis includes bike races and rides, as well as musical performances from the likes of ZZ Top.

I think it would be a great idea if the organizers of Sturgis invited the Night Wolves to participate in the rally. Or at least the U.S. government could invite them to give some helpful tips to the Hell’s Angels on how to be model citizens.