Most days, Aleksi Šedo is an experimental oncologist at Charles University’s Faculty of Medicine. But when he meets with his brothers from the Black Dogs motorcycle club, Šedo no longer goes by his real name.
“My nickname is Al Professore, which surprisingly has nothing to do with my profession, even though I am a university professor, but the nickname is older than my academic career. It’s a funny story, but I’d rather not comment on it.”
“I really never, ever complained about this decision and membership has become a very important part of my life, and I believe that’ll be the same in the future. It’s so fascinating to have people that you can really trust, a hundred percent, with no politics involved and without having to hide anything. Everybody can be who they really are. It really helps me in my day to day life, too, starting from my psychological stability to practical aspects of my life.”
There are many different kinds of motorcycle clubs, not all of them are officially recognized and different factors can unite their members.
“There are a number of features that you can use to discriminate between motorcycle clubs. There are clubs which are driven by the trademarks of the motorbikes their members are using, so there are two Yamaha clubs or two clubs that are devoted to Harley Davidson bikes. So that’s one way how motorcyclists can decide they want to be members of something.”
Unlike other motorcycle clubs, or MCs as they are commonly abbreviated, the Black Dogs club isn’t based on a motorcycle make or the friendship element alone. The club only accepts members from certain professions because it falls under the category of law enforcement clubs.
“The general requirements to join, because we belong to the law enforcement motorcycle clubs, are that our members are from professions that are saving or protecting human lives. In reality, that means our members are soldiers, policemen, firemen, doctors and some lawyers who work for the government, not private ones.”
The admissions procedure is lengthy and only those who are certain to fit into the established group can become a member of Black Dogs.
“Profession is just one requirement, but that’s not enough. The procedure of gaining membership is long. Absolutely critical is that the person be accepted by all members of the club. There is a several year long waiting period for membership, and that’s similar to other clubs.
“First, somebody is a sort of candidate; we call it a hang-around, that’s someone who sometimes joins the club for a ride or other activity. Often that person is a friend or was recommended to us by a friend. That’s the first step, we just meet, but the person has no rights or symbols, nothing like that.”
The next step is to become a support and later a prospect, which puts candidates on the right track to becoming full-fledged members.
“Then, if the person wants to continue and club members agree, he can become a support. That means he can wear very limited symbols on his jacket. A support is someone who is really believed to be a suitable choice for a prospective member.
At the end of the several year long admission procedure is membership with all its rights and obligations.
“Then it’s another one or two years, and if everybody accepts the prospect and his track is going successfully, he is then accepted as a full member, also called patch holder, because then he is allowed to have all the three-piece colors on his back which is the final symbol of his membership in the club.”
And what was Šedo’s own experience like, going through the long procedure of becoming a member?’
“I started as a typical hang around in 2000 or 2001, I met some of the members of the club at a shooting camp and we met up from time to time. And later, I realized that there are some really nice people in the club and I appreciated the club’s philosophy, and I knew something about clubs from having lived abroad before. And finally, the marriage was a done deal when I became a member in 2004.”
Motorcycle clubs first appeared in the United States in the 1960s, and commonly don’t have a reputation for adhering to or even protecting the law. Some of the most famous clubs even outright oppose it, such as the Hell’s Angels. Even though the Black Dogs are a law enforcement motorcycle club, Šedo is hesitant to criticize members of less law-abiding clubs.
“On one hand, there are some common denominators, like the affinity to enjoy your life, the love of motorcycles and they like their community and freedom, so that’s something that all bikers, even those who aren’t organized, share. Because we have something in common, I don’t want to speak against anybody because the basic attribute of the motorcycling scene is love and respect.”
Traditionally, motorcycle clubs are divided into what are called one percent and ninety-nine percent clubs.
“Historically, there were some troubles in the 1960s and 1970s with some motorcycle clubs, and the American Motorcycle Association commented on it. They said that only one percent of the scene is problematic and in some way even criminal, and that the remaining 99 percent were okay.”
Law enforcement clubs don’t fall in either category since all members have to have a clean criminal record. The same goes for the Black Dogs club, and its members believe that charity work is an important part of being an MC club member.
“We are collecting money for handicapped children. We supported the MDA ride, which is an activity by Harley Davidson to help people suffering from muscular dystrophy. And we support Miss Deaf which takes place every year in Prague. We appreciate and admire people who are fighting every day, despite their daily troubles, so it’s nice for us to help them.”
And with spring approaching, the Black Dogs are getting ready to take their motorcycles out of their garages and back on the streets.