On the way to downtown Dallas on a regular night, a student might see a large group of young motorcycle riders. These motorcyclists ride together for several miles before grabbing dinner, heading back to their homes and attending class at UTD the next day.
The new student organization for these motorcyclists is the UTD Riders. Danny Maas, an information technology and systems sophomore and co-founder of the club, submitted all the paperwork on Sept. 13, and the 40-member group is now waiting on official recognition.
Simon Jones, a computer engineering senior and co-founder of UTD Riders, said the club arose out of a necessity for organization. The riders originally connected through a GroupMe chat started by motorcyclist alumni. Anyone who wanted to ride with the group would just be added to the chat. However, a recent surge in participation made going out on riding trips hard to do, he said.
“We would just ask on the group chat, ‘Hey do you want to ride Tuesday? Do you want to ride Sunday?’” Jones said. “That’s all fine and all until you have 30 to 40 people showing up. Then you need to get things organized, and so that’s why we thought it would be a good idea to just make it an official student organization.”
Jones said the organization will focus on showing the community that UTD motorcyclists are responsible young students who want to positively impact their surroundings.
“There’s always a lot of stigma attached with gangs and groups of motorcycle riders, and we want to dispel that. We want to ride as a group safely and properly, and even help out the community,” he said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle traffic crashes caused the death of almost 5,000 motorcyclists in 2015. To avoid accidents such as these, UTD Riders places a strong emphasis on preventative measures.
“The main thing here is safety. You got to wear a helmet,” he said. “You see a lot of people on sports bikes not wearing helmets and doing stupid things, and that’s just a really bad idea. One wrong move, and your head is just going splat.”
The rising interest in motorcycling also highlighted a few issues, including the inexperience of new riders.
“One of the things we want to focus on is teaching beginner riders the right way to do things,” he said. “For example, when we go out in a group, you have to do things completely differently. You have to double up on lanes, use hand signals and just a lot of stuff that people wouldn’t know about unless we teach them.”
Obtaining a Class M endorsement to legally operate a motorcycle is not very difficult or time-consuming, Jones said, but the club can help riders in other ways.
“Almost every rider I know, they’ve gone down in their first year,” he said. “You’re going to fall, it will happen.”
The more experienced members of the community are a valuable help in these instances, Jones said. These veteran riders help other members avoid excessive costs in repairing bikes, maintaining bikes and buying new helmets.
“One thing a lot of people don’t realize about helmets is that they can run expensive, but you should check Craigslist,” he said. “You got to make sure the helmets weren’t involved in a crash, but I always recommend that people check Craigslist.”
Michael Murphy, a computer science sophomore and the club’s main recruiter, said he had a simple, tried and true method for getting new members to join.
“Whenever I go over to a motorcycle parking and see someone I don’t know, I just go up to them, introduce myself to them, and add them to the GroupMe chat,” he said. “It’s interesting because motorcyclists — I think the vast majority of them — love community. They love talking to other people and other riders.”
The organization’s appeal is learning about the riders and their various experiences, Murphy said. For example, Maas, Jones and Murphy all came from varying backgrounds. Maas said his main exposure to motorcycles came from family.
“I come from Indonesia, and over there (riding motorcycles is) just really common,” he said. Everyone in my family rides, and when I was 13 they just stuck me on a motorcycle and taught me how. Since I visit often, like every two years or so, it just sticks with me, especially through high school.”
Jones, on the other hand, started off in a different automotive sector.
“I actually started off on dirt bikes,” Jones said. “Then I got into street bikes, and I started tuning up some vintage, pre-1980’s bikes, and the mechanical part of that really interested me. I’ve been riding for four years now, and I’m actually on my sixth bike.”
Maas said he just wants to bring people together.
“Everyone who rides a motorcycle has a different story and a different purpose,” he said. “They come from different backgrounds, and they can enjoy and benefit from being part of this community. Sometimes people will want to show off their bikes or just make friends or whatever the case may be, we want to represent them on campus as an official organization.”