Inside an Outlaw Motorcycle Club

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Why you should care

Because when measured against the minivan, there are cooler ways of going gently into our various good nights.

“Club rules? Yeah, our big one: No cake in the clubhouse.”

Trevor Latham looks every bit the part of founder and president of the East Bay Rats Motorcycle Club: tall, about 240 pounds and a former boxer to boot. But he’s serious about the cake. “Every time we have cake in here,” he says, gesturing at the grime-streaked Oakland, California, clubhouse, “fights break out. Without fail. So now, no more cake.”

This is not your ordinary motorcycle club.

Latham’s fixation on cobbling together motorbikes (so-called rat bikes) from found, requisitioned or repurposed parts, à la Mad Max, is what constitutes the East Bay Rats’ business. And the formerly cake-fueled fighting? It’s been channeled into semiorganized bacchanals that feature fisticuffs and music — but no cake — like their most recent “Anarchists vs. Nihilists” event.

Which very much signals that this is not your ordinary motorcycle club. Latham says there are 150 active motorcycle clubs in Oakland, but the East Bay Rats is the only one sponsoring fights between political and philosophical ideologues. OZY’s Eugene S. Robinson rides in and gets the goods from Latham on hand-to-hand combat, fatherhood and Viking funerals.

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