Penguins might not be the first thing that come to mind when you think of motorcycles, but back in 1947, the animal was the perfect mascot for the newly-formed Cal Poly motorcycle club.
“Back then, guys wore black leather jackets with white T-shirts underneath when they were riding and when the jackets were opened people thought they looked like penguins,” said David Berry, The Penguins Motorcycle Club vice president.
Although the style may have changed, members of the group still insist you just call them “The Penguins.”
With more than 40 dues-paying members, The Penguins boast the title of one of the longest-lasting clubs on campus. They welcome all types of motorcycle riders and have weekly organized street and dirt rides. The majority of the riders in the club ride dirt bikes, but there is a smaller subset of people who ride street bikes.
Members of the club also get together regularly for camping and biking trips and host their own 125-mile ride through privately-owned ranches in San Luis Obispo County.
The ride, known as Dual Sport, attracts 300 to 400 riders in the state and even some from Arizona.
“It’s a hugely successful event and it’s pretty well known in the state’s motorcycle community,” said Jarred Orrock, club treasurer and former Dual Sport co-coordinator. “We ride on private ranches that are closed the other 364 days of the year.”
Along with organizing rides, the group has recently begun to encourage members to enter races.
“Getting involved in racing is definitely our biggest goal right now and to open people’s eyes about it because it’s not that difficult,” Berry said.
The emphasis on racing evolved because, according to Berry and Orrock, when they first joined the club it had a negative reputation.
“We had a reputation that we were just a bunch of guys that like dirt bike riding but didn’t do anything else,” Berry said.
The group was also associated with frequent partying and this was one of the reasons Orrock created a racing team within the club. “Racing puts pressure on people to ride more and I did the racing team to promote getting people away from partying,” he said. “Now we really got a clean image and a clean group of guys.”
Yet the group isn’t all “guys.” There are currently five registered female members, including this year’s Dual Sport coordinator, Alyson Tulloch. Tulloch said the guys wish they had more female members, but usually there’s only her and one other girl at the meetings.
She encourages other women to join The Penguins and offered a few words of advice to women who might feel too intimidated to join.
“The guys are a bunch of bluffers; they act all tough but they’re really nice guys and they’ve all had crashes or gone without a bike and they really want more people to join,” she said.
However, women aren’t the only minority in the club; there are very few street bike riders in the group, according to Tulloch.
“Right now there definitely seems to be an emphasis on dirt bikes because they’re trying to make a team, but there is a street bike guy and I think we just need to advertise that aspect of the group more,” Tulloch said.
The Penguins are always looking for more members and welcome anyone with an interest in motorcycles. You do not have to own a motorcycle because the club has extras. The Penguins meet every other Monday starting during the second week of each academic quarter at 8 p.m. in Building 53, room 20.