About Us

History of Santa Barbara BMW Riders

Santa Barbara BMW Motorcycle Club

Two motorcycles on road

For several years in the early ’80s, a loosely allied band of BMW motorcycle riders from the Santa Barbara area had been gathering occasionally for impromptu rides. Those rides usually began with a run up “the pass” and then aiming our motorcycles at a favorite hangout where breakfast was hearty and the coffee drinkable. The loose alliance tightened a bit each May when we coordinated our plans for traveling to the ’49er in Mariposa. In those early days the itinerary always included a stop in San Luis Obispo where we impatiently waited in line for an Apple Farm breakfast. Clad in our jeans, leathers, Belstaffs and toting our helmets, we must have struck dread into the hearts of those enjoying the genteel atmosphere; surely we were boisterous enough to confirm the fears of these already breaking their fasts. (Sorry folks, but at that time there was no by-law urging us to “present a better image of motorcyclists to the general public.”) At the rally we camped, dined and shopped the vendors together. We monitored each other’s spending at the vendor booths and sometimes even had to loan some cash to one another. We cheered when one of our own won something at the Sunday evening drawing.

Club Meeting

After a few years of this camaraderie, some of our members began to wonder aloud if we should declare our intentions and formalize our relationship. This was getting serious and there were those who secretly thought that there was no way this coalition would make a go of it. Nonetheless, a meeting room at the Cater Filtration Plant was secured and about seven riders showed up. One who had committed to being there was running late and didn’t show. Still charged with optimism, those present welcomed the offers of Doug Cowin and Fred Carlberg to serve respectively as Vice president and Secretary/Treasurer. Great! But what about the presidency? What about Earl Ness, the no-show? Without so much as a nod to proper procedure, “Doc Ness” (a Dentist) was named president and when he did arrive a short time later, he agreed to assume the position!

Silver motorcycle

Since chartering our newly formed association would require the participation of ten members of the BMW Motorcycles Owners of America Inc., one of us accepted the assignment to scrounge up the two or three MOA members we were short. With our collective creative process waning, the name of Santa Barbara BMW Riders was chosen as being apropos. After we all anted-up enough for Fred to open a checking account, we went home feeling somehow connected. The pre-nup was settled and all that remained was for MOA to bless our union; the submission of the ten names along with ten dollars accomplished that without ceremony in May of 1986.

Our little group, being newly bound together as a club, decided that some legalities would protect and validate our existence. Earl told us he had a friend, an attorney, who might be able to help with that sort of thing. One night at one of our dinner meetings, (at Jasper’s in those days), Earl’s friend, who had become our attorney, showed up with voluminous documents and instructions designed to incorporate us and make us tax-free in addition to other things not obviously related to our simple desire to ride and make merry together. Such irksome necessities sparked some objections but were duly accomplished nevertheless. It wasn’t known by most of us at the time but the legal services were compensated by the contribution of dental services by our own Doc Ness; at least our attorney, though not the proverbial shark, ended up with a great bite. For our part, we ended up with a great club.