Did you know that San Jose has an almost century-old motorcycle club? This Sunday, Sept. 25, the San Jose Dons Motorcycle Club will be celebrating its 90th anniversary.
That day, the public is welcome to the clubhouse (523 Columbia Ave.) at 1 p.m. for the occasion — which will include a barbecue, history tours, raffles, and a showcase of their rides, of course.
For today, we’re exploring the Dons’ impressive history and what the club is up to today.
🏁 Roots in racing
The club traces its origin to 1930s racing legends: Tom Sifton + Sam Arena.
The pair started the club out of Tom’s San Jose Harley-Davidson dealership to reinvigorate the local motorcycling community during the Depression.
The club then recruited top racers like Al Rudy, Larry Headrick, and Joe Leonard (known collectively as the “San Jose Bunch”). By the 1950s, Sam claimed the Oakland 200 record at the Pacific Coast Championship + Joe had won eight Grand National victories in a single season. 🏆
Along with racing himself, Tom’s impressive engine building helped lead the club to many National + Northern California competition victories.
Since those wins, the Dons’ membership declined as flat tracks like San Jose Speedway + Bay Meadows were taken over by other sports.
🤝 Still riding
The 48 current members are still riding, of course — but they’re also shifting efforts toward volunteerism + fundraising. To them, it’s important to keep a positive legacy.
“There is only a small number of clubs around that do local charities, [and] really try to get into the community, and look what’s needed,” Dons President Mike V. said.
Currently, the Dons are planning a Ukraine relief donation + a project to gathering blankets, hats, and gloves for a local children’s center in December.
“You feel proud, because [...] it really teaches you to be mindful of how you act [...] just knowing that I’m upholding a standard that’s 90 years old.” Road Captain Devin Wayman said.
🔎 Learn more
There’s more written about the club’s storied history, and if you’re interested in bikes or joining, contact the Dons on Instagram, Facebook, or through their website.