San Jose Dons Motorcycle Club turns 90

Learn about the oldest motorcycle club in San Jose, CA and how they’ve kept riding after 90 years.

The San Jose Dons Motorcycle Club sign outside of their club house.

Just off I-280 is the meeting place of one of the oldest motorcycle clubs in the country.

Photo by SJtoday staff

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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.

Racing legend Sam Arena's "The Little Sister" motorcycle on display in the Dons' club house.

Sam Arena’s “The Little Sister” bike was made by him and modified by Tom.

Photo by SJtoday staff

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.

A lineup of motorcyclists on the side of the Dons' clubhouse.

The Dons are still active and regularly participate in cruises + events with other local clubs.

🤝 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.

The Dons' clubhouse with meeting tables, awards, and other memorabilia.

The Dons’ meetings are open to the public, and are held on the first + third Wednesdays of each month.

Photo by SJtoday staff

🔎 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.