A couple of months ago I attended a local rock concert. It was there that I met a few members of the Night Wolves motorcycle club – specifically the Naberezhnye Chelny chapter.
We exchanged telephone numbers and stayed in touch.
About a week ago I received a phone call from club member Roman inviting me to the Night Wolves’ local club house.
Before I describe my evening at the club house, I’ll tell you about Roman himself.
Roman is a talented artist and sculptor. He attended art school in his youth and his interests in art have developed over the years.
His sculptures are particularly impressive. Roman welds metal to create sculptures of motorbikes, scorpions, robots, spiders and characters from science fiction and horror films. He is also currently working on a big snow sculpture of the Predator character from the popular film franchise.
Roman told me an inspiring story that suggested his eventual participation in the club was fate.
He showed me a painting that was hanging on the wall of the club house, which he painted when he was 13 years old. Roman explained that the subject of the painting was the same for everyone in his art class. The teacher told the students to paint how they saw themselves in the future.
Roman’s painting shows him sitting alone on a cliff top, looking out over the sea, with a parked motorbike beside him. In the painting he is wearing a leather jacket with the logo of a biker club on the back.
He told me that he had forgotten about this painting for many years. When he found it again he had already been a long time member of the Night Wolves.
Upon arrival at the club house, I was impressed by what was around me. I was told that the interior was decorated in a style that was influenced by the Mad Max motion picture franchise.
The building is a large converted garage with a roof extension built by the club members.
Downstairs stands a stripped motorcycle in the process of being repaired, a music stage which is still in the process of being built to host concerts in the near future, and in the next room are living quarters with a few bunk beds.
Upstairs is a kitchen area, a fully working sauna, and various pieces of memorabilia symbolic of the club’s history.
I was particularly impressed by the two customized sofas that were actually back ends of small Soviet era cars, with comfortable cushions piled into the boot.
The president of the club’s Chelny chapter, Andrei, described in detail how much effort went into building the clubhouse:
“None of us had any building qualifications but each person brought the knowledge that they had and helped in any way they could. We used materials that we found from buildings and constructions that were abandoned or no longer in use. We worked all through the winter, despite the freezing temperatures.”
Unfortunately, a fire damaged much of the clubhouse in 2012. The top floor was completely destroyed apart from a low section of the wall. When club members began rebuilding the top floor, these leftover pieces of the old wall remained part of the visible interior as a constant reminder of what happened in 2012, and the effort that went into rebuilding and starting from scratch.
The Night Wolves motorcycle club is international. The brand stretches across the globe, with chapters in Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, and even as far as Australia.
Many visitors and motorbike enthusiasts from abroad frequently visit the Chelny chapter and stay at their clubhouse.
I asked club president Andrei about the creation of the Chelny chapter.
“At the time there was already a Kazan chapter of the Night Wolves. I tried to contact them numerous times but was unable to. When I didn’t get a reply from them, I wanted to know why. I asked, in another attempt to contact them, if I was doing anything wrong and why they wouldn’t answer my questions. As it turned out, they were temporarily away and simply hadn’t seen my messages yet. When they finally replied I was told to ride my Ural motorbike to Kazan and meet with them.
Life is never without its setbacks and my bike broke down 30 kilometres outside of Kazan. Upon phoning the Kazan Night Wolves and explaining what had happened, they were ready to ride out and assist me. They loaded my bike into the back of a truck and took me the rest of the way to Kazan. It was at this point that I knew this was a brotherhood and I wanted to be part of it for sure. I was given the go ahead in 2007 to form the Naberezhnye Chelny chapter of the Night Wolves.”
The Ural bike that Andrei mentioned in his recollection of events was actually his first motorcycle. He became interested in the subject of motorbikes later in life.
“I was never interested in bikes in my youth. It all started because of certain TV shows that I enjoyed.
Initially, I really liked Scrapheap Challenge. I loved the improvisation and ingenuity the contestants showed when creating something within a limited set of circumstances.
After that show finished and they stopped showing it on Russian TV, I became a huge fan of Orange County Choppers, and it was that show that inspired me to pursue an interest in motorbikes, so I eventually purchased my first bike – the Ural bike that I spoke of earlier.”
This particular motorcycle is such a turning point in Andrei’s life that he immortalised it in the form of a large tattoo on his back, just below the words ‘Night Wolves’ tattooed across his shoulders.
I inquired about the different types of social events the club gets involved in. One of these events I was more than familiar with.
In 2016 my wife and I attended a demolition derby known as Autobattle.
Before the competition began, there was a live action chase scene inspired by the Mad Max 2 film. Two years later, I find out that it was orchestrated and done by the Chelny Night Wolves. I was now standing next to the guys that acted out the roles of Mad Max characters on that particular summer’s day in 2016.
Another example of an event that not only the Chelny members participate in, but club representatives from all over Russia is the Victory Road Tour.
En masse, the club recreates the route taken by the Red Army across the Soviet Union and continental Europe during the Great Patriotic War. They ride to the exact locations liberated from German occupation, on the exact dates that they were liberated.
However, in recent years Victory Road has been much more difficult to organise because of the current international political climate.
The Wolves also host bike shows, competitions, races and outdoor rock festivals
The international community that is the Night Wolves motorcycle club boasts over 6500 members. I was very fortunate to get a first-hand look at what they were about. It was enjoyable to meet the talented people involved and hear their entertaining stories.
I thank them for inviting me to their club house. Thanks to Andrei, Kostya and Roman.
It was surprising how much I had in common with these guys. I don’t know anything about motorbikes, but we shared music tastes and film preferences. I had a great time and hopefully I’ll see the guys again soon.