By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Members of the Underground Ryderz Motorcycle Club aren’t big fans of slow, Sunday drives. They prefer speed.
“We like the highways. They’re fun,” said 40-year-old Sam “Uncle Sam” Gilleylen, club president. “We don’t go out and ride back roads like some people.”
“We love Highway 45 and Highway 78,” said Lakisha Beene, a 33-year-old Tupelo resident. “We go anywhere.”
The club got its start in the Middle East, when Gilleylen and his cousin were serving in Iraq. They decided to form a motorcycle club.
Gilleylen’s wife, Tiffany, 41, handled all of the leg work and set up the group’s bank account. There were three or four members to start the Underground Ryderz in 2005. The club has about 30 members now.
“When it’s warm out on a weekend, we’re out as much as we can,” Gilleylen said.
“If it’s not raining or snowing, we’re going to be riding,” said Corey “Easy Money” Morris, 32, the club’s road captain.
“That’s Saturday and Sunday, both,” Gilleylen said.
“We’ve been riding all year this winter,” Morris said. “This is the first year nobody had to put their bike up. Last year, we didn’t ride in January and February.”
They’ll hit the road for 8- to 10-hour rides. They get to Memphis quite a bit, and head over to Huntsville, Ala. Aberdeen and Holly Springs have been regular stops, and they’ll meet up with fellow clubs for rides.
Several of the members make a yearly pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for Bike Week, when 200,000 motorcycles fill the streets of the popular tourists’ destination.
“That’s great, just meeting everybody, seeing all the bikes and talking about motorcycles,” Morris said. “What could be better?”
“That’s right,” Gilleylen said.
Parties and more
Riding is the primary function of Underground Ryderz, but the club has other duties.
“I don’t ride,” Tiffany Gilleylen said. “I’m the backbone. I do everything else. I’m Mom.”
She coordinates parties and events for the members. The club helps out the community by giving away school supplies to needy kids and feeding homeless people at Thanksgiving.
“A lady’s house burned down in New Albany,” Morris said. “We helped raise money for her.”
“She’s a member of a fellow club,” Gilleylen said.
One of the club’s duties is to ride in funeral processions when club members or people in fellow clubs die.
Many of the Underground Ryderz wear a black shirt with “RIP BWR” written in white on the sleeve to keep alive the memory of Billy Wayne Ruff, a former member. There’s also a small shrine to Ruff set up in the group’s Tupelo clubhouse.
“He died about two years ago in a motorcycle accident,” Gilleylen said.
The Underground Ryderz Motorcycle Club makes regular appearances at Christmas parades in the region, and also takes part in Tupelo Councilwoman Nettie Davis’ Communities Forward Parade.
“This past year, we set up a tent and gave rides to the kids,” Gilleylen said.
With three police officers as members, safety is a concern. It’s Morris’ job as road captain to make sure everyone sticks to the rules of the road. He also plans out the rides, and gets directions to the other members, so no one gets lost.
Breakdowns sometimes happen on the road, said Curtis Stegall, 39, of Memphis. The “crotch rockets,” also known as sports bikes, favored by club members are high-maintenance machines.
“It’s just like a car,” he said. “I’ve had mine for three years. The only problem I’ve had is the clutch messed up. If you don’t take care of them, you have a problem.”
When someone has trouble, the group will hang around and help out, or call to get a rescue trailer. One time, someone got a flat in Memphis and a member brought tools and a spare tire from Tupelo.
“He shouldered the tire and rode all the way to Memphis,” Morris said. “We’re a brotherhood, man. We help each other out. That’s how it is.”
It’s also a sisterhood with several women in the group. New members, male or female, have six months to get a bike, or they’re out of the club.
That’s because “Ryderz ride.” Their shared passion for the road keeps them together and on the go.
“You get on the highway and let the wind hit you in the face. It’s relaxing,” said Keith Bowdry, 42, of Tupelo. “After a hard week of work, you get out on the weekends and get out with the fellows and ride. You leave your worries behind, just get out and ride. It’s that simple.”