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Meet the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club

At first glance, they kind of resemble the gnarly bikers that Hollywood and pop culture have conditioned you to associate with motorcycle clubs, what with the black leather jackets and the teeth-rattling roar of the hogs they rode in on. But you don’t have to spend much time around Indy’s Buffalo Soldiers before realizing that similarities to the rebels mythologized in The Wild One and Sons of Anarchy end there. The most heated fights of this “gang” break out over the merciless (but ultimately good-natured) rivalry between devotees of Harley-Davidson and Honda. Just about all of the 40 or so local members have (or are retired from) respectable jobs, many in law enforcement. And quite a few of them are women. “Motorcycling is a male-dominated sport, but in this club, they let women have a voice,” says Denise “Tweet” Herd.

Indianapolis has one of the largest chapters in a national organization formed to honor the historic legacy of African-American cavalrymen who served with the U.S. Army on the Western frontier, whom Native American foes dubbed “Buffalo Soldiers” for their fighting prowess. “They rode horses, we ride a steel horse,” says chapter president Kelvis “Bossman” Williams. “We don’t want to let the United States ever forget who they were and what they did for this country.” Far from wreaking havoc and spreading mayhem, the Buffalo Soldiers are a regular fixture at community and fundraising events. Still, with killer road names like Grit and Dr. McNasty, they must have a little outlaw in them, right? “I wouldn’t call it ‘outlaw,’” says Williams, a captain in the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. “I would call it ‘adventurous.’” 

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Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.

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