The Quad-City Knuckle Draggers may sound rough and tumble, but it is hard to be intimidating with a mere handful of horsepower.
Instead of big, bad motorcycles, the Knuckle Draggers ride vintage Italian scooters with 125cc engines and about 8 horsepower. Mark Bradley, a founding Knuckle Dragger, compared the club to the Quad-Cities British Auto Club rather than the Hells Angels.
"They like their older cars, they like them foreign and they like them small. We're like that, except that our scooters are smaller," he said. "We are all riding vintage European motor scooters."
The Knuckle Draggers will gather in LeClaire this weekend for the third annual Knuckle Draggers rally. Club members will display their scooters on the levee from about 1:30 to 6 p.m. Members of other clubs are expected to ride in from Chicago and Milwaukee, as they have for past rallies.
Knuckle Draggers president Aaron Remley of Bettendorf rides his bright yellow 1974 Vespa nearly year-round. He concedes an older Vespa isn't the most reliable ride.
"Some of the club members do ride every day," Remley said. "I ride once the snow melts to when the snow falls.
"It hasn't let me down yet," he said. "Sometimes you hope it will make it through the ride."
Members call newer scooters "plastic" since the Vespas and Lambrettas are built of steel and have hand shifts, rather than the plastic bodies and automatic transmissions of today's models.
"I see a lot more interest in the newer scooters," founding member Dean Wright said. "People with a plastic scooter often want to step up to a vintage scooter."
The local club has grown from eight members three years ago to about 25 today, Remley said. They hope to attract about 60 other devotees from around the Midwest to the weekend rally.
Scooter owners seeking expertise and advice often struggled to find each other until the Internet brought them together on message boards. A Knuckle Dragger Web site helped the club take off.
"It started from people having these old scooters and wanting to share information and ride and get help restoring and maintaining them," Remley said.
The club occasionally has wrench nights, where experience and wisdom can be pooled to get a scooter running - or running better.
"A vintage scooter is hard to find," Bradley said. "People find a rusty one or one that doesn't run well and restore it and get it to what they want it to be."