A Harley-Davidson buff who was turned down when he tried to join a motorcycle club in the late 1960s, Frank “Claim-Jumper” Rios started the Hell’s Lovers, one of the first integrated biker organizations in Chicago.
“He got to know people across the United States, and he knew the different clubs,” said his son, Demetrius Guyton. “He enjoyed the wide-open road. The fun part of the road trips was hanging with his bros, even with the breakdowns.”
Mr. Rios, 62, died of cardiac arrest attributed to complications from diabetes Monday, Dec. 28, at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, his son said. Mr. Rios had moved from Chicago’s West Side to Milwaukee in 1997.
A Mexican-American from the West Side, Mr. Rios was an outsider among existing motorcycle clubs when he started the Hell’s Lovers in 1967.
“He put the name on his back, and it took off,” his son said. “He hooked up with a childhood friend, and they formed a nation.”
Overseeing his own club allowed him to meet others who danced to their own rhythm, his longtime friend, Andrew “Poolie” Poole said.
“When people liked the way we lived, they jumped onboard with us,” said Poole, also a founding member of the Hell’s Lovers. “We believed in each other.”
The Hell’s Lovers have about 50 members in Chicago and claim more than 1,500 members across the country in states like Tennessee, Colorado, Texas, Georgia and Maryland, Guyton said.
“When you’d see us coming, you’d wonder, ‘How’d they all get together?’ ” said Ralph Collier, who joined in 1972. “We’d freak people out because we had all kinds of people: black, white, Mexican.”
Many motorcycle clubs have an outlaw reputation, and members of the Hell’s Lovers had occasional scrapes with the law over the years. But Mr. Rios managed to stay out of serious trouble.
“It got to be wild and crazy at times,” Collier said. “Half our stories can’t be put in print. There were times when tears had to be shed. But you lived to see what would happen the next five minutes.”
Mr. Rios, a boxing and martial arts instructor, rode his Harley regularly until four years ago, when he started suffering complications from diabetes.
Mr. Rios is also survived by a sister, Loretta Bernard, and four grandchildren.
Services were held.