Outlaw motorcycle club

Motorcycle club members meet at a run in Australia in 2009

An outlaw motorcycle club, known colloquially as a biker gang or motorcycle gang, is a motorcycle subculture generally centered on the use of cruiser motorcycles, particularly Harley-Davidsons and choppers, and a set of ideals that purport to celebrate freedom, nonconformity to mainstream culture, and loyalty to the biker group.

In the United States, such motorcycle clubs (MCs) are considered "outlaw" not necessarily because they engage in criminal activity, but because they are not sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and do not adhere to the AMA's rules. Instead, the clubs have their own set of bylaws reflecting the outlaw biker culture.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines "outlaw motorcycle gangs" (OMG) as "organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises".

Organization and leadership

The Hells Angels MC New York City clubhouse, with many security cameras and floodlights on the front of the building

While organizations may vary, the typical internal organization of a motorcycle club consists of a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, road captain, and sergeant-at-arms (sometimes known as enforcer). In some clubs, localized groups of a single, large MC are called charters or chapters, and the first chapter established for an MC is referred to as the mother charter. The mother chapter serves as the ruling body of the club. Sometimes, the president of the mother chapter serves as the president of the entire MC, and sets club policy on a variety of issues, whereas other clubs either elect or appoint a National President for this role.

Larger motorcycle clubs often acquire real estate for use as a clubhouse or private compound.


Some "biker" clubs employ a process whereby members must pass several stages such as "friend of the club", "hang-around", and "prospect", on their way to becoming full-patch (see explanation of 'patching' below) members. The actual stages and membership process can and often do vary widely from club to club. Often, an individual must pass a vote of the membership and swear some level of allegiance to the club. Some clubs have a unique club patch (cut or top rocker) adorned with the term MC that are worn on the rider's vest, known as a kutte.

In these clubs, some amount of hazing may occur during the early stages (i.e. hang-around, prospecting) ranging from the mandatory performance of menial labor tasks for full patch members to sophomoric pranks, and, in rare cases with some outlaw motorcycle clubs, acts of violence. During this time, the prospect may wear the club name on the back of their vest, but not the full logo, though this practice may vary from club to club. To become a full member, the prospect or probate must be voted on by the rest of the full club members. Successful admission usually requires more than a simple majority, and some clubs may reject a prospect or a probate for a single dissenting vote. A formal induction follows, in which the new member affirms his loyalty to the club and its members. The final logo patch is then awarded. Full members are often referred to as "full patch members" or "patchholders" and the step of attaining full membership can be referred to as "being patched".

Biker culture

The majority of members of outlaw motorcycle clubs have no serious criminal record, and express their outlaw status on a social level, equating the word "outlaw" with disregard for the law of groups like the American Motorcyclist Association, not the laws of government. Outlaw bikers view themselves as a fraternity of men who reject societal norms, and their sense of brotherhood is reflected in tattoos, the wearing of club "colors", and earning ranks and titles within a club or chapter. However, there is also a subculture of outlaw biker activity which revolves around performing outrageous acts, the denigration of women, maintaining a macho image, and the heavy use of drugs and alcohol.

Many non-outlaw motorcycle clubs adopt similar insignia, colors, organizational structures, and trappings to outlaw clubs, making it difficult for outsiders (including police) to tell the groups apart. Much of the mystique and many of the unwritten rules, values, and ideals of non-outlaw clubs are believed to come from outlaw clubs.

Charity events

Outlaw clubs are often prominent at charity events, such as toy runs. Charitable giving is frequently cited as evidence that these clubs do not deserve their negative media image. Outlaw clubs have been accused of using charity rides to mask their criminal nature. The American Motorcyclist Association has frequently complained of the bad publicity for motorcycling in general caused by outlaw clubs, and they have said that the presence of outlaw clubs at charity events has actually harmed the needy by driving down public participation and reducing donations. Events such as a 2005 shootout between rival outlaw clubs in the midst of a charity toy drive in California have raised fears about the participation of outlaw biker clubs in charity events. Authorities have attempted to ban outlaw clubs from charity events, or to restrict the wearing of colors at events in order to avert the sort of inter-club violence that has happened at previous charity runs. In 2002, the Warlocks MC of Pennsylvania sued over their exclusion from a charity event.


Motorcycle club vest, Germany

The primary visual identification of a member of an outlaw motorcycle club is the vest adorned with a large club-specific patch or patches, predominantly located in the middle of the back. The patch(es) will contain a club logo, the name of the club, and the letters MC, and a possible state, province, or other chapter identification. This garment and the patches themselves are referred to as the colors or cut (a term taken from the early practice of cutting the collars and/or sleeves from a denim or leather jacket). Many non-outlaw motorcycle riding clubs such as the Harley Owners Group also wear patches on the back of their vests, without including the letters MC.

The club patches always remain property of the club itself, not the member, and only members are allowed to wear the club's patches. Hang-arounds and/or support clubs wear support patches with the club's colors. A member must closely guard their colors, for allowing one's colors to fall into the hands of an outsider is an act of disgrace and may result in loss of membership in a club, or some other punishment.

One-, two-, and three-piece patches

The colors worn by members of some motorcycle clubs will sometimes follow a convention of using either a one-piece patch for nonconformist social clubs, two-piece patch for clubs paying dues, a three-piece patch for outlaw clubs or side patches. The three-piece patch consists of the club logo and the top and bottom patches, usually crescent shaped, which are referred to as rockers. The number and arrangement of patches is somewhat indicative of the nature of the club. Though many motorcycle clubs wear the three-piece patch arrangement, this is not necessarily an indication that a club is an outlaw motorcycle club.

Law enforcement agencies have confiscated colors and other club paraphernalia of these types of clubs when they raid a clubhouse or the home of a MC member, and they often display these items at press conferences. These items are then used at trial to support prosecution assertions that MC members perform criminal acts on behalf of their club. Courts have found that the probative value of such items is far outweighed by their unfairly prejudicial effects on the defence.

One percenter

"1%er" shown at the Clubhouse of the Bandidos MC, Chapter Berlin

Some outlaw motorcycle clubs can be distinguished by a "1%" or "Diamond" Shape patch worn on the colors. This is said to refer to a comment made in 1960 by William Berry, a former president of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, implying the last one percent were outlaws.

The alleged AMA comment, supposedly in reference to the Hollister riot of 1947, is denied by the AMA, who claim to have no record of such a statement to the press and that the story is a misquote. Whether the original quote is true or not, the "1%" patch is worn only by clubs immersed in criminality.

Outlaw clubs began wearing the "1%" patch after Hells Angels president Sonny Barger convened a meeting of the leaders of various Hells Angels chapters and other California clubs in 1960 in which the various clubs parleyed over the mutual problem of police harassment. The clubs voted to ally under the patch. In 1963, the Outlaws became the first club east of the Mississippi River to begin wearing the "1%" emblem.

Other patches

Other patches may be worn by members, including phrases and symbols. The style or meaning of these other patches can vary between clubs. Some, such as a skull and crossbones patch, or the motto "Respect Few, Fear None", are worn in some clubs by members who commit murder or other acts of violence on behalf of the club.

There are also wings or biker's wings, which are earned similarly to jump wings or pilot's wings, but with various color-coded meanings, e.g. in some clubs, it is said that a member who has had sex with a woman with venereal disease can wear green wings. It has also been suggested that these definitions are a hoax, intended to make fools of those outside the outlaw biker world, and also to serve the purpose of provoking outrage among conservative public and authorities.

Frequently, additional patches may involve symbols, such as the use of the Iron Cross, Nazi swastikas, the Sig Rune insignia of the Schutzstaffel or the Totenkopf. These may not indicate Nazi sympathies, but serve to express the outlaw biker's total rejection of social constraints, and desire for the shock value among those who fail to understand the biker way.

Gender and race

A man and woman dressed in biker gear

Most outlaw motorcycle clubs do not allow women to become full-patch members. Rather, in some 1%er clubs, women have in the past been portrayed as submissive or victims to the men, treated as property, forced into prostitution or street-level drug trafficking, and often physically and sexually abused, their roles as being those of obedient followers and their status as objects. These women are claimed to pass over any pay they receive to their partners or sometimes to the entire club. This appears to make these groups extremely gender segregated. This has not always been the case, as during the 1950s and 1960s, some Hells Angels chapters had female members.

Academic research has criticized the methodology of such previous studies as being "vague and hazy", and lacking in participant demography. Such reports may have made clear statements and authoritative analyses about the role of women associated with outlaw motorcycle clubs, but few state how they have come to such conclusions; one admitting that, " interviews with biker women were limited lest intentions were misinterpreted" by their male companions and that such views of women are mythic and "sexist research" in itself, using deeply flawed methodologies and serve two highly political purposes of maintaining a dominance myth of women by men and amplifying the deviance of the male club members.

These myths about the women are: that they are subservient working-class women, used as objects for club sexual rites; are hard bitten, unattractive, and politically conservative; and that they are 'money makers' for the biker men and clubs, i.e., prostitutes, topless barmaids or strippers who are forced to hand over their money to the club. A 1990 paper noted the changing role of women within outlaw motorcycle clubs, and a 2000 paper stated that they now have agency and political savvy, reframing the narratives of their lives. "We did it. We showed them we are real women dealing with real men. I'd much prefer to be living with an OMC member than some dork who is a pawn in the system", said one woman who felt she and her peers had "set the record straight". One woman in 2001 described the previous work done by men about women in the outlaw motorcycle club world by saying "the men that wrote that must be meatheads". They are part of the scene because they want to be and enjoy it. These women have broken from society's stereotypically defined roles and find freedom with the biker world.

High-profile outlaw bikers have historically been white and their clubs are typically exclusively racially homogeneous. Other sources state outright, that "With few exceptions, blacks are excluded from membership or riding with one-percenter biker clubs." The average age for a club studied was 34.

There are black clubs, white clubs, and Mexican and other Spanish-speaking clubs. Bikers in American prisons, as prisoners generally do, band together along racial lines. It is claimed that racial discrimination within clubs has led to creation of rival clubs in the past, such as the Mongols Motorcycle Club after members were rejected by the local Hells Angels chapter. Some clubs or individual chapters are now multi-racial, but the number of "white supremacist biker clubs are growing nationwide".

Outlaw motorcycle clubs and crime

Many members of outlaw motorcycle clubs engage in criminal activities and organized crime and "pose a serious domestic threat". Law enforcement agencies perceive such individuals and motorcycle clubs as being unique among criminal groups because they maintain websites and businesses, identify themselves through patches and tattoos, write and obey constitutions and bylaws, trademark their club names and logos, and even hold publicity campaigns aimed at improving their public image. The term "outlaw motorcycle gang" was coined by the journalist Hunter S. Thompson in 1966 and was subsequently adopted by federal and local law enforcement agencies in the United States and elsewhere.

Outlaw motorcycle clubs as criminal enterprises

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada have designated four MCs as "outlaw motorcycle gangs": the Hells Angels, the Pagans, the Outlaws, and the Bandidos, known as the "Big Four". These four have a large enough national impact to be prosecuted under the U.S. Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. The California Attorney General also lists the Mongols and the Vagos as outlaw motorcycle gangs.

The FBI asserts that outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) support themselves primarily through drug dealing, trafficking in stolen goods, and extortion, and that they fight over territory and the illegal drug trade and collect $1 billion in illegal income annually. Motorcycle gangs frequently begin mutually beneficial partnerships with independent criminals, and maintain a large network of associates by doing so. Crimes are typically carried out by associates rather than "full patch" members in order to protect the club from implication by law enforcement. In 1985 a three-year, eleven-state FBI operation named Roughrider culminated in the largest OMG bust in history, with the confiscation of $2 million worth of illegal drugs, as well as an illegal arsenal of weapons, ranging from Uzi submachine guns to antitank weapons. In October 2008, the FBI announced the end of a six-month undercover operation by agents into the narcotics trafficking by the Mongols Motorcycle Club. The bust went down with 160 search warrants and 110 arrest warrants

Canada, especially, has in the late 20th century experienced a significant upsurge in crime involving outlaw motorcycle clubs, most notably in what has been dubbed the Quebec Biker War, which has involved more than 150 murders (plus a young bystander killed by an exploding car bomb), 84 bombings, and 130 cases of arson. The increased violence in Canada has been attributed to turf wars over the illegal drug trafficking business, specifically relating to access to the Port of Montreal, but also as the Hells Angels have sought to obtain control of the street level trade from other rival or independent gangs in various regions of Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Gazette, quoting from the Provincial Court of Manitoba, defines these groups as: "Any group of motorcycle enthusiasts who have voluntarily made a commitment to band together and abide by their organizations' rigorous rules enforced by violence, who engage in activities that bring them and their club into serious conflict with society and the law".

The Hells Angels sponsors charitable events for Toys for Tots in an attempt to legitimize themselves with public opinion.

Contrary to other criminal organizations, OMGs operate on an individual basis instead of top-down, which is how supporters can claim that only some members are committing crimes. Belonging guarantees to each member the option of running criminal activity, using other members as support—the main characteristic of OMGs being "amoral individualism", in contrast to the hierarchical orders and bonds of "amoral familism" of other criminal organizations such as the Mafia. U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent William Queen, who infiltrated the Mongols, wrote that what makes a group like them different from the Mafia is that crime and violence are not used as expedients in pursuit of profit, but that the priorities are reversed. Mayhem and lawlessness are inherent in living "The Life" and the money they obtain by illegal means is only wanted as a way to perpetuate that lifestyle.

Recently, authorities have tried tactics aimed at undermining the gang identity and breaking up the membership. But in June 2011 the High Court of Australia overturned a law that outlawed crime-focused motorcycle clubs and required members to avoid contact with one another. In the U.S., a Federal judge rejected a prosecutor's request to seize ownership of the Mongols Motorcycle Club logo and name, saying the government had no right to the trademarks. Federal prosecutors had requested, as part of a larger criminal indictment, a court order giving the government ownership of the logo in order to prevent members from wearing the club's colors.

Relationships between outlaw motorcycles clubs

Certain large one-percent MCs have rivalries between each other and will fight over territory and other issues. Sometimes smaller clubs are forced into or willingly accept supportive roles for a larger one-percent club and are sometimes required to wear a "support patch" on their vests that shows their affiliation with the dominant regional club. Smaller clubs are often allowed to form with the permission of the dominant regional club. Clubs that resist have been forcibly disbanded by being told to hand over their colors on threat of aggression.

In Australia and the United States, many MCs have established statewide MC coalitions. These coalitions are composed of MCs who have chapters in the state, and the occasional interested third party organization, and hold periodic meetings on neutral ground where representatives from each club meet in closed session to resolve disputes between clubs and discuss issues of common interest. Local coalitions or confederations of clubs have eliminated some of the inter-club rivalry and together they have acted to hire legal and PR representation.

Support clubs

Larger outlaw motorcycle clubs will often establish localized smaller clubs that are subservient to the gang. These clubs are referred to as support clubs, satellite clubs or puppet clubs. They act as auxiliary groups, providing support to the larger club by propelling their influence further, acting as sources of recruitment and various other ways in return for protection and to bolster their reputations. Support clubs can also be used to help the principal club facilitate criminal activities.

Regional scenes

Although the outlaw motorcycle club subculture has a tendency to be associated with the United States, a large number of regional scenes have emerged transcontinentally within countless nations across the globe.

Europol has reported that there has been steady growth in the membership of outlaw motorcycle clubs worldwide since the year 2005.


Outlaw motorcycle clubs are reported to have first appeared in Australia during the 1960s. Here, they are commonly referred to as "bikie gangs".

At present, there exist an abundance of outlaw motorcycle clubs in Australia - many of which are homegrown clubs (founded within the country) and have since expanded overseas. However, a good amount of the country's groups are chapters of international one-percenter clubs which originated outside of Commonwealth of Australia such as the Hells Angels and the Mongols MC.

The year 2007 saw an increase of the country's amount of OMCG chapters. According to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, there are (at least) 38 outlaw motorcycle gangs operating across the nation as of 2020.


Outlaw biker clubs first began to appear in Belgium in the 1970s, and the Belgian biker scene continued to be dominated by small local clubs until the 1990s. In 1992, Belgium's Blue Angels club became the first international club in the country when they merged with the Blue Angels of Scotland. The Hells Angels opened its first Belgian chapter in Ghent in 1997. In 1999, the Outlaws formed its first chapter in Belgium through a "patch over" of an indigenous Outlaws club based in Mechelen. The Belgian Federal Police has designated the Bandidos, the Blue Angels, the Hells Angels and the Outlaws as criminal motorcycle gangs.


Outlaw motorcycle clubs first began to appear in Ontario and Quebec in the early 1950s. In 1978, the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada launched Project Focus, an investigation into motorcycle gangs. By 2002, there were 26 motorcycle gangs operating in Canada, the largest and most powerful of which being the Hells Angels. Canadian biker gangs are involved in money laundering, intimidation, assault, attempted murder, murder, fraud, theft, counterfeiting, loan-sharking, extortion, prostitution, escort agencies, strip clubs, and the trafficking of illegal weapons, stolen goods, contraband, and illicit alcohol and cigarettes.

Some of the other major biker organizations (aside from Hells Angels) that have operated in Canada, include the following:

Canadian West

The late 1970s and early 1980s were considered to be the "golden age" in Western Canada for independent outlaw motorcycle clubs.


Outlaw motorcycle clubs first appeared in the Canadian province of Quebec during the early 1950s. By the year 1968, the province was home to at least 350 of such groups – with most of, if not all, being "home-grown" – rather than having origins outside of Canada (or even Quebec). Some of the most notable outlaw biker gangs at this time were Satan's Choice Motorcycle Club, Popeye Moto Club, Devil's Disciples Motorcycle Club (unrelated to the American group of the same name), the Gitans, the Atomes, the Missiles MC, and of course, Hells Angels. The largest, most-feared chapter of Hells Angels was formed in Montreal, Quebec in 1977, when a biker gang called the Popeyes joined up the Hells Angels. After the Rock Machine emerged in 1986, they quickly became the number one rival of the Hells Angels, and a full-blown turf war between the two biker gangs erupted in the 1990s; unfortunately, claiming more than 150 individual lives, including two (2) prison guards and an innocent 11-year-old boy named Daniel Desrochers, who died several days after a planted car bomb exploded and a piece of shrapnel penetrated his head.

Throughout the 1990s, the province of Quebec witnessed violent confrontations between rivaling outlaw biker gangs with activities that ranged from homicides to bombings. Such violence and brutality was a decade-long conflict between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine, better known as the "1994 Biker Wars." The Quebec Biker Wars officially began on 13 July 1994, when three (3) masked-men shot and killed Pierre D'aoust (member of a Hells Angels-affiliated club called the Death Riders) at a motorcycle shop in Montreal. This ongoing feud largely stemmed over territory and the narcotics trade in Quebec, while also being fueled further by long-standing rivalries, deep-seated hatred and animosities between major players in the Quebec criminal underworld at that time. To provide a general idea of the criminal underworld involvement, it's essential to recall that the Hells Angels in Quebec at that time (i.e. 1994) were backed by Vito Rizzuto (of the Montreal Mafia), while the Rock Machine were affiliated with the criminal coalition known as the Alliance Against the Angels (otherwise known as the Dark Circle). The two central figures in the 1994 conflict were the leaders of the two warring gangs (Hells Angels and the Rock Machine): Maurice "Mom" Boucher (leader of Quebec's Hells Angels); and Salvatore Cazzetta (leader of the Rock Machine). The extreme levels of violence, assassinations, bombings, arson attacks, fly-by-fire attacks eventually led to the creation and passing of both Bill C-95 in 1997 and Bill C-24 in 2001 – setting forth harsher punishments and penalties for members of gangs and organized crime groups.

Over the next several weeks, the violence reached a peak. In one week in September 1995, there was an assassination in a parking lot; bombings at a strip club, a bar and the mansion of an organized crime figure; arson attacks on a pawn shop, tanning salon and a used-car lot; and a friendly-fire incident where bikers accidentally killed three members of their own club.

The Hells Angels (or "H-A" as they're often referred to) were, and continue to be, one of the more prominent biker gangs still in existence today in Quebec and other regions of Canada – having at least 34 different chapters across the country in April 2009.


The first outlaw biker clubs in Germany were established by American military stationed in the country, including the Bones MC, founded in 1968, and the Ghost Riders MC, formed in 1972.


Outlaw motorcycle clubs began developing rapidly in Indonesia in the 1990s, although some of the country's homegrown groups are said to have existed as early as the 1970s. The presence of biker gangs in Indonesia has received national media attention.

Large international outlaw biker groups which have expanded into Indonesia include the Finks Motorcycle Club, Satudarah Motorcycle Club, Rebels Motorcycle Club, Rock Machine Motorcycle Club, and the Diablos Motorcycle Club.


Outlaw motorcycle clubs have been present in the Netherlands since the 1970s. In 1978, the Hells Angels absorbed the Kreidler Ploeg Oost biker club in Amsterdam.

The most prominent Dutch club is Satudarah MC. Following the group's initial foundation in Moordrecht, they've since expanded into 44 chapters across the nation and have branched out internationally within at least 20 countries. Another notable one of these groups to have come out of the Netherlands is No Surrender Motorcycle Club. While not as large as Saturdarah, they have still managed to set up branches overseas with an approximant total of more than one thousand members in roughly 19 nations across the globe.

Due to the notable presence of biker gangs in the Netherlands, alongside their tendency to be involved in criminal activity, certain one-percenter groups have been subject to nationwide prohibition by the Judiciary of the Netherlands.

New Zealand

New Zealand has a rather large outlaw motorcycle club scene which has gained a significant amount of national and international media attention over the years.

Biker gang violence is viewed as a growing problem within the country.



The outlaw motorcycle club movement of Scandinavia and the Nordic countries started in Sweden after numerous groups were established throughout the country during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Sweden's variation of the subculture was greatly influenced by the American one-percenter biker scene.


The Kingdom of Thailand, along with many other parts of South-East Asia, have chapters of some of the most prominent international outlaw motorcycle clubs in the world including the Rebels Motorcycle Club, the Mongols Motorcycle Club, and the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Additionally, the Comanchero Motorcycle Club, Gremium Motorcycle Club, Satudarah Motorcycle Club, No Surrender Motorcycle Club, and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club all have chapters in Thailand.

One notable outlaw motorcycle club to have been founded in Thailand are the Diablos Motorcycle Club. They are a support club for the larger Bandidos Motorcycle Club, who themselves also have chapters within the country.

United Kingdom

The outlaw biker scene of the U.K. began as early as the 1960s with clubs like the Blue Angels MC, Road Rats MC, Cycle Tramps Motorcycle Club, and the Satans Slaves MC (unrelated to the New Zealand-based MC of the same name).

United States

The outlaw biker subculture emerged in the United States in the late 1940s, as disenfranchised servicemen returned from World War II and founded motorcycle clubs to replicate the camaraderie and psychological stimulation they had experienced in the war. Early biker clubs established by World War II veterans included the Boozefighters, the Hells Angels, the Market Street Commandos and the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington. Various other clubs, such as the Bandidos, the Sons of Silence and the Warlocks, were later formed by Vietnam veterans.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were approximately 500 motorcycle gangs operating in the United States in 1991, with a combined membership of several thousand. These gangs range in levels of criminal sophistication, from groups of thugs to well-organized criminal networks. A government survey published in 1990 found that outlaw motorcycle gangs control 40% of the traffic of dangerous drugs in the U.S., including three quarters of the methamphetamine trade. A subsequent study concluded that outlaw motorcycle gangs control or are heavily involved in the sale of meth in 38 states.

East Coast

The drug trade is the main source of income for motorcycle gangs, and the bikers on the East Coast deal primarily in cocaine. Outlaw biker clubs also control approximately 70–80% of the methamphetamine market in New York City and Albany, New York, however. Motorcycle gangs are also more heavily involved in prostitution on the East Coast than on the West; women operate the streets and out of gang-owned massage parlours and escort services. Eastern U.S. biker gangs use bodyguard services, horse ranches, vending machine companies, lawn services, and real estate to launder money.


Cocaine is the drug most commonly distributed by biker gangs in the Midwest. Motorcycle gangs in the central U.S. launder money via beauty shops, towing companies, construction companies, horse ranches, and real estate.

Detroit has had an affluent presence of outlaw motorcycle clubs since the 1960s. Some of the most notable clubs to have come out of the city of Detroit include the Forbidden Wheels Motorcycle Club, Highwaymen Motorcycle Club, Outcast Motorcycle Club, Satan's Sidekicks Motorcycle Club, and Scorpions Motorcycle Club.

West Coast A map of California motorcycle gang territories, published by the DOJ in 1991.

As of 2008, there are approximately 60 outlaw motorcycle gangs active in California, with a combined membership of around 2,000. Motorcycle gangs in the Western U.S. deal primarily in methamphetamine. As a result of stringent laws regarding the sale of precursor chemicals, and the formation of task forces to target clandestine labs in California, many methamphetamine manufacturers from the state relocated to the Pacific Northwest, where the rugged terrain and sparse population of rural Oregon and Washington made ideal conditions for clandestine meth labs. According to a 1989 report by the Western States Information Network (SWIN), 11% of drug labs seized had outlaw motorcycle gang paraphernalia present at the site. Motorcycle gangs in the western U.S. launder money through interior decorating businesses, construction companies, locksmiths, pizza parlors, jewelry businesses, and real estate.

Cultural influence

Outlaw motorcyclists and their clubs have been frequently portrayed and parodied in movies and the media generally, giving rise to an "outlaw biker film" genre. It generally exists as a negative stereotype in the public's subconscious and yet has inspired fashion trends for both males and, as "biker babes", for females. The appearance has even been exploited by the fashion industry bringing it into legal conflict with some clubs and simultaneously encouraging a cultural specific fetishistic look that conveys sex, danger, rebelliousness, masculinity, and working class values.

The biker style has influenced the look of other sub-cultures such as punk, heavy metal, leather subculture and cybergoth fashion, and, initially an American subculture, has had an international influence. Bikers, their clothing, and motorcycles have become cultural icons of mythic status, their portrayal generally exaggerating a criminal or deviant association exploited by the media for their own often financial interests.

In popular culture

Literature Television Video games

See also


  1. ^ In March 1972 (p.3), Chas Deane, the editor of Motorcycle Mechanics, wrote: Motorcycling is a way of life, almost a religion to some and the next best thing to breathing for others. There is no such thing as a "typical motorcyclist"; on the one hand we're outcasts and "one percenters", while on the other hand we are the "in" people.


  1. ^ a b Drew, A. J. (2002), The everything motorcycle book: the one book you must have to buy, ride, and maintain your motorcycle, Adams Media Corp, pp. 193–203, 277, ISBN 9781580625548
  2. ^ a b Dulaney, William L. (November 2005), "A Brief History of "Outlaw" Motorcycle Clubs", International Journal of Motorcycle Studies
  3. ^ a b Wolf, Daniel R. (1992), The Rebels: a brotherhood of outlaw bikers, University of Toronto Press, p. 4, ISBN 9780802073631
  4. ^ a b Joans, Barbara (2001), Bike lust: Harleys, women, and American society, Univ of Wisconsin Press, p. 15, ISBN 9780299173548
  5. ^ a b Reynolds, Tom (2001), Wild ride: how outlaw motorcycle myth conquered America, TV Books, pp. 43–44, ISBN 9781575001456
  6. ^ U.S. Dept. of Justice, Motorcycle Gangs, archived from the original on 15 April 2014, retrieved 22 November 2020
  7. ^ 1% – Example of Bylaws- Motorcycle Club and Riding Club Education
  8. ^ a b c Organized Crime in Pennsylvania: A Decade of Change p. 192, Pennsylvania Crime Commission (1990) Archived November 10, 2022, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b "Levels of Club Affiliation". Wolfpack Motorocycle Club. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  10. ^ "The Untold Story of the Texas Biker Gang Shoot-Out". GQ. 30 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang". Author William Queen, 2004
  12. ^ Biker Gangs and Organized Crime. Thomas Barker. Elsevier, 1 October 2007
  13. ^ Organized Crime in Pennsylvania: A Decade of Change p. 193, Pennsylvania Crime Commission (1990) Archived November 10, 2022, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Brown, Roland; McDiarmid, Mac (2000), The Ultimate Motorcycle Encyclopedia: Harley-Davidson, Ducati, Triumph, Honda, Kawasaki and All the Great Marques, Anness Publishing, p. 352, ISBN 9781840388985
  15. ^ Joans, Barbara (2001), Bike Lust, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, p. 5, ISBN 9780299173548, As middle America rides and parties with the urban middle class, neither discusses the skeleton in the closet. Neither draws attention to the fact that much of the Harley mystique, most of the unwritten rules of the road, and many of the values and ideals come from the unruly and bastard parent, the outlaw club
  16. ^ a b Adler, Jeff (3 March 2001), "The Fall of a Hells Angel Leader; Indictment Alleges Spokesman's Charity Masks Drug Ring.", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., p. A.07
  17. ^ Klugh, David (7 October 2009), "Motorcycle Gang Training For Yakima", Kima Tv, archived from the original on 13 July 2011, The problem with that according to Steve Cook is that if you eat in local restaurants, drink in local bars or even participate in local charity events, you already associate with them. Charity rides, toy donations... Cook has learned these are part of the disguise. 'What they don't tell you is what they're doing the rest of the year. They're selling drugs. They're stealing motorcycles. They're beating people up. They're committing a laundry list of crimes.'
  18. ^ Renegades Do Good Works, Too But Officials Say Biker Gang Is Simply Polishing Its Image. Richard S. Koonce, Virginian – Pilot ( Norfolk, Va. ) 1999-12-29, A.1
  19. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (March 2003), "Gang fears hurt charity ride", American Motorcyclist
  20. ^ Austin, Paige; Bjelland, Sonja (6 December 2005), "Gunfight blamed on bikers // About 150 people queried after violence at a toy giveaway", The Press – Enterprise, Riverside, Calif., Witnesses blame tensions between two rival motorcycle gangs for a shooting at a Christmas toy drive that left a firefighter and two others injured.
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External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Outlaw motorcycle clubs. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Motorcycle club colors.