Although associated with the ultimate form of rebellion within the motorcycle world, clubs are much more than drinking in bars and riding in to the sunset. An entire culture has been developed around the world based on the back patch.
The early days
The oldest club in the world that is known of started their activity way back in 1901 in London. It was called simply The Motorcycle Club. This means that as soon as the first motorized two wheel machines started to hit the roads, people already associated themselves with this unique form of camaraderie.
The first club in the United States was formed in 1903 and was called The Yonkers Motorcycle Club. As in the dawn of the auto era, people used this socializing form to meet and race each other. It was the dawn of motorcycle riding and the dawn of a new form of camaraderie.
The authentic form of the Motorcycle Club was created after the end of WWII. Still focused on racing in the beginning, clubs started to offer a more nomadic and rebellious way of life to their members.
The Hells Angels, one of today’s largest Motorcycle Club has also started its activity after WWII in 1948. The name was inspired from a squadron called Flying Tigers’ “Hell’s Angels” served in WWII. In fact many members from that time period were ex service men that fought in the war. The trend was kept with the Korean War and later with the Vietnam war. Also with the Vietnam war, another iconic club was founded. The Mongols Motorcycle Club.
The Post WWII era
But as years passed, media as always, started to play a crucial role with portraying the image of motorcycle clubs. With movies like the 1967 Hells Angels On Wheels, the biker was associated with the ,,gang member’’ label. Hollywood was showing to the world the image of the ruthless biker that had nothing better to do than terrorize small towns, drink beer and make trouble everywhere he went.
In many photographs of the day, MC members appeared with long dirty hair, surrounded by tons of beer and trashy young women. Also the motorcycle phenomenon was strongly associate with rock music and festivals like Woodstock. Bands Like Lynird Skynird, T-Rex and later Molly Hatchet started to write songs about the unique feeling feeling of riding a motorcycle and many people were attracted by the camaraderie and image that the MCs had to offer.
Usually each club has its own image that is represented by the back-patch. Within the MCs usually the back of the vest or cut is covered with a three piece patch. On the top rocker we have the club’s name. The center patch is formed by the club’s emblem and the bottom rocker usually is formed from the location or the area of the club. In most Motorcycle Clubs there is a strict hierarchy and every member has a specific role. Just like in the army, this roles are written on the front of the vest. Also patches have been the cause of many altercations between clubs. Usually many hardcore Motorcycle Clubs don’t tolerate other MCs within their location. But where do these altercations came from?
Law enforcements state that some MCs are deeply involved in drug dealing , gun smuggling and prostitution. Clubs them selves state that all recorded violence happened because of small insults and alcohol consumption during unimportant various occasions. Also many MC members were convicted with drug possession, assault and even murder charges but again, MCs state that these cases are isolated and don’t represents the normal activity of their organizations.
Many large Motorcycle Clubs proudly call them selves as 1% clubs. This designation comes from the fact that 99% of motorcycle riders are law obedient citizens normal life styles while the remaining 1% truly stands for the hardcore riding life style sounded by parties, alcohol and women. Along with the Hells Angels, clubs lite the Mongols MC, Bandidos MC, The Outlaws MC and The Warlocks among others blend together the 1%er legacy with motorcycle riding.
Today, although the 1% patch still stands,and despite the iconic image many members have regular jobs, children and are as normal as everyone else from the neighborhood.
Yet, there were some dark episodes within the history of the motorcycle clubs. One of them is known as the Milperra Massacre. It happened on 2nd of September 1984 in Milperra a suburb of Sydney, Australia.
The Bandidos Motorcycle Club and the Comancheros Motorcycle Club had a strong rivalry between them and unfortunately all degenerated with a broad daylight shooting that left 7 dead including an innocent bystander. Also 28 more people were wounded. It was the bloodiest day in the MC culture and many clubs condemned the event.
Sporadic clash is happening even today worldwide but none of the violence that followed had the impact and the brutality of the Milperra Massacre.
There are some differences between clubs worldwide. As the biggest honor within the culture is to be a part of a Motorcycle Club, many people opted for the creation of smaller Riding Clubs. Usually Riding clubs have a one piece back-patch and have no territory on their vest. In comparison with MCs, RCs are a bit more tainted and focus strictly on riding. Also there are clubs that are mono-model focused like the Honda Goldwing Owners Club or the Vulcan Owners Club. Other clubs choose to blend their faith with their bikes like the Christian Motorcycle Association.
In the US, many clubs are associated with the Harley Davidson brand although in the beginning HD tried to avoid connections with MCs. Today, Harley Davidson is represented by the Harley Owners Group or HOG.
Today many clubs are more and more involved in charity work and other social events. There is even an organization called Bickers Against Child Abuse that focus on offering protection and support to abused children.
In fact the Hells Angels have one motto ,, When we do good, no one remembers, when we do bad, no one forgets.’’
But in many parts of the world authorities don’t seem to accept Motorcycle Clubs as a part of society. In Australia a set of laws were made against organizations like these and police is already starting to ban the back-patch in public. While MC members and human rights NGOs state that this is a human rights violation, authorities state that these measures are made for public safety.
Today, there are hundreds if not thousands of clubs around the world. Feared or admired by the world wide public, the Club played a big part in the motorcycle history and has a great future ahead.