The world of motorcycle gangs consists of diverse members with different backgrounds, but one thing that unites them is the love for riding motorcycles. Veteran motorcycle gang members enjoy getting together to ride motorcycles and maintain their bikes. They invite new riders to join them in hopes that they will find the same joy as they do. Younger members want to be part of a group where they can find friends, support, and an identity.
Motorcycle gangs are notorious for their involvement in various criminal activity including drug distribution, prostitution, murder, and human trafficking. These gangs constitute an organized group of individuals who share the same interests and enjoy the fellowship of each other. Gang members often wear clothing with symbols on it to identify themselves as part of that specific gang. Each gang has its own set of rules, leaders, principles that determine how they act outside of society’s norms.
What is a Motorcycle Gang?
Motorcycle gang members have been an integral part of the motorcycle culture since the 1950s. The culture, lifestyle, and beliefs of the motorcycle gang culture are often closely linked to the larger subculture of the outlaw motorcycle gang and Hells Angels. The culture is largely defined by the use of motorcycles, and the social, physical, and ideological differences between the “moto-gang” and the “outlaw” motorcycle gangs.
Difference between a ‘Motorcycle Club’ and Motorcycle Gang?
Motorcycle clubs are motorcycle clubs that meet certain criteria, and typically operate in close proximity to each other, more often than not in the same city. They may have members that travel to different clubs in different cities, or they may only have members in one city. The culture is largely defined by the use of motorcycles, and the social, physical, and ideological differences between the “moto-gang” and the “outlaw” motorcycle gangs.
Motorcycle gangs are a subculture of motorcycle clubs that are considered to be a criminal enterprise. They are generally organized and based in a specific geographical area, as well as having members of different clubs. They may be based in the same city, but may travel to different cities. Its members are usually young people who are mostly involved in criminal activities such as drug trafficking, robbery and extortion, prostitution, illegal gun ownership, and other illegal activities.
The History of Motorcycle Gangs
Motorcycle gangs, or “biker gangs,” consist of all-male groups that have a common interest in motorcycles. They often have a code of conduct and a government structure. Gangs vary in size from small one to large groups with well organized cells that can be in constant contact with each other. As time has progressed, the original motorcycle gang has gradually become more organized and sophisticated.
Some motorcycle clubs are well-known for their affiliation with gangs, such as the Hell’s Angels and Vagos Motorcycle Clubs. These groups have a long history of violence, drug trafficking, and other criminal activity. Motorcycle gangs can be traced back to the 1940s when WWII veterans returned from battle and began riding across the country in large numbers. These riders often competed against each other for parts, rides, and women which led to fights and deaths.
The First Motorcycle Gang: The Hell’s Angels
A group of rebellious American WWII veterans formed a motorcycle club in 1948 called the ‘The Hell’s Angels’ in California. In the following decades, they would come to be known as an outlaw gang with a large following. What is less well-known about this popular club is their purposeful allegiance to military values and principles. They embody an old American tradition of individualism and personal freedom, but also abide by hierarchy and rule under a president.
The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, founded in 1948 by a group of World War II veterans who were drawn to the camaraderie and opportunity for adventure, has grown to more than 1,000 members. The club’s motto is “When we do right nobody remembers, when we do wrong nobody forgets”. Since the formation of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in 1948, motorcycle gangs have been growing in popularity. Recently though, it seems that these gangs are taking a turn for the worse. Members are beginning to make headlines for their involvement in criminal activities such as murder, drug trafficking, and assault. The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club was founded in San Francisco by WWII veterans.
Growth and Development: The 1960s and 1970s
Over the course of 60 years, there have been many changes in gang culture and motorcycle gangs. In the 60s and 70s motorcycle gangs had a different role in society. A lot of things were going on for these gangs such as an increase in recruitment and initiation events such as robberies and assaults. It is important to know the history behind this type of culture so we can understand how it has evolved.
Many motorcycle gangs in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s were connected to other criminal activities such as drug trafficking, racketeering, and other types of organized crime. This was not always the case in the past, but during that time it became common for gangs to do everything illegal. These groups grew through recruitment and often recruited individuals who had no previous criminal history or even prior association with motorcycles.
Decline: 1980s and 1990s
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, motorcycle gangs were a common sight in US society. With a sense of independence and freedom from societal norms, these groups became a popular form of emotional release. However, as time progressed, so did society. In 1980, motorcycle gangs seemed to have become less rebellious and more inclined towards organized crime. Motorcycle gangs now have international ties with criminal organizations such as the Hells Angels that have been known to commit violent crimes such as murder.
Since the 1980s, motorcycling gangs have declined. There are many factors that contribute to this decline. One of these is that states have taken action against biker gangs by imposing tougher penalties for crimes committed by members of these groups. The other major factor is the growing popularity of off-road vehicles for recreational use, which has caused the number of people who modify their bikes for street riding to dwindle. The American Outlaw Association was founded in response to the decline in numbers and attempted to strengthen biker culture by cultivating new members. They also helped outlaw clubs reform so that they could function legally while retaining their identity.
Today, motorcycle gangs in the United States are becoming less prevalent than they were only a few decades ago. Consequently, motorcycle gang-related violence has lessened. In 1980, about 1% of all murders in America was committed by members of a motorcycle gang. In 2010, that number had been reduced to 0.4%. This is primarily due to the decline in membership from over 5,000 “one percenters” in the early 1970s to a current membership of under 2000 members.
Modern Times: 2000s
Over the past few decades, motorcycle gangs have had to adjust their tactics in order to survive. The continued enforcement of anti-gang legislation and the rise of social media has forced these groups to evolve. Their new methods are still illegal, but more subtle than before. It’s now more likely for members of these gangs to evade police detection by conducting business on public streets or having meetings in restaurants where they can’t be overheard.
The 6 Most Dangerous Motorcycle Gangs
Each year, there are many motorcycle gang-related deaths in the United States. The majority of these deaths, however, are not caused by direct gang violence. Instead, much of the danger that these gangs pose is due to gang members who commit crimes such as drug trafficking and other illegal activities. As a result, motorcycle gangs are typically found in areas with high crime rates. The 10 most dangerous motorcycle gangs are listed below in order from least to most dangerous.
1. Hells Angels
Year Founded – 1948
Membership – 2500
Major Presence – California
The Hell’s Angels is the best known and most dangerous one-percenter in America, which has a large concentration of them in California. There are 230 chapters of Hells Angels in the US with members elsewhere, too. The club is all about violence, freedom and bad reputation. Members of this gang commit activities such as all types of criminal acts. Charges that these guys faced have ranged from kidnapping, rape, racketeering, murder, assault, robbery, drug dealing, etc.
The Department of Justice indicates the biker gang to be a significant part in manufacturing and distributing LSD, methamphetamine, heroin hashish Ecstasy and PCP. As a club, Hells Angels have been in operation since the 1950’s and aren’t anything new. It may come as a surprise that Hell’s Angels have a business license and their own website. They are a fully-incorporated club that thrives on criminal activities like extortion, drug trade, etc. .
The gang recruits new members through a process of initiation. It is a mandatory process for all potential new members. This procedure includes torture and physical and mental abuse. These guys think nothing of using physical violence and their members are definitely not afraid to use guns.
Year Founded – 1966
Membership – 5000 worldwide
Major Presence – South (Texas)
The Bandidos Motorcycle Club was founded in the year 1966. It’s stronghold lies in Texas, which has a chapter of 240 to 270 members. Being a predominantly white club, Bandidos are extremely territorial about their territory. This increased their violent reputation especially when they were at war with The Cossacks– one of their most enticing rivalries which ended with the two gangs killing 9 and injuring 37 on May 17th, 2015 as part as a feud that lasted for years all as a result of the “Texas turf”.
The gang has since been declared as Tier-2 criminal motorcycle gang by TWC’s report and identified as one of America’s many emerging gangs. After the Waco shootout, Bandidos are listed as one of the Big Four Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs by the FBI. This club involved itself in violent crime to an extreme degree. Along with other members alike, it engaged in the distribution of drugs across Mexico-US borders. They are also involved with methamphetamine distribution, marijuana trafficking, and cocaine dealings.
Year Founded – 1969
Membership – 2000
Major Presence – Southern California
Mongols Motorcycle Club is a one-percenter and white supremacist criminal and motorcycle gang that was formed in Montebello, California by Hispanic and Native American members to be an alternative for members of different races who were not allowed to join Hells Angels. They are mainly located in multiple states across the United States, but also have chapters in Canada, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Australia, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand (because why not?).
Mongols like other biker clubs earn money thru violent crime like prostitution (aka pimping), extortion & robbery. They are most known though for definitely being involved with methamphetamine aka meth; which they make & distribute to local bikers as well as club affiliates.
Year Founded – 1957
Membership – 1500
Major Presence – East Coast States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
This biker gang did not start out as a crime syndicate. Formed in 1957, Pagans was originally an ordinary motorcycle club. The group became involved with criminal activity in 1965, when veterans joined the club. Veterans were often bitter towards the government in this era due to their poor treatment during military service (and still are today). Pagans dominates the East Coast of the U.S., and is known for committing drug trafficking, including meth, marijuana, and heroine; violent assaults of civilians; and has even committed random drive-by shootings of former members.
This outlaw motorcycle club has patches identifying them as, “outlaws” with slogans like “#1%er”. They also have various patches bearing coded numbers and letters because they are trying to escape the watchful eye of law enforcement. Many members of the club are on federal and state terrorism lists.
5. Outlaws Motorcycle Club
Year Founded– 1935
Membership – 1700+
Major Presence – Florida
The Outlaws Motorcycle Club is a biker gang that was formed in the US in 1935. This group has been considered one of the largest and most prominent gangs by many. The membership grew when they changed from being a ruthless motorcycle-driven outlaw to a brotherhood in the 1950s. The club’s patch even became much more emblematic when it went from depicting an American Indian warrior wearing an hourglass to a ghost wearing a Harley Davidson gas meter two pistons ironed on his back.
The Outlaws Motorcycle Club is the oldest biker gang in the US. It is the top-most 1%er and is respected by other gangs. It reorganized in the 1950s changing its original patch from a winged motorcycle to a skull with two pistons. It is know for running support clubs like the Black Pistons Motorcycle Club which serves as a club for recruitment. This Criminal Enterprise is known for extremely rigid riding rules and brotherhood rules with no room for women whom they consider property that may be exchanged for drugs.
As one of the Big Four bike gangs in the US, this gang is notorious for the illegal activities they engage in. The members are suspects of murder, execution-style shootings, drug dealing, money laundering, extortion, shootouts and firebombs. This club has a reputation for exacting revenge against rival groups and has ongoing friction with Hells Angels gangs. They even have an acronym-ADIOS which stands for “Angels Die in Outlaw States” as a warning to other rival biker gangs.
Despite their name, this gang isn’t quite considered an outlaw group anymore due to being recognized by law enforcement agencies through federal contract agreements.
6. Vagos Motorcycle Club
Year Founded – 1965
Membership – 4000
Major Presence – Western United States
The Vagos Motorcycle Club came up originally in Southern California. Although there are over 4000 members to this club, they consider themselves a large and intricate community with bylaws and legitimate businesses. Originally the Vagos Motorcycle Club was created as an outlaw motorcycle gang but now its members are wanted for highway shootings, murder, and multiple other violations. The Vagos MC primarily deals with drug and weapon smuggling in the US and across the Mexican border. In a 2011 raid, eight pounds of methamphetamine, forty pounds of Cocaine and a rocket launcher were seized from their houses by authorities leading to the arrest of thirty Vagos members- that’s thirty too many!
The Vagos gang has created its share of tensions with the Hells Angels, but it hasn’t stopped them from getting involved in firefights. The Vagos motorcycle gang has even lost legal battles against law enforcement for defaming their reputations, even though they’ve won cases encouraging others to take down their enemies.