Things You Don't Know About Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

Outlaw motorcycle groups have frequently been the subject of mass media and journalistic scrutiny. Sons Of Anarchy is merely the latest examination of a subject that was first discussed in 1966 in the groundbreaking Hunter S. Thompson bestseller, Hells Angels: The Strange And Terrible Saga Of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

How motorcycle gangs work and what it's like to be in a motorcycle gang are both mysterious subjects often glamorized and glorified by movie versions of rebels on the open road. But a day in the life of a biker can be boring, dangerous, or, sometimes, even lethal. Here are some surprising facts about the world of outlaw motorcycle organizations.

Photo: Sliceofnyc/CC / wikimedia commons

  • They Cause Trouble In Multiple Countries

    They Cause Trouble In Multiple Countries
    Photo: Peter Burge / Wikimedia Commons

    Outlaw motorcycle organizations are not limited to the US. They operate internationally, on all five populated continents. The Hells Angels have chapters in Tokyo, Rio De Janeiro, Zurich, and even Auckland, New Zealand. The Hells Angels and Outlaws have openly feuded in Great Britain with members of both groups inflicting assaults and even death during the ongoing feud.

    The Australian government even stripped the citizenship of the leader of the Rebels group while he was out of the country. Australia has also coordinated efforts to oust or incarcerate members of the Hells Angels, Mongols, and Rebels who have consistently engaged in inappropriate behavior involving violence and racketeering. 

  • The Hells Angels Regularly Sue For Copyright Infringement, Including The Disney Corporation

    The Hells Angels have grown into a sophisticated business organization that zealously guards its symbols and trademarks. The organization has pursued trademark infringement litigation against such entities as Toys"R"Us, Amazon, Saks, and Marvel Comics. Typically, cases are settled with a recall of products, cessation of manufacture of infringing items, and occasionally damages which are usually donated to charity.

    The Hells Angels have even sued the Disney Corporation over the film Wild Hogs, a movie starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, William H. Macy, and Martin Lawrence. The suit was dismissed when Disney eventually agreed to delete any infringing material.

  • Anyone Can Purchase Outlaw Biker Merchandise

    The sophistication with which the Hells Angels market their image, symbols, trademarks, and merchandise has evolved into a highly sophisticated process that even involves a detailed and extensive website. The public can purchase items of clothing, interact with other Hells Angels websites around the world, browse photos and videos, and even locate Hells Angels businesses through an extensive international directory.

    The Mongols, Outlaws and most other dangerous motorcycle groups have also produced websites with similar information and merchandising.

  • These Group Members Are Known As One Percenters

    These Group Members Are Known As One Percenters
    Photo: ebay / Pinterest

    Outlaw motorcycle organizations like the Hells Angels, Bandidos and Mongols are known as one percenter, as opposed to the other 99% of organized motorcyclists who are just members of biker clubs with no malicious behavior. This expression stems from a specific incident in July 1947, in Hollister, California, in which 4,000 attendees at a motorcycle rally rioted, prompting the sponsors, the American Motorcycle Association, to state that 99% of the motorcycle riding public were good citizens.

    Members of some of the outlaw motorcycle clubs of the time publicly stated that they were the other 1%, an identity that they flaunted with pride. 

  • The Organizations Are Highly Structured

    The public image of a criminal motorcycle group is that of an unstable, random collection of disorganized people who occasionally engage in negligent behavior. In reality, these outlaws feature a specific hierarchy with club leaders, officers, and individuals designated with a status even if they have not earned official membership in the group.

    According to the Department of Justice, they hold meetings at the local level on a regular basis in a designated club house, a function known internally as "church."

  • There Are Seven Major Outlaw Motorcycle Groups

    The Department of Justice has identified seven groups that comprise the majority of the one percenters. These include the Hells Angels, perhaps the oldest and most familiar motorcycle group in the US. The Angels territory has diminished over the years but they remain heavily involved in various criminal activities.

    The Mongols are a Southern California originated group that is mostly Hispanic and a chief rival of the Hells Angels in California. The Bandidos are one of the largest clubs in the US, operating in the south and southwest. The Outlaws are predominately a Midwestern collection of 700 members. The Pagans are a Mid-Atlantic group tied to organized crime, especially in urban Pennsylvania. The Sons of Silence have chapters in as many as 30 states.

    The Vagos have members in both Mexico and the American Southwest. Though lesser known, the Cossacks, are also rapidly approaching national influence.