The first motorcycle clubs, founded in the earliest years of the 20th century, started as social clubs, allowing like-minded motorbike owners to get together and ride. Over the years, however, many have become nothing more than fronts for criminal organizations.
To tell the difference between the good guys and the bad boys of the motorcycle gang world look 1% patches and tattoos – a reference to claims by the American Motorcyclist Association that 99% of their members in the States are law-abiding citizens. The 1% is a badge of honor, and it certainly seems that criminal motorcycle gangs aren’t too worried about hiding the fact that they operate on the wrong side of the law
10 Good Guys: Iron Legacy – Well-Behaved Offshoot Of Iron Order
Not all motorcycle gangs are fronts for drug dealing and violence. There are plenty of motorbike riders who want the camaraderie of being a member of a club, without having to risk getting hurt or arrested in the process. The Iron Legacy was only founded in 2004 and was set up by a former member of a criminal gang called the Iron Order.
The founders of Iron Legacy immediately signed up to join the Alliance of Law Abiding Motorcycle Clubs, to illustrate their commitment to staying on the right side of the law.
9 Bad Boys: The Cossacks – Involved In A Shoot-Out With Another Club
For all the motorcycle clubs who support their communities, raise money for charity, and empower the oppressed, however, there are plenty of 1% clubs who give biking a bad name.
The Cossacks was founded in Texas in 1969 by a group of six riders, including the first president Earl Swift. The gang is organized on a military structure, and members of the Cossacks found themselves in an all-out war with rival gang the Bandidos in 2015, resulting in a shoot-out in Waco, Texas which left nine bikers dead and 18 injured.
8 Good Guys: Rainbow Motorcycle Club – Representing LGBTQ Riders
Motorcycle gangs don’t just have a reputation for breaking the law; bikers are not always the most open-minded of people, and unless you’re a straight white male you could end up feeling rather out of place.
Gay bikers were not usually welcomed into motorcycle gangs, so they decided to create their own. The first gay motorcycle club was the Empire City Motorcycle Club, founded in the 1960s for gay men, followed the Rainbow Motorcycle Club, which was established in San Francisco in 1971 for the whole LGBTQ community.
7 Bad Boys: Gremium – Outlawed In Their Native Germany
Motorcycle clubs may have started in the US, but the concept has been exported to almost every country around the world. In some cases, new chapters of existing clubs are established in Europe, Australia, and even Asia, but sometimes bikers outside the US decide to set up their new club.
Gremium is one of the new European gangs, founded in Germany in 1972 and now the biggest motorcycle club in the country. Gremium was outlawed as a criminal organization by German authorities after members were found to be involved in human trafficking and gun smuggling.
6 Good Guys: Freewheelers – Deliver Medical Supplies Throughout UK
Freewheelers EVS is not a conventional motorcycle club, but they have proven themselves to be literal lifesavers in the areas of the UK where they operate. EVS stands for Emergency Voluntary Service, and bikers sign up to volunteer to help the National Health Service in the UK to transport essential medical equipment, breast milk for premature babies, and even human organs for transplant around the country.
The charity was founded in 1990 and bikers who have volunteered also spend time raising money to support the service.
5 Bad Boys: The Pagans – Drug Smuggling And Dealing
Founded in 1959 in Maryland by Lou Dobkin, Pagan’s Motorcycle Club, or The Pagans for short, have been involved in some notorious turf battles with Hells Angels over the years.
Unlike many 1% motorcycle gangs, whose members are required to ride only Harley Davidsons, members of The Pagans have also been known to ride Triumphs, the classic British brand which was launched in 1885. The Pagans are thought to be very closely involved with the production, smuggling, and selling of drugs in states across America.
4 Good Guys: Bikerni – Women-Only Club In India
When it comes to outlaw motorcycle gangs, women are usually treated as second class citizens. They are only there to act as girlfriends to club members and can sometimes even find themselves the victims of crime as a result of their connection with the gang.
One Indian motorcycle club, Bikerni, takes a very different approach to women riders. This all-female club acts to promote responsible motorbike ownership among women, as well as encouraging girl power in as country when women themselves are often discriminated against.
3 Bad Boys: Bandidos – Members Arrested Around The World
The Bandidos have already been mentioned in passing, as they were the gang who ended up in a shoot-out with the Cossacks in 2015. Also known as Bandido Nation, the club was formed in Texas in 1954 by Don Chambers, with the rather ominous motto “We are the people our parents warned us about.”
As well as the Waco, Texas gunfight with the Cossacks, Bandido members have also been involved in drugs and weapons smuggling and one of their former presidents was sentenced to life in prison in 2018 for murder.
2 Good Guys: Bikers Against Child Abuse – Supporting Children In Court
Ordinarily, most people would want to keep their children as far away from the members of motorcycle clubs as possible. However, the US-wide Bikers Against Child Abuse have set themselves up as the defenders and protectors of some of the most vulnerable young people in society.
Established in 1995, BACA now has hundreds of chapters and thousands of members all over the world, with bikers supporting children who have been the victims of abuse and their families, helping them with legal advice and even accompanying young people to court.
1 Bad Boys: Hells Angels – Original Bad Boys Of Motorcycle Clubs
When the Hells Angels motorcycle club was founded in 1948, many of its members were ex-servicemen who were looking for excitement after World War II. They would probably be very surprised to see what had become of their club 70 years later.
There are thought to be the largest motorcycle gang in the world, with thousands of members worldwide. Heavily involved in various aspects of organized crime, the Hells Angels first gained notoriety when they were asked to provide security for a Rolling Stones concert in California, only to end up rioting themselves.