Whether they’re in it for the fun, freedom, or to defy the law, motorcycle clubs have always been incredibly cool – and these old photos are proof!
In 1894, some Germans got together and built the first commercial motorcycle. Indian Motorcycle soon followed in America in 1901. It wasn’t too long after that that a few riders got together and said, “Hey, we should form a club of like-minded individuals that drive motorcycles around in large groups and make people feel uncomfortable.”
The first motorcycle club – or MC – was born. More than a century later, fictionalized outlaw motorcycle club show Sons of Anarchy captivated millions via pay-cable. In between, was a whole lot of leathery violence and criminal activity, forever enshrining term “biker gang” into the public’s consciousness.
Motorcyclists who join clubs are definitely a different breed. Some are in it for the fun. Others like the family-like brotherhood. More than a few are in it for the crime. Nonetheless, the common denominator is that love for the freedom that rolling on two wheels can bring. Here are some photos of MCs throughout the years.
10 99% Chance They Are Law-Abiding Citizens
This photo of an unknown group of happy-go-lucky riders from the 1950s shows what bike clubs were like before the outlaw gangs took over (and meth became a thing). These two-wheeled enthusiasts weren’t claiming to be “one percenters,” the term hadn’t even been adopted yet. The 1% outlaw biker label comes from the American Motorcyclist Association‘s claim (during the ’60s) that out of all motorcyclists, 99% of them were good citizens who followed the law.
9 The Motor Maids Of America
Laying claim to being the first female motorcycle club is the Motor Maids of America. Formed in 1941, they had two hard fast rules. (1) you have to own a bike, and (2) you must act like a lady at all times. In the 1950s they switched from black leather to pink. The MC is still around, boasting 1,300 riders from the United States and Canada. They wear a white cotton vest over a blue, tucked-in mock turtleneck.
8 The Capital City Motorcycle Club
Just a fun looking bunch. See how long it takes you to spot the eight women in the photo. Before they were biker gangs, motorcycle clubs were for gathering enthusiasts looking to get out on the open road with others who shared a passion for bugs in their teeth. This is a photo of the Sacramento, CA-based Capital City MC, circa 1948. The club still exists today, claiming on their website that, CCMC has been, “around as long as America has loved motorcycles.”
7 Oakland Riders
The East Bay Dragons have a a rich history as the first all-black motorcycle club. Formed in 1959, the Dragons hail from Oakland, CA, and still ride to this day. Unlike some of their “outlaw” counterparts, the members of this club have planted deeper roots in the community and, consequently, have supportive neighbors. Founding member “Pappa Joe” Levingston told The Mercury News, “We’re like family … When you get the patch, it means you’re a real Dragon. You’re in a brotherhood for life.”
6 General Dynamics
While MC’s might seem like an inherently American pursuit, they are not. The Panay Motorcycle Club was founded in The Philippines in 1948 by eager enthusiasts. In 1955, they changed the name to Iloilo Motorcycle Club (IMC). They still ride under that name today. When General Douglas MacArthur visited Iloilo in 1956, the IMC served as escorts for the brass motorcade. And in 1983, the MC was enlisted to provide Pope John Paul II a little added security on the mean streets of Manila.
5 A Family Affair
The Bandidos Motorcycle Club is a global enterprise, with strongholds on four continents (although they have split affiliation). The “Bandido Nation” is the biggest 1% bunch in the Western Hemisphere (according to their website) with 1,100 members, and still flies under the banner, “We are the people our parents warned us about.” Indeed. The fun-loving group was started in Texas in 1966. The 1969 photo above features Bandidos president and founder Don Chambers hanging out with friends and family.
4 The Satyrs Motorcycle Club Of Los Angeles
Since being formed in 1954, The Satyrs Motorcycle Club of Los Angeles holds the distinction as being the oldest gay MC on the planet. The organization was started during a particularly dark period in American history. It gave gay men who loved motorcycles a safe space to congregate and be open about their sexuality without fear of persecution or being labeled a communist. The club, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2014, still rides to this day.
3 Angels Of Death
The Hells Angels are the most famous motorcycle club on Earth. Founded in California in 1948, they are legends in the outlaw biker world for their dregs of humanity style, expansive criminal enterprise, and knife-based concert security. The MC – which was known at one time as a major player in the amphetamine distribution game – has also been mythologized in many Hollywood films, such as The Wild Angels (1966). The above photo is of the Hells Angels in Cleveland.
2 The Chosen Few MC
While the Chosen Few Motorcycle Club was founded in 1959 Los Angeles by Father Ricks as a blacks-only group, things changed after “White Boy Art” joined a year later. Word spread pretty quickly that the color barrier was broken. This established the MC as a safe haven for multi-racial riders looking to join a club. Soon, the Chosen Few were famous for having both single-race and mixed-race chapters. Counted among their ranks were Mexicans, Asians, and “at least one Iranian dude.”
1 Grim Reapers MC
When the local chapter of the Grim Reapers “outlaw” motorcycle club was founded in Warrick County, Indiana, in the mid-’70s, the group had two basic rules to membership. Number one, you had to ride a Harley. Number two, you had to be white. The group set up shop in Evansville where the club still remains to this day. They currently call Exotic She Lounge home, according to local reports. No report on if they still follow the whites-only rule.