There are different types of gangs; this paper will explore the origin of outlaw motorcycle gangs. I will explore the history of the motorcycle, origin of outlaw motorcycle gangs, their bureaucratic structure, illegal activities and involvement in organized crime. The four major biker gangs that exist within the United States and those that have expanded internationally will be discussed.
Let’s start with a little history lesson.
The first motorcycle appeared in 1884, with the three-wheeled variety and the first to hit the road, followed by its two-wheeled cousin, a motorized bicycle, the following year. In 1901, the modern form with the engine underneath the seat made its debut. A significant number of motorcycle producers had been setup by 1903 (Brotherhood 22). In that year the manufacturer that would become synonymous with bikers and outlaw motorcycle clubs made its debut with a single cylinder 25 cubic inch engine capable of three horse power – Harley Davidson (Brotherhood 23).
By 1909 the two-wheeler had gained its reputation. A Harper’s weekly magazine article headlined “The rise of the motorcycle” stated:
They [motorcyclists] would ride in city or open country with their mufflers
cut out, or in numerous cases absolutely devoid of muffling attachments. In
some instances it was the rider’s desire for noise, or to bring attention to the
fact that he owned a motorcycle; in other instances it was the owner’s desire
for more power; but, whichever the case, this offence in principle and in conjunction with the unsuitable attire has done more to retard the advancement of motorcycling in general than all other arguments combined(Brotherhood 23).
Due to the major role motorcycles played in WWI the motorcycle boomed. From 1910 to 1929, the motorcycle industry booked, due mainly to young men discovering that there was nothing more exciting than getting on a motorcycle and riding as fast as possible. In 1929, motorcycle sales dropped due to the Depression. However, this adversity actually created the first motorcycle clubs (Brotherhood 24). By 1939, when World War II began, motorcycle production rose again (Brotherhood25). World War II also produced a significant grudge against Japanese bikes among the hard core biker groups. Even today, the outlaw clubs often refer to Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki motorcycles as Jap crap. Harley Davidson named one model Fat Boy, an amalgam of Fat man and Little Boy, the names of the two atomic bombs dropped by the Allies on Japan in 1945 (Brotherhood 26).
The United States Veteran returning home from World War II where looking for ways to spend their final Army pay and to let off some steam after years of military discipline. Many joined the motorcycle clubs of the American Motorcycle Association. Veterans who had buried their comrades in Europe and the Pacific Islands found the rallies and runs offered by the clubs just didn’t offer the same excitement (Brotherhood 26). James Jones sums it up in his book WWII:
About the last thing to go was the sense of spirit. That was the hardest
thing to let go of, because there was nothing in civilian life that could
replace it…the love and understanding of men for men in dangerous
times, and places and situations. Just as there was nothing in civilian
life that could replace the heavy daily excitement of danger. Families
and other civilian types would never understand that sense of esprit
any more than they would understand the excitement of danger (Brotherhood 27).
At this point outlaw motorcycle clubs didn’t really exist. Before WWII, motorcycle clubs were like gentlemen’s clubs – riders actually wore coats and ties. After WWII, veterans retained both the aggressive spirit of war and combat and the look – leather bomber jackets, flight goggles, and long scarves (Hells 29). On 4 July 1947 in the town of Hollister,...