Biker Gangs Explained: 6 Things You Need To Know

When most people think of biker gangs they think tattoos, lots of leather and questionable beards. But a fatal biker gang shootout in Waco, Texas has shown us not to confuse motorcycle clubs with biker gangs. They operate differently.

Scenes of Reason explains the news, that includes bikers. So let’s hit the road and find out.

Six Things You Need To Know About Biker Gangs

#1 A motorcycle club is a group of individuals whose primary interest and activities involve motorcycles. Most of these are harmless social groups who enjoy riding some badass bikes as a unit.


#2 Go one step further and we enter outlaw. Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) are highly structured criminal organisations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as cover for criminal enterprise. They commit criminal activities such as violent crime, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking.

#3 Biker Gang culture started in post-WWII America but has now spread across the world. The outlaw groups began to form after a riot in 1947 where drunken riders ran through the town of Hollister, California destroying property.


#4 The three main international biker gangs are the Hell’s Angels, the Outlaws and the Bandidos. These are all in the US, although membership in Europe has risen significantly since 2010.

The fight between Hell's Angels and Outlaws depicted as a slap fight

#5 The top-tier of outlaw Biker Gangs call themselves the 1% or the “One Percenters”. This is because when biker culture was growing the American Motorcyclist Association said “99% of motorcyclists are law-abiding”. The outlaws pride themselves on being the one percent which breaks the rules…

#6 A rivalry has existed between the Hell’s Angels and the Outlaws for decades. In 1969 the wife of a Hell’s Angel was allegedly raped. The Angels retaliated by killing the outlaw and the war has continued ever since.

The Biker Gang Culture: It’s About The Open Road, Man.

Hell's Angels Biker Gang Patch

Born Biker: Two Hell’s Angels with their gang patches on their jackets

What do we think of when we say “Biker Gang”? Most likely leather jackets, pony-tails and tattoos.

Yeah, OK, so members do predominantly wear leather, but what is more important is what’s attached to the jacket. Each gang is identified by their “patch” or logo. These are given to members when they join the club, but remain the property of the club itself. This means rival gangs will try to capture the “colours” of their enemies. Lose your patch and risk disgrace and expulsion from the club.

Most outlaw biker gangs are male-dominated. Women are treated like property and are sometimes sold, or forced into prostitution. But if you’re a lady don’t despair: there are several women only biker clubs, especially in the UK and USA.

Why All The Love For Bikes?

Bosozoku - Japanese Biker Gang outside a petrol station in 2013

Bosozoku – the Japanese youth culture of Biker Gangs

After WWII many veterans failed to adjust to the quieter pace of life after the war. Riding bikes was a way to capture the adrenaline and the camaraderie of the old days. Nowadays we have to make do with Call of Duty.

You may now think of bikers as ageing men, but the original biker culture was then incorporated into a youth movement rebelling against society.

This is still the case today in Japan where the Bosozoku (“violent speed tribes”) are usually aged between 16 and 20.

The First Rule Of Bike Club Is “don’t Talk About Bike Club”

If you thought becoming a gang member was easy, think again.Joining a biker gang can take months, if not years. First you have to hang around the group and gain their trust. On the Hell’s Angels website it says “If you have to ask where the nearest Charter [sub-group] is …you are not ready to join our Motorcycle Club.” All very hush-hush.

Then if you impress you’re voted in as a “prospect” which is a potential member. Then you have to prove your worth to the club before you can join. I guess it’s more interesting than just filling out an application form.

biker-gang-biker-gangs-failOrganised Crime Pays

Biker Gangs, in particular Hell’s Angels have been linked to violent behaviour for years. Most infamously the Hell’s Angels were hired as security by the Rolling Stones in 1969. When the crowd got rowdy the gang used pool cues and weighted chains to beat them back. Then audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by an Angel after he drew a gun.

Be prepared to protect yourself: biker gang violence is on the rise across Europe. In Scandinavia a three-year war raged between rival gangs, with machine guns and car bombs used on enemy members.

Closer to home: 2007, in the UK Hell’s Angel Gerry Tobin was shot after attending a festival.

We should probably point out: there are LOADS of motorcycle clubs which aren’t criminals. There are religious biking groups and groups who use their bikes to provide emergency medical aid. But just 1% is enough to give the rest a bad name…

Why Are We Talking About Them Now?

Violence within these Biker Gangs is a culture that is growing abroad and the US is no different: Eight gang members are dead and 19 injured after a fight broke out between five rival gangs at the Twin Peaks diner in the town of Waco, Texas.

100 gang-members were meeting for “peace talks” to discuss issues of territory and recruitment.The brawl swiftly moved out into the parking lot where gun-fire was exchanged by gang-members and police, who had been tipped off that the gangs were meeting. Bikers have been identified as being from the Bandidos, Scimitars and Cossacks gangs.

Biker Gangs - A group of Biker Gang members arrested after the shoot out in Waco Texas

A group of Biker Gang members arrested after the shoot out in Waco Texas

Most Biker Gangs fight and dispute over protecting their business interest. The FBI estimates that Hell’s Angels and other gangs earn £1billion from drugs trading each year.

Sign up to our weekly news roundup, The Week: Decoded.
Follow @scenesofreason and like us on Facebook .