Outlaw motorcycle clubs, also known as biker gangs, began to take root in the wake of World War II when millions of young American males returned home from battlefronts.
As it turned out, a lot of those men had difficulties re-acclimating to civilian life. They were so used to the idea of a transparent chain of command and strict disciplines to survive, but they didn’t see such things outside the military.
A healthy postwar economy, including veterans’ severance pay, enabled them to purchase the motorcycles and joined various clubs that gave male bonding experience with all the camaraderie and risk-taking activities.
Starting as a way to escape the harsh process of re-acclimation to everyday life, motorcycle clubs have transformed into large business-like organizations that must sustain their operations and members’ well-being.
They need steady cash flow, but at the same time, the clubs have prominent business models. Over the years, some motorcycle clubs engage in business enterprises as criminal organizations, such as drugs, prostitution, weapons, and theft.
While law enforcement thinks of outlaw motorcycle clubs as outright illegal operations, members see themselves as parts of fraternal societies.
The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) suggests 99 percent of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens; in other words, the remaining one percent is made up of outlaws. Some of the most notorious “one-percenter gangs” are as follows.
10 Hell's Angels
Made famous in the 1967 book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by author Hunter S. Thompson, the outlaw motorcycle club had been in existence for almost 20 years before it was published.
Until today, Hell’s Angels probably is the most prominent one-percenter gang with a territory that spans nationwide and roughly 2,500 members to support it.
Hell’s Angels are believed to engage in all sorts of criminal activities, including illegal drug distribution, murder, assault, racketeering, robbery, etc. The United States Department of Justice considers the club an organized crime syndicate.
Donald Chambers founded Bandidos Motorcycle Club in 1966. Traditionally it is the gang in charge of Texas territory, although active in many other South areas. Members count in the range of 2,500 strong in the United States alone.
Outside the United States, Bandidos is present in more than 20 countries with several hundred chapters. The gang specializes in drug smuggling across the US-Mexico border, and some members have been accused of multiple murders.
The United States Department of Justice and Europol considers Bandidos Motorcycle Club a criminal organization.