Why I said “No” To Becoming An Outlaw Biker

I can’t remember not loving motorcycles.  Ever since I was a kid, I wanted one.  Hell, I was still a kid when I somehow convinced mom to buy John Wallace’s motocross motorcycle, a Kawasaki KD-90(bored to 110), for me.  I was 10 or 11 then and that was just about the best damn day of my life.  A few of my friends had them… a whole bunch of us kids rode together around the fields, forests and tracks in the county.  We gave new meaning to “the dirty dozen”.  I progressed over the years from dirt bikes to street bikes and crotch rockets and finally, to Harleys.  No man ever forgets the day he gets his first Harley.  For all intents and purposes, you might even consider it his wedding day.  Perhaps slightly more important.  To him, anyway.

I’ve blogged much about motorcycles and riding them.  I go on long Harley trips every year with two of my closets childhood friends, Sweaty and Bullfrog, whose posteriors grace the photo at the top of my blog (for the curious, that was taken at 85mph on I-94 in eastern Montana).  We travel together.  All of us, always.  If one can’t go, nobody goes.  If we do go, nobody else comes along.  Adding someone, anyone else into the mix would probably be a recipe for disaster when we consider group dynamics and the manner in which we choose to ride and we honestly don’t need any disaster when we’re riding 1000+ mile days, cross-country, down to Mexico or up to Alaska.  It’s just not worth the risk.  But this blog isn’t about them.  It’s about 1%ers.

You see, there is a whole spectrum of motorcyclists out there.  From the mid-life crisis bikers and geriatric “finally can afford the dream” guys to stockbroker & lawyer biker wannabes to RUBS with their silly $100,000 choppers to young guys with long hair, tattoos and big dreams and even “real bikers” who live to ride.  Still, in the biker world, all of these classes would be mainstream compared to one.  Only one group is considered a true outlaw, even among the rebels.  The legendary 1%er.  This term was first coined by The American Motorcycle Association in 1948, after being asked to comment on the Hollister CA incident, considered a riot, upon which the movie The Wild Bunch, starring Marlon brando was based.  The press asked the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) to comment, and their response was that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, and the last one percent were outlaws. Thus was born the term, “one percenter”.

During the 1940’s and 1950’s, at rallies and gatherings sponsored by the AMA, prizes were awarded for nicest club uniform, prettiest motorcycle, and so forth. Some clubs, however, rejected the clean-cut image and adopted the “one percenter” moniker, even going so far as to create a diamond – shaped patch labeled ” 1%” to wear on their vests as a badge of honor. The 1% patch is also used to instill fear and respect from the general public and other motorcyclists. Other clubs wore (and still wear) upside down AMA patches. Another practice was to cut their one piece club patches into three or more pieces as a form of protest, which evolved into the current form of three piece colors worn by many MCs(Motorcycle Clubs) today.

One percent clubs point out that the term simply means that they are simply committed to “biking and brotherhood”, where riding isn’t a weekend activity, but a way of living. These clubs assert that local and national law enforcement agencies have co-opted the term to paint them as criminals.

I have always ridden with bikers, or what’s occasionally referred to as 10%ers.  The group who actually follow the credo “Live to Ride & Ride to Live.”  Although I do have a small group of RUBs(rich urban bikers) who I do take out riding here in Chicago, I generally don’t prefer to pal around with these “weekend warriors,” aka “motorcycle enthusiasts” aka “trailer jockeys” a whole hell of a lot.

I like bikers.  People who drive a car only when they have to.  As previously stated, 99% of them are good, law-abiding people.  They’re harder than nails, they’re loyal as hounds and they’ll never turn their back on a brother, even if they don’t yet know his name.  In a word, they’re solid.  They don’t give a damn if or where you went to college or what you do for a living and it’s considered very rude to even ask.  We’re all the same and we like it that way.   We appreciate each other’s bikes, wives/girlfriends, etc but we never, ever envy them or try put our hands on either.  Mutual respect on a level playing field and a love for our brothers, the ride and the road… that’s what it’s all about.

From the outside, it’s not a large step from a 10%er to a 1%er.  In fact, we all look pretty much alike from the outside to the untrained eye.   On the inside, however, that is not at all the case.  In fact, it’s a giant leap and most people within the community know this.  For the 10%ers, riding motorcycles  is a lifestyle.  For a 1%, it’s your life.  There is nothing else.  You belong to them and once you’re in, you’re in for life and if you ever change your mind, you’d better have a damn good reason if you plan on getting out unscathed.

Many men over the years have been hunted down and when they are found, the hunters don’t just want their colors(jackets & vests) back.  They’ll carve their club tattoos right off your flesh and remind you that it’s only because they’re such kind and decent human beings that you’re still breathing.  Depending on who you are and why you left, you may not even be that lucky.  Disloyalty does not sit well with them.  There’s a damn good reason for this, but I won’t delve into biker politics here, as it’s very complicated, it’d take too long and you may not understand most of it anyway.

The 1%er clubs don’t exactly have a campus recruiting day.  Neither should one ever walk up and ask for a membership application.  No, you must be invited.  You generally don’t even join a major MC directly, but get brought in or tapped from a minor-league club, much like baseball.

I rode for most of my adult life within Hell’s Angels territory.  Within that territory, there were many feeder clubs, which fed the larger organization.  One of those was The Warlocks*.  I had a few friends (including a high school girlfriend) and many acquaintances who were with The Warlocks and I rode with them and HA on many, many occasions over the years, but had never even thought about joining.   We had a common bond and a lot of respect for one another.

One night, after just such a ride, we were all sitting around at the bar having post-ride drinks and the enforcer came and told me that the president would like a word with me.  As one might expect, it definitely got my attention and piqued my curiosity as to exactly whose toes I might’ve inadvertently stepped upon.  I grabbed my drink off the bar and the enforcer escorted me over to the booth where the president was sitting alone.  He then left us to chat, watching intently from across the room.

“You’re the real deal”, he said.

“Thanks”. I replied

“You’re very intelligent, too.  That’s obvious.”

“Thank you”, I said.

“You know, I was talking with some of the guys, and we got to thinking.  We could use a biker with some brains around here.  You’d move up very quickly and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you got ‘tapped'(moved up to HA) before any of these guys.  Would you consider prospecting(pledging) for us?”

I was stunned.  I didn’t know what to say.  I was blazing trail in some very virgin territory here and I suspected the outcome wouldn’t be just new to me, but to him as well.  To all of them.  How do you say no to this?  If you dare to, how do you do so without insulting, belittling or minimizing them in any way, shape or form and even if you manage to do that, are you still allowed to walk out in one piece?  I took a long pull off my Jack Daniel’s before I spoke.

“Let me preface this by saying that I’m completely aware of how rare and complimentary it is to ask an outsider in and to accept him as a brother.  I’m also aware that you must think an awful lot of him in order to even discuss the invitation among the group, let alone approve and extend the invitation.  In short, I know this is a big deal and as I’m looking around, I am beginning to see that today’s ride was all about me.”

“I’m beyond honored that you all would consider adopting me into your family.  In fact, I wish I were in the position to accept, but it so happens that I’m moving back down to Chicago in just 2 ½ months.  I’m sorry that you weren’t aware of that.  I didn’t realize that it would affect anyone or waste anyone’s time.  If I weren’t moving, I would definitely consider such a thing, but as it stands, I am forced to thank you for your invitation and respectfully decline.”

He sat there and stared right through me for an eternal minute, taking a slow drag off his cigarette and peering square into my eyes, after which he slow sucked down the remaining Wild Turkey in his glass.  Not once did he take his eyes off mine, nor I from his.  I knew exactly what this was.  He thought I might be bluffing.

Finally, he broke his gaze and looked down at his glass.

” Well, that’s it, then.  Maybe if you ever move back.  Another Jack?” he asked, calmly.

“Sounds good.” I replied.

Dozens of curious faces stood all around us, half-busy in conversation, but searching our faces for signs as we stood up and walked together to the bar.  Everybody but me had known what was going to happen this night, but now, only the president and I knew the outcome.

After the bartender poured our drinks, the president handed me mine and took his own.   Raising his glass, with all those anxious faces looking on in anticipation, he loudly proclaimed his toast.

“To the best damn biker we never had.”

Shock, bewilderment and some disappointment filled the room as we stood there elbow to elbow and finished them all.  Then we set down our glasses, shook hands and smiled, after which he explained to the room that I couldn’t possibly join as I was moving to Chicago shortly, which was very fortunate for us both, as it allowed him to save face and me to save my ass.  I’m told I’m the only biker who has ever, and possibly who will ever turn down an invitation to that particular club .

My reasons were valid and true, of course, but they extended further and deeper than that.  The core problem is that we’re not philosophically aligned.  I’ve explained this to other !%ers at various times and they can understand my strong feelings about it, even though they themselves tolerate it and choose to remain within the bracket.  For me, it all boils down to one thing.  Women.

Rather than explain to you the inner workings of 1% society, I’ll just paste the piece below that I lifted from the web.  It lays things out pretty well in terms of what can(but not necessarily does) go on within that society.

In addition, I will tell you that as a 1%er, you are not allowed to ride anywhere without your colors. This alone would make any cross-country travel a life-risking venture, as you cross many territories en route.  In truth, you can be injured or killed for not wearing them by your own just as easily as you can be killed for wearing them by others.  You’re either a soldier or a traitor.  There is no middle ground.  Neither one is very safe.

I am compelled to remind you that to the best of my knowledge, the specific club that I was asked to join does not specifically espouse or partake in the activity mentioned below, nor have I witnessed or seen a single incident of it in all my years of riding with them and other organizations, but that this and other clubs do feed members to organizations which have been repeatedly accused of doing such things for half a century or more.

Now that I’m living and riding on someone else’s turf, I’ve since had similar run-ins with other MCs(actually, their chief rivals) and tell them all the same thing…

“I have ridden with Red & White.  I have ridden with Black & White.  I will ride with you, too, but I will not join.  I am a friend to all and an enemy to none.  Above all, I am a biker… and I choose to remain free.”


The material below was lifted from a law enforcement website.  I cannot confirm or deny anything below, nor do I necessarily agree with the assessments.  I can only state that in my opinion there lies sufficient moral and ethical doubt such that I will not join such an organization.  It is not included here to degrade or insult any 1% organizations.


Outlaw motorcycle gangs are male dominated and highly chauvinistic. Women are treated as playthings and property. Women are generally victimized by forcing them into prostitution or street level drug traffickers, and quite often physically and sexually abused. In the outlaw biker’s society women are bought, sold, traded or given away within the club.

Selling drugs in the mid 1960’s teaches the outlaw biker the basics of supply and demand. When they learn men pay to rent the empty space between a woman’s leg, they put their women to work. In the violent, profit-oriented society inhabited by the outlaw biker, that’s all a woman is – a hole, a piece of property to rent or trade.

Women take up with outlaw bikers for different reasons: some are hungry, some need a warm place to stay, and others feel safe in a crowd. While outlaw bikers abduct and rape many women, most attach themselves voluntarily to the club and everything it stands for – drugs, alcohol, parties, fast bikes and cars, cheap thrills and sex. Horny women want endless sex every way it comes, the club becomes their outlet. Rebellious teenagers who strike back at their parents numb their minds with drugs and screw their brains out on the clubhouse floor. Bored business women take a walk on the wild side with macho men who lead dangerous, exiting lives. Women without education become somebody when they attach themselves to respected and feared outlaw bikers. Shiftless girls like the freedom from responsibility. The unloved and homeless confuse sex with affection and cherish the arms that hold them.

A woman’s main value to an outlaw biker, aside from sexual gratification, is daily income. She must give all her money to her old man. Bikers put their women to work in massage parlors, topless bars, cocktail lounges and strip clubs. Most are covers for prostitution. Prostitution is the bikers’ most lucrative source of income after drugs.

Another area where the women are used effectively is intelligence gathering. They will go into the community and take jobs at city, county and state offices where they have access to blank birth certificates, drivers licenses and other useful documentations. Other areas of employment the women will seek is that of police records clerk, telephone operators, employees in welfare offices and position within prison institutions. They will even sleep with cops to compromise them or gather intelligence. Women of motorcycle gangs mainly fall into three categories:

Mama or Sheep – A mama is the sexual equivalent of a public well. Anyone can dip into her, at any time, as often as he wants. These are woman who belong to the club at large. They belong to every member and are expected to consent to the sexual desires of anyone at anytime. They perform menial task around the clubhouse, however do not attend club meetings. Some clubs permit these women to wear .. colors” with the inscription “Property of (club name)”, embroidered on the back.

Old Lady – These are the wives or steady girlfriends of club members. An old lady is the property of one biker and can’t be used or abused by other club members. An old lady is not a club member and like sheep are not permitted to attend club meetings. They also will in some clubs wear “Property of” colors; however, with the name of the biker she belongs to on the bottom rocker.

Broad – A female who’s sole use is being used as a sexual object. This would be similar to the way most men view one night stands. A common method of bikers is to pick up a female hitchhiker, gang rapes her and then toss her aside.

Women are always helping the outlaw biker to get ahead. An example – several Hell’s Angels have their old ladies turn tricks in topless bars in North and South Carolina. The bars are near military bases and the old ladies get all the weapons the club needs. The Cleveland Chapter got three light antitank weapons (LAW) rockets through their old ladies. Other chapters have gotten .45 caliber pistols and hand grenades from their women.

THE BIG FOUR:  1%ers

The Big Four outlaw  clubs claim to be the one percent of motorcyclists who won’t conform to society’s laws and morals ethics. They are the Hell’s Angels, the Outlaws, the Pagans and the Bandidos. All of them are U.S. based and have international chapters with the exception of the Pagans.

The Big Four are guided by their own code of terror. They strive to maintain their reputation as outlaws by instilling in people a fear they interpret as respect. The gangs keep members in line and eliminate the opposition with squads of killers: the Hell’s Angels Filthy Few, the Outlaws’ SS, the Pagans’ Black T- shirt squad, and the Bandidos’ Nomad Chapter.

The Big Four earn most of their money making and selling drugs. They control 75% of the North American Methamphetamine market. Prostitution, extortion, theft, arson, robbery, bombings and contact murders are among the crimes that bring in millions more. The Big Four are paramilitary operations fueled by greed and run on fear. Members are armed with the latest in military technology and protected by the best lawyers.

Two of the Big Four motorcycles have been locked in battle since 1974. The Hell’s Angels and Outlaws kill each other’s members at every opportunity. They also encourage smaller clubs to help expand their territory and bolster their strength. Gangs that resist takeovers don’t last long; their drug supplies dry up or they are destroyed.

*This name has been changed and the president’s name has been omitted in order to protect individual and club privacy.