A very short introduction into the origin and history of Motorcycle Clubs


Motorcycle clubs and organizations have been around as early as 1903, with the New York Motorcycle Club, San Francisco Motorcycle Club and Yonkers MC being some of the first. It was however only after World War II that people became more interested in motorcycles and motorcycle clubs. This time coincided with motorcycles becoming more powerful and riding faster, which attracted thrill seekers, especially soldiers returning from the war who had a hard time adjusting to civilian life and needed the excitement and adrenaline they experience during the war. With more people starting to ride motorcycles, it was inevitable that they started forming clubs. These clubs also server the purpose of giving the returning soldiers the feeling of brotherhood and camaraderie they experience with fellow soldiers during the war.

With the growth in the number of motorcycle riders, the subculture of bikers being rebels and even outcasts started to emerge. The pivotal point in history was during what is referred to as the “Hollister Riots” in 1947. From 4 July to 6 July the town of Hollister in California hosted a motorcycle rally for 4th of July celebrations. A few thousand (much more than expected) bikers showed up, which nearly doubled the town’s population overnight. Drinking, partying and rivalry between clubs led to, what the media referred to, as chaos and riots (which were most likely extremely exaggerated reports). Although never confirmed by the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA), this is reportedly where the term 1%’er and outlaw biker originated from. It is widely held that the AMA said that 99% of bikers are law abiding citizens, it is only 1% that are the outlaws. Some of the clubs then started to wear the 1% badge or emblem on their cuts, indicating that they are outlaw bikers.

Hollywood was not far behind in trying to cash in on this new subculture and came out with movies like Maniacs on Wheels (1949) and The Wild One (1953). Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, more and more people started riding motorcycles and joining Motorcycle Clubs. More mainstream movies came out, for example Hells Angels On Wheels (1967), starring Jack Nicholson and real members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, including Sonny Barger himself. The image of bikers and motorcycle clubs became very appealing to romantics, daredevils, and thrill-seekers and biker clubs started spreading around the world like wildfire.

Today there are thousands of clubs and associations worldwide, ranging from more informal riding clubs (RC's) and social clubs (SC's), to strict Motorcycle Clubs (MC's and MCC's) and Outlaw Motorcycle clubs. The traditional, or what is referred to as “old school” motor cycle clubs, traces it’s roots back to the origins of clubs after World War II, where there was a strong emphasis on honor, brotherhood, loyalty and respect.