Some motorcycle clubs are infamous for their connection to drugs, organized crime, and living outside the law. Others are simply groups of like-minded, law-abiding citizens who just love to ride. Regardless of the club in question, wearing its color says something about who you are, what your values are, and what kind of lifestyle you’re chasing. Here, we take a look at the 10 most popular motorcycle clubs in the United States.
1. The Outlaws
The Outlaws is one of the biggest, baddest clubs around. As one of the infamous “Big Four” outlaw motorcycle clubs, its connection with crime runs just as deep as its connection to motorcycles. From its very inception in 1935, its members have prided themselves on their status as the original ‘outlaws’ (hence the name), while their rivalry with the Hells Angels has been going on for almost as long as both clubs have been around. Based on current estimates, it’s thought there are around 200 chapters and several thousand members across the country.
2. The Pagans
The Pagans is an outlaw motorcycle club founded by Lou Dobkin in 1959. As thecheapplace.com writes, Dobkin wasn’t your typical ‘outlaw’ in some respects – during the day, he worked as a senior biochemist at the National Institute of Health. But on the weekends, he could be found racing around the highways with his denim-wearing buddies. By the late 60s, the club had evolved into your archetypal big, bad outlaw group. It’s spent most of the subsequent decades squabbling over territory with the Hells Angels. With thousands of members to its name, the club is active across Delaware, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. It’s also got a big presence in Puerto Rico.
3. Bikers Against Child Abuse
If you thought motorcycle club members were all mad, bad, and dangerous to know, the members of the Bikers Against Child Abuse should come as a welcome relief. The club has developed around the mission statement of helping abused children around the world. Working alongside official state authorities and philanthropic foundations, it matches abused kids to two members of the group so the child always has someone to call on if assistance is needed.
4. The Iron Order Motorcycle Club
As hotcars.com writes, the Iron Order Motorcycle Club was founded in 2004 by a group of law enforcement officers committed to upholding the law and helping people in need wherever they found them – a brotherhood of superheroes, if you will. Their carefully cultivated image took a bashing when two unarmed members of the club were shot dead by other club members, and repeated allegations of other criminal activities started to emerge. The club has been eager to suppress the rumors (for obvious reasons), and in fairness, the allegations have died down over recent years.
5. The Mongols
The Mongols were formed in 1969 by a group of Hispanic Vietnam veterans. Originally based in Montebello in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles, California, the group has since spread throughout the US. It’s believed there are now between 1000 and 1500 official members in the US, along with a few hundred in Australia. Unlike most other major clubs, the Mongols have chosen to feature an actual motorbike and rider on their patch – a black on white emblem sporting a rider in shades straddling a cruiser.
6. The Vagos
The Vagos (or the ‘Green Nation’, as they’re sometimes referred to) is the biggest motorcycle club in the Southwest. They also have a foothold in Ontario, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. In total, it’s believed there are 4,000 members of the club worldwide. Like most clubs, their name is more than just a name – in Spanish, Vagos is the term used to describe those who eschew the status quo and embrace a free, nomadic lifestyle unrestricted by convention or the law.
7. The Bandidos
Formed in 1966 in Texas, the Bandidos Motorcycle Club consists of 2,400 members spread over 22 different countries around the world. Despite the cartoon character on their patch suggesting a jolly side, the Bandidos reputation is far from jovial. As a member of the Big Four, they’re known to regularly engage in turf wars with rival groups and indulge in the occasional bout of drug trafficking. Basically, when your mother warned you about the dangers of mixing with the wrong kind of crowd, she was thinking of the Bandidos.
8. The Hells Angels
The Hells Angels might not be the biggest motorcycle club in the US (all in all, there’s estimated to be around 2300 members, including those in other countries), but they’re inarguably the most famous. When people think of motorcycle culture, they think of the Hells Angels, and they have done ever since the club’s heyday in the 1960s. Despite numerous attempts by the authorities to bring the club down, it’s still going strong. Over 70 years after it was conceived, it’s still as infamous for its turf wars, its drug trafficking, and its reckless abandon of convention as it ever was.
9. Women in The Wind
Women aren’t exactly known for frequenting motorcycle clubs. In most clubs, they probably wouldn’t be all that welcome – which is exactly why an Ohio motorcyclist called Becky Brown decided to start her own all-women club in 1979. The result was Women in the Wind, an organization that as motorcycleisland.com notes, has now grown to encompass more than 100 chapters and over 1200 members across the US, Great Britain, and Australia. Unlike some of their male counterparts, Women in the Wind promote the acceptable side of motorcycling, with a central aim of highlighting female motorcyclists in a positive way and educating its members on road safety and motorcycle maintenance.
10. American Motorcycle Association
The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) isn’t just the largest motorcycle club in the US, it’s the largest in the entire world. With a membership that runs into the millions, the AMA is the loudest, proudest proponent of biker’s rights in the country. And unlike a lot of other groups, it prides itself on welcoming upstanding members of the community – so much so, in fact, it inadvertently gave rise to the notion of the 1% (i.e. the term used to describe the likes of the Hells Angels, the Bandidos, and other outlaw groups) when it boldly claimed that 99% of its members were law-abiding.