Motorcycle Gangs – Suburbanites vs the real thing; Real life encounters?

I want to preface this by stating I’m not making fun of, or judging anyone engaging in simulated fun, whether re-enactors, Ren-Fair participants, or cubicle-dwellers in leathers spending weekends zooming around on their Harleys. It’s all in good fun, and I have no objections to it (well almost, but we’ve already covered the muffler issue here).

It’s my understanding that there are still very real, violent, criminal motorcycle gangs in existence and this is the source of my question. A civil war re-enactor is not going to encounter Sherman’s troops in the woods and end up in a real battle. The Ren-Fair participant is never in any danger of facing actual knights and swords in their travels. But… my suburban neighbors who dress up in an almost comical amount of leather gang-ish attire and blast around on their Harley Davidsons do run a risk of encountering the real thing. My assumption is an actual motorcycle gang wouldn’t look kindly on the “pretenders” and the outcome might be dangerous.

I’m wondering if anyone’s ever heard of this type of encounter happening? I would assume near big cities this has occurred before. As I said, I’m OK with enacting as a form of entertainment, but I wouldn’t do this any more than I’d fit gargantuan rims on a Caprice and tool around town in a red bandana blasting rap music. Seems like you’re just asking for trouble.

If you’re still reading, I realize I’ve sorted them into “real” and “pretend” gangs. I understand one group is no more real than the other, but I’m using the terms since my neighbors seem to really be trying for the “dangerous badass hombre” look. (as opposed to just matching jackets like a bowling team or something)

Has anyone on the SDMB actually encountered the “real” motorcycle gangs before? Are they as dangerous as news and stories would have me believe?

Thanks in advance for any answers. I’ve always been curious about this.

I don’t imagine biker gangs would care if you drove around all Sons of Anarchy style unless you were wearing their actual gang insignia and memorabilia. If The Simpsons are accurate, I presume they would then make you literally eat those clothes.

I’ve walked past the headquarters for NYC’s chapter of Hell’s Angels a bunch of times. There were a few guys standing on the sidewalk dressed like stereotypical biker gangsters, but they weren’t doing anything besides talking to each other.

ETA: Oops missed the part about dressing like a pretender. I wasn’t dressed like a biker so I wouldn’t know, but there are so many people dressed oddly in NYC that these guys may have just ignored it unless the person started talking to them.

They certainly can be. Here’s the DOJ’s take on outlaw MC clubs (well, they call them “gangs,” the members call them “clubs.”:

High-level overview from a law enforcement perspective, but it gets you started.

You realize that the leather is protection, not just for looks, right?

And what leads you to believe that your neighbors are “enacting” in any shape or form? Riding a motorcycle and wearing appropriate attire for that activity isn’t “pretending” to be in a gang.

Yes, they can be some real mean asses out there. Mostly if you give them shit, they’ll fuck you up if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.

Where we ride, there are Sons Of Silence, Bandidos, Free Tomorrow, Hells Angels, Fly In Wheels and some other 1%'ers. I’ve never had a problem with any of them. I respect them just like I would any other biker. I see them in the bars and on the road. I talk to them like I would any other cyclist.

Every year we go to a swap meet and the clubs have booths set up. I have not seen any problems (not that there are never problems, but I haven’t seen any) between the clubs or with civilians. I have a jacket signed by Sonny Barger. He was very nice to me and my wife. But there is no way in hell that i would give him any shit. I might be able take him now that he’s in his seventies (although I doubt it), but I would not make it out of the building alive.

The problem you would run into is if you formed a 1% club in someone’s territory. If you put a bottom rocker on your jacket (cut or kutte) that claims a city or area that has already been claimed, then you might run into a problem. A riding club like Bikers For Christ might get away with it. But if you form a club called The Dawgs of Ohio and you claim Toledo on your rocker, the Outlaws who already claim Toledo may have an issue with it. They may either take your cuts (forcefully) and disband you or sometimes will take you as a support group.

Also, if you are a 1%'er going into someone’s territory, you may have to clear it with that area’s clubhouse. Especially alone or in a small group. A large group of a rival club going into claimed territory is likely a declaration of war.

But typically, if you are a civilian and you don’t give them shit, you will be left alone. Wild Hogs is not a documentary.

What is a 1%-er? (Go easy on me, I’m ignorant, but here trying to fight it:))

SmellMyWort: The lack of helmets leads me to conclude they’re dressing more for show than protection. The leather is only on jackets and various accoutrements affixed to the bikes, not on chaps or other gear where I’d expect protection. The rest of their outfits are do-rags and jeans. The jackets have various things emblazoned on them, and an apparent club name. IIRC, it includes the word “fight” (or maybe fighters). I realize I’m assuming, but it seems to be a group of people who I know to be regular office-dwellers pretending to be badass mo-fos in a motorcycle gang for their weekend fun. As I stated at the very top, I have no problem with this. It seems to one of the few “enacting” pastimes with the possibility of encountering their real-life dangerous counterparts.

One of the burgeoning local hipster industrial districts (think low budget art galleries, band practice spaces, speakeasy dance clubs in old factories, etc) is home to the original chapter of the Iron Horsemen.

Three or few years ago, I was hanging out with a couple of friends in their practice space and fucking with the instruments. We stepped outside for a smoke, and three Horsemen walked up, said they heard us rocking out, and came in for some beers. Two of the guys were pretty chill, but one of them was weird, intense, and vaguely threatening. I was more than a little relieved when they took off.

The Outlaws in Florida took so much offense at a rival club displaying a “Florida” rocker that they bombed their clubhouse. They saw any 1-percenter on their turf as an invader, which presented problems due to being based in Daytona Beach. One of their most senior members went to the FBI after growing weary of all the violence. The FBI moved in when the chapter president wanted to blow up the president of that rival club.

Wikipedia on the subject.

1%-ers are Outlaw motorcycle clubs. Edited to add Lute beat me to it. :slight_smile:

Most of the riders my husband and I know don’t wear helmets.

As to this

Yes. We are close friends with several GhostRiders as well as some Outlaws.

One of the small clubs near here was asked by the HA’s to “soldier” for them i.e. protect their turf. The smaller group did not think this was a good idea so they disbanded.

After one of them saw my HA support gear emblem, I quit wearing it openly. I didn’t know anyone locally would recognize the meaning. I’m in Sons territory and have talked to a couple while riding. I’m not about to get into a beef with the guys over a hoodie, cool as it may be.

I’ve walked up and talked to a couple of HA’s, I steer clear of Outlaws. They scare me.

Well, there was this time this local chapter of Hell’s Orthodontists had a problem with a chapter of Satan’s Accountants over a case of Metamucil…

Yes I have encountered criminal motorcycle gangs. I was once part of a very thin blue line separating a large group of Hell’s Angels (and affiliates) and Pagans. It didn’t blow up that day. Did later in a neighboring town.

If you don’t copy their logo, insignia, etc., they have no more reason to bother you than they would any stranger dressed in any way. Most biker gang violence is directed at other biker gangs/criminals.

I think the 1%ers would take notice of a display similar to this on a vest or jacket.

If you don’t display “colours” such as the patch indicated in the link, you won’t be seen as a threat and won’t garner any attention from a motorcycle club.

If you are displaying something that could be construed as a motorcycle club patch, you can expect to get some attention in the form of threats or violence if you wear them on established turf.

1%ers pretty much view and tolerate the pretenders the way most of normal society treats special needs people in public. Smile at them when you have to and ignore them otherwise.

The only real way to get into trouble is to stroll into one of their clubhouses or bars without a really good reason.

This is just my observation from the pretender side of the fence.

ETA: And then there’s BACA. Bikers Against Child Abuse.

I wouldn’t want to go for dental work there. The whole time, I’d be wondering, “is it safe?”

For a while back in the 60s, I lived in a huge old house with a kazillion rooms, along with at least a dozen other people (the number fluctuated). I guess it was, in some respects, somewhat of a commune. A couple of my housemates had connections with the local biker gang, who dropped in now and then. The only real memory I have is almost having my brains blown out by a guy named “Tiny.” Other than that, they were no problem.

From what I can see here in Europe, there really are some ‘biker gangs’ that are heavily involved in (possible) criminal activities (especially related to drugs and prostitution). That mostly means they are not going to be looking for attention by doing anything to people who like to be in a pretend ‘bike gang’.

I’ve had two run-ins with bikers.

The first was when the car I was driving at the time broke down while me and a friend were driving through the neighborhoods near my place and an old guy on a bike pulled up alongside us and offered to help. We got my car to his place down the street- he wound up being a next door neighbor- and he and another biker friend of his (they gave their names as Tink and Spider) helped me out. Turns out when he saw me broke down he thought I was a friend of his who drove the same kind of car and also lived in the area. I wouldn’t know if they were outlaws or not but they definitely weren’t WASPy weekend bikers.

The second was when me and a group of friends were waiting for our food outside of a 24/7 Mexican place at probably 2 or 3 in the morning and one of us needed some change to pay for his order and before any of us could offer a young biker guy who was ahead of us in line gave him some change from his pocket and covered it. When he got his food and left we saw that he had a prospect patch on the back of his jacket, but I guess non-criminal bike clubs could have prospects, too. Never really thought about it.

So yeah, two encounters with bikers, both positive, but for all I know all three of them were “pretenders.”