Do you want to learn more about the Bandidos? What are the activities of this biker gang? The history of this biker group? Who are the founders and how has this icon of the motorcycle world thrived for decades now?
Young bikers of modern times, welcome to « Skull World ». It’s all about big machines, it’s about the passion for the road, and today we’re going to take a deep dive into one of the most famous biker gangs of all time: the Bandidos! 🤠
The biker gang Bandidos is one of the largest motorcycle groups founded in the USA. Today there are more than 2500 members worldwide. The gang’s activities are mainly criminal in nature and clashes with other MCs are commonplace.
In this article you will learn, among other things:
- The origin of the club
- What are the activities of the MC?
- The number of clans around the world
- What and the history and origins of the club
- Some pretty surprising facts about this gang
After reading this article, the myths surrounding the MC Bandidos will no longer be a secret for you! Without further ado, let’s get to the heart of the matter! 👇
The Bandidos motorcycle gang has a saying: « If you stab just one member of us, we all bleed ».
It’s not known exactly who started the stabbing, but a major bloodbath ensued when the Bandidos brutalized members of several other motorcycle gangs at a restaurant in Waco, Texas . A ferocious shootout in broad daylight left 9 dead, 18 injured and at least 165 arrested among motorcyclists.
The altercation began around noon at a restaurant in a Twin Peaks mall and quickly escalated into all-out war, said Sergeant W. Patrick Swanton, a police spokesman. At one point, up to 30 gang members shot at each other in the restaurant’s parking lot. Police found over 100 guns and dozens of shell casings.
The shooting is the latest and perhaps bloodiest chapter in a long history of violence involving motorcycle gangs across the United States. The Bandidos, like their most famous rivals, the Hells Angels or the Vagos MC , are characters that appear frequently in this book with its bloody history. The group is widely regarded as the second largest motorcycle gang in the world after the Hells Angels and has no fewer than 2,500 members in 13 different countries, according to the Justice Department.
The story of the Bandidos traces the rise of motorcycle gangs from countercultural clubs to feared criminal organizationsand helps explain why tragedy befell a city already associated with unprecedented violence.
1) The origin of the biker gang
If Americans know anything about motorcycle gangs these days, it’s probably thanks to Hunter S. Thompson or the very popular TV series Sons of Anarchy . But long before Thompson’s 1966 book Hell’s Angels, motorcycle gangs were on the rise in America .
American motorcycle gangs had their roots after World War II. Because tens of thousands of disoriented young men, often traumatized by the war, returned to a country they did not recognize. And, of course, many refused. « The end of World War II saw young men returning from combat in droves, » wrote William L. Dulaney in the 2005 International Journal of Motorcycle Studies . « Many found that returning to peaceful civilian life was a far more tedious task than they could bear. Some combat veterans were trained to ride motorcycles, particularly Harley Davidson and Indian, while serving abroad ».
« Returned veterans used their severance pay to buy motorcycles and party in taverns, » writes James F. Quinn, a professor at the University of North Texas who has studied behavior within motorcycle gangs. « Thrill-seeking has led some returning veterans to embrace a community-focused lifestyle centered on motorcycles. Also, the positive views they had of their military experiences and the intense camaraderie they cultivated made such a lifestyle attractive.
In some cases, combatant roles were « master » status for veterans who could not tolerate military discipline. These veterans tended to associate their self-image with the camaraderie in small groups and the risk that military service entailed. Conventional activities offered no acceptable alternative, and these men faced the loss of their identity, camaraderie and security when military action ended ».
There were signs of unrest before there were even official motorcycle gangs. On the weekend of July 4, 1947, about 4,000 motorcyclists flooded the small town of Hollister, California, causing havoc. The Hells Angels were formed about a year later. Thompson ‘sProfile of the Hells Angels , created in 1966 , came at a time when they were spreading across the country and generating spectacular reactions.
« They call themselves the Hells Angels, » began a 1965 magazine article quoted in Thompson’s book. They ride, rape, and raid like the marauding cavalry, and they brag that no police force can break their criminal motorcycle fraternity. »
2) Foundation of the motorcycle club 1%
« We’re the one percent , man, the ones that don’t conform to any norm and don’t care, » one of the Hells Angels told Thompson. So don’t tell me about your medical bills and search warrants. What I mean is that you’ve got your wife, your bike and your banjo and we’re already on our way. We freed ourselves from hundreds of entanglements and stayed alive with our boots and fists. We form the royalty among the outlaw motorcyclists, baby ».
The Hells Angels may have been the first, but they were far from the only ones. Dozens of other motorcycle gangs sprang up across the United States. Many, if not all, of them attempted to exploit the American outlaw archetype, reflected in their rebellious names: the Outlaws , the Pagans , the Warlocks , the Mongols , and the Bandidos .
The Bandidos started almost 20 years after the Hells Angels, but the two gangs quickly became dangerous rivals . According to the legend of the motorcycle club, the founder was Donald Chambersbored by other motorcycle clubs. « Chambers formed the Bandidos in March 1966 when he was 36 and working on the Houston docks, » Skip Hollandsworth wrote in a 2007 profile of the gang. He told his friends that he named his club Bandidos in honor of the Mexican bandits who refused to live by anyone’s rules but their own, and he began recruiting his first members not only in Houston but in the United States to recruit biker bars from Corpus Christi, Galveston and San Antonio ».
Don wasn’t looking for people who would fit into what he called « polite society, » said Hollandsworth, one of the early members of the group. He wanted motorcyclists who cared about nothing but riding their Harley-Davidson full-time . He wanted motorcyclists who lived only for the road. No rules, no cops… just the road ».
But as the Hells Angels and the Bandidos grew, they evolved from freelance counterculture clubs into ruthless organized crime syndicates . This claim comes from academics studying the groups, but also from prosecutors prosecuting them.
3) From biker gang to organized crime
« The desire to dominate rivals temporarily diminished the importance of core subcultural values at many clubs. And at the same time, it fueled their addiction to organized crime activities,” writes Quinn. « With the extreme escalation of violence used in the internal wars, these activities could no longer be covered by the scene’s famous « code of silence ». It was only at this point that law enforcement finally began to take these clubs seriously ».
In the late 1970’s, local police and federal investigations began uncovering the involvement of several « 1% » motorcyclists. « [criminal motorcycle clubs] into drug trafficking, organized theft, extortion and prostitution rings, » Quinn wrote. Chambers was arrested along with two other Bandidos in 1972 for killing two drug dealers in El Paso. « Police said that before killing the drug dealers, Chambers let them dig their own grave, » Hollandsworth wrote. After that, Donald and the other Bandidos had set their bodies on fire before burying them. » Chambers was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
The arrest and imprisonment of motorcycle gang leaders in the 1970s led to what Quinn calls a « retreat, » during which a second generation of leaders put an end to violence and focused on better management of drug trafficking and others generate higher profits from criminal activities.
However, the last three decades have been marked by repeated battles between motorcycle gangs, often taking place abroad. In the 1980s, the Bandidos and the Hells Angels became international organizations. In 1984, seven people were killed and 28 injured in a shootout between the Bandidos and another gang called the Comancheros in Milperra, Australia, near Sydney. The incident became known as the « Milperra Massacre. »
Motorcyclists follow the funeral procession for the leader of local motorcycle gang Bandidos, Uffe Larsen , after he was shot dead by a rival Hells Angels member at Copenhagen Airport in 1996. About 150 Bandidos gang members from Europe, the US and Australia crowded into a 16th-century church where Larsen’s body lay in a coffin covered with sheets in the gang’s orange and yellow colors.
4) The violence of gang wars
In the mid-1990s, a “ great Nordic motorcycle war ” shook Scandinavia between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels. At least 12 people died and nearly 100 were injured in the skirmish, which lasted three years. This war featured firepower unprecedented for a gang rivalry. « Both military and automatic weapons were involved in these hostilities, » writes Quinn. At one point, the Hells Angels threw a grenade at a prison where an enemy leader was being held.
In the late 1990s and 2000s, clashes erupted again between the two motorcycle gangs in Canada. This time the conflict, which was nicknamed « The War of the Motorcyclists in Quebec » (The Motorcycle War in Quebec), is said to have claimed 150 victims. The conflict largely ended in April 2006, when authorities found eight Bandido members dead in a farmer’s field near Toronto. In 2009, a former police officer on trial for these killings accused the Bandidos’ world president, Jeff Pike , of ordering the killings. The ex-cop and five other people were convicted of this crime. Pike denied the allegation and was never charged.
« I’m just a pure American who loves to ride my motorcycle, » Pike Hollandsworth said. « You would be surprised. I’m in bed by 10 p.m. almost every day ». However, Steve Cook claims that this very surprising and amusing claim is just a masquerade. Cook is a Kansas City-area police officer who claims to have worked undercover in gangs linked to the Bandidos .
« These guys are members of organized crime, but they are also national terrorists, » he told the Washington Post. « These guys are heavily involved in trafficking in methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, but also in theft of motorcycles. These are all basic activities for them. The thing is, these guys want to pretend to be motorcycle lovers and they love to ride motorcycles. The evidence shows just the opposite ».
Cook claims that most Americans, including many police officers, don’t take motorcycle gangs seriously enough because « people get too romanticized » by the idea that motorcyclists are modern-day bandits .
You watch Sons of Anarchy and some of their little TV shows. These guys all seem pretty likeable: they’re misunderstood, like the outlaws of yesteryear, and they ride motorcycles instead of horseback ones, » he said. Even the cops think, « Oh, they’re just some long-haired, tattooed guys who like to ride motorcycles . » But really, they’re long-haired, tattooed guys who ride bikes, sell loads of methamphetamine and murder people, steal bikes, blackmail people, and then beat up people in bars for no reason. »
5) Bandidos VS Hells Angels, A Great Rivalry
In fact, Cook claims that the Waco shooting is very similar to earlier fights between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels. Citing police sources in Waco, Cook said he understood the shooting started because a smaller gang called the Cossaks , backed by the Hells Angels, challenged the Bandidos for control of Texas. Several other motorcycle gangs could also have joined the battle, also out of anger over the recent killings of Bandidos members.
« My perception is that the Cossaks were flirting with the Hells Angels , » Cook said. « When I’m a bandido, my immediate reaction is bound to be, ‘These guys are going to try to make a movement and start an international gang in our state, which will lead to a war.
One way or another, the war took place in Waco. Diners at Twin Peaks, a restaurant chain known for its rather sexy waitresses, fled behind tables, chairs and cars. They tried to dodge the bullets while the motorcyclists shot at each other. Crime scene photos show bodies covered in yellow tarp surrounded by a bevy of shiny motorcycles .
« The Bandidos already knew the Cossacks weren’t going to play along, and when things got haywire and these guys didn’t cooperate, all hell broke loose, » Cook said. In fact, in addition to being a police officer, Cook runs a group called the Midwest Association of Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators. This association is dedicated to the fight against local motorcycle gangs. Cook said he knew gang tensions were high, so he planned the event in Waco. ‘ You can be sure that given the number of guns involved, these guys acted premeditated and came to seek the conflict. They were prepared ».
Cook hopes the shooting will draw more attention to the motorcycle gangs and debunk the myths surrounding them.
« Maybe it’s time for law enforcement and the public to take off their blinders and recognize these bandits for what they are, » he said. « Criminals. »
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Territory of the Bandidos gang
Despite their global expansion, the Bandidos’ influence will always be felt in their homeland, where they started, in Texas. Granted, Texas isn’t the landscape it was when the club was formed. But it will always be a place where the Bandidos feel at home and can maneuver freely. 🏴☠️
The goal of the leader of the Bandidos is to have branches in every city in the USA. The gangs continued to expand at a rapid pace. Several new leaders took charge of the clubs of each of the new groups that formed in the cities. And the goal claimed is sometimes very explicit: « world domination »!
- The first Australian clan
The first Australian clan was quite important to the Bandidos. It represented both an opportunity to go further than ever before and to establish their influence on an entirely new continent . Few western motorcycle clubs can boast of having any influence in Australia. So the Bandidos seem to be well on their way to becoming as famous as the Hell’s Angels. 😎
- International Rules
Do ideas change when you change continents? Of course that’s not the case. The clubs have exactly the same values, the same passion and loudly preach how proud they are to belong to their group. Only the activities change, because of course not everyone wants to sell drugs…. What remains today is above all the fact that you can fully live out your passion for motorcycles!
- To be part of the « Big 3 ».
Many consider the Bandidos to be one of the top three motorcycle clubs in the world . However, comparing them to the Hell’s Angels in terms of dominance and size seems small. However, they make no secret of the fact that they want to be part of the « Big 3 », ie the three best-known clubs in the world.
Today these are the seven biggest biker clubs : Hell’s Angels, Outlaws, Pagans, Mongols, Vagos, Sons of Silence and of course the Bandidos.
Surprising facts about the MC Bandidos
Today there are countless motorcycle clubs because there are so many of them. It even seems that every city in the US has its own clubs. Historically, however, there are only a little more than a dozen motorcycle clubs that are remembered and enduring in motorcycle culture. Let’s take a look at how the Bandidos differed from the rest:
- The Motorcyclists’ War in Quebec
Times have changed, but the rivalry between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels remains. Thus, in the 1990s and 2000s, there were more and more confrontations that extended to Québec. The number of victims exceeded the hundred mark every year. The end of this war came when eight dead bodies of Bandidos members were found on a farm. 😵
A former police officer convicted of murdering members wanted to blame the President of the Bandidos. He claimed that Jeff Pike had commissioned the murder. However, Pike was never charged with this crime. In addition, the former police officer and five other people received a heavy prison sentence.
- Founded in Texas
1960’s Texas was great scenery. But it was also full of barren fields and poverty. Therefore, the club was founded in 1966. Even if the founder initially had no idea what was to become of the club! Everyone who was there at the time felt that something “special” was about to emerge.
- Represented in at least 22 countries
The Bandidos biker gang spread like a powder keg ready to devour anything in its path. It has been present in no fewer than 22 countries, both nationally and globally. The size of this motorcycle club says a lot about its power and dominance. 💪
- Lost Rivalry
Speaking of the « reach » mentioned above, it’s undeniable that the Bandidos are much less famous today than their longtime rivals: the Hell’s Angels. Maybe that’s because of all the publicity they’ve received and their exceptional communication. However, they are untouchable, even for the Bandidos.
- The many areas
The word « width » has been used many times in this article. It will probably come more often because there is nothing more important for a motorcycle club. The more they are present in many countries and cities, the more influence they can have on the members of those communities . This exposure creates notoriety and respect. Ultimately, alongside loyalty, respect is all that matters for a motorcycle club. 👊
- The price to pay
Great power also means great responsibility. The Bandidos didn’t get where they are today by accident. Their rule was planned, and they must face the consequences. ⚖️
Each of the members was warned upon joining that joining the MC would change their life forever. And of course they are not simply viewed by the authorities as a group of children doing the rounds on motorbikes. Because of this, any member wearing the MC emblem is controlled and monitored by the police.