What is a biker? How does one become one? What does this subculture mean? What are the values of a biker?
Young mechanical freak, welcome to Skull World. It’s about freedom, about mechanics, about being different – in short: about bikers!
The biker subculture emerged in the 1945s. Being a biker is a lifestyle that represents an ideology of freedom and power. Bikers are characterized by their style of clothing, their tattoos and of course their motorcycle.
In this article you will learn, among other things:
- What is a biker?
- What is his philosophy
- How to get a biker look
- Where does this very different movement come from?
- What is a biker club
After reading our ultimate guide, nothing in the world of motorcycles will be a secret for you anymore. You will know exactly what a real biker is and what a tourist on two wheels is, how you can be a part of it and the history behind this rich counterculture.
What is a biker?
For most people, the word “bikers” is closely associated with long-haired gangs of hooligans on loud motorcycles that shake the streets. In many ways, American cinema shaped this image. The biker theme is very present in the culture of the USA. However, the actual picture of this movement is much more complex and varied. Let’s talk about it together.
1) Origin of the term “biker”.
The word “ biker ” is a derivative of the word “bike” which means “ motorcycle ”. So the term comes directly from the USA and has been used since the post-WWII era. A biker is not to be confused with a « motorcyclist », the man who rides his motorcycle on Sundays. We’ll look at that just a little further down.
2) The beginnings of the motorcycle
The « first » motorcycles were built and patented by an Englishman: Edward Butler (1884) and the Germans: Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach (1885). Since the new invention was quite affordable for people, it quickly gained popularity among the population.
Men started riding motorcycles long before the rise of the “biker subculture”. The two-wheeler was marketed to the general public in the 1920s. The motorcycle became as common a means of transportation as the car. Biker culture emerged in the aftermath of World War II.
3) Bikers VS means of transport
However, a biker and a motorcyclist are not the same. While they both use a similar type of vehicle, if you refer to a real biker as a « motorcyclist, » they might take it as a real insult. Therefore, to determine who bikers are, we must first determine how they differ from ordinary motorcyclists.
Unlike a biker who relies on his motorcycle to be a means of transportation like any other, a real biker sees his steel steed as more than just a two-wheeler. Being a motorcyclist is a philosophy of life that defines a person’s life, values and priorities. There is even a testimonial from the biker. This philosophy is based on shared values. Let’s check them out right below.
A decent biker shares basic and common principles with his fellow riders. We’re not talking about a means of transportation here. We’re talking about a lifestyle of our own and a mindset of our own. Let’s look at the pillars that make up a biker’s values.
A biker is not allowed to own a fortune. He’s a free man endlessly cruising the freeways. He’s sort of a modern-day vagabond who doesn’t worry about tomorrow. The motorcycle is a great symbol of freedom due to its ease of fitting in anywhere and its ability to reach speeds that other motor vehicles can never reach.
A true motorcyclist must abide by a motorcyclist code of ethics . He will never hurt a newcomer and help those who are in trouble. He will not demean or offend his confreres, especially when strangers can see or hear him. It’s a credit to its mechanical brethren and to the community that unites them. A biker knows how much stronger you are in a group than alone and isolated.
A motorcyclist must respect the traditions of biker culture. He is responsible for his actions . He must understand that no matter what he does, he is not only acting on his own behalf, but also on behalf of several thousand like-minded people. A man who B. Behaving badly towards others on the street will reflect badly on all bikers. He would then already be considered marginalized by the others because he is not loyal to his brothers.
Since a motorcyclist works primarily on his inner freedom, he must not forget his steel steed. For a motorcyclist, a motorcycle is something to care for and adore. It must be treated with respect and tenderness. A motorcyclist should look for ways to emphasize the originality and individuality of his motorcycle. Behaving like others is not inherent in the values of our culture. If you want to be respected, you have to have your own style and personality.
5) The wolf pack
The philosophy of motorcyclists is also based on the principles adopted by a wolf pack. T he wolf is considered the favorite animal of motorcyclists . Many of us use images of wolves in our emblems.
The wolf is a strong, intelligent, willful and independent animal that can live both in packs and alone. In many cultures wolves have ambiguous traits. On the one hand, he is a treacherous, cruel and gluttonous animal, the enemy of man. On the other hand, he is seen as a proud and noble solitary predator. The motorcycling community, as you can imagine, sticks to second opinion.
The vast majority of motorcycle clubs are organized like a wolf pack . They have both a strict hierarchy and democracy, meaning every member has full and equal rights. At the same time, American motorcycle clubs have a clear leaning towards military structures, as there is a clear distinction between « officers » and « soldiers ». This is probably because war veterans formed the backbone of motorcycle clubs when they first emerged.
The look of the motorcyclist
A motorcycle enthusiast does not have the style of everyone. Not even close! A true biker knows how to take care of their style and the image they project. Let’s see together how to have a biker style and belong to the ultras.
1) His clothes
The basis is the clothes. A biker has a look all his own and many people (in the fashion world too) take inspiration from the tough guy who rides his motorcycle. Let’s take a look at which clothing items are particularly popular with bikers .
The leather jacket : It’s absolutely impossible to define yourself as a biker if you don’t own a leather jacket! It is the most important part for a devilish look that deserves the name. By the way, we wrote a whole article to show you how to choose your leather jacket . It goes without saying that leather jackets with a skull are the most popular among all major motorcycle fans. Discover our selection by simply clicking on the link .
Adopt devilish style by wearing a « »skull leather jacket .« é » »
The Jeans: Light or dark jeans should be worn without hesitation for a successful biker look . It has the power to add a very fashionable and go-anywhere style, which is not the case with all pants. And it also keeps you warm when you wrinkle your bike while protecting you in the event of a fall. Quite simply: indispensable.
Shoes: A motorcyclist’s shoe style is quite diverse. There are no real rules. However, you can still find a lot of high heels. Whether it’s sneakers or city shoes.
Here you can find leather again. Especially with the leather ankle boots. They perfectly protect the motorcyclist’s ankle. And withstand friction from footrests and shifters better.
2) your jewelry
The most popular category of motorcyclist’s accessories is jewelry. Pendants, rings and bracelets are part of the basic equipment of every motorcyclist. Let’s see the most popular among them.
Rings: A biker ring is never chosen at random. By definition, a piece of jewelry has meaning first and foremost. This also applies to jewelry that is worn on the fingers. The best example of this is the skull ring because it is very popular with motorcyclists. And above all, full of meaning. We also have a collection specially designed for the most fanatical motorcyclists. Discover them by clicking on the image below.
Bracelets: A biker bracelet is almost always made of silver. The color of the silver is reminiscent of the mechanics of a motorcycle engine. It therefore fits perfectly with the steel of the motorcycle and the fusion of man and machine comes into its own here. Necklaces and chains are of course the most popular. But all kinds of symbols can be adopted for a successful style. Let your personality speak and stay yourself!
Necklaces: Like bracelets, necklaces are often chain-style (not without mentioning the motorcycle chain). Of course, most of the chains are silver, so the style is always in the tones of the bike. Our « »skull pendants » » always inspire enthusiasm among the most fanatical followers.
3) Your tattoos
Qu’est-ce qu’un conducteur de deux roues à gross cylindrée sans avoir de l’encre sur la peau ? On pourrait dire : un faux motard, oui.
Tattoos have been part of the biker counterculture since its inception. All members of the largest motorcycle clubs have tattoos on their skin. The signs of gang affiliation started this “fashion” and today it is one of the pillars of biker style.
Motorcycle design tattoos are commonly used, as are parts of a motorcycle’s mechanics such as pistons, wheels, chains, and many other elements. Club insignia are also commonly used, as are skull tattoos , which are a true symbol of belonging to the motorcycle culture.
The biker’s motorcycle
What is a motorcyclist without his motorcycle? A man walking!
kidding aside. It is important for a motorcyclist to choose his machine correctly. And here, too, there is a big difference between the hardcore biker and the little weekend rider who treats himself to his motorcycle as a means of transport and for whom it is not part of the ideology of life. Let’s take a look at the brands that are most popular with bikers.
Do we really need to introduce them? …
This iconic motorcycle brand is absolutely ubiquitous in our subculture. You can find them at all motorcycle meetings . Founded in 1903, the brand was quite simply the first to produce large-displacement motorcycles.
To this day, their look differs significantly from that of other motorcycle brands. And that’s exactly what makes Harley so famous: You can recognize a Harley very easily and often from afar. Most of the models have very wide handlebars.
English house founded in 1885, Triumph are – without being hassled – on the second step of the podium in the hearts of our Ultras. It offers devices with curvy very vintage and plays a lot with the history of the brand. Not just any, because yes, the brand is one of the very first manufacturers of motorcycles. A man on a motorized two-wheeler, that’s you!
3) Other brands
In fact … There is almost only one BRGI motorcycle brand that suits the biker’s lifestyle. Harley Davidson has a monopoly in the hearts of the most fanatical bikers. Followed by the Triumph brand. But there are also some brands that are common at motorcycle meetings and exude a certain spirit of the free biker.
Ducati: The Italian brand founded in 1926, known for its blood red color (like Ferrari), is very popular with our motorcycle enthusiasts. One speaks of a motorcycle that is already much more sporty and performance-oriented.
Moto Guzzi: The Moto Guzzi brand, also Italian, has been in the garages of our motorcycle fans since 1921. It was used extensively by the military in the 1940s and is a real landmark in Western Europe.
The list could be long… Note, however, that a biker, that is, someone who literally lives for their motorcycle, always opts for an unconventional look . Not the bike for everyone, you know, the sport bike that makes a lot of ado about little….
It’s impossible for us to talk about the culture of guys riding two wheels without mentioning motorcycle clubs. Let’s see what’s behind these groups of unusual people.
1) The first clubs
In the early 1920s, a network of motorcycle clubs sprang up across America. Most of its members belonged to the middle class of society. They often worked in factories and had no particular type of employment. Les first motorcycle clubs first motorcycle clubs
- the “Yonkers MC”
- the “San Francisco MC”
- the “Oakland MC
The emergence of clubs does not mean that the motorcycling subculture was born. It only emerged as such after World War II, around 1945. The story goes that the subculture was founded by American soldiers who returned home after the war and could not find a place in the society that was offered to them at the time. They were therefore looking for a way to break out of everyday life and assert their freedom. The motorcycle became the perfect symbol for this.
2) The reputation of clubs
Shortly after the movement’s inception, motorcyclists gained an extremely negative reputation . It all began with an incident in July 1947 in the city of Hollister, California that the media later dubbed the « Hollister Riot. » We don’t know for sure if the uprising really happened. All we know for sure is that a motorcycle convention was held in Hollister from July 4th to 6th and was attended by several thousand people.
According to media reports, a group of motorcyclists started a riot. The articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and Life Magazine (this material was illustrated with a staged photograph of a drunk man on a motorcycle) provoked considerable public outcry. A few years later, the film The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando , was made based on these events. He paints a negative portrait of motorcyclists as freaks and hooligans. The stereotypical image of a motorcyclist began to…
3) The 1%
The American Bikers Association (AMA) responded to the Hollister incident by stating that of all motorcyclists, only one percent could be considered illegal and the remaining ninety-nine percent could be considered law-abiding citizens. The idea of »One Percent » immediately excited outlaw motorcyclists , who despised the AMA, its events and its members, believing them too decent and too soft. As a result, these motorcyclists started calling themselves “1%” and all other motorcycle clubs were pigeonholed by default: “99%”. Some outlaws began wearing the “1%” badge on their leather jackets.
4) The duplication of clubs
From 1960 – the time of the hippies – more and more people joined the motorcyclists. The movement took off to such an extent that it became known to the general public and found its way into the movies on a large scale. Hollywood launched a series of films about the Iron Horseman such that :
- motor psycho
- The Wild Angels
- Hell’s Angels on wheels
- The bloody devils of hell
- Savage Rebels
- Angels the Devils
- And many others …
The plot lines were almost always the same: wild, dirty motorcyclists who drink, rape women and fight with the police and each other. The image of the motorcyclist has become very attractive to those in search of adrenaline. Daredevils and thrill-seekers became the target audience. Motorcycle clubs spread like mushrooms all over the world.
5) Club activities
Many motorcycle gangs are registered in the USA. They all have activities that keep their group alive. Some of these are perfectly legal, while others are more about drugs and guns…
LEGAL AND ILLEGAL TRADE
Many sell merchandise in their club’s colours. Such as clothing or accessories (stickers, badges, etc.). They also often organize various gatherings and races and also accept donations. Drug sales and arms trafficking are widespread among these groups. And newcomers sometimes don’t even know about the criminal activities a club engages in. Very often major motorcycle clubs are hostile to one another, especially outlaw clubs.
ARGUMENTS BETWEEN ASSOCIATIONS
For example, in 2002, a confrontation between the Mongols MC and members of the Hells Angels took place in the town of Laughlin, Nevada. Three motorcyclists were killed as a result of this altercation. According to police, the Mongols are provoking the shootings in order to maintain their status within the motorcycle community . That same year, another major scuffle broke out, involving the Hells Angels again. This time they clashed with the pagans, who were said to be outraged that the Hells Angels had held a meeting on their territory.
The 7 Biggest Biker Clubs
Clubs have grown steadily since the 1950s. The largest have survived and are still thriving in the United States. Let’s take a look at the most famous among them.
1) Bandidos MC
The gang formed in the mid-1960s. It was founded by Vietnam War veterans who were dissatisfied with the government’s stance. As they moved across the country, its members spent the nights wherever their motorcycles took them. They often committed minor crimes at this time.
Today, the Bandidos have 2500 members and are dedicated to reselling marijuana and cocaine that they bought in Mexico. They started manufacturing methamphetamine about ten years ago. The gang’s annual revenue is in the tens of millions of dollars. Newcomers are often involved in manufacturing and transporting drugs, while the old members take care of organizational matters. The gang is made up mostly of white Americans and Latinos.
2) The Hell’s Angels MC
This motorcycle club has existed for over 70 years and is known all over the world. Officially, they deal with the sale and customization of Harley-Davidson vehicles. Unofficially, the Hells Angels manufacture and sell various drugs and are involved in sex trafficking and robberies. The club’s image is heavily romanticized, but the truth about them is in Hunter Thompson ‘s book , titled: “Hell’s Angels 1967”.
3) Mongol’s MC
The gang was formed in California in 1969. Today it has between 1000 and 1500 members. The Mongols MC are the most aggressive motorcycle gang in the United States. They often rape, attack and even kill people. The Mongolian members are very devoted to the gang and refrain from any form of disrespect. They start fights, attack people in bars, attack unarmed civilians, etc. A few years ago, a gang member shot a SWAT officer with a shotgun.
4) Outlows MC
The gang was formed in Illinois 80 years ago. They claim no non-criminal activities…. They also sell drugs, control brothels, and extort money from corporations. The club’s former president, Harry Bowman, was considered one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals. In 1999 he was sentenced à deux peines de prison à vie. Le club existe toujours, ainsi que ses activités.
5) Pagan’s MC
The Pagans are an influential gang operating on the Atlantic Seaboard . The gang has about 220 members who sell drugs, extort money from debtors, burn houses and do other dirty work in their home state of Maryland or in major cities like New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
6) Sons Of Silence MC
The Colorado Gang has a section in Germany. The Sons of Silence unite about 270 people in 12 states. They are involved in different types of crimes, but the main income comes from the illegal drug trade. In 1999, several dozen members of the club were arrested by Federal Security Forces in Denver. During the house search, 8.5 kg of methamphetamine and 35 weapons were seized.
7) Vagos MC
The gang consists of about 400 official members, plus about 3,000 people who are on the run. The gang operates in California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and even Mexico. A few years ago they were caught building traps. Dozens of gang members were sentenced to prison terms. They are frequently arrested for illegal gun possession, drug dealing, shootings, shoplifting, and more.
Skull: Ultimate symbol of the biker
No symbol is more present in the motorcycle world than that of the skull and crossbones. The image of the human skull has been growing in popularity since the beginning of the biker movement and continues to grow year after year.
The largest motorcycle clubs use it for their logo design and club members’ clothing. As do the motorcycle brands themselves. Harley uses the skull to decorate many of their motorcycle models. And for our pleasure!
If you too want to look like a real biker and join the ranks of the most fanatical mechanics, you have to wear the ultimate emblem. If it is not usually easy for you to find a skull gun item , today is not the case! The bikers from the “Skull World” team have put together a selection of the most popular biker items for you. Just click on the image below to discover them..
Now you have two choices.
You can either go further and learn all about biker style to become a biker from head to toe, or you can perfect your knowledge of biker gangs, true symbols of this extraordinary culture: