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The Harley Davidson Stigma Attached to Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs

The Harley Davidson motorcycle brand has long been associated with outlaw bicycle gangs such as that of Hells Angels and television shows like Sons of Anarchy. Even though Harley tried to branch out from their association with groups of “unruly” bikers, up until the present they are still the number one motorcycle brand of choice for biker gangs out there.

The Beginnings of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

Motorcycle clubs and competitions are sanctioned by the authority of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). Any group of bikers or motorcyclist club that wants to participate in events and be legally recognized has to be registered in the association. Outlaw motorcycle gangs were first defined as groups and clubs who remained unregistered. Soon, some of these gangs became the sighted perpetrators of crime. From then on, outlaw motorcycle gangs were often connected with corruption and bad reputations.

The AMA responded by banning these outlaw gangs and their insignias in races and events. Despite this, a lot of people continue to join biker gangs, making them grow continuously over the years and starting chapters in various parts of the country or the world. This is the case for notorious biker gangs like the Hells Angels and The Outlaws. It is estimated that in the United States alone, there are already 2,500 biker gangs with 45,000 American members. 

Harley Davidson and Media

A recent television series contributed to the image of Harley Davidson motorcycles and outlaw gangs in the American crime television series, Sons of Anarchy which went on from 2008 to 2014. The show was set in a fictional town called Charming in Central Valley, California. It follows the life of the closely-knit members of an outlaw motorcycle gang called SAMCRO.

Hollywood films have also contributed much to the association of Harley motorcycles to biker gangs. One of which is the 2007 biker comedy film Wild Hogs which starred Tim Allen and John Travolta. Their characters are a part of a group of middle-aged friends who set out on the road while pretending to be a motorcycle gang. Another is the comic book series adapted into a film, Ghost Rider, in the same year which starred its paranormal antihero, Johnny Blaze, alongside Hayley Davidson motorcycles.

Biker Gangs and their Harleys

The Hells Angels are known to be a popular and well-known motorcycle gang all around the world. Although they have chapters outside the United States, their members are composed of a majority of Caucasian males. They are very famous for their preference for Harley Davidson motorcycles. They also have a notorious reputation for being a front for organized crime is legally recognized by the Department of Justice as a syndicate. 

One of the oldest biker gangs still active today, the Outlaws or the American Outlaws Association (AOA) was founded in 1935 in McCook, Illinois. Their membership is strictly given to American motorcycle owners with American-made bikes whose size fit their requirements. They are known to be the number one rivals of the Hells Angels. They are known for a phrase which their members live by “Angels Die in the Outlaw States” was shortened to ADIOS.