Hot Metal and Skulls 'n' Bones
When most people think of bikers they think of gang members with menacing biker tattoos. The reality is that biker gangs only represent 1% of actual bikers. We have all heard of The Nomads and Gypsy Jokers who represent the outlaw side of bikers. The ones you see whizzing past you on the freeway most likely are biker enthusiasts. Having said that the sound of fifty Harley Davidson bikes in your rear view mirror can be daunting!
Bikers have long since being misaligned in the public eye and are constantly on the receiving end of bad press. The ones you hear about are the One Percenters as they are known by biker enthusiasts. Their world is one of turf wars, conflict with police and criminal activity including the manufacturing of speed and ice.
Biker shows off his tattoos © Lord Hatred
People join bikers gangs such as the outlaw motorcycle club for many different reasons. One of the main things was the brotherhood or comradeship. It's similar to the army or anything like that, with discipline and codes of honour. The main reason seems to be freedom - the freedom of the biker lifestyle, and most of all, the freedom of the open road. All bikers crave the same thing - the pure adrenaline rush of two wheels at high speed.
The image is of freedom but the reality is of harsh discipline from the club to enforce its rules. Arthur Veno has spent 20 years studying and associating with the clubs. According to his research, new recruits are from lower-working-class or underclass backgrounds, looking for stability.
Skull tattoos ©
Those rules are things like you're not to touch another member's wife or partner, no backing out on fights, if you see one person fighting, it's got to be everybody in. No use of heroin in particular seems to be the rule. No missing 'church', which is their equivalent of their meeting, which occurs every week.
Club rules vary, but most have been adapted from those of the Hell's Angels in the US. The clubs themselves are generally not involved with criminal activities as such. There is, however, no doubt that individual members within the clubs are involved in criminal activities.
Skulls are popular tattoos for bikers © Sarah - Bristol, England
Everyone has their own perception or biker gangs whether or not that it is the right perception. A lot of people have the wrong perceptions of bikers not helped by the generally scary imagery favored by bikers as tattoos. Generally the perception of bikers as being violent thugs is one of misperception.
Biker tattoos usually depict the biker gang the biker belongs to. Skull and dice tattoos are can often be seen on bikers along with fantasy style and Norse tattoos depicting mythical creatures. As mentioned earlier it is hard to tell the difference between bikers who belong in gangs and those who are weekend enthusiasts who are retired or work in the corporate world. Just be careful when chatting to that burly dude at the bar next time...