Skip to main content

So you were driving down the road the other day when a pack of motorcyclists passed you loudly. As you looked at their matching jackets you thought, I wonder what club they belong to? What if it’s a gang? How do I tell? Here are some common ways to find out:

  • Club logo on their back
  • Club name above the logo
  • Club name above their heart

There are 8.8 million licensed motorcyclists in the U.S. The vast majority of them don’t belong to any kind of club. But thousands of motorcyclists prefer cruising with friends and have formed an official “riding club.” A few even belong to “motorcycle clubs” which often have an additional social aspect. Some of these clubs are for members of the same profession, such as a fire department. Others are for residents of the same town.

Not every club advertises itself. But going back to the 1950s, there are some traditional “colors” motorcycle clubs have developed to wear while riding. These are a series of patches sewn on to a jacket cut down to a vest. Why a “cut?” So you can wear it over a range of outfits, from full riding leathers to a t-shirt.

Group of bikers from multiple outlaw motorcycle clubs ride in a protest together
Motorcycle club | Uncleroo via iStockPhoto

The back of a cut is usually dominated by a colorful club logo. Above the logo a banner or “top rocker” has the club name written out. The front of the cut often has the motorcyclist’s name, a club office if they have one, and the club name. The club name is traditionally on the left, right above their heart.

No motorcyclist will refer to their club as a “gang.” But some may call it an “outlaw motorcycle club.” As outlaw clubs were increasingly portrayed in the media, the American Motorcycle Association held a 1960s press conference to insist that “99% of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens” so many members of “outlaw motorcycle clubs” wear a “1%er” patch above their name on their cut. This is an easy way to tell if they are in an outlaw club.

Another way to tell is the name of their club. The five largest outlaw motorcycle clubs in the United States (according to the DoJ) are the Hells Angels, Mongols, Bandidos, Outlaws, and Sons of Silence. 

Next, learn more about outlaw motorcycle clubs, or see an interview with a former Hell’s Angel in the video below: