June 14, 2015

Outlaw Bikers? 1%er: Ride Hard!!

Most of my understanding of the 1%er community comes from terrible TV shows and misconceptions even within some biker communities.  Though I've ridden a motorcycle for somewhere around six years I've never ridden with patched 1%ers.  I've only had interaction with 1%ers on rare occasion.

One interaction I had was with a Hells Angel while I was working at Uncle Sam's Army Navy surplus store on West 8th street in Manhattan.  I remember seeing a really nice custom motorcycle parked on the sidewalk, it was a work of art and I wanted to check it out.  As I approached the motorcycle on a break, I thought to myself "I shouldn't just walk around and check this bike out without permission."  So as I asked around to find the owner, a stranger informed me that it belonged to a Hells Angel that was having pizza down the way.  My almost immediate reaction was one of fear.

I remembered the documentaries on Outlaw biker gangs and how serious Hells Angels were about their motorcycles.  In spite of this immediate reaction, my innate curiosity won the day so I walked up to the Hell's Angel and asked if he was okay with me checking out his motorcycle.  To my surprise he was eager and responded something like "Hell yeah man, Let me bring this slice out and we'll take a look."  From my recollection there was nothing about the man that suggested that he was some sort of careless brute, but unfortunately I didn't take the time to learn more about his culture and as a result I allowed my own unfounded ideas about 1%er's persist till today.

In the wake of the WACO biker shootings, it had me engaging in the media sponsored idea that all 1%er gangs are thuggish criminal elements that wish only for territory and a sort of monopoly on the drug trade or some other illicit activity.  What happened next was born out of my lack of understanding in spite of having ridden on Poker runs with a multitude of biker clubs.

Below is information I collected from a 1%er and Marine Veteran Biker and research into some of his ideas:

A 1%er is a phrase that was coined in the 40's mostly attributed to veterans.  It encompasses a lifestyle of partying hard and using motorcycles to get a sort of thrill that could not be achieved through everyday life.  Its a lifestyle centralized around riding hard and having fun within a brotherhood similar to that of fellow warriors in combat.

Originally the term was born out of a Press Release from the American Motorcycle Association that said "99% of Motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens."  Though I can not personally find the instance the AMA said such a thing, it is widely understood that it is the point of origin for the term and said to have been a response to the Hollister riot in 1947.

While the exact origin of the term is unsure, many bikers decided to wear the slight as a badge of honor.  Not necessarily to celebrate a sort of Outlaw biker culture, but rather to sort of poke fun at the reputation that was given to certain elements of bikers in wake of the Hollister riot.

Said the Marine Veteran and 1%er:

"For years people wore the 1% patch as a sort of badge of honor, we're not all fighters and drinkers, but we have the reputation, which is unfair because not all 1%ers are like that.  Unfortunately though, there are 1%ers who give [the idea] a bad rap."

1%er for the most part encompasses those that didn't fit into society.  A sort of Black sheep sub-culture of adrenaline junkies and individuals that pride themselves on brotherhood, loyalty and a communal family of other individuals that have many of the same interests, namely riding motorcycles.

Said a 1%er:

"The 1%ers take care of one another.  You have the few that beat their chest to be a bad element, but generally one on one those types aren't as tough as they seem and tend to back down."

Bad press seems to be more responsible for the misconception about 1%ers, however bad decisions by a few bad actors are also to blame.

"Some get too deep into the skin trade, or too deep into drugs and running guns.  They influence a club too much and make it kind of fall to that bad element.  Bad press and a few bad apples are to blame.  Some clubs set out to recruit people like that to have the hardest club or to have the nature of a criminal element but these clubs tend to miss the point and fall well short of the spirit of the 1% culture."

For the most part, its really a collection of folks that want to blow off some steam and do it with a support network reminiscent of the military culture they may have left after getting out.

When I asked this 1%er if he thought people tended to be afraid of Bikers he replied:

"Yes people are afraid of bikers, especially Patch Holders and Club members.  Its due to society pre-conditioning you to be afraid of them because its an element that is not easily controlled."

He went on to say that for the most part there is no more cause for concern than any other group of people, that when confronted 1%ers wouldn't back down but they're not always looking for a fight either.  It seems to be the loyalty rather than any specific element of the culture that is responsible for most people's unreasonable fear of bikers.  Ultimately is was the fact that "you're not going to tell me what I can and can't do..." that seem'd to be the crux of the culture.  Something that this Motorcycle rider and writer can certainly understand.

As the conversation progressed I wondered what it was in the most frank of terms that most appealed to him personally about being a patched biker and 1%er:

"Its not so far from military life and that makes it so easy, you can just walk out of one brotherhood and right into another.  When I got into riding motorcycles and building bikes I was introduced to a club.

The man that introduced me was a founding member of a club and Former Marine.  I was attracted to the idea of what the history of the club was but I became apprehensive after seeing people doing it their own way, not in the spirit of the history of the club.  People talk big and bad, but one on one its a different story.

Then I saw how the current club I'm involved in worked and learned their history.  They had a sense of family even after 15 years of not seeing one another, it was like they just seen one another yesterday.  Even though one members bike was down, they didn't hesitate to help get the guy's bike and fix it up.  That's how it is, and that's how it should be.  I saw that and saw how they interacted with one another and I gave up ties to the first club and began becoming part of my current club.

The comradery, its unlike anything else, save the military."

I was curious if He thought more people that ride motorcycles should commit to a club or become a 1%er:

"You don't really decide to become a 1%er, I think its just kind of how you are.  When you commit to a club, especially a 1% club there is an understanding that you will be willing, ready and able to step it up... ride hard through any weather, and help a brother out on a moment notice.

Its another level of dedication to the culture to be a club member and even more to be a 1%er, not everyone has that ability."

What are the Benefits of belonging to a club vs not being in a Club?

"Its The Brotherhood and the sense of belonging that makes everything worth it... its something worth protecting and growing.

Two wheels saved my life and helped me out of a downward slope.  I got on two wheels, switched gears and it helped balance me out... that and smoking some weed.  It ultimately helped me to become a productive member of society whereas before being involved I was only working to pay for food."

If there was one thing you wanted people to understand about bikers and 1%ers what would it be?

"Don't judge a book by its cover, but don't underestimate it either.  I'm a family guy with a wife and kids, I have a regular life looking for a job and paying my bills.  I'm a family man, only I've got a full sleeve, a big beard, I wear LOCs and I ride bikes."

What does Liberty mean to you and the 1%er Community?

"Liberty is the right to choose my own lifestyle and way of life, don't tell me how to raise my kids or keep my yard.  There are too many rules and regulations out there as it is.  If I could speak for my brothers... Liberty is:  if you want to ride all day and night, that's our decision.  If we wanna throw a week long party that's our decision.  You're not paying our bills, you're not our employer, what business is it of yours what I do with my personal free time?  Am I always on the right side of the law?  No, I'm no saint.  Am I constantly breaking the law?  No.  Let me do me and you do you.  I'm not going to judge you for the way you are, or what you want to do with your life, that's all on you.  So let me do me."

In conclusion, it seems to me that Media and misconception is mostly to blame for blowing things out of proportion in relation to bikers in general and 1%ers as well.  Just like any group of diverse individuals there will be criminal elements and bad apples, but they should not be representative of the whole.  It seems to me that 1%ers are no different than the Minutemen of old or any other group of devout Liberty following individuals that ultimately wish to be left alone to do as they please.  But they are not scared to confront any group of individuals however big and strong to secure their natural right to dress act and ride as they wish.  They truly do encompass the idea "Don't Tread On Me."

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