Things we think of while riding down the road

The ‘one percenters’

Good afternoon all,

The AMA, American Motorcyclist Association, has said that 99% of all motorcycle riders are good law abiding citizens and the other 1% are outlaws. The ‘one percenters’. The motorcycle gangs. We’ve all seen the movie ‘The Wild One’, well, I hope most of us have seen it, Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin and a sweet innocent girl in the local cafe’, great stuff…anyway, with a little bit of literary and artistic license it portrayed the motorcycle gangs of the fifties. Riding, drinking, fighting and general mayhem. Ride into town, intimidate the local folks…scare the crap out of them really…take what you want and ride onto the next town. That movie along with others like, Hells Angels on Wheels, Wild Angels and more, stamped the outlaw biker image on the American public. Easy Rider on the other hand, showed ‘the biker’ as a loner, criminal and maybe not such a bad guy.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley of California. A suburb of Los Angeles. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ronald Reagan, Disney Studios, Warner Brothers, many celebrities and notables called ‘The Valley’ home. So did some motorcycle gangs. The Hessians, The Mongols, The Hells Angels and a couple of minor gangs. Everybody saw them and heard the myths about them. In those days, they really didn’t lay low. The parties were legendary, the crimes..violent, the image..huge. True modern mythology. Then for a few years, it seemed that the gangs were, well, not such a big deal. You didn’t hear much about them, didn’t see them everywhere so, almost forgotten. Relegated to history. Not so.

Motorcycle gangs became businesses. Corporations no less. Violence was down, business was up. Crime does pay. Territories set and observed. There were still investigations, arrests and convictions. Fued’s between rival gangs still existed but no longer on the front page of the L.A Times. All seemed pretty quiet on the Motorcycle Gang front.

A few years ago that quiet ended. And I was a little closer than I would like. I was in Laughlin, Nevada celebrating my brothers birthday. I had ridden my Ducati Darmah and the valet guys let me park right by the front door. Two days later my Ducati was surrounded by a sea of Harley’s. It was the beginning of the annual Laughlin Run. After a lot of careful manuevering, I was able to extricate my motorcycle and get on the road for home. I was heading west, and a caravan of Harley’s was heading east. It was quite a sight..and sound. Before I had even gotten home that night, the Motorcycle Gangs were back in the spotlight. Stabbings, shootings and dead bikers. All at the same hotel I was staying at.

I used to own a small retail business here in Southern California and a few members of a motorcycle club were our customers. They were OK guys, always nice, polite and respectful. We treated them the same way. A couple of members even offered to ‘help’ when our store was broken into. Uh, thanks but no thanks.

This big club decided to have their International 50th Anniversary party in our town. The town government went into a panic. ‘No Motorcycle Parking’ signs up all over, adding police officers from all over the county. The city spent thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to protect the citizenry and in general, making this club feel very unwelcome. The Anniversary event went off without a scene. The members from around the world spent money in stores and restaurants and went home.

A few months later, a large number of the club members were arrested, including the club president, on a wide variety of charges. Some stuck, some didn’t but the clubs days of doing their business quietly or under the radar were now over. Motorcycle gangs had a few brief moments on the front page again. Then just as quickly, out of the spotlight.

Until the other day. Another very large international Motorcycle Gang was raided in the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas. Raided big time! Guns, money, drugs…the stuff of motorcycle gang lore. Back on the front pages and the 11 o’clock news.

This is a bit of a different post for us, but we do call ourselves The Moto ‘World’ don’t we? Well, gangs are part of the motorcycling world, for better or worse. One motorcycle club’s own website has a unique line at the bottom, “When we do right, nobody remembers, when we do wrong, nobody forgets”. I guess participating in toy runs at Christmas are the good things that make up for the bad things?

Earlier on I made a comment about being closer to motorcycle gang activity than I would like. More than the brawl in Laughlin, more than customers in my store. A young man that I have known since he was just a little kid… good family, good friends, a good surfer and computer wiz, is joining a motorcycle gang. Why? I don’t know. It makes no sense. I don’t want to lose a friend to that life because as the gangs say, “once you’re in, you’re in for life”.

Motorcycle gangs are back in the news again, but hopefully, they will be back out of it just as quickly. Those of us in the 99% don’t need negative publicity.

Ride safe, ride fast and stay in the UPPER 1%, not the lower.

Paul

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