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History of the Biker Culture
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History of the Biker Culture

To be a biker doesn't only mean to have a bike and be able to drive it - it´s a lifestyle. The main idea in mind of every rider is to enjoy the time spent with the bike and escape from everyday mundane. Originally, bikers were perceived as negative figures even though the examples presented in the media represented only a little part of the large motorcycle family. However, the situation has been changing in recent years with the growing interest of public towards the motorsport and bikers are now perceived in a different light.

The Beginning of the Biker Culture

The end of the Second World War also represents a birthmark of bikes which people used to get back the adrenaline of the war. Veterans of the War were missing their former relationships with their brothers-in-arms and started to create brotherhoods which were now not connected by the weapon but by the bike. However, events of the years after the War also contributed to the negative image of the bikers. The most famous is The Hollister Riot of 1947, a small scandal at the Fourth of July, Gypsy event in California. The media aggrandized the event and created an image of savage bikers who didn´t stop for anyone or anything.

Bikers are Bad

There were also motorcycle groups which accepted the image and played by the rules e.g. Hells Angels or The Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Hells Angels are probably the best-known motorcycle club founded in 1948 in Fontana, California and the club sooner started rather resemble an army than an association with hierarchy and strict code being applied. The second famous club called The Outlaws Motorcycle Club started its journey in 1935 in Illinois but became an official member of the Brotherhood of Clubs in 1963. The two clubs were rivals to death, and they weren't afraid to fight each other to death over their territories.

British Mods and Rockers

Another particular group associated with the bikes are British mods - members of the poor working class who wanted to amuse themselves in a world they weren't fitting in. However, the peaceful approach was soon replaced by the one which is well-known as skinheads today who led a very violent lifestyle. The formerly unified line of skinheads also split into several mods - "peacock mods" which were less violent and aggressive and the "hard mods" which were loyal to their great tradition.

In the 1950s another formerly British motorcycle cultural stream emerged - Rockers. As the name suggests their fame drew from the rock´n´roll music and they were mainly associated with the fast bikes which created a romantic image of Rockers as nomads who love to ride the highway and just enjoy it. The Rockers´fashion style and approach to the bikes aimed to promote their masculinity.

Rise of the violence

The violence of the bikers´ clubs raised during the 1970s when more and more organizations joined the "one percent ranks". In 1970 the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (RICO)was passed and led to the harsh punishments for those who were somehow engaged in the illegal activities of the criminal organizations. Typical examples of crimes were homicide, kidnapping, robbery, money laundering or arson.

Recent Era

In the last decades the clubs´has become much less violent than before even though many of those mentioned above still exist. The bike became, rather than the symbol of masculinity and cultural identity, a modern means of transport. Racing competitions as MotoGP also created a scheme which makes the bike racing more legitimated and clear.

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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