What Does MC Stand For In Motorcycle Clubs? (OUTLAW or Illegal?)

Motorcycle clubs have been part of popular culture for a long time. Who hasn’t watched the TV series Sons of Anarchy and wondered what being part of an MC would be like? This is especially true for motorcycle riders. I am very attracted to the idea of it!

But what does MC stand for in Motorcycle Clubs?

A Motorcycle Club calling itself an MC is a traditional motorcycle club with its own rules and values. Such clubs may or may not be involved in criminal activities. The MCs who are into criminal activities are called 1 percenters.

This differentiates MCs from other clubs, such as riding clubs and motorcycle associations.

The history of MCs (Motorcycle Clubs)

Motorcycle clubs have existed in the US and other countries since the early 1900s. The oldest motorcycle clubs in the US include the San Francisco motorcycle club and the Yonkers MC. 

But after World War II, many MCs started getting a bad reputation. Many members of motorcycle clubs had served in the war. And when they returned, they had a hard time adjusting to civilian life. 

Many motorcycle club members missed the feeling of excitement and danger. So, as time went by, they became involved in activities that were lawless and dangerous. 

One of the most significant events that added to the bad reputation was the chaos at a motorcycle rally in Hollister, California, in 1947. Known as the Hollister Riot, the organizers suspended the event. And the general public saw bikers as “outlaws.” 

In response to the incident, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) released a statement saying that 99% of motorcycle riders were law-abiding citizens. 

AMA’s statement led to the idea that “1% motorcycle clubs (MCs)” or 1 percenters were not law-abiding. Now, 1% MC is used to refer to outlaw motorcycle clubs.

Today, all clubs that are not affiliated with the AMA are called “outlaw clubs”. But an outlaw club is not necessarily a criminal group. Many outlaw clubs are upstanding organizations.

The 1% MCs, however, are known for their connection with illegal activity and their disposition towards violence.

Traditional MCs

Traditional MCs are very diverse. They include clubs for veterans, police officers, and firefighters, among others. Many of them adhere to the strict rules of their clubs. 

Traditional MCs typically use a 3-piece patch (biker patch). In a 3-piece patch, the center patch has the club’s logo. The top of the back of the vest (top rocker) has the club’s name. And the bottom patch (bottom rocker) shows the country/state/charter. 

This type of patch is used to signify that the AMA has not sanctioned the club. But it is necessarily not a 1% club. 

For example, LEMCs (Law Enforcement Motorcycle Clubs) are often organized along traditional MC lines. They include Iron Breed LEMC and Sacred Sons MC. But the clubs comprise members of law enforcement or the military, and they are not criminal gangs. 

The Iron Order Motorcycle Club is an exception to this. It comprises a group of bikers who are primarily from law enforcement and the military. But despite this, many law enforcement agencies say that it is involved in criminal activity. It has also clashed with many 1 percenter gangs. 

1% MCs

1% MCs are clubs that are known to be involved in criminal activities. They are also called outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs). The FBI states that Big Four OMGs are the infamous Hells Angels MCOutlaws MCBandidos MC, and Pagans MC. 

Other well-known OMGs include Mongols MC, Vagos MC, Devils Disciples Motorcycle Club, and Sin City Deciples Motorcycle Club

While many outlaw motorcycle clubs sport 3-piece patches, the 1% MCs are the only ones who wear a diamond in their 3-piece patch. But in some instances, if an outlaw club has been dominant in an area or town for very long, they also sport a diamond. 

Many 1% MCs have spread out internationally as well. Many are also affiliated or have close connections with international crime organizations. For instance, Pagans MC are widely feared for their ties to the Italian Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood. 

Membership in OMGs and 1% MCs

Most 1% MCs accept only a member that rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Most OMGs are also organized around racial lines. High-profile outlaw bikers have historically been white and excluded other races (Hells Angels MC, for example). 

So, some OMGs were founded for other ethnicities and races. The East Bay Dragons MC is one such example. This is an all-black, all-male, all-Harley Davidson riding motorcycle club based in Oakland, California. 

Outcast MC is another example of an all-black OMG. The notorious Mongols MC was also founded as a Hispanic rival to the Hells Angels. 

Additionally, Sin City Deciples Motorcycle Club started as an all-black MC but now accepts other races.

Support groups for 1% MCs

Some MCs also exist as support groups for the 1% MCs. Support groups work as feeder clubs from where 1% MCs recruit members. They have been known to carry out violent crimes and drug deals on behalf of the main MC. 

The Black Pistons MC is the official support group for Outlaws MC. It is notorious for its violent criminal activities, including a drug distribution ring in Georgia and a grisly murder in Illinois.

Hells Angels MC has many support clubs all over the world. Some in the United States include Aliens MC Nomads, Deathmasters Motorcycle Club, Hell’s Henchmen Motorcycle Club, and Iron Cross Motorcycle Club.

Pagans MC also has an official support group – the Sons of Satan. The Pagans are infamous for their violent activities, and their support group is no less. 

Criminal activity and 1% MCs

OMGs and 1% MCs are infamous for their criminal activities. They have been known for dealing drugs, drug use, extortion, money laundering, murder, and even human trafficking at times. 

At one point, the Mongols had as many as 270 warrants issued against them at once!

Hells Angels MC is believed to be deeply involved in the sale of drugs. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the HAMC may earn up to $1 billion in drug sales annually.

Pagans MC is one of the most notorious MCs for violence. Unlike most other outlaw motorcycle clubs, the Pagans MC explicitly incorporate violence into their culture. Its national sergeant-at-arms chooses 13 members to serve as “Enforcers” or “Regulators.” These members use intimidation and violence to stop all opposition to the Mother Club.

Is being a “One Percenter” in a motorcycle club synonymous with being a member of an outlaw or illegal organization?

Being a “One Percenter” in a motorcycle club does not necessarily mean being part of an outlaw or illegal organization. The meaning of one percenter signifies someone who does not conform to societal rules. While some One Percenters may engage in illegal activities, not all members of motorcycle clubs with this label are involved in criminal behavior.

Are you interested in joining an outlaw MC or 1% MC?

Joining an MC is more complex than filling out an application form and hoping they accept you. For instance, many LEMCs are open only to retired or active law enforcement personnel. 

The process is even more difficult for 1% MCs. For instance, Outlaws MC says on its website that it doesn’t entertain online queries. If you want to join, you must talk face-to-face with a club member. The same goes for Hells Angels. 

Moreover, even if you get invited to join, becoming a full patch member may take years. Potential members must spend time hanging around the club and showing that they are trustworthy. 

Some clubs and charters also have a minimum number of miles you should ride a year. And a specific brand and make of motorbike you need to ride. 

And full members (or any full patch member) must be deeply committed to the club, attend club meetings, and obey the rules. They also have rules on how they interact with other MCs. 

 MCs have extreme codes of conduct within their hierarchical organizations. MC clubs and charters have different ranks. They include the MC president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, road captain, sergeant at arms, member, and prospect.

Can women join OMGs and 1% MCs?

Most three-piece patch bike clubs do not allow women to join. At all. They can hang around with them (as an ‘old lady’), but that’s about it. 

However, some MCs have established associated clubs for women riders. And today, there are also motorcycle clubs for women, created by women and for women riders. Devil Dolls MC is a traditional 3-piece patch MC for women. 

Motorcycle club versus Riding club

The primary difference between a motorcycle club and a riding club is the level of commitment. 

The primary purpose of a riding club is to meet up and enjoy riding bikes together. It is more of a social club with loose rules and fellow bikers, like the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G). New members can also join quickly.

A motorcycle club is a type of club that requires a deep commitment to the club. It’s often about brotherhood, loyalty, and trust. Joining an MC is not easy, as you must follow strict rules and be deeply involved. 


Learning about MCs and how they run is fascinating as a motorcycle rider. Most of their activities and workings are often only privy to the MC members, especially for 1% MCs. 

But what is even more interesting is that motorcycles are such a big part of MCs and their culture. It just goes to show how much true motorcycle enthusiasts love their rides!

Photo of author


Mike, the motorcycle enthusiast behind SuperBike Newbie, fell in love with superbikes during his college years. He owns a diverse range of motorcycles and offers valuable insights into motorcycling advice, maintenance, safety gear, and laws. Despite two decades of riding experience, he continues to learn and shares his knowledge on his website. Mike also has a keen interest in motorcycle club culture. While not a club member, he aspires to be one someday.

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