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WTF Are The One Percenters?

Unveiling the Myth: Exploring the History of 1% Motorcycle Clubs in the Tri-State Area

The “one-percenters” are more gangs than motorcycle clubs. These are the riders that generally ride in groups that you should think twice about passing on the highway.

I got curious about these merry men after a buddy of mine mentioned them while we were on a ride and decided to dig a bit deeper.

So let’s do that.

The history of "1%" motorcycle clubs in the New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania tri-state area is as storied as it is complex. The term "1%" came into existence after a comment made by the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, implying that 1% were not. Since then, several motorcycle clubs have embraced this designation, symbolizing their rebellion against mainstream society.

Early Beginnings

The earliest roots of 1% motorcycle clubs can be traced back to the post-WWII era, where veterans, seeking the same camaraderie and thrill they experienced during the war, formed motorcycle clubs. They often felt disillusioned with society and embraced a lifestyle that prioritized freedom and brotherhood, which often led to friction with law enforcement.

The Formation of Notable Clubs

One of the most notable 1% clubs in the region is The Pagans, which was founded in Maryland in 1959 but quickly spread to the tri-state area. Known for their Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the Norse fire-giant Surtr as their logo, the Pagans are considered one of the most powerful clubs in the Mid-Atlantic region. They have been involved in a range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, arson, and assault.

The Pagans

Hells Angels

Originally a West Coast-based group, the Hells Angels established a strong presence in the East Coast, including NYC, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The group is one of the most famous 1% clubs and has been associated with various criminal activities, notably the infamous Altamont Free Concert incident in 1969.

Although not originally from the region, the Outlaws MC has chapters in Pennsylvania and has been a rival to both the Hells Angels and the Pagans for control of territory.

Outlaws MC

The Breed Motorcycle Club

Originating in New Jersey in the late 1960s, The Breed quickly earned a reputation as a hardcore 1% club. Their feud with the Hells Angels in the late 60s and 70s is well-documented, culminating in the 1974 "Breed / Hells Angels War," which led to multiple deaths on both sides.

Conflicts and Wars

These 1% motorcycle clubs have a long history of violent confrontations with each other, often over territory disputes. Violent incidences in the tri-state area include the aforementioned Breed-Hells Angels War, the Hell's Angels-Pagans conflict in Long Island in the 1980s, and more recent altercations.

The Breed-Hells Angels War erupted in the late 1960s and spilled over into the 1970s. It stemmed from a bitter feud between The Breed Motorcycle Club, originating in New Jersey, and the powerful Hells Angels. As tensions escalated, violent confrontations became commonplace, culminating in a series of deadly clashes. The conflict claimed multiple lives on both sides, leaving a trail of bloodshed and cementing its place in motorcycle club folklore.

Meanwhile, on Long Island in the 1980s, the Hell's Angels and the Pagans clashed in a battle for control over lucrative criminal enterprises and territorial dominance. These two formidable clubs engaged in violent encounters, often resorting to firearms and other weapons to assert their dominance. The conflict unfolded against the backdrop of a changing criminal landscape, with drugs and organized crime playing a significant role in fueling the hostilities.

Present Scenario

In the present day, these clubs continue to have a notable presence in the region, although a stringent crackdown by law enforcement has led to numerous arrests and prosecutions. Despite this, they continue to embody a counter-cultural ethos that resonates with their members, persisting as part of the complex fabric of tri-state and American culture.

While the one-percenters often attract attention due to their 1% status and associated criminal activities, many motorcycling groups promote positive community engagement and a shared passion for motorcycling. The 1% clubs clearly do not represent the broader motorcycling community.

As riders in and around the tristate area, it really is up to us to make sure we represent the very best of riding culture. Wave back to kids, be courteous to other drivers, and in general just don’t be a dick.

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