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Jan-22-2009 07:28printcomments

American Motorcycle Culture: The One Percenters

One Percent of all Motorcyclists were deemed "outlaw" by the AMA after the "Hollister Riot" in 1947; the patch has a unique meaning.

1% motorcycle club patch
The One-Percenter patch designates a certain position in the world of bikers; this is not awarded for Murder or crime committed on behalf of the motorcycle club, as per urban legend.

(SALEM, Ore.) - A friend of mine who is the President of a local motorcycle club chapter, explained this week that a college criminology course in Salem, Oregon is teaching students false information about the history of bikers and motorcycle clubs.

Marlon Brando in 'Wild One'

"Tattoo Mike" of the Gypsy Joker club in Salem, says he was frustrated to discover that the college professor was (wrongly) telling students that the 1% patch on the back of club jackets means that the biker has murdered for his club.

That explanation is purely fictitious, and not even close to the actual meaning of what "One Percenter" means.

Did you ever see the movie The Wild One with Marlon Brando?

The tale was inspired and loosely based on a real-life incident that took place over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 in Hollister, California. Now known as the "Hollister Riot", the event gained national attention as it was the focus of a Harper's Magazine article in January 1951 article titled, "The Cyclists' Raid" by Frank Rooney.

On that weekend, about four thousand motorcyclists and other visitors and enthusiasts, roared into the small town over a two day period, and overwhelmed the facilities, according to

Later, the Hollywood movie depiction made the 4th of July event appear to be much more significant than it actually was, according to most reports. In reality, the town was not ransacked, the women were not accosted, and they did not cause a great deal of civil unrest.

Scene from Hollister in 1947, that many
say was actually staged for the camera.
Photo: Chronicle/Barney Peterson

The press apparently couldn't resist the opportunity to play Hollister for all it was worth. Wikipedia states that "Several newspaper articles were written that, according to some attendees, sensationalized the event and Life magazine ran an article and a staged photograph of an intoxicated subject on a motorcycle parked in a bar."

This movie actually may have inspired a movement, as other films depicting bikers soon started showing up in theaters, making the hearts of little old ladies grow faint in fear. Soon black leather jackets soared along with Harley Davidson sales.

And this led to the press asking the "respectable" motorcycle group, the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) to comment on the Hollister incident.

The AMA responded by saying that 99% of all motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, and the last one percent were outlaws.

That, is when and where the term "1%" came into being. It was practically an invitation to would-be outlaw bikers to embrace the term, thanks to the AMA.

So if you ever hear someone tell you that the 1% patch means anything else, you straighten them out and tell them the story of Hollister and the AMA.

Charity Work

I met Tattoo Mike when he and other club members were doing a Christmas Toy Run in 2002. I commented on Mike's chopper being especially cool and he said, "You want to ride it?"

He looked a little surprised as I took his helmet, fired up the chopped Harley with 22" ape-hanger handlebars and a suicide clutch, and took off down the street. I had never ridden a bike with a suicide clutch in my life up to that point, but I had asked enough questions of my Harley friends over the years to pull it off.

He tells me the Gypsy Joker club members still laugh about it; apparently Mike had offered the chance to ride it to several news reporters over the years, and they always declined. He says he had no idea I would jump on it and take off.

I know people in this group who are really decent, and while bikers' club patches may be unwelcome in many places, and loud bikes tend to scare people, I see the better side of them, probably because my dad was always a serious motorcycle enthusiast.

To give you an example, one of my father's last projects was the restoration of a 1913 Harley Davidson. His big, bearded, leather-clad friends who would visit on big chrome choppers were the nicest people you could ever meet. My dad was old school "Mr. Establishment", but Harleys are a universal language that cross every boundary.

I hate to hear that professors in our local college system are so misinformed that they would actually try to rewrite a historical event and meaning of a symbol that any biker could explain, if that professor or the people who create their curriculum, took the time to ask.

This site has a more detailed history on Hollister and the one percenter story:

Here are photos taken by members of the Salem Gypsy Joker MC Club, of me riding Mike's old school chopper during their annual Christmas Toy Run:

News reporter Tim King, while employed by KATU Channel-2 News
in Portland, Oregon at the time, rides the chopped Harley
down the street in Keizer, Oregon. Photos: Gypsy Joker MC


Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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UNNAMED June 15, 2019 10:39 am (Pacific time)


Craig The Yooper August 11, 2015 2:55 pm (Pacific time)

When I was about 10 years old, in 1968, my older cousin had a little Yamaha 250 Scrambler. I always bugged him to take me for a ride on it, which he usually obliged. One summer day at the beach on Lake Superior we hopped on his bike and went to a nearby tavern to get some refreshments. Suddenly 3 guys from out of town rolled in on big thundering Harley's. They struck up a conversation with my cousin and he told them he was going to take me for a ride on his Yamaha. One of the men said "why don't you take the kid for a ride on a real motorcycle", and we went outside and off we went for a quick jaunt up and down the highway on the strangers Harley. I don't know if the men were MC club members or not, but to this day I'm still amazed that they would let a total stranger use their bike to take a kid for a ride. My cousin passed away many years ago, but I've treasured that memory for 47 years.

Gay[my name not my status] May 17, 2014 10:11 am (Pacific time)

I was there the night the shifters died.

Cryss May 13, 2014 3:15 pm (Pacific time)

Dobble~D~Debi this is Wally's Daughter and if you were around the club as much as you say you were you just put way too much info in your message! Indian John if that is still your email I will be contacting you would love to catch up! Vic and Dave a lot your info is way off really should have your facts straight!

Anonymous June 7, 2013 2:11 am (Pacific time)

I am the son of a tacoma shifter

Candice Mooneyham February 27, 2013 3:18 am (Pacific time)

Haven't commented in awhile. Just wanted to say hurray! Life is good! All is coming together

Anonymous June 4, 2012 6:58 pm (Pacific time)

Debbra old Lobo Brother

Dobble~D~Debi Delmas May 26, 2012 3:19 pm (Pacific time)

This bin my family 40 yr. when they were still a car club raceing So.hill Racey Puyallup My mom owned restuarnts in Tacoma and met Drummer and Jammer First@ the cloud 9*I had to learn the cod of arms from Cyotte and Gentialman Jim told me never touch anyone COlORS and form then on I was #1 baby sitter Saet warmer on runs 4 years( Till this day my favorit ride was (Lobo's suside clutch!)I use to ride with him on visits to Monro and Wallawalla I miss thoes days!Im still in contact with Gential man Jim and Cyotie Would love to contact Lobo Im in Cottage Grove under Debra Hatfield 99%yours! Shifter forever,Forever Shifter?tacoma,chapter # 13

Anonymous February 28, 2012 8:08 pm (Pacific time)

lol "you straighten them out" offo mfer. write an article on something you know about.

Editor: ??

OPERATION: ENDURING GRATITUDE September 5, 2010 8:16 am (Pacific time)

The true 1%ers are the 1% of 300 million American serving in our Military at any given time...think about that!

Icedragon August 31, 2010 1:46 am (Pacific time)

Hi Mr. King,
Really nice article on the meaning of the one percenter patch.
There is one false information in your article, though. The AMA straigtened out that they could not find the statement about the 99%. They repeated this anwer to a german bikers magazine (bikers news) and their editor in chief. It seems that this statement is legend. Nevetheless, that's what was taken for truth and that's why onepercenters wear the patch and sometimes the tattoo to show that the are the real bikers ... the one percent that abide their own laws and take it serious, beeing a biker (even an outlaw biker).

Icedragon (biker), Germany

Candice Mooneyham June 12, 2010 4:50 pm (Pacific time)

Editor (Tim King): Hey Candice, I have your comment, I would appreciate it if you would drop me an email and we can discuss the nature of your question.  I'm not against publishing it, but would like to be able to know a little more first, thanks.  My email is  

dave May 29, 2010 9:29 am (Pacific time)

thanks vic, i heard lobo had diabetes and had a stroke, that was the last i heard about him, its a sad loss! he was a realy cool guy and he is the reason i ride!

Vic March 24, 2010 6:31 am (Pacific time)

Dave..Im not positive, but a mutual friend told me a couple of years ago that he had died....

Dave September 13, 2009 3:49 pm (Pacific time)

hey vic, do you know were lobo is now? i met him when i was 19 he was a friend of my uncles when he lived in the lyle wa area.

Chachi 'VFFV' April 18, 2009 7:26 am (Pacific time)

Tim, its good to see a biker who works with the media and puts it straight, and thanks for Soldiering with the troops, if you ever make it out to the east coast, look us up at for any runs we might have going. Veterans MC. 'VFFV' L/R

John February 23, 2009 6:38 pm (Pacific time)

Is a suicide clutch where you change gears by timing the rpms and speed and shifting w/o a working clutch? Dumb question maybe but I used to drive a 66 Beetle that way.

Tim King: Careful John, you might cause me to write another entire article about it! All of the old Harleys through, if I'm not mistaken, the early 60's, had a hand shift three-speed transmission. The foot-operated clutch had no spring like a car clutch, and if you pushed it down it stayed there. To make the bike roll away from a light you eased the clutch back with your heel and you were off.

When people started customizing Harleys and Indians in the post WWII years, they began cutting the back half off the clutch pedal and adding a spring. This is a suicide clutch. The bikes generally had the tanks and tank shifters removed, and a short gear shift is attached to the transmission.

If you have the clutch down and the bike in first gear, you have to hold it up with your right foot only. If you suddenly need to put your left foot down, and you happen to be revving the engine, then the bike will launch forward. If you are at a red light, it is usually suicide, especially back in the old days before helmet laws existed, not that they do everywhere. I hope this explains the idea of a suicide clutch.</b>

Grumbler February 7, 2009 10:00 pm (Pacific time)

There's tons of excellent articles about the motorcycle culture at the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies: Be sure to check out the Archived Articles.

Indian John January 26, 2009 5:28 am (Pacific time)

Vic, pls contact me

Angel January 25, 2009 4:14 am (Pacific time)

Excellent story....and thanks for correcting the professor. Well done!!!

Sgt. Pepper January 23, 2009 6:54 pm (Pacific time)

You're right about the education part. Nothing can really compare to life experience if one chooses to learn from it. The fact that it was addressed and resolved would have been a good finish to the story. The way it was presented left me uneasy and unsure. Thanks for clarifying that.

Tim King: I agree that the story would have been better had that part been added. The comment section is a remedy though and people really read these. Some stories have become far more interesting via comments all posted after the fact, thanks for you help.

Sgt. Pepper January 23, 2009 3:30 pm (Pacific time)

You're right Mr. King. If there is indeed a professor at a local college teaching obviously incorrect information about this topic we just let him continue to do so without any interuption. You could call them on this and change what's going on but that wouldn't be any fun now would it.

Tim King: Actually, the matter was resolved professionally and without embarrassment to the professor or the institution, so it ended very well. Everyone makes mistakes, and they are sometimes easily corrected. You fault me for whatever reason, but I am extremely unique as a journalist and always have been, because I have insight into more real life situations than most of my contemporaries. Another comment earlier today, assaulted me for not having more of a formal education to brag about. I wonder if that individual has ever worked with a journalist who has a Ph.D. or Master's? I have and in my book it is pure overkill. I may not have attended an Ivy League school, but I have still visited more places, and had more experiences, than the some of the nation's most educated journalists. I disagree with anyone who thinks that piece of paper is a prerequisite to being a repoter. I respect education, but some of us have a more specialized route in this life and not burning off those years in a classroom environment can be a benefit.

Sgt. Pepper January 23, 2009 3:12 pm (Pacific time)

Nice piece of journalism. I didn't know that "I heard from a guy that another guy said this" was actually an acceptable information source for a reporter. I like to log on here to check in on the liberal mind set every now and then but you are really starting to scare me Mr. King.

Tim King: You know, I could name the school and even the professor but I chose not to. I have been reporting for over twenty years and what you have to say about it really makes a very small difference if it affects anything at all. So try not to be scared, just understand that when reporters approach certain subjects there is sometimes a particular tact we need to use. Many who write are unfamiliar with this obvious fact, but then they couldn't jump on a chopped Harley and ride off either. I have never claimed to be anything more than what I am, and I am thankful that our site has a large number of readers, most of whom don't complain. People like you look for small things to tear people up over, I hope you find gratification in that somehow.

Mark January 23, 2009 12:55 am (Pacific time)

Well-written; it is good to see an objective look at people that so many love to dehumanize. I worked for a patch-holder many years ago in his bike shop; these were folks that gave me a hand up when most wouldn't give me the time of day, although loyalty was expected in return. It was with regret that I walked away from this world to pursue other job interests; I look back often.

Daniel January 22, 2009 11:42 pm (Pacific time)

Great article Tim , its seems people are always ready to judge negatively what they know only thru misrepresentation in the mass media . The Wild One was one of my all time favorites , i remember seeing it with my brother when we were young . I love the rolling shots from the bikes . Those were the days when the Harley and the Indian were the kings .

Vic January 22, 2009 5:58 pm (Pacific time)

It seems like a quite a few people here have bikes or cars that they have built or restored or customized. Maybe there is a potential article/pictorial here...a "readers rides" thing. Id send in a couple of pics...

Tim: Vic, I'd be totally open to that idea. Do you know that Bonnie and I had a TV show in Las Vegas called Hot Wheels in Las Vegas that ran for two, 13-week series? It was quite a departure from news and hard work but I think the shows were pretty cool. Lots of fast cars and hot bikes and Las Vegas models. It was enough to keep us really busy! If you ever want to check out an episode, just type the show name into Google and it will open a video that I posted of an entire show. Back to your idea, I will kick that around with Bonnie and see what kind of way we can go about it, thanks for the great idea!

EazyMoney January 22, 2009 1:14 pm (Pacific time)

How many motorcycle clubs does Salem have? I can think of the Road Brothers, the Free Souls, Of course the Gypsy Jokers, A.B.A.T.E.... What other ones are there?

Tim King: That is a really good question EasyMoney, if somebody wants to explain in the comments that is great or I can ask around about it. There is actually a lot of movement right now among the clubs and there is word that some federal guys have inflitrated some clubs and are trying to really escalate otherwise non-existing problems. That is just something I have heard, but I believe it could be true.

Vic January 22, 2009 8:41 am (Pacific time)

The teacher was probably confusing 1%ers with the Hells Angel's "Filthy Few". Members with a "Filthy Few" patch have killed for the club. I used to hang with The Shifters and Brother Speed, and most everyone was straight up decent people, usually with families and jobs. I was lucky enough to go on a run with Brother Speed and it was impressive. As a visitor, I was at the back of the pack and the noise from 50-60 Harleys was awesome. It was like a military convoy...riders at the front would block intersections for the rest of us...we never slowed down. If the cops tried to pull us over, the last guy in line would pull over, but everyone else would keep going. The Shifters were dissolved in 1982 by the President Larry "Lobo" King, because some patchholders were comitting burglaries and other crimes and putting the heat on them. Cool article !

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.