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| Michael P. Ehline

What is the Difference Between an M/C and a Motorcycle Riding Club?

No, contrary to Hollywood, not all bikers wear beards or ride in illegal “gangs.” These terms are mostly for-profit media sensationalism. Yes, most M/Cs and R/Cs use prospecting to see if a potential member is acceptable. I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with many military veterans in Motorcycle Clubs. I am also a motorcycle accident lawyer and an inactive U.S. Marine. Below, I will give you a rundown of different types of M/Cs, Riding clubs, and weekend warriors, and some examples and explanations here and in other countries.

In short, an M/C or “motorcycle club” typically refers to an organized group of motorcycle enthusiasts who share a common interest in motorcycles and motorcycle culture. Motorcycle Clubs are often thought of as traditional motorcycle clubs. But historically, Riding Clubs (R/C) are the oldest structures, originating from the very first bikes to start coming off the assembly lines.

Origins of 1% M/C Term

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) purportedly claimed that 99% of motorcycle riders were law-abiding citizens after public issues related to M/Cs like the Hells Angels club members engaging in violence. In other words, the AMA’s statement gave rise to the concept of the 1% motorcycle club so proudly used by outlaws to this day.

Outlaw, M/C and R/C

Both riding clubs and M/Cs often have a specific set of rules and regulations governing their behavior and activities and may have a specific set of requirements for membership, such as owning a particular type of motorcycle. M/Cs are generally more martial and exacting in their standards and rules. There are also subsets of M/Cs, including “Outlaw,” or “Diamond” clubs that rose from the ashes of World War II.

On the other hand, a motorcycle riding club is generally a more informal group of motorcycle riders who gather together for recreational purposes, such as group rides, social events, or other situation that arises. These clubs may not have a specific set of rules or requirements for membership and may be open to anyone who shares a love of motorcycles and riding. Again, here too, there are many subsets, including the Marine Riders, who often support Paul Ehline Memorial Ride events.

Basic Similarities

While both a motorcycle club and motorcycle riding club remain centered around the shared interest in motorcycles and riding, M/Cs are generally more structured and organized, with a hierarchy of officers and more formalized rules and requirements for membership. Based on my research, motorcycle riding clubs are typically more casual and open to a wider range of members than a typical motorcycle club.

M/Cs and R/Cs will require members to attend club meetings called “church” and support club events. All will require dedicated bikers who ride motorcycles. By-laws will establish how many members are required to form a group of members. When there are not enough, some organizations allow “Nomads” as part of their assembly line in a motorcycle club.

M/C or MCC?

In the context of bikers and motorcycle clubs, MCC stands for “Motorcycle Club.” It is often used interchangeably with the term M/C, which also stands for “Motorcycle Club.” These terms are typically used to refer to any group of individuals who share a passion for motorcycles and have formed a club or organization around that interest and other clothing that makes them stand out.

Three-Part Patch Motorcycle Clubs

Again, it remains important to note that not all Motorcycle Clubs are Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs (typically three-part patch clubs), and there are many non-outlaw clubs that use the MCC or M/C designation with their own unique prospect period. The goal with most riders is to find a real family of other brothers that know how to ride safely. Not everyone can handle the riding and clubhouse lifestyle, and like Navy SEALs, typical ranks suffer a high divorce rate compared to the general public.

What are the Types of M/Cs, Including Hierarchy Starting With Outlaws?

Most people categorize various Motorcycle Clubs (M/Cs) by their values, origins, and biker-like behavior. Generally speaking, being in this type of motorcycle club is considered a hard life, exposing people to the elements and dangers of reckless cars, trucks, and bus drivers. Potential problems faced on the highways are always more fatal, giving rise to a certain amount of respect for a brother who belongs to a brave brand with meaning. Despite the bad media, the future of M/Cs seems bright, as the press labels alpha males as toxic, further forcing them into such a brotherhood.

The hierarchy and specific requirements for each club can vary, but here is an overview of some types of Motorcycle Club, including Outlaw clubs, and their hierarchy starting from the top:

1% Clubs and Motorcycle Club Members

The term “1%” refers to a claim made by the American Motorcyclist Association that 99% of motorcycle riders are law-abiding citizens, while the remaining 1% are outlaws. These are the guys wearing the coveted three-piece patch denoting geography. Traditionally, only the large clubs could have a state like “California” on their bottom rocker. When smaller clubs added that same rocker, it led to violence and still does to this day. Law enforcement claims that outlaw motorcycle clubs are often involved in criminal activity. Allegations include drug trafficking, extortion, and violent crime.

In Hollywood culture, Outlaws have generally considered the respected and interesting elite with the highest loyalty standards. They typically ride in the most difficult, almost military-like formations setting them apart from many non-1 % M/Cs, a common goal that sets them apart. In this regard, a non-outlaw Motorcycle Club will generally pay homage or some tribute to outlaws and try to engage in loose friendships to avoid trouble and be able to ride in their locales without being looked down on as a stranger or threat to other established motorcycle club members.

A motorcycle club (M/C) typically has three types of members:

  1. Full patch members
  2. Partially patched members
  3. Prospects.

Full Patch Members

It takes blood, sweat, and tears to earn a full patch. These members of an M/C have earned the freedom and right to wear the full club patch, indicating that they have met the club’s requirements for membership and have proven their loyalty and commitment to the club. Full patch members will be fully initiated members of the club who have permission to end their probationary period and are considered FULL and equal members in the eyes of these MC’s.

It’s important to note that the specifics of membership and patch hierarchy can vary between different motorcycle clubs, and some clubs may have additional levels or titles for their members. Additionally, the process of becoming a full patch member can vary in length and difficulty depending on the club’s requirements and traditions. A full patch is living proof the individual met the exacting standards of the club.

[Partially] Patched Members

These are partial members who have earned the right to wear the club’s patch but have not yet achieved full patch status. Partially patched members are members who have earned some club recognition but have not yet earned the full patch. They may have earned a prospect patch, a support patch, or other similar recognition, but they are not yet fully initiated members. Partially patched members may be on their way to becoming full-patch members or be content to remain in their current role within the club. They may have additional duties or responsibilities within the club.


Prospects are individuals who are seeking membership in the club and are in a probationary period. They are typically required to wear a prospect patch to signify their status. They are expected to prove their loyalty and commitment to the club before being considered for full membership. Prospects are often required to perform various tasks and duties for the club and its members, and they may also receive training on club protocol and history during this time.

M/C Support Clubs

These are clubs that support a larger M/C, often by providing security or performing other functions. Support clubs typically have a formal structure and are required to follow the rules and orders of the larger club.

According to the FBI and other public data, Hells Angels outlaw support clubs reportedly include:

Groups of motorcycle enthusiasts who support and ride with the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.

It’s important to understand that some of these clubs may have had affiliations with the Hells Angels in the past, but not all of them are necessarily current supporters or allies. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that the Hells Angels and their support clubs have been the subject of controversy and legal scrutiny in many countries. With the passing of Sonny Barger, we have yet to see if there will be a national face as the HA’s had in the past.


These are members of an M/C who do not belong to a specific chapter or region. They may travel to different areas to represent the club or perform other duties. Nomads wear a specific patch denoting they are not in a specific chapter and generally don’t enjoy the same closeness or voting power as their brothers in a full-fledged chapter.


The president, or “P,” is the elected leader of an M/C, or R/C, responsible for overseeing the club’s activities, enforcing its rules and regulations, and making decisions on behalf of the club. This is a coveted position and can place internal loyalties at issue as competing chapters vie for the National Presidency. In recent news, we have seen there was an apparent rivalry between George Christie and Sonny Barger over who would be the face of the Angels. Ultimately, Christie was forced out, and he remains persona non grata among much of the M/C community at large today.

Vice President

This is the second in command in an M/C, responsible for assisting the President and taking on leadership duties in their absence. What they do varies based on the power granted under the club bylaws.


This member is responsible for maintaining the club’s records, handling communication with other clubs, and managing the club’s administrative tasks. Are you starting to see the military like order of these organizations yet?


This member is responsible for managing the club’s finances, including collecting dues, paying bills, and keeping track of expenses.

Sergeant at Arms

This member is responsible for enforcing the club’s rules and protecting the club and its members from threats or conflicts. There are also other positions like road captains, etc.

What is the difference Between Outlaw M/C and Non-Outlaw M/C?

The main difference between Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs (OMCs) and Non-Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs (NOMCs) is their adherence to the law and their relationship with society. Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs are groups of motorcyclists who openly and deliberately break the law, often engaging in criminal activities such as drug trafficking, extortion, and violence. OMCs may also have a confrontational attitude towards law enforcement and may see themselves as outside the boundaries of society. OMCs typically have a strict hierarchy, and members must follow the orders and rules set forth by the club’s leadership.

On the other hand, Non-Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs are groups of motorcyclists who are law-abiding citizens and are not involved in criminal activities. They often focus on a specific type of motorcycle or riding style, and their members share a passion for motorcycles and the culture surrounding them. NOMCs usually have a more relaxed structure and culture, and members are free to come and go as they please.

NOMCs may also have a positive relationship with society and may engage in charity work or community service. They generally see themselves as part of society and work to uphold the law rather than breaking it.

Not all motorcycle clubs fall into either the OMC or NOMC categories, and there are a wide variety of clubs with different cultures, values, and attitudes toward the law.

What is the difference Between an M/C Like Leathernecks LMCI and Hells Angels?

One huge difference is that Marines formed the foundation of the LMCI, whereas the Army Air Corps of WWII formed the basis of the Red and Whites. Original Leathernecks LMCI (Leathernecks Motorcycle Club International) and Hells Angels are both types of Motorcycle Clubs (M/Cs), but significant differences exist, including their origins, values, and activities.

Leathernecks LMCI is a club made up of former and active duty United States Marines and US Navy FMF Corpsmen who share a passion for riding motorcycles and upholding the values of the Marine Corps Navy FMF Team. The club’s membership is restricted to those who have served in the Marines/Docs, and their activities focus on promoting Marine Corps values and supporting fellow veterans.

On the other hand, Hells Angels, although Air Force in its foundations, is considered an outlaw motorcycle club open to all who fit the standard. We have all seen the reported history of their involvement in criminal activity on TV news and the History Channel. We have also seen many cases against them thrown out of court due mainly to government violations of their rights. The club was founded in California in the 1940s and has since expanded to have chapters around the world. According to the FBI, Hells Angels have a reputation for engaging in violent behavior and illegal activities such as drug trafficking and extortion.

Another significant reputational difference between Leathernecks LMCI and Hells Angels is their respective attitudes toward law enforcement. Leathernecks LMCI members are generally considered to be supportive of an orderly society and work to uphold the law. In contrast, Hells Angels members are publicly famous for a more confrontational attitude toward law enforcement and opposition to authority.

Hells Angels will not allow cops or lawyers in their ranks based on public sources. Overall, the perceived differences between Original Leathernecks LMCI and Hells Angels highlight the diversity of the M/C world, with clubs ranging from non-outlaw riding groups to highly organized outlaw groups with a sensationalized media reputation for criminal activity. As a libertarian-leaning person myself, I think less is more. The further away you can be from most, you will enjoy stronger interpersonal relationships.

Members’ Motives for Joining a Motorcycle Club

A prospective M/C members’ motivations to join an M/C will vary from rider to rider. These could range from building friends or combat vets who served with existing members holding similar interests. This can be lifestyle choices or alpha male personality traits. M/C personnel may feel appreciated for supporting other clubs and donating their time and resources to charitable causes such as the Paul Ehline Ride Against Cancer. Generally, all motorcycle clubs are engaged in fundraising or aiding in charity events, with Toys for Tots being a universal event with outlaws, riding clubs, and non-outlaw M/Cs.

Why Won’t Non-Outlaw Usually Have a Bottom Rocker Denoting Geography?

They can, BUT…… In motorcycle clubs, a “rocker” is a patch worn on the back of a club member’s jacket or vest. It typically bears the name of the club and may also include other information, such as the location of the club’s chapter or the year it was established.

NOMCs often do not wear “bottom rockers,” which are patches that bear the name of the city or region where the club is located. This is often because bottom rockers are typically associated with OMCs, who use them to signify their territory and assert their dominance over other clubs in the area.

For NOMCs, wearing a bottom rocker could be seen as an attempt to imitate the OMCs and may lead to misunderstandings or conflicts with other clubs. Additionally, NOMCs generally have a more relaxed culture and structure than OMCs and may not feel the need to assert their dominance or territorial rights in the same way.

Basilone Leathernecks LMCI

Not all NOMCs follow this practice, and some may choose to wear bottom rockers or other patches as they see fit. However, in general, NOMCs tend to avoid the use of bottom rockers in order to avoid any association with Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs or the potential for conflict.

The NON-OUTLAW Original LMCI uses a bottom rocker, but it will say “Corpsman” or “USMC,” denoting itself as the ORIGINAL M/C of the Marines.

Example of Dispute Between Hells Angels and Mongols Over Bottom Rocker?

One notable example of a dispute between the Hells Angels and the Mongols Motorcycle Club occurred in 2002, when members of the two clubs clashed at the Harrah’s Casino in Laughlin, Nevada. A territorial dispute between the two clubs sparked the incident, which left three people dead and several injured.

The Hells Angels and the Mongols have a long-standing rivalry that I watched unfold on TV news when I was younger, with both clubs claiming dominance over certain areas and engaging in violent clashes and turf wars, as indicated by their bottom rockers. The use of bottom rockers and other patches that indicate territorial boundaries has been a major source of tension between the two diamond-level motorcycle clubs, as each seeks to establish and defend its territory, especially in CA.

Modernly, most NOMCs avoid using bottom rockers and other patches that indicate territorial boundaries to avoid any association with the violent conflicts that often occur between OMCs. By eschewing these symbols of dominance and territory, NOMCs can focus on their shared love of motorcycles and the community that comes with it, hopefully without getting caught up in the politics and violence that can accompany membership in an OMC.

Motorcycle Riding Clubs Further Distinguished

Riding Clubs

These are non-outlaw groups of riders who share a passion for motorcycles and often participate in social or charity rides. They may not have any formal structure or hierarchy.

Motorcycle Associations

These are organizations focused on promoting and protecting the interests of motorcycle riders. They may have a formal structure and officers but typically do not engage in outlaw behavior.

Riding Groups or Moto Groups

These are informal groups of riders who gather for social or recreational purposes. They may have a loosely organized structure but typically do not have formal officers or rules.

MG – Moto Groups Further Explained

Motogroups follow similar principles as RC clubs. This kind of club has a wide presence throughout Europe but hasn’t been recognized as a motorcycle club at present in most locales. This is an older trend and does not limit the establishment methods of the group. The biggest difference is the style of clothing, which will normally be hoodies, and there are no vests (cuts) or cut-out clothing. Like Nomads, this will largely be a one- or two-group member gaggle of close friends.

Membership Requirements and Commitments

Like an M/C, a more serious riding club can take years of involvement to become fully patched. Once you’ve joined the club, you will be an insider member. During these phases, you can hang out in these clubs, though you cannot be involved in business or attend “church,” unless it is just to speak or answer questions, and then you will leave the meeting.

After this hang-around phase, your business will become more probated upon a majority vote of fully patched members. Once you are a prospect or probate, you can participate in scouting trips for the clubs and conduct other duties such as guarding the bikes at events, offering security, and proving your loyalty more at a distance. For example, there can be hazing and 2:00 am midnite calls to do tasks like bringing fellow members cigarettes or a beer 100 miles away.

CAVEAT: Most motorcycle clubs are prohibited from allowing women into membership, but there are still club activities operated by women only. Some clubs have ole ladies who are off limits to the members (wife or girlfriend of a patch), and some clubs [usually outlaws] have women who are club property, which can be freely shared sexually by all the patches.

OC/OG – Owners Club / Owners Group

Owner’s club/owner’s group have little to no original names but are helpful references for this article. OCs sometimes must adhere to certain requirements, and the church may not be held for months or years at a time. Usually, to become an authorized member of an owner’s club, you need to own a particular type of bike.

It’s worth noting that there are also some motorcycle riding groups that use the term “club” but do not necessarily identify as M/Cs or an outlaw motorcycle gang. These may include groups focused on specific types of motorcycles, riding styles, or charitable causes.

Above, we discussed the differences between Motorcycle Clubs (M/Cs), riding clubs, club meetings, club officers, and the differences between types of motorcycle club members. We also covered the way club business is run under the different models and how people join motorcycle clubs and attend meetings in the various motorcycle community models of such clubs or their umbrella organizations.


  1. Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs: Aspects of the One-Percenter Culture for Emergency Department Personnel to Consider” by R. E. Cresswell and J. G. Vitali (Journal of Emergency Nursing, 2019) – This article provides an overview of OMCs and their culture, as well as insights for emergency department personnel on how to interact with OMC members who may require medical attention.
  2. The One-Percenter Encyclopedia: The World of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs from Abyss Ghosts to Zombies Elite” by Bill Hayes (Motorbooks, 2011) – This book is a comprehensive guide to the history, culture, and mythology of OMCs, featuring profiles of individual clubs, key figures, and significant events.
  3. Outlaws: Inside the Violent World of Biker Gangs” by Tony Thompson (Random House, 1996) – This book is an investigative journalist’s account of the criminal activities of OMCs, including drug trafficking, extortion, and murder.
  4. The Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga” by Hunter S. Thompson (Random House, 1967) – This book is a classic account of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club, written by the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
  5. Biker Gangs and Transnational Organized Crime” by Thomas Barker and David C. Pyrooz (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) – This book examines the transnational activities of OMCs, including their involvement in drug trafficking, money laundering, and other forms of organized crime.
  6. Inside the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs: A Study of Radicalization, Recruitment and Exit” by Jenny A. Powell (Routledge, 2011) – This book is a sociological study of the processes of radicalization, recruitment, and exit in OMCs, based on interviews with current and former members.
  7. The Outlaw Motorcycle Club as a Social Movement: A Theory of Countercultural Action” by Daniel Wolf (Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 1991) – This article presents a theoretical framework for understanding OMCs as countercultural social movements based on ethnographic research with members of the Hell’s Angels.
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