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Rocker referred to in German-speaking members of an originally from the US, motorcycling subculture that often in motorcycle clubs , called Motorcycle Clubs (short MCs), organize. Even motorcyclists who are not organized in clubs are occasionally assigned to the scene and referred to as freebikers (English: 'free motorcyclists').

Australian rockers on a protest ride

In contrast to other motorcyclists, motorcycling for rockers is part of an overall lifestyle that mostly ostentatiously distinguishes itself from bourgeois norms and social rules. The delineation takes place, inter alia, by appropriate appearance such as the wearing of leather or denim vests, the so-called cowls , with conspicuous markings in club colors ( Color ), tattoos, and the use of (partly provocative) symbols.

Often, enthusiastic rockers ride specially modified motorcycles (so-called custom bikes , especially choppers ).


Despite the English-seeming word, the term rocker for the subculture is a German peculiarity or a sham Anglicism . Internationally, representatives of the corresponding lifestyle refer to themselves as bikers or bikies (from English bike , "motorcycle"), while rocker in England originally referred to a type of motorcycle-driving lifestyle that is linked to rock music and modified motorcycles ( Cafe Racer ), see Rocker ( Subculture) .

In Germany , initially the press and later the members of the corresponding motorcycle groups adopted the name themselves. Even with the change in the club scene and alignment with the US biker clubs at the end of the 1990s, the name was retained, and today members of some motorcycle clubs also refer to themselves as rockers. Interpol also used the term rocker as a code word for a large-scale investigation within the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs . In English-speaking countries, the term only refers to the upper and lower patches on the cowl ( top rocker and bottom rocker ).


The phenomenon that motorcyclists in a kind of subculture see themselves as members of a rocker scene , organize themselves in the manner described here in motorcycle clubs ("motorcycle clubs", abbreviated to MC) and stand out from bourgeois society through their appearance , can be proven in the time before the Second World War.

According to its origins, it is not a youth culture, as it was understood in England and Germany in the 1960s to 1980s, but a protest culture. According to a sociological view, soldiers returning home from wars in particular could not fit back into civil life and formed socially closed marginalized groups. Various reasons are given in the literature for this group formation. According to earlier rockers such as Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger , this was due, among other things, to the desire for continued camaraderie and strong solidarity. Thus, members referred to as an expression of a correspondingly narrow interconnectedness often called Brother (dt. "Brother"), which, subsequently, also stressed the importance of the club as a second family or surrogate family (both has survived to this day). A connecting element of the groups was riding a motorcycle together and the feeling of intense liveliness and freedom . Due to limited financial resources (and for the sake of faster driving), the preferred motorcycle was the chopper , where everything superfluous was removed and the motorcycle's performance was increased .

The starting point of the rocker groups were the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington , who were recruited from former members of the US Air Force in 1945 . More rocker groups were added, their increasing criminalization earned them the name Outlaw Motorcycle Gang . Many rockers today see the events at the motorcycle meeting in Hollister on July 4th, 1947, the so-called Hollister Bash, as the most important event for their self-image and their image to the outside world . The events were thematized in the film Der Wilde with Marlon Brando , but above all also dramatized.

In fact, there were clashes between members of various groups and the police at this motorcycle meeting, but these must be considered harmless by today's standards. Even then, it was not the Hollister citizens and the police that made the Hollister Bash an event, but rather the press . Above all, a posed picture in Life magazine caused a sensation. It shows a drunken biker on his Harley , surrounded by beer bottles. The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) allegedly stated after the Hollister events that only "one percent" of motorcyclists were involved in the riots, while 99% of motorcyclists behaved properly. In 2005 the AMA denied to the German magazine Bikers News that it had ever published this news. The legend of the 99% declaration was held to be true shortly after the events. From this the term "Onepercenters" (and the corresponding patch used in the scene) is derived for someone who lives uncompromisingly according to the ideas of the rocker scene - among other things with the corresponding willingness to use violence. And although the appearance of rockers and their public image has changed again and again since the 1950s, the events of that time and, above all, their media processing are still shaping the myth of the violent rocker who loves his freedom above all and for it also accepts a life beyond all bourgeois norms.

In March 1948, some members of the designated Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington in Hells Angels to - initially in and around San Bernardino (California) - which are one of the world's most famous rocker clubs today and were seen as a model for all subsequently created groupings.

The GYPSY MC , founded in 1932 by Lee Simerly in Maryville, Louisiana , is considered the oldest motorcycle club in the world - in the sense described here . In second place is Outlaws MC , founded in 1935 near Chicago, initially as Mc Cook Outlaws Motorcycle Club . The Boozefighters MC (English: booze " schnapps " and fighters "fighters") became known mainly because its members at the above. 'Hollister Bash' attracted attention for excessive drinking and fights.

In the following decades, many of the clubs founded smaller and larger offshoots, so-called chapters or charter , and spread first in the United States and later in Europe. There were always territorial disputes or "rocker wars", such as B. in Canada and Scandinavia . Rocker clubs, especially the big motorcycle clubs, are now considered a worldwide phenomenon.

Motorcycle clubs in Germany and Europe

In Germany, "MCs", as the groups call themselves after the English motorcycle club , were founded in the 1960s, mostly by American soldiers stationed here , or at least inspired by them. The German MC scene quickly became very diverse as a result of the zeitgeist of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The scene was able to maintain this until the late 1990s. The fact that large German motorcycle clubs became subdivisions of American clubs meant that diversity decreased significantly. So in November 1999 the chapters (regional sub-clubs) of the Bones MC became the charters of the Hells Angels MC Germany , and the ("yellow") Ghostrider's MC became the Bandidos MC . With the Ghostriders, the Road Eagle MC Nomads and the Munich Destroyers switched to the Bandidos. On April 21, 2001 the ("black") ghost riders MC Germany changed the emblem (English "color", American "color") after 28 years and became the Outlaws MC Germany . Of the original German clubs, the largest remained the Gremium MC , the oldest purely German club the Red Devils MC and the oldest, the first five years purely American club in Germany, the Iron Horses MC . Numerous medium-sized and small clubs disappeared or went into the larger clubs as chapters or charter ( used synonymously ) ( patchover ), especially in metropolitan areas. Far from big cities, a very lively motorcycle club or friends culture has been preserved, which has been an integral part of rural culture over the decades. But here, too, often due to the threat of violence, a dissolution of many regional clubs in favor of the national groups can be observed.

Structures and characteristics

The internal organization of the motorcycle clubs was even more heterogeneous until the 1980s, whereby there was usually always a leadership group that set the standards for the rest. There were club structures ranging from “Freundeskreis” (only in very small rural clubs) to “military-like” ones. This applies above all to the larger clubs with several departments, some of which are organized internationally. In addition to the management bodies of the individual departments, there are also country or continent-related functionaries.

Common club positions at the department level or in the case of small clubs are president , vice president , secretary (secretary or press officer) and treasurer (treasurer). These offices have very similar functions as in civil associations. Other offices specifically related to the rocker scene are e.g. B. Road Captain , who takes over their coordination during exits and therefore usually drives at the top, or the Sergeant at Arms , Enforcer or Security Chief , who watches over the "club discipline".

The formation of new motorcycle clubs often leads to serious disputes with existing groups if they have not been discussed with them. There are rules that are sometimes difficult to understand for outsiders and sometimes seem absurd and that are interwoven with a concept of honor that can seem exaggerated for non-members. For example, clubs can make “territorial claims”; H. attempts are made to prevent new foundations in “their own” territory - possibly with intimidation or violence. Even a member of another club who wears the emblem of the foreign club from driving through a claimed area is sometimes attempted to prevent the foreign member from taking off the corresponding item of clothing (vest with emblem).


Rocker with cowl, "Member"

The members of a motorcycle club see themselves as brothers and feel strongly committed to one another. Therefore, clubs generally insist on a restrictive, multilevel admission process that can stretch over several years. The process of this entitlement is very similar for most clubs:

  1. Interested applicants are referred to as a hangaround , they are considered supporters of the club and have no special rights or obligations.
  2. The “serious” candidates for full membership , known as Prospect , are recruited from the hangarounds . The length of this entitlement varies; the minimum period is usually two or more years. In some clubs, however, it is not limited in time "upwards". In this case, it is also up to the prospect when he or she actively decides to want to become a full member and, among other things, to take on the associated extended obligations of a member (provided that the club also agrees to this) .
  3. Following the vesting and if both agree Prospect and the club, Prospects can finally full members ( members are). This is usually associated with the award of the club logo as a back patch for the cowl (prospects usually wear a cowl without a logo and sometimes also a patch with the inscription "Prospect").

In the opinion of motorcycle clubs, the time should serve as a prospect for the club on the one hand to get to know the potential full member and to assess whether the candidate "fits" into the club; on the other hand, it also gives the candidate time to assess the complex relationships within a club and decide whether or not to get involved.

The long trial period and the associated restrictions also serve as a guarantee for the club that the potential new member does not look for a "new hobby" after two years. Lifelong belonging and standing together is the decisive link in clubs. The police and some sociologists see parallels in this with criminal organizations . A negative effect of this special bond can be that originally individual conflicts are carried out by groups and can thus escalate and harden (“Your brother ain't always right, but he's always your brother”, “Your brother is not always right, but he is and remains your brother “is a common quote, or“ God forgives, Outlaws don't! ”,“ God forgives, Outlaws don't! ”).

Full membership of women is excluded in practically all clubs, with the exception of a few smaller ones. However, there are also all-women clubs.

Almost all of the larger motorcycle clubs now also offer members and friends (the so-called "supporters") a range of merchandising items (shirts, mugs ...) with the club logo. However, articles with the actual club logos are usually only reserved for "members", articles for supporters and others usually have sayings associated with the club, number combinations or logos modified from the original. This is also intended to prevent "misuse" of the club logo by specifying membership.

Badges and names

Patch of a committee prospect

As a sign of togetherness within an MC, an emblem, the so-called color ( called backpatch in English ), which is worn on the back of the habit . It usually consists of a central image ( center crest ) as well as lettering above and below it ( top rocker , bottom rocker ) indicating the name and geographic origin of the club. To distinguish it from similar badges of other motorcycle clubs that do not see themselves in the above tradition, motorcycle clubs sometimes insert the letters MC or a 1% . The "color" is considered inviolable, it must not be left to others (except possibly other members). Members on probation ( prospects ) initially only receive an incomplete badge, usually only the lettering.

Smaller badges on the front of the habit provide information about the position in the club, such as the above-mentioned offices, and are used for self-expression. For example, there is also a 1% badge or the number 74 for owners of a Harley-Davidson with 74 cubic inches of displacement .

Many, especially smaller MCs, have friendship, commemorative and commemorative badges, which, for example, repeat the club badge in a small format (less than 10 cm), patches that can also be worn by non-members. However, it is not customary for the big clubs to wear badges from other clubs, no matter how small. Occasionally motorcyclists who are part of the rocker scene without belonging to a motorcycle club wear back patches with the term free biker or independent biker . Especially "free bikers" often wear many friendship badges or patches from special motorcycle get-togethers on their robes. In addition, all large clubs and some smaller support clothing and patches that can be worn by non-members and express their proximity to the club in question. These patches and items of clothing often show the name or emblem of the club, supplemented by the note Support , whereby many clubs only allow non-members to use paraphrases of the club name, such as Support 81 , Support Fat Mexican etc.

In addition, there are many smaller badges and badges that are worn within motorcycle clubs, but their meaning is not always clearly known. This applies, for example, to the badges, which are sometimes associated with killing or injuring people. Here, due to the structure of the clubs, it is almost impossible to get clarity about the actual meaning between the legends, even if the information sometimes comes from "insiders". Examples of such designations are:

  • Filthy Few: Killing a Human
  • Expect No Mercy: killing or seriously injuring someone
  • Dequiallo: Injury to a police officer

Other patches have less dramatic significance or are primarily intended to provoke:

  • ACAB : All Cops Are Bastards (insulting cops)
  • FTW : Fuck the world

Many motorcycle clubs rewrite their names, as the use of the name is often only permitted for members and only in club matters. As a description or codes are known, for example:

  • Bandidos MC: The Fat Mexican (according to the badge), Red and Gold (according to the club colors)
  • Blue Angels MC : 21 for the letters B and A.
  • Devils Diciples : 44 for the letter D.
  • Hells Angels MC: 81 for the letters H and A, Big Red Machine (after the club colors)
  • Gremium MC : 7 or Black Seven (for the G, but also the number of letters in the name)
  • Outlaws MC : crossed pistons for the two crossed pistons in the center patch, AOA for American Outlaw Association, GFOD for God forgives, Outlaws don't !, Lucky 15 for the letter O.
  • Road Runners MC : 18 for the letter R.
  • Sons of Silence : SOS

The named components of the name refer to activities typical of the scene, for example tattoo studios or motorcycle racing groups, to MC participation. The first letter of an MC is often grouped with FF (for example as OFFO ) and then means Outlaws forever, forever Outlaws , or AFFA ( Angels forever, forever Angels ) for the Hells Angels , with the exception of the Freeway Riders ' EFIF ( one Freeway always Freeway ).

Rocker in society

Apart from police investigation reports, occasional press reports and books by dropouts, there is little general and hardly any scientific literature on the phenomenon of motorcycle clubs. This is due, on the one hand, to the tight, isolated structures of the clubs and, on the other hand, to the large gap between the academic world of social sciences and the lifestyle of rockers. As a result, the image of rockers in the population is mainly determined by press releases and films.

This picture is usually very ambivalent. On the one hand, the appearance of most rockers aims at provocation and a demonstration of power, which in many people tends to trigger fear or at least reluctance. This assessment is reinforced by frequent press reports in which "rocker gangs" are associated with acts of violence and organized crime ( drug trafficking , prostitution ).

On the other hand, rockers have the image of freedom-loving rebels and represent a modern variant of the lone rebel . For some companies, they are even suitable as "advertising icons". For example, a German building society started a large advertising campaign in 2007–2008 with rockers as advertising ambassadors .

A similarly ambivalent attitude is sociologically called the rocker paradox when the members of an MC subjectively feel freedom, although they are subject to strict rules and subordinate themselves to the group due to the numerous constraints and norms within the club and the scene. Rituals, clothing, the make of the motorcycle, handling, language and appearance are all strongly influenced by collective uniformity.

From rock circles it is repeatedly complained that politicians and investigative authorities are massively fueling the negative image of rockers in the population. In 1986 the interior ministers of the federal states published a poster on which rockers were generalized as a symbol of violence against citizens. In the course of the political disputes over this poster, a cross-club interest group for bikers and rockers in Germany was founded, the Biker Union .


Indeed, motorcycle clubs and their members are repeatedly the focus of police work. The often used in this context, the concept of Brotherhood of Outlaws is misleading because it does not in American usage Lawless says, but first those were the (above) ruled by Hollister from the AMA (outlawed). So the use of the word has changed over the decades. Internationally, the police authorities often speak of so-called outlaw motor cycle gangs (“lawless motorcycle gangs ”).

The mass media often cites convictions of MC members along with the name of the motorcycle club. The Scandinavian rocker war in the 1990s between Bandidos MC and Hells Angels MC is worth mentioning because it resulted in several deaths among those involved, but also among bystanders, as well as the use of war weapons .

In all of the major motorcycle clubs, it should be noted that there are not only individual criminal members, but that they are often recruited from such a milieu . The popular conclusion that as a result these motorcycle clubs, or even motorcycle clubs in general, are criminal organizations is controversial. In fact, despite multiple charges, convictions or even club bans in this area are a rarity. The executive bodies of the Federal Republic of Germany are therefore increasingly trying to enforce bans through association law, so far often without success, because bans can be undermined by dissolving themselves and setting up companies. The formation of specialty public prosecutor's offices like in Berlin could therefore be more successful. Discontinuations of proceedings, which are often seen in connection with the very close cohesion among the members and a very considerable potential for threatening possible witnesses and third parties, could then become less frequent.

Both insiders and investigative authorities assume that the large and international motorcycle clubs in particular should have their main sources of income from the security service sector, legal and illegal prostitution or brothel operations and all trades related to these areas (human trafficking, extortion of protection money).

Rocker crime

Rocker crime is committed by rocker groups. Rocker groups are an association of people with a strict hierarchical structure, close group cohesion with uniformed clothing and strict rules they have created themselves ( clique ). Rocker crime includes all crimes committed by one or more members of a rocker group, which, in terms of motivation for behavior, are directly related to membership of this group and solidarity . That is why biker crime is defined by the motive for the crime committed, which is directly related to the motorcycle club. For the assignment, the observation of the crime, supported by criminal experience, is sufficient . The majority of crimes committed by members of rocker associations are organized crime and include crimes of brutality ( physical harm : simple physical harm , dangerous physical harm ; extortion , predatory extortion , threat ). These crimes are often based on traditional hostilities between clubs.

Court judgments

In January 2015 , the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) recognized under certain conditions whether rockers who had not previously been personally identified under criminal law may be withdrawn from their weapons license . The judgment was based on a corresponding lawsuit by three “Bandidos” members from Bavaria. According to the court ruling, members of rocker clubs can in principle have their gun license withdrawn “because of unreliability”. Due to the structure of the rocker clubs, every member could be drawn into violent fights. An improper use of the weapons or their surrender to unauthorized persons is to be assumed. The rockers' lawyers had argued that a prognosis of "unreliability" could only be made on the basis of concrete, proven actions. According to the BVerwG, certain structural features of the group must carry the prognosis that the person will in future implement behavior within the meaning of Section 5 (1) No. 2 WaffG .

In other cultures

Movies and TV series


  • Michael Ahlsdorf : Everything about rockers. The laws, the history, the machines. 3. Edition. Huber, Mannheim 2009, ISBN 978-3-927896-30-7 .
  • Ulrich Detrois : Hell ride. A German Hells Angel unpacks. Econ, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-430-20106-3 .
  • Martin G. Opitz: Rocker in the field of tension between club interests and social norms. Hartung-Gorre, Konstanz 1990, ISBN 3-89191-377-X . (see Diss., Univ. Bremen, 1989).
  • Günter Brecht: Rocker in Germany. 1983, ISBN 3-921265-36-3 .
  • Hunter S. Thompson : Hell's Angels. Heyne, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-453-62005-4 .
  • Ralph "Sonny" Barger : Hell's Angel. My life. German first edition. Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-203-75536-X .
  • Titus Simon: Rocker in the Federal Republic. A subculture between youth protest and tradition building. Deutscher Studien-Verlag, Weinheim 1989, ISBN 3-89271-108-9 .
  • Edward Winterhalder : Out in Bad Standings: Inside the Bandidos Motorcycle Club. The Making of a Worldwide Dynasty. Blockhead City Press, 2005 / Seven Locks Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9771747-0-6 .
  • Edward Winterhalder, Wil De Clercq: The Assimilation: Rock Machine Become Bandidos. Bikers United Against the Hells Angels. ECW Press, Toronto 2008, ISBN 978-1-55022-824-3 .
  • Arthur Veno: The Mammoth Book of Bikers. Constable & Robinson, London 2007, ISBN 978-0-7867-2046-0 .
  • Arthur Veno: The Brotherhoods. Inside the Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs. 3. Edition. Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2010, ISBN 978-1-74237-122-1 .
  • H. Kraut: Damn it, persecute it, betray it. Biker reports from the southern United States. Bikers News / Huber, Mannheim 1988, ISBN 3-908007-53-4 .
  • Reinhard Scholzen : The rockers. Loyalty, respect, brotherhood or criminal associations? In: Mut 7/8, 2012, pp. 42–49.
  • Jörg Diehl, Thomas Heise, Claas Meyer-Heuer: Rocker War: Why Hells Angels and Bandidos are becoming more and more dangerous. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-421-04569-0 .
  • Reinhard Scholzen : rockers. Poetry and truth. In: Police Info Report 4, 2015, pp. 33–35.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Rocker  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Claudia Horkheimer: "Black Devils MC" - Thousands of rockers conquer Diedenbergen . In: Frankfurter Rundschau of August 7, 2009.
  2. Paul Cherry: The Biker Trials: Bringing Down the Hells Angels. ECW Press, Toronto 2005, ISBN 1-55022-638-X , p. 90.
  3. Jay Dobyns , Nils Johnson-Shelton: No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels. Three Rivers Press, New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-307-40586-9 .
  4. From: A bandido unpacks. on: , November 6, 2009.
  5. quoted from: Internal police papers show: Rocker groups are even more dangerous than previously known. on: , March 19, 2010.
  6. American Gangstas: Hells Angels. on: (engl.)
  7. Stefan Schubert In: Solveig Bach: Beyond all motorcycle romance: Rockers are about business. on: , February 16, 2013, accessed February 17, 2013.
  8. Federal Criminal Police Office, Rocker Crime , 2019
  9. BVerwG, judgment of January 28, 2015, Az .: 6 C 1.14
  10. judgment: Rocker forfeit the right to a gun license , FAZ from 28 January 2015