Jimmy: “Why did I join the Coffin Cheaters? Freedom, man—not havin’ to listen to anybody tell me what to do.”
In the month I spent hanging out with outlaw biker gangs in Australia, I was threatened at least three times with various grisly forms of death and/or maiming. First, a Hell’s Angel threatened to bury me on the club’s property in Broadford. Second, a Gypsy Joker said he was going to shoot me if I didn’t get the fuck away from him. And third, a Coffin Cheater told me he was going to find out where I lived and ‘come fuck me up’ if I wrote anything about his club running drugs. So I won’t. But apparently there wasn’t any good speed in Australia until the Hell’s Angels invited a couple of Oakland, Californian brothers down for a few weeks in the 80s to teach them how to build methamphetamine labs. Ever since then, bikies and drugs and women and guns have gone fairly well hand in hand in Australia and you can get a point easier than change for a twenty. One of the unwritten rules though, in every outlaw biker club in Australia, is no heroin. That’s grounds for excommunication. Rules are an important part of the bikie lifestyle. Most of the clubs here follow the 1% creed, handed down from the Hell’s Angels in the USA. You’ve probably already heard some of it, like if a brother gets in a fight, then everybody has to help him out, no matter what. So even if a cop punches him in the face in the middle of a cop conference, the whole club has to join in. You also have to be a dude and you have to ‘prospect’ for a period before you can be a full member. This is to test your mettle, and, to see if you’ll take a beating for your brothers. Some clubs have even started using lie-detector tests on new prospects after undercover cops infiltrated several clubs a few years back. Oh, and you have to ride a Harley-Davidson. So, I spent some time hanging around with a few of the clubs, scared shitless for most of the time. I managed to get into two clubhouses—The Outlaws’ in Launceston and The Vigilantes’ in Melbourne. Clubhouses are the biker equivalent of where the mother Alien lays her eggs, but with more beer kegs, Samantha Fox posters and pictures of dead club members on the walls. After I spoke to the president of the God’s Squad, John Smith, he let me drive his Harley. Previously we had been admiring his 2003 Ultra-Classic 100th Anniversary model with 1500cc of rumble and giant saddlebags and running boards. It was the hugest bike I’d ever seen, and when he offered to let me take it for a ride, I couldn’t refuse. After a pants-shittingly scary ride around the block, I came back, turned into the gravel driveway, and accidentally dropped the bike on its side. And I’m not kidding; blood was coming out my pores by the time I got that bike upright, just before John walked outside. Here’s what I learned about Australian 1% outlaw bikie clubs. Hell’s Angels The mother of all biker clubs, since 1948 (1973 in Australia), the Angels are the most notorious Aussie club, though they allegedly only have a couple of hundred members here. Apparently they have stopped wearing the 1% patch to differentiate themselves from all the other patch clubs in Oz. Their motto is: “Three can keep a secret if two are dead.” Bandidos All clubs have dues, and in Sydney, they are reportedly around $600 a month plus at least $1,000 to join. This money mainly goes towards legal defences and clubhouse rent. If you leave the club, you’re expected to donate your Harley. There are around 20 Bandidos chapters in Australia, and they probably have more members than the Angels. Their motto is: “God Forgives, Bandidos don’t.” Outlaws I rode in an Outlaws’ Poker Run in Tasmania, which entails riding from one bar to another for a few hours on a bunch of Harleys. No Jap bikes were allowed. The Outlaws are very White Power oriented. I asked one guy why he had a swastika on his bike when there were no black people in Tasmania, and he replied, “’Cause I don’t like niggers.” Coffin Cheaters The Coffin Cheaters are home-grown Aussie bikers who have been around since 1970. The police say that they’re in cahoots with the Outlaws, and I’ve seen them racing the Hell’s Angels, but you’ll never see two clubs openly fraternising. Rebels The biggest bikie club in Australia (numbers wise), the Rebels and the Hell’s Angels are rarely seen at the same place at the same time, thanks to a 1970s gang war (old grudges die hard with bikie clubs). The Rebels have over 1,200 members, and at least 60 chapters here. Other clubs say this is because the Rebels have lax entrance requirements for new prospects. Odin’s Warriors Isn’t that the most insanely good name for a 1982 metal band? Gypsy Jokers With only around 120 members in Australia, these guys have earned a fierce reputation, especially lately after an ex-cop in Western Australia (where there is the highest ratio of bikies in the country) was car-bombed. The club’s colours feature a skull with the thirteenth tooth missing, which corresponds to the thirteenth letter of the alphabet—‘M’ for marijuana. Black Uhlans This is a powerful but extremely secret gang with around 80 members. If you see one of these guys ripping down a country road, it’s like a unicorn and a leprechaun rolled into one. Apparently ten guys from another club called the Fourth Reich formed it while they were fleeing a rape accusation. Finks Earlier this year, two members of the Finks, who were charged with attempted murder barricaded themselves in the club’s Gold Coast compound, which was surrounded by razor wire and heavy steel gates. The cops didn’t even bother knocking, opting instead to just wait for the pair to eventually come out. They are rumoured to be the most brutal, ruthless club in combat, and they are totally democratic, with no club president. Vikings, Warlocks, Tramps, Deroes Seriously, I don’t want to harp on it, but were these guys thirteen years old when they came up with these club names?
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY CARLISLE ROGERS