Hells Angels have a reputation for all the wrong reasons. Cops say they engage in illegal activities, while the public sees them as outlaws who rule the road. But is that the truth about the world-famous motorcycle club and all of its intimidating members? Well, while the guys themselves generally stay quiet, we do know a few secrets, including those 30 surprising rules that everyone has to obey – or else.
30. Don’t ask to join
Wanna become a Hells Angel? Well, don’t expect anyone to tell you how to become one of them. In fact, if you look on the FAQ section of the club’s website, it says in no clear terms, “If you have to ask, you probably will not understand the answer.” But we won’t leave you completely in the dark.
It starts with what the Hells Angels call a hang around. And that’s just as it sounds. Basically, you’re given an invitation to hang out with inducted members. Then, the others can see how prospective newbies will fit in with the crowd – or not.
29. Showing up for events is vital to your membership bid
You can’t just accept an invite and then change your mind about attending. You see, charter members take the club quite seriously, which means you’d better show up when you say you’ll be there. If you’re flaky, you probably won’t make it into the fold.
Members who skip events aren’t cut slack, either. The whole point of the Hells Angels is that it’s a brotherhood, and skipping out on the motorcycle family’s gatherings is a big sign of disrespect. So, whether you’re a new or old member of the club, you go to these meetings – come hell or high water.
28. Only wear official Hells Angels merchandise
You’ve probably seen Hells Angels vests or T-shirts emblazoned with the club logo. But you shouldn’t wear this gear – especially in an attempt to secure your membership. The club has a strict no-impersonation policy, and they wouldn’t take kindly to something like that. They’d probably have no issue with dishing out the reprisals, either.
As you may already have guessed, members are the only ones who can wear official Hells Angels gear. So, don’t try slipping on someone else’s vest or sewing a patch on until you get into the charter. You can support the club in ways that won’t offend the folks you’re trying to impress instead.
27. You can’t discuss missing Angels with anyone
The strength of the Hells Angels brotherhood is easy to tell from the outside, but it’s hard to sum up just how seriously they take their bond with one another. One rule of the motorcycle club gives a hint, though: they cannot talk about absent members.
It makes sense that Hells Angels wouldn’t discuss members with outsiders, but they also extend this silence to those who have vanished. The measure is yet another protection in place to maintain privacy and keep one another away from the clutches of the law. So, if you have loose lips, you may not be inducted. You’re not even supposed to talk about your brothers with anyone outside of the club.
26. Every Hells Angels charter marks its territory – and the others have to respect it
You’ve probably picked up by now that respect is of the utmost importance to Hells Angels. And this applies inside and outside a particular charter. Simply put, you should hold your fellow motorcyclists in high regard. If one charter claims a specific area as their territory, then, others nearby should obey these boundaries.
In this way, it’s decided which Hells Angels charter can hang out where. There is some leeway, as club members can actually ride through one another’s territories. What they can’t do is stop, hang out and make themselves comfortable. Only the folks from the charter that has staked its claim can do that.
25. Hells Angels will fight other gangs for territory
While Hells Angels have a lot of respect for one another, they’re not the only motorcycle gang on Earth. And, sometimes, that means they have to fight for control over the territory they want. Gang members apparently tend to take the view that they shouldn’t have to share with riders of differing affiliations.
You see, there’s a hidden rule between motorcycle clubs – including the Outlaws, the Hells Angels and the Bandidos – that only one of them can control a single area. And that’s how conflict between these groups can start. Something as simple as a rival biker showing up in your area with “your” location emblazoned on their vest can start a fight for dominance.
24. You have to be willing to give back
Hells Angels might have tough reputations, but they’re not solely about cruising and controlling their turf. Part of the gig also requires you to be a good person – and not just to your brothers. Yes, in many charters, charity work is apparently a requirement for membership.
It means that Hells Angels often give back to the communities where they live and ride. If your neighborhood has a motorcycle contingent, then, you may see the leather-donning members frequenting local bars and restaurants. Some will even run their own charities or spend time working with people in need.
23. Hells Angels follow the Golden Rule
Remember the Golden Rule from your school days? It’s simple: treat others how you want to be treated. And if you could follow that guideline as a child, then you’ll have no problem being a Hells Angel as a grown-up. Members stick to the same principle when it comes to people both inside and outside of their charter.
The Hells Angels code says that they will treat others with respect so long as they receive it in return. Journalists who have interviewed gang members have apparently found them welcoming and warm. Neighbors of the motorcyclists have reported the same, too. If you show contempt to a member, then, you should expect a completely different result…
22. Protect the Hells Angels brand by any means necessary
You know by now that wearing the Hells Angels logo is an honor bestowed upon bona fide members only. Clearly, the motorcycle gang takes its branding seriously. But this approach doesn’t just apply to those who want to get in or appear as though they have. It also informs how members react to the way they’re portrayed in the media.
Hells Angels will do anything to defend their public image. They’ve even gone so far as to slap down big companies that have presented a skewed view of who they are. The motorcycle club launched legal proceedings against Disney, for instance, after it released the bike-centric flick Wild Hogs. Pretty serious, huh?
21. You’ll have to be ready to ride – a lot
The Hells Angels membership clearly comes with a lot of responsibilities. But if you join a motorcycle gang, you probably won’t have any problem with this rule: you have to be prepared to ride with your brothers. And if you’re a little on the lazy side, beware. That doesn’t mean only short, quick jaunts down the road.
Their website claims that charters ride more than 12,000 miles together every single year. Do the math, and you’ll find that’s basically 33 miles each day. Of course, the gang doesn’t hit the road every Monday through Sunday, but you do have to be prepared to drop everything for a long cruise. And if you like riding, it won’t be a huge burden, will it?
20. You can only ride a Harley
If you want to join the Hells Angels, start by investing in the right motorcycle. But you don’t just need to own a bike – yep, it’s on you to supply your own ride – as it also should come from one manufacturer in particular. You see, it’s custom for members to only ride Harley-Davidson models.
However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, depending on the Hells Angels charter you join. Some will let a non-Harley bike slide so long as you choose another American-made brand. Among the acceptable choices is Buell – which, funnily enough, is a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson.
19. It’s tough to start your own Hells Angels charter, but it’s possible
It takes time to set up a Hells Angels charter – and the club’s website is careful to point out this fact. The site says in no uncertain terms, “Motorcycle clubs consist of people who have ridden together for years, live in the same area, are known by the community, have runs and parties and are a brotherhood.” And you just can’t create that kind of closeness overnight.
So, a motorcycle community would generally only consider becoming an official arm of the Hells Angels after years of riding together by choice. Perhaps that’s why the club website doesn’t include instructions on how to join up. Once you’re established enough, you don’t have to ask how or follow any steps; you’re just in.
18. Don’t question their grammar
Any grammar guru will tell you that “Hells Angels” should really have an apostrophe before the first “s.” The club’s name implies that the motorcyclists belong to hell, after all, and so an apostrophe would make that connection clear by creating a possessive. But the organization acknowledges only one proper spelling of its name, and there’s nary a punctuation mark in sight.
The Hells Angels adhere to their own rules – and that appears to include grammatical ones, too. The official website even makes a point to shut down those who question this choice by remarking, “Yes, we know there is an apostrophe missing, but it is you who miss it. We don’t.” And if you want to keep on a member’s good side, we wouldn’t recommend you disagree.
17. There’s a dress code
Initiation and membership into the Hells Angels arms you with a coveted accessory: a vest emblazoned with the organization’s name and insignia on its back. That way, when you’re on the road, everyone knows with whom you’re riding. But that’s not the only must-wear item for the motorcycle gang’s inductees.
You see, Hells Angels charters each have their own dress codes. Some don’t allow riders to wear shorts, while others bar their members from sporting anything but the color black. In other places, however, motorcyclists may be permitted to don denim and camouflage prints. And, handily, these rules help neighboring charters recognize one another on the road.
16. Hells Angels ride in a specific order
If you’ve ever seen a Hells Angels charter cruising down the highway, you’ll know that a lot ride together. The members can often take over the whole road, in fact. And yet, even with so many bikes hurtling along, there’s order to the chaos you’re witnessing from the outside.
At the front of the pack, you’ll see the captain riding along with the president of the Hells Angels charter. They lead the way, while the rest of the crew falls in line based on their personal rankings and seniority levels. New members hang near the back, and prospective signees bring up the rear.
15. You can’t join another biker club
In reading this list, you’re probably getting the feeling that joining the Hells Angels isn’t a decision to take lightly. And you’d be right. The organization prides itself on the connections made between members and the strong brotherhood that results. As such, there’s no need to join any other bike-related organization.
Apparently, Hells Angels should even steer clear of any other social clubs or membership-only groups. The organization’s website explains, “Never combine your support to Hells Angels with other clubs, street gangs or others if you are unaware of the relationship between those others and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.” It’s best, then, to stick to who you know.
14. Angels don’t speak to the media
There’s a reason why the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is such a mysterious organization: its members make a point of keeping it that way. For starters, they don’t share their plans or scheduled activities with anyone. And if you somehow happen to catch Hells Angels riding, then you’ve found out along with the rest of the world that they had a cruise on the books.
The Hells Angels’ secrecy stems from a simple internal policy: don’t talk to the press. Riders use their silence as a way to protect their image and safeguard themselves and others. And as only those inside the organization need to know what charters are up to and when they’re gathering, it’s a bad idea to spill the beans.
13. The vests are considered sacred
The vest that a Hells Angels member receives once they’re officially inducted into the group is more than just an accessory. That piece of clothing is revered among the motorcyclists who make it into the exclusive club, and all of them treat the garment with great care.
So, while you may have a similar outfit that you hold dear, that devotion probably pales in comparison. Allegedly, some Hells Angels members will even refuse to let medics cut them out of their vests in life-and-death situations. That’s how much of an honor it is to don the famous embroidered gear.
12. Membership hinges on a vote
If you think you want to join the Hells Angels, then you should make absolutely sure before you start the process. A new prospect’s journey from enlistee to full-fledged member can take years, you see, and there are several hoops through which you have to jump before you officially make it into a charter.
And the culmination of all of those pre-membership rituals ends with a democratic vote among everyone in the charter. This step certainly speaks to the brotherhood mentality that the Hells Angels have; basically, if the group likes you, then you’re in. If the majority of the guys don’t want you to join, though, then you’re probably out without question.
11. Before you’re in, you’re a prospect – and subject to hazing
You’ve heard of fraternities hazing those seeking to join, and the Hells Angels are no different. For one, prospective initiates can get stuck with the chores that fully fledged members would rather avoid. This means, for instance, that the new guys may arrive early to a charter meeting, putting everything together before anyone else gets there.
That’s a pretty benign example of what Hells Angels hazing can be, though. Some say that the process can get violent, although this in turn triggers another rule. Apparently, prospects can’t lash out or fight back against the senior members who haze them. If they do, then their journey to membership ends then and there.
10. You can’t even link to the website without permission
Knowing what you do now, you probably don’t want to mess with the Hells Angels. But even if you’d never purposely rile a member, you may just do so inadvertently. That’s because outsiders can’t link to the motorcycle club’s website except in a very specific scenario.
The Hells Angels’ site explains, “You may not establish and/or operate links to this website without the prior written consent of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.” And even if you have permission, it may not last forever, as members reserve the right to withdraw from the deal.
9. Say goodbye to any other hobbies
Once you join a Hells Angels charter, your brothers will expect you to put the organization first. And as membership comes with a slew of perks – you can vote at meetings, for example – you should take this honor seriously by making the club your first priority.
Needless to say, then, being part of the Hells Angels will become most members’ only hobby. Yep, they won’t have time to sign up for bowling leagues or take cooking classes. Even their wives and partners have to accept that the club comes before everything else.
8. No one in law enforcement can join
You may think that a cop would fit in well with the Hells Angels – especially one who patrols on a motorcycle. That’s not the case, though, as the group actually has a strict no-police rule when it comes to hopeful new members. And the same goes for prison guards. In fact, any ties to law enforcement will prevent you from enlisting in the club.
Mind you, the Hells Angels don’t exactly have the best relationship with police, as some charters allegedly engage in illegal activities. And even if they’re not breaking the law, club members go by their own rules and value their freedom to do so. Having a cop among their ranks would certainly put a dampener on that.
7. Interrupting a meeting could cost you
Picture a Hells Angels’ meeting, and you may imagine it to be as raucous as the riders’ engine-revving antics on the road. In actual fact, though, there are very specific guidelines dictating how members should behave at their regular gatherings. The organization follows Robert’s Rules of Order, which was originally written in 1876 to help businesses keep any assemblies civilized.
Robert’s Rules of Order outline the ways in which a firm – or in this case, the Hells Angels – can hold a democratic meeting. The group has to respect the written agenda, while members can only interrupt when it’s really needed. Anyone with a question has to raise it before proceedings begin, too. And, apparently, breaking a rule will put you $100 out of pocket.
6. Never rat out a fellow Angel
Supposedly, not all Hells Angels members lead lives on the straight and narrow. Yes, some allegedly partake in illegal dealings, which naturally puts them on the radar of the local authorities. But others in the charter know what to do if the police start poking around: basically, keep quiet.
Even if a member is involved in a crime, the group has a strict policy to stay mum. Talking to the cops or any other type of investigator could after all incriminate a brother – or, worse yet, the entire charter. So, on the whole, it’s best to ensure that your mouth stays shut.
5. Substance abuse is strictly prohibited
If you assume that Hells Angels’ criminal activity extends to drugs, though, guess again, as the organization has a no-tolerance policy for contact or engagement with illegal substances. The Toronto-based charter, for example, makes a particular point to prohibit needle use.
In the end, substance abuse would negatively affect the reputations of Hells Angels members, so they steer clear of it. And the organization also has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault. If a rider commits such an act or uses drugs, then, they’re out of the charter for good.
4. When the cops pull one member over, they all pull over
Of course, Hells Angels members are bound by the laws of the land – whether they like it or not. And when cops catch a motorcyclist riding or behaving illegally, they naturally won’t hesitate to pull them over. When that happens, though, the rest of the charter will act according to club rules.
In essence, after one member pulls over, their brothers will do the same and sit on the side of the road in solidarity. They do this as a supportive symbol, for sure, but the practice may also serve to scare the cop who has forced the bike to the shoulder.
3. You can’t retire
It takes a lot to become a full-fledged member of the Hells Angels, but the length of membership warrants such an intensive interview process. You see, once you’re in, you’re in for life, as there’s no such thing as retirement from the motorcycle club. You can, of course, lose your place for going against the rules, but that’s basically it.
But a lifetime membership does have its benefits, as Hells Angels enlistees become more like family than members of a motorcycle gang. And they generally take that connection very seriously, being brothers to the very end – at which point they give any fallen biker a proper send-off.
2. Rule-breaking comes with serious consequences
By now, you’ve learned one thing: the Hells Angels don’t just make rules for the sake of it. And it should be pretty clear that members take the organization and its reputation very seriously. If someone gets into the group but fails to meet its standards, then, or decides to flaunt the guidelines, they’ll be in serious trouble.
Those who have investigated the Hells Angels have heard horror stories of how remaining members will burn off the tattoos of those who haven’t obeyed the motorcyclists’ code. But the worst consequence of all for any rider would be removed from the club – a major dishonor, especially as membership is otherwise a lifelong commitment.
1. Strictly no women allowed
Hearing the name “Hells Angels” may encourage you to make a mental leap to the TV show Charlie’s Angels and lead you to assume that women are allowed to ride alongside men. But the group doesn’t actually permit women to join, and so you won’t ever see them riding when a charter goes for a spin.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t women close to the Hells Angels organization, though. Many of its male members naturally have wives and girlfriends in their lives – and they’re expected to play along, too. Yes, a dutiful Hells Angels partner will probably learn the ropes and try their best to avoid breaking any of the rules as well.