The AMA Responds

January 26, 2017

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The AMA Responds

Yesterday, this page published a story titled “Profiling The 99 Percent” which contained the following statements about the American Motorcyclist Association:

“…the AMA invented the rationale for biker profiling. Shortly after the Hollister motorcycle “riot” in 1947, E.C. Smith, the Executive Secretary of the AMA called the Hollister bikers ‘outlaws’ and asserted that they represented only “one percent” of the motorcycling community at most.”


“Yesterday the AMA renounced the stereotype it helped create 70 years ago.”

Maybe Not

This morning Jim Witters, who is both an experienced journalist and a spokesman for the AMA wrote The Aging Rebel to say that the AMA “was disappointed that” this site “chose to blame the AMA for creating the circumstances that led to such profiling.”

“The AMA represents all motorcyclists.” Witters continued. “And the AMA mission is to promote the motorcycle lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling.”

The Aging Rebel stated and believes the terms “outlaw” and “one percenter,” as applied to motorcyclists, originated with E.C. Smith, who was then the Executive Secretary of the AMA.

The AMA’s spokesman disagrees and wrote: “The term ‘one-percenters’ and the role of the AMA in coining that phrase has been the topic of much discussion over the years – ever since an unfortunate riot involving motorcyclists in Hollister, Calif., was reported in Life magazine in 1947. The AMA has spent considerable time trying to determine whether or not the term originated from the AMA: letters to the editor of Life magazine, to San Francisco newspapers, AMA archives, etc.”

“We found nothing to confirm that the AMA or an AMA official ever made that statement, though it is now a part of popular lore.

“The best any of us can figure, a local AMA member, perhaps someone with an AMA club or district, made the statement anonymously to a reporter and it stuck. But we have never found any attribution to an individual.”

Thank you for reading.


23 Responses to “The AMA Responds”

  1. robdude Says:

    @Perry King, If you really did have fist fights with cars on Flatbush that’s pretty cool too. AMA covers insurance.

  2. Paladin Says:

    @ BMW,

    Your mention of a restricted license brought back memories. My license was also restricted to “motorcycle only”. Didn’t learn to drive a car until I was in my early 20s.

    Long May You Ride,


  3. robdude Says:

    Love that Thompson video, it doesn’t get much cooler than that, thanks for putting it up.

  4. BMW Says:

    The sad truth, as I see it, is that California persecutors created the 99%–1% myth, the same way they created “M=Marijuana ” myth. Persecutors have a long,twisted history of deliberately lying to juries and the public in order to get convictions based on emotions instead of facts. For some reason, California Persecutors, for unclear reasons, really wanted to destroy bikers, whether clubs or custom builders, from the mid sixties. This was the start of “motorcyclist profiling”. Lazy “law enforcement” was trying to make motorcycle riding into a crime for which they could get convictions without needing to prove a criminal activity “without any reasonable doubt”.

    The AMA has always said that it’s officials never made the 99% comment. Anyone who checks with them gets the same answer ” We never said that”. In fact, “photos of Hollister” were clearly staged. What sort of drunken biker allows beer bottles to accumulate beneath the front wheel of his motorcycle? I have never been that drunk! Changing tube tires on a Big Twin was never fun! At first, the fictional “Hollister” story benefited only the circulation department of the weekly national photo magazines.

    However, the photo coverage of “Hollister” could be leveraged into more money for cop cars and police radios, maybe even enough money for a rural sheriff to put his idiot nephew (who couldn’t steal a job) on the county payroll…

    The “M” patch never meant pot, as lying persecutors claimed all through the sixties and seventies. Nor did it ever mean methamphetamine, as lying persecutors have said more recently. During the sixties, many car clubs also wore membership jackets, much like those worn by some motorcycle clubs. Some car clubs actually became motorcycle clubs. The letter M stood for motorcycles so we could differentiate ourselves from popular car clubs. Not all motorcycle clubs used the MC designation on their patches, and in any case, riders who were serious bikers but we’re also “free riders” would not use the MC in any case.

    Likewise, during the sixties, here in the Midwest, 1% had nothing to do with the AMA. As previously stated, although some clubs were AMA clubs, usually we only joined the AMA in order to race. (The AMA actually represented motorcycle manufacturers at one time.) Most motorcyclists didn’t read Life or Look magazines, so Hollister was not a consideration.

    1% indicated the riders who lived on and for motorcycles. There were a dedicated group of Midwest bikers that wore the 1%. Some of us had licenses that were restricted to motorcycles only. My first license was a two-piece green paper license. The first paper indicated that it was restricted–such as day driving only, or that the driver required special equipment to drive–my restriction read motorcycle only, because I did not learn to drive a car until my middle twenties, almost ten years later. Everything I did, I did on my motorcycle.

    Some 1% diamonds were also worn by other people whose lives revolved around motorcycles, such as racers, mechanics or custom bike builders. It was years before we heard of “1% clubs”. Both the “M” patch and the “1%” patch became much more popular after the “Wild Angels” movies in 1967. I think it was those movies that led ultimately to “standard” patches.

    I don’t remember when area clubs started wearing 1%, but it was years until entire clubs wore 1%. Now, everyone talks about “1% clubs” and it has taken on different aspects, in much the way “3-piece patch” indicates something more recently interpreted (ignoring all the –very serious–early clubs that had one or two piece patches).

    Since much of our lifestyle was never recorded in print until biker magazines started to come out, and bikers located thousands of miles apart had different experiences, I realize not everyone will agree with my opinion. Honestly, it is just my opinion of how events came to pass.


  5. Jim Bob Says:

    Funny how all these years and the amount of times that statement has been made about the AMA coining that phrase and NOW they are trying to be vocal about how they DIDN’T ever say it….

  6. NCRider Says:

    To anyone unaware. (FAM) Federation of American Motorcyclists

    I had to Google it, Paladin. Thanks again.



  7. NCRider Says:

    Paladin – Thank you. That is interesting to know. I never knew the FAM/AMA promoted races. Now it makes sense…$$$.



  8. Paladin Says:

    @ donny brasco,

    I’m glad you all got something worthwhile out of the AMA. To my knowledge, we never did.

    @ NCRider,

    Since their inception, and due to their noise and the gregariousness of those that rode them, motorcycles and their enthusiasts were viewed with a jaundiced eye by the general public. The FAM (later to become the AMA in 1924) was formed in 1903 to promote motorcycling and bring respectability to its riders, as well as fight ordinances that even back then were put in place to restrict motorcycling.

    Back in motorcycling’s infancy there were racing events, but they were strictly local events with very little continuity beyond the immediate town the event was held in. The FAM saw racing as a means to an end in their agenda and cornered the market by immediately organizing and promoting racing events throughout and across the Country. Because the FAM / AMA had no competition, they became the only race in town. If you wanted to race, you had to join. If a club wanted to race, it too had to join.

    Outlaw motorcycle racing, like outlaw car racing were racing events that were neither AMA or NASCAR sanctioned.

    Long May You Both Ride,


  9. dogbreath Says:

    @John vending – Wrong on both counts. And linking your name to a non-existent domain is ignorant as well. Go back to playing Minecraft, the adults are having a discussion here.

  10. Tom Barker Says:

    I should have added that I will be in Las Vegas at a professional meeting Monday making the point that the label “outlaw” or “one percenter” has consequences for “innocent” bikers when applied by over zealous law enforcement authorities.

  11. Tom Barker Says:

    Interesting discussion. Whoever is responsible, the label “outlaw” or “one percenter” has consequences, just ask all the ‘Innocent bikers” arrested at Waco.

  12. bcnasty Says:

    A never get tired of that Hunter Thompson video.

  13. NCRider Says:

    Paladin – My son races hare scrambles and endurance races. (No sponsors.) He registered to do a race that’s in a different division from those he normally does. But this division required AMA membership, which he paid. Why is that? I have never joined AMA and to be honest, don’t know much about them.



  14. donny brasco Says:

    Paladin, I felt the same way until 20 years ago when I had to get insurance for a run we were putting on for ABATE. The only entity that was cheap and would insure us on relatively short notice was AMA. One of the riders did go off the road and was killed. AMA insurance saved our collective asses. Times do change.

  15. John vending Says:

    What the ama said about Hollister and other rallies was to refute the narrative that it was motorcyclists behind the carnage but rather it was local punks. That’s where the talk “they don’t represent us” was directed.

  16. John vending Says:

    I always laugh when I hear the 1% thing. It’s so obvious if ya think about it. Hunter s Thompson made it up. Look up gonzo journalism on Wikipedia. It’s pretty much just constructing yer own reality to tell whatever story you want.

  17. Paladin Says:

    Years ago, when I was racing side hacks, I was a member of the Southern California Side hack association. The only way we could race was if we were members of the AMA’s District 37. We never got shit for our forced membership. The different clubs that sponsored their races, paid for everything. we and other clubs got reimbursed for our expenses through entry fees. We got nothing from the AMA. Yet, we still had to pay the AMA.


  18. anon Says:

    Dear Rebel,

    Here’s a link to Dulaney’s dissertation that you tipped me off to many years ago:

    The relevant text starts on page 53 (using page numbers on bottom of page) or page 63 (if using Adobe Acrobat’s page number search/tracker).

  19. anon Says:


    The AMA may finally be correct. Thanks to you, I read William Dulaney’s PhD dissertation several years ago. My memory may be wrong these days. I seem to recall him exploring the origins of the 1%er term and especially the AMA as the source and that he was unable to find any verifiable evidence.

  20. xplor Says:

    More popular lore about the Hollister riot involving motorcyclists. One biker broke his leg when he fell off his bike, another had a cut on his head. Both were treated at the hospital. No locals were injured. A good time was had by all.

  21. stroker Says:

    what Sieg said.

  22. donny brasco Says:

    If they said it or not We are all in this soap together. If you wear a patch you get stopped! That’s a fact! If the AMA is working to stop that behavior even if its 60 years later you should realize the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

  23. Sieg Says:

    Methinks the “lady” doth protest overmuch.

    FTF / FTP

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