1960s Photos of the Notorious Hells Angels Biker Gang in California

America loves its outlaws, but few actually dare to live the dangerous lifestyle, and for a good reason. In 1965, the Hells Angels were little known outside the American West.

LIFE photographer Bill Ray spent weeks photographing and traveling with the San Bernardino chapter of a gang, in Southern California, that would later become notorious for its hedonistic, lawless swagger.

The Hells Angels’s motto encapsulates how society sees them. They are famous for riding their Harley-Davidson motorcycles and wearing cut offs with the Hells Angels insignia. Also the motorcycle gang would later became associated with organized crime.

“This was a new breed of rebel,” Bill Ray told LIFE. “They didn’t have jobs. They absolutely despised everything that most Americans value and strive for — stability, security. They rode their bikes, hung out in bars for days at a time, fought with anyone who messed with them. They were self-contained, with their own set of rules, their own code of behavior. It was extraordinary to be around.”

Bill Ray’s time photographing the Hells Angels gave us a glimpse of their daily routine. Here are some of the photos taken by Bill Ray:

Hells Angels, California, 1965.

Hells Angels, California, 1965.

Big D, a member of the San Bernardino, a.k.a, “Berdoo” Hells Angels, during a ride from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, California, 1965.

Inside the Hells Angels’ San Bernardino clubhouse, 1965.

“Little Jim” drinks beer from a waste basket at the Angels’ clubhouse in San Bernardino, 1965.

Hells Angels’ “old ladies,” California, 1965.

Two “Berdoo” Hells Angels clown for Bill Ray behind a bar during a stop on their run from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, 1965.

Hells Angel “Hambone” poses during a ride from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, Calif., 1965.

Hells Angels and locals outside the Blackboard Cafe in Bakersfield, Calif., 1965.

Hells Angels, their old ladies and hangers-on outside the Blackboard in Bakersfield, California, 1965.

Hells Angels cruise north from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, 1965.

A man in Bakersfield, Calif., casts what appears to be an appraising eye over the Hells Angels’ Harley-Davidsons, 1965.

Hells Angel, seated on his bike, 1965.

Hells Angel, California, 1965.

Sonny, the leader of the San Bernardino Hells Angels, gets stitches in his head after crashing his bike, California, 1965.

Women — including one with a bandaged nose — hang out in a bar while bikers gather in a separate room, California, 1965.

A sheriff’s officer keeps an eye on the proceedings outside a bar that the Hells Angels have made their headquarters-away-from-home during their San Bernardino-to-Bakersfield run, 1965.

Two women riding with the Hells Angels hang out at a bar in 1965.

Hells Angels, California, 1965.

Outside the Blackboard Cafe at night, Bakersfield, Calif., 1965.

A Hells Angels “old lady,” 1965.

A teenager seems drawn, like a moth to a flame, by the Angels and their machines, California, 1965.

Two “reputable” motorcyclists photograph the Hells Angels, 1965.

During their ’65 run to Bakersfield, the Angels pushed their way into a motorcycle hillclimb, in which bikers race up an often insanely steep incline. The Angels wanted to take part; organizers said no (but finally relented). Above: Hambone, in his ever-present fur hat, jaws with organizers while sheriff’s officers listen in.

A biker named Roseberry sports a “one percenter” patch — a badge of honor for the Angels and other motorcycle clubs whose members revel in and celebrate their outlaw status, 1965.

A biker named Roseberry is fingerprinted, 1965.

An Angel is frisked. Cops were mainly looking for his stash of unrolled marijuana, and didn’t find any. It was inside the seat pad of the bike he was riding.

A Hells Angel — with his old lady holding on tight — pulls a wheelie in downtown Bakersfield, California, as his friends watch, 1965.

Bikers (including Sonny, left, with a bandaged head) and their old ladies, California, 1965.

Biker chick, California, 1965.

“Buzzard” and an old lady, California, 1965.

A Hells Angel salute, 1965.

“Buzzard” prepares to leave Bakersfield as cops and townspeople watch, 1965.

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