For the last two weeks, we’ve been taking a look at some of the largest, most famous bike gangs in America – bringing you videos and latest news from the biggest names in bikes.
This week, we’re taking a break from the big bike, leather jacket-type of gang, and bringing you something a little more grassroots, fresh from the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.
Week three – The 12 O’Clock Boyz
The city of Baltimore has a troubled reputation, as anyone who’s seen The Wire will know. However reality is far stranger than fiction, and while The Wire will give you an idea about the problems caused by urban deprivation it doesn’t give you the whole picture. For example, Baltimore is not only home to a thriving community of experimental musicians but also the home of a very public manifestation of biker culture that is beginning to have an effect in the UK.
The 12 O’Clock Boyz are a motorcycle gang based in Baltimore. They’ve become a regular sight around the city, travelling in large groups on their vehicle of choice – dirt bikes – performing stunts as they weave in and out of traffic, often without headlights. Their name comes from their main goal, which is to achieve a perfectly vertical wheelie. It is self evidently dangerous behaviour that you’d assume the police would be doing everything they could to stop, right? Especially seeing as it’s illegal to ride dirt bikes in Baltimore.
Unfortunately for police, the city banned them from chasing anybody on a dirt bike since a biker was killed during a chase in 1999. This has helped create a subculture unique to the city as dirt bikes occupy a legal grey area. The sight of groups of young men wheelying about the city has become commonplace. While some see them as a menace – and people have been killed and injured after being struck by bikes – others see them as a good alternative to street gangs and are calling on local authorities to provide a legal place for the kids to drive.
While stunting is increasing in popularity throughout the world, Baltimore is probably the easiest place in the world to go and see it being done in public, with no consideration for the safety of participants or anybody else. Every weekend scores of bikers come out onto the streets to show off, and confrontations with police are becoming more common. It’s a crazy situation for any city to be in, and looking at footage like this you have to wonder how long the authorities can allow it to continue.
Of course in our superconnected modern world, local trends can quickly become popular in places far removed from their original context. In the UK we now have UK raise it up, a group of young moped riders devoted to wheelying and rather dodgy fun.
If you’d like to get more of an insight into the 12 O’Clock Boyz you can watch a documentary about them right here.