80 Traditional Biker Tattoo Designs – For All the Rebels Out There

A biker tattoo still has a strong symbolic meaning and is usually a representation of a significant event in a biker’s life or of a particular personality trait. Nowadays a lot of people are getting inked with random images or words, but tattoos for a biker are as meaningful now as they were 75 years ago.

Tattoos have always been associated with outlaws and outcasts, those who don’t fit in or conform, law-breakers and criminals; however history shows they were also used to decorate kings and great rulers too.



The very first bikers in the 1940s and 50s were tattooed with emblems and symbols of the gang they belonged to. At the time these gangs were made up mainly of disillusioned youth and ex-soldiers in search of a comradery they found no longer existed in a post-war world. In an effort to belong to a brotherhood these young men formed gangs and a tattoo was a way of showing their affiliation. In 1953 Marlon Brando, the epitome of a rebel in the movie The Wild One had a tattoo, and this led to more youngsters getting inked. However, mainstream society still believed tattoos were for delinquents, outcasts, and misfits.

Even though the general population associated tats with ex-convicts and criminals it most certainly wasn’t the case but the early biker gangs were more than happy to have the reputation – it added some credibility to the bad-ass attitudes they were after. The truth is most bikers were, and are, decent members of society with families, jobs and a lot of them support various charities.

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Meaning and Design

The real difference between a biker tattoo and that of an ex-con is the design. Whereas prisoners would have tattoos that alluded to the crime committed, the number of years served or even how many people they might have killed, a biker’s tattoos are usually less morose.

For real bikers, those who live and die by their Harley or other two-wheeled beast, eagles, the spread wings of angels, the Harley Davidson logo, and pin-up girls are popular designs. They represent the freedom of the road, being free and of course their absolute loyalty and dedication to the biker lifestyle. Many biker tattoos feature the classic brand name Harley-Davidson in combination with eagles.

Other popular images, especially for hard-core bikers, include skulls with flames, blazing tires, daggers, and scantily clad vintage pin-up girls. A lot opt for mythical type creatures that symbolize strength, bravery, and honor. Then there are the popular animals with attitude’ type designs, like scorpions, snakes, and spiders and of course the names of moms, girlfriends, and even the biker’s nickname. Heavy metal and hard-rock music also inspire ink designs as well as a biker’s country of birth, like flags and national animals.

Years ago biking was associated with rebels and outcasts, but today the majority of bikers have 9-5 jobs and families they need to support and take care of. As much as they don’t want to be conventional and fit into the typical suburban lifestyle, the reality is different. Tattoos for bikers nowadays are their way of giving traditionalists the middle finger, flipping the bird while they swap their Harley for the family car during the week.

Other popular tattoos and their meanings:

Iron cross – Initially the US pilots of WWII had these as a protest against authority, especially of their county and had the iron cross done, which was seen as the enemy’s reward.

1 % tattoo – The belief was 99% of bikers were law abiding citizens, and the remaining 1% weren’t. Generally, it was more for reputation than actually being criminals and law breakers.

Predatory animals – Wolves, tigers, lions, sharks, etc. These all symbolize strength and power, and a sense of danger.

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The placement of a tattoo for a biker is pretty much anywhere they damn well, please. You try telling a 6-foot muscular moto he can’t have a tattoo on his ankle and see what happens. The fact that a biker is always looking to break as many rules as possible means there’s no right or wrong place. Rather, there are popular and not so popular parts.


Usually, you’ll see a biker tattoo on arms and on the shoulder; these are visible with the cut off shirts and jackets. The more hard-core bikers have full sleeves, as well as on their chests and backs. The legs and neck are also popular but tattoo here are usually a little more hidden away. Wherever you choose to have it, on your neck, wrist, across your chest or all the way you’re your back, it doesn’t matter.


Tattoos are about self-expression and are a way to show off your personality, and your devotion to something or to someone. Tattoos are about individuality so to worry about where it goes and whether it’s in the right place kind of defeats the purpose straight away.

Tattoos’ popularity has only increased over the years with musicians, celebrities, sports stars and everyone else getting inked. TV shows like Sons of Anarchy have also breathed new life into the art.Getting tattooed is no longer a rite of passage or a way of showing you’ve served time. It also doesn’t mean you were once a pirate or that you belonged to a cult.

As much as some people don’t like them there are no longer the negative connotations and more normal’ people are donning them. In fact with the amount of charity work bikers do the negative associations have almost disappeared altogether. Today tattoos are works of art, used to illustrate a person’s love or passion for something, a meaningful or significant event in their lives or in memory of a family member or friend that has passed.

A good tattoo is an unspoken story of who you are, where you come from and what you’ve been through. Without a word your personality and experiences come alive through the work and creativity of the tattoo artist. More often than not a tattoo speaks a thousand words without you having to say anything.

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