Biker: Sonny Barger

HFL, Positions -



Photo: Clay Gardner

Photographer Clay Gardner and Self Edge’s Kiya Babzani recently travelled to Cave Creek, Arizona to shoot Sonny Barger for an ad campaign. You may remember the ad that appeared here a couple of months ago. Sonny is one of the founding members of the Hell’s Angels and served four years in federal prison for conspiring to blow up an Outlaws clubhouse in Louisville. After having his vocal cords removed as a result of cancer, Sonny learned to vocalize through the muscles in his throat. Speaking that way, he described Hunter S. Thompson to Kiya as “a coward.”

Click below for the feature:
Biker: Sonny Barger

  • smc

    how is this news? what information in this piece comes remotely close to being topical or current?

  • aeolus

    I agree. That anyone in biking would have any interest in such a person is beyond belief. I suppose HFL thinks he’s “kewl”

    • Grant Ray

      Aeolus, you sure are cranky as of late. HFL covers all aspects of biking. For better of worse, the Hells Angels have become part of the vernacular of the American West mythos. Don’t like it? Go some fucking place else.

      • amsterdam

        Wow, Grant, is this how we talk to our guests Angel-style? Yes, the Angels are part of the American West mythos.
        But so is Harley Davidson.
        How come you guys burn them down to the ground, where the Hells Angels are probably the worst thing to ever happen to the image of motorcycling.
        Harley is just a company trying to get a grip on the changing market. Angels are a bunch of fucking criminals. Just because Hunter S. Thompson wrote about them its OK? Now you and the Self Edge shop make the same mistake as Harley; you think this is cool.
        But they are nice pictures of this shitsack on his crap bike.

        • Wes Siler

          This is how we talk to people who only have negative things to say and fights to pick here in our house. Grant and I bust our asses to bring you the content you see here. As Kiya says, if you don’t like it, don’t read.

          Aeolus, if you want to participate do so in a productive manner. Everyone’s welcome to disagree or express their own opinions, but you need to do so as part of an intelligent, inclusive conversation, not as a troll. Shape up.

          • aeolus

            A troll? Pick fights in our house? If you can’t stand criticism, that’s pathetic. See ya…

      • aeolus

        Cranky? I guess that means I don’t support your threads 100%. Why don’t you just delete posts that are not supportive? Do you really expect total agreement with everything you put up here?

      • Grant Ray

        Aeolus, if you or others don’t like a feature and respectfully comment your dislike, I don’t mind. But I know underhanded venom when I see it. The commenting section goes both ways, and if a reader makes a personal sleight, I would think they’ll be big enough to receive just like they’ve given.

  • Friar

    A Victory Vision? Seriously?

    • Robert

      He bought it from Arlen. Wanted something different and reliable. He got it. So did a few other HA members recently. But donlt hold your breath waiting for Victory to show up on Sons of Anarchy…

  • kiya

    Maybe i shouldn’t be commenting on this considering i was the one that instigated this…
    Hell for Leather appeals to me because it’s NOT a news site, it’s a motorcycle culture website. There so much soul within this site, so much more than you’ll find on any other site dedicating itself to motorcycles. There’s international expose photoshoots, product reviews, ride journal posts, and so much more.
    There’s a hundred news sites out there, this isn’t one of ‘em.

  • Adrian

    Well according to the HFL masthead ,they also cover “culture” ,which whether you like it or not covers the Angel’s lifestyle and their impact, again -whether you like it or not – on motorcycling.

    I don’t agree with a lot of his stances on bikes and gangs – whatever he says the Angels are basically a gang but he is an interesting character, old news it is true, but still interesting.

    I love those Visions without the stupid looking top case. I would buy one of those over an HD cruiser any day .

  • fuzzygalore

    I can’t not think about ZZ Top and a beard full of road bugs when i see that Victory. No likey. It seems IMO anyway, a little too refined for SB’s character.

    • Robert

      Dare you to say that out loud in front of him.

  • smc

    this story says nothing about the Hells Angeles or moto-culture. Furthermore, there is nothing in this article that is relatively new…this story could run today or twenty years from now…maybe waiting until Barger dies will give this some cultural relevance.

  • dave

    I’ve had the personal (dis)pleasure of meeting the man. It was a situational thing, when I was running a service dept in Scottsdale, AZ. He copped an attitude, and I told him to hit the door… Not knowing (or caring, really) who he was. It all was washed away after a couple of guys talked to me about it, no biggie. All in all, he’s just a guy. BUT, he does let his reputation precede him. He’s a genuinely interesting fellow, if you get past the H-A bullshit. In fact, there’s alot of ‘angels that are interesting, and dare I say, Good Guys. The ‘Angels are a part of Western M/C culture, like it or not. Barger is an old man, with LOTS of stories to tell. Thompson did some interesting work in his time with them. I say it fits with HFL…

  • kiya

    In true form, a post about Sonny Barger creates a shitstorm.

  • anon

    wow. what a show. One should realize that eventually, a writer might become defensive of his work.

    to grant/wes,

    I applaud you guys for vocalizing what allot of other writers wish they could tell their more vocal readers.

    to the readers,

    if you are a disappointed reader, don’t read. i’m sure it would be different if this were a pay site, with a monthly subscription. but since you didn’t pay up in any way to be subscriber of this site, then just don’t visit. Motorcycle-USA has plenty of articles that are more “NEWS”. How about the MOTOGP site? How many euros is that site?

    unless your really not that negative, and that maybe these guys are picking on you. I’m sure if we posted up all your comments in one long segment, we could see that your just expressing your opinion and/or disapproval, and not always so negative towards EVERYTHING. but then i guess the writers have just as much right in expressing their opinions/disapproval of you

    freedom of expression. it’s great.

  • smc

    i don’t care for the ‘love it or leave it sentiment.’ i enjoy the site and read daily, but its not whether or not a “writer might be defensive about his work,” because this is not about writing; the story was a small paragraph and mainly photos.

    other than one picture with barger mounting a motorcycle the photos had nothing to do with motorcycles. I’d imagine barger has lots of stories to tell and if you’d have included one or two i would have loved it; instead it was a collage of photos about a man that once kicked hunter thompson’s ass and has nothing since.

  • Adam

    Shit, why don’t you just post a picture of Hitler? After all one of the staples of Nazi Germany were guys on bikes and sidecard, and Barger and Hitler pretty much have the same belief system. Grow the hell up guys: the Angels aren’t cool, they’re socially inept degenerates would couldn’t successfully integrate into society do to their low IQs and their unnatural propensity for violence so they formed a gay little club where they could bitch about “the man”, blacks, hispanics, how tough white guys in America have it, and how people who actually finished high school think they are better than them.

    By idolizing this neanderthal you guys are on the same level as those leather chap wearing, chromed out Harley riding fat guys because you guys accept the image that the Angels sell.

  • BigMick

    Grant ! sooo defensive over Sonny – christ, the old bozo is just doing an ad campaign for the worlds ugliest boat anchor – I can’t really see the big deal.
    Mind you, Aeolus’ (latin for wind, ironically)comment that “That anyone in biking would have any interest in such a person is beyond belief” is also pretty stupid. Stop with absolutisms, there’s plenty of grey out there. I’m into custom cafe’s, but re-read HST’s Hells Angels for laffs.

  • CafeRacer1200

    How about a bit of perspective. Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels did more to set the image of motorcycling back than any other group. That is, until the present. Heavily tattooed hooligans, many with outstanding warrants, no insurance, expired plates and no motorcycle license roam our streets today, scaring the wits out of “normal” citizens with no regard for anyone but themselves and their own ill-defined and twisted regard for what is cool. No, they don’t organize into clubs and deviant criminal behavior yet but show the seeds of the earliest days of the Hell’s Angels. Loosely banded together they perform stupid acts, bar hop, get into fights and have some romanticized ideal of being the rebel. Hell, the media even covers them at times. If you look closely you’ll see them screaming through a curve past a church on Sunday morning with their exhaust blaring. Sometimes they delight in riding 1/2 mile wheelies in traffic. Sometimes they’re the person in your mirror or standing across from you at a hangout.

  • Markus

    What? is this a post just to get a rise? well, congrats …it worked.
    I thought better of yall-
    Screw sonny barger


  • Larry Kahn

    Just to keep things clear, Mr. Barger was not one of the founding members. Certainly one of the most well known, but not one of the small handful of “first generation” as they are known.

  • MrP

    I just want to filter through the BS for a second.

    Clay – Great shots.

    Grant & Wes – Thanks for posting them.

    • Grant Ray

      Thanks for the comment, MrP. This feature is a portrait of a “biker.” That’s all. There will be others, pretty much just like it. With all types of people. Kiya had an opportunity to shoot a famous and controversial figure and offered us a chance to run the images. We think the images tell a story in themselves. We are neither endorsing or condemning Barger. His actions speak for themselves.

      We’re not interested in telling just the news. Granted, that’s a large part of HFL and is very important, but we want to show a broader spectrum of this lifestyle we are all a part of.

      • Ben(pi)

        Grant, I think that if you had added your statement, about the purpose of the photoshoot, to the article, it would have gone a long way towards reducing the back and forth that has occured in the comments. Context can often times be helpful.

  • Yukio

    I stopped reading after the first 10 comments, but anyone who looks at this article and starts talking about Victory or Harley Davidson is a fucking brand whore. Who cares what Sonny Barger rides. He will still ride it faster and kick the shit out of you when you get to the finish line. Toughen up losers.

    by the way, I read HFL because they bring off-brand content. Why would I pick up CycleWorld when I can look up the hp specs of a R1 on the Yamaha website.

    • hoyt

      “Brand whore” ? This article exists because of the brand Self Edge

    • zato1414

      Saw an interview with Sonny Barger a while back… He said he would have had a Honda Gold Wing, but couldn’t afford it. The Harleys of the 60′s beat the crap out of him.

  • Song Of The Sausage Creature

    I don’t care about hell angels, but honestly think the world would be a much better place with more “cowards” like Hunter S. Thompson

  • Gildas

    A Victory without all the fairings would “fit” him nicer… Ohh, project idea coming…

  • damien

    I enjoyed the photos and look forward to more small photo stories like this.

  • dave

    I hope I look as good as him when I am 25.

  • gary Sideburn

    I don’t know for sure, but didn’t the ‘coward’ HST get stomped for asking an Angel to stop beating up a woman? Or is that part of the HA/HST myth too. GI

  • Eddie

    Sonny was and always will be awesome!!!

  • w,k,

    I did not know the angels, leet new clubs do busness. in south maricopa county. I was out last week end . in a bar. in Queeen Creek southof town. full of mongoldes,and lost boys.what the angels go to sleep.W.K.

  • Billy Jack

    As with any society, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hells Angels are probably no different, and probably not all idiots. People get stomped by Outlaw Bikers because they don’t mind their own business, just as all of you $hitTalkers on this website. Only difference is that the ones that get stomped are man enough to show up!

    • maroci

      Oh gee, another tough-guy keyboard commando, accusing other people of being keyboard commandos. Hilarious.

      No, not all the Angels are stupid (e.g. Barger) but they’re all, each and every one, garbage (e.g. Barger).

      As for people getting stomped by HA because they don’t mind their business, I guess that would include the 5-year-old little girl in Ft Bragg whose throat was slit by the VP of the HA Vallejo charter. Murdered along with the rest of her family by the President and VP of that charter.

  • Mattro


  • KOTH

    I read two of Sonny’s books, “Freedom – Credos from the Road” and “Hell’s Angel”. Both were good reads. You don’t have to like someone or agree with them to enjoy their perspective.

  • t1201971

    What did “w,k,”‘s post mean?