A GROUP of men passing by Ballarat on a road trip to Perth might not always make the news.
But when a police helicopter and more than a dozen patrol cars are mobilised to keep an eye on them, all of a sudden people become interested.
So, it was yesterday when about 80 members of Australia’s largest outlaw motorcycle gang, the Rebels, left their Sunshine West clubhouse and set off for their West Australian adventure.
The first hours of the club’s national run brought them past Ballarat and with them came plenty of attention from those with patches on their shoulders rather than backs.
While not exactly an escort, police vehicles were scattered throughout traffic, both in front and behind the group.
When the bikies arrived near Ballarat, the police helicopter maintained an ever-watchful gaze from several hundred metres in the air.
A large part of the Rebels stopped for fuel and a rest at the Shell service station at Woodman’s Hill, on Ballarat’s outskirts, about 9.30am.
The Rebels members appeared courteous at the petrol station, not blocking the path for other motorists as they arrived and left.
One small group broke away from the main body of bikes and headed into Ballarat after their stop, but eventually joined with the others once back on the freeway.
Police were expecting as many as 200 could leave from Melbourne, but the convoy was much smaller, despite Victoria’s eight chapters and chapters from Tasmania being represented.
Some members decided to drive, removing their colours before they entered their cars, with several trucks and trailers loaded with camping gear for the arduous trip across the Nullarbor.
One was even carrying some long-life milk.
On the Western Highway at Great Western, police set up a road block and checked all bikes as they arrived on the journey to Stawell.
Perth police said security would be the tightest in the city since the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2011 and Rebels would be banned from licensed premises.
It was reported yesterday a national task force has cut the Rebels off at their knees and may take aim at the other “big three” clubs, effectively bypassing shaky state anti-association laws.
The Attero task force has arrested or reported about 700 members and associates of the Rebels since February, issuing about 1200 charges.
The club is thought to have up to 1500 members in Australia.
The Rebels have about 112 members in Victoria at chapters in Sunshine West, Geelong, Warrnambool, Kilsyth, Pakenham, Springvale, Bendigo and Emerald.
It is not believed the club has a presence in Ballarat which is already home to the Vikings and Bandidos.
Detective Inspector Ian Campbell said police were monitoring the bikies to minimise any community intimidation that might arise and to increase community reassurance.
“We have had a strong police presence to ensure all the Rebels comply with road safety rules. This is about community reassurance,” Detective Inspector Campbell said.
There have been no issues or arrests so far in Victoria, with police checking licences, registration and helmets and breath testing the gang for drugs and alcohol.