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A gang of ruffian motorcyclists led by Johnny Straibler roar into the town of Carbonville, disrupting a local motorcycle race. The gang mocks the proceedings and Johnny steals a little trophy meant for the winner before the gang rides off to the next small town. While drag racing on the main street, the gang causes a minor accident which upsets many of the locals, who watch uneasily as the bikers settle into Bleeker's Café. Johnny is attracted to Kathie Bleeker, a quiet, practical girl who works at the café for her uncle Frank. Johnny shows Kathie the racing trophy, implying that he has won the event. Fascinated and a little frightened by Johnny's brooding intensity, Kathie is nevertheless taken aback when he offers her the trophy and turns down his offer to dance to the loud jukebox music. The town residents grow increasingly disturbed as several gang members harass locals and continue their flippant and dangerous bike antics. Harry Bleeker, the town's aging, solitary policeman, comes into the café to speak with Johnny, who is annoyed to discover that Harry is Kathie's father. Johnny gathers his gang together and considers pulling out of town when a rival bike gang led by Chino arrives. Chino harbors a grudge against Johnny for breaking away from their once unified gang. Visibly drunk, Chino ridicules the racing trophy and reveals that Johnny stole it, which disappoints Kathie, who is listening from the café. A brawl breaks out between Johnny and Chino, prompting town resident Charlie Thomas to lament that the violence is allowed to go unchecked. When Thomas attempts to drive through the fray, Chino gets his gang to overturn his car. Harry finally breaks up the fracas and demands that the gangs leave town. When they refuse, Harry arrests Chino for the assault on Thomas. Johnny returns to the café to see Kathie, who avoids him and turns down his invitation to attend a dance in Carbonville. As night falls, members of Johnny's gang convince him to break Chino out of jail. The gang cuts the phone lines, then picks up Thomas at his home and locks him in the jail cell, where the drunken Chino remains passed out. The gang returns to Bleeker's to drink heavily and carouse as Johnny watches indifferently. Growing anxious by the biker's behavior, Frank sends Kathie for Harry when he discovers the phone is dead. Several exuberant gang members begin looting stores and when a group of them notices Kathie hurrying from the café, they follow on their bikes, cornering her in an alley before Johnny intervenes and drives her to a secluded spot just outside of town. A group of townsmen then break Thomas out of jail, and when Chino awakens, he stumbles out of the cell and rejoins his gang. Meanwhile, alone with Kathie, Johnny roughly kisses her, but is disturbed by her unexpected submission. He grows angry when she admits to falling in love with him and accuses him of being afraid. After a terse quarrel with Johnny, Kathie walks back into town to discover that the gang has set fire to a building. Johnny follows, but confused by Kathie's declaration and now repelled by the gang's raucous behavior, abruptly decides to leave only to be caught by the angry townsmen led by Thomas. Kathie hurries home to find Harry drinking, fearful of the escalating situation in town. Thomas and the townsmen take Johnny to the basement of a store where they take turns beating him, until Harry, encouraged by Kathie, confronts them. Johnny breaks away and attempts to flee on his bike, but as he speeds down the street, a townsman hurls a wrench at him, causing Johnny to fall and the bike to careen into an old man, killing him. As the community stands about stunned, the county sheriff and several officers drive into town and arrest a number of gang members. The next day Johnny is brought before the sheriff, but refuses to explain the bike accident until Frank reveals the truth. Johnny is set free after the sheriff chastises him for his carelessness, which allowed the situation to get out of control. The remaining gang members are warned to curb their behavior and ordered to leave town. Johnny stops by Bleeker's to return the trophy to Kathie before departing.