Story by Heather Wilson, AMA recreational riding manager
Photos courtesy of MSTA
This year, I had the opportunity to participate in the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association’s national rally: Sport Touring Association Rendezvous, affectionately known as STAR.
Held June 10-13 in La Crosse, Wis., the event attracted more than 280 attendees. The package included breakfast, select dinners, an abundance of route options, seminars and time to meet fellow riders.
MSTA started in 1982 as the Honda Sport Touring Association. It wasn’t until 2009 that the organization decided to embrace its diverse ridership and break from functioning as a brand-specific organization. MSTA, at the time HSTA, first chartered with the AMA in 1986.
The organization is entirely operated by volunteers. There is an executive committee for the organization and state directors for several states who operate local and regional events.
I’ll admit that it can be nerve-wracking to go to an event where you don’t know anyone. I have no problem giving presentations to a group of strangers or talking to people, but it’s often hard to invite yourself into existing groups of riders.
I was impressed that MSTA has developed wonderful techniques over the years to make first-time attendees feel welcome. They call all first-time attendees before the convention to answer any questions they may have; they host a new members meeting; they frequently ask the new members to stand and be recognized; they have ambassadors whose responsibility is to meet new attendees; and more.
I found that MSTA members are generally very accepting and conversational. They are safety-conscious, serious riders who enjoy riding in small groups.
AMA Charter Life member Roger Smith, of Wichita, Kan., shares the same sentiment. He’s been an MSTA member for more than 20 years.
“I find, in general, that the MSTA members are better than average riders and altogether decent people,” Smith said. “They ride to ride, not to be seen, and appreciate good motorcycles and good motorcycling roads. Most are the kind of people you'd hang out with, even if they didn't ride.”
Executive committee member Dianne Park, an MSTA member since 2004, said these riders give rigorous attention to safety and to wearing all the gear all the time. As a motorcycle safety instructor and an ATGATT rider myself, I appreciate that and fit in well.
The convention is not set up with structured group rides. The association provides electronic maps and .gpx files for attendees to download. It’s a self-navigated event.
However, for those, like me, who don’t have a GPS, there is the option of just tagging along with those gracious enough to let me join them. (Shout out to my boyfriend’s friend, Tim, who was generous and allowed me to borrow his Ducati Scrambler, since I flew to the event!)
MSTA also has ride signup sheets where an experienced attendee will volunteer to lead a ride and others can sign up to join them. This is great for those attending who may not have anyone to ride with.
AMA member Mike Morris of Durant, Okla., said he’s been a member of MSTA for 30 years and has attended about half of the national rendezvous or "STAR" events.
“This year’s event in Wisconsin was a very good one,” Morris said. “From these rallies, I have met many great, lifelong friends and have enjoyed some of the best motorcycling roads in the country. The MSTA is a small,, but dedicated, club, whose primary activity is to get out and ride! We are aging a bit but the abilities and knowledge gained from riding experience make the club a wonderful asset for anyone who likes motorcycles.”
Now, let’s talk about the routes. Local MSTA members Carl and Denise Wieman, Ray Kang, Roger Ries and Doug and Sherry Marsh helped the MSTA executive committee with laying out some amazing routes.
Iowa and Minnesota were within a stone’s throw of the event, so many of the routes touched those states. There is no possible way anyone could complain that there wasn’t enough riding to be had! There were 23 routes laid out, ranging from 100 miles to 300-plus, and four of those were adventure routes.
The Marsh’s also wrote up the route descriptions to help riders know what to expect, and Jim Roberts spent two days in La Crosse checking out local places to give riders’ ideas of neat places to stop.
Vendors were also onsite, as well as Rod’s Ride On Powersports, the host dealership. Rod's went above and beyond to take care of the event attendees.
AMA member Dave Brickner of Morganton, N.C., joined the then-HSTA in 1992 and was also an AMA member at that time.
“The MSTA is all about riding the best roads and having your friends and fellow members show you those roads in their backyards, and you show them yours,” Brickner said. “STAR in Wisconsin was fantastic, because I got to see many of my friends again, and I was shown the great roads in an area that frankly I didn’t expect to find.”
He added that membership in both the MSTA and AMA are valuable. MSTA is a specialized segment of riders. The AMA is diverse in ridership and activity and looks out for his and other motorcyclists’ rights.
If you’d like to meet fellow sport-touring riders who love to log miles, check out more information about the MSTA at www.ridemsta.com. Next year’s rally is in June in Bristol, Va.