The recent news from Waco, Texas, was alarming. Gangs fought, people died. In this case, those gangs included people who rode motorcycles. For the non-motorcycling public, this created an unfortunate opportunity for a gross and patently inaccurate generalization -- that all motorcyclists are the bad guys.
By Rob Dingman
The recent news from Waco, Texas, was alarming. Shots were fired, people died. Those involved included motorcyclists. For the non-motorcycling public, this created an unfortunate opportunity for a gross and patently inaccurate generalization -- that all motorcyclists are the bad guys.
Simply put, you can’t paint all motorcyclists with the outlaw brush just because some outlaws choose to ride motorcycles.
The truth is, the vast majority of the motorcycling community includes men, women and kids of all ages who are responsible, generous and supportive of their communities. Your typical American motorcyclists? They are the world-class athletes of AMA Supercross. They are dual-sport riders exploring Rocky Mountain passes. They are professional businessmen and women commuting to work every morning. They are groups of friends enjoying twisty byways on the weekends. And, they are members of AMA-chartered clubs raising millions of dollars for charities as diverse as pediatric cancer and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Ever since Gottlieb Daimler built a motorized two-wheeler in 1885, people have been fascinated with motorcycles. The challenge of learning to ride and the rewards of doing so attract people who seek adventure and the thrill of mastering the road, trail or racetrack. By definition, piloting a motorcycle is a solo affair and those who are drawn to it are free-spirited, independent and freedom loving.
The exhilaration of riding and the benefits of organizing have brought riders together for well over a century to share and compare their experiences. The AMA traces its origins to 1924, when the nascent motorcycle industry sought to register riders and clubs for recreational activities and competition, sanction national events and promote the motorcycle lifestyle.
The sport has flourished and evolved to the point that, today, there are numerous competition disciplines and many motorcycle genres, each attracting tens of thousands of riders who relish the camaraderie of fellow two-wheel enthusiasts.
It’s no exaggeration to say that virtually everyone in America knows of a family member, close friend or co-worker who rides. Motorcycling is a mainstream activity.
Many of those mainstream members of society choose to belong to a motorcycle club. These clubs are as diverse as their members. Motorcycle clubs abound throughout the U.S. Some are brand affiliated. Others form around a particular type of riding, such as touring or off-highway trails. There are clubs that are created to foster competition opportunities. Still more are geographically centered and welcome all brands and styles of machines. Some clubs are very old, such as the Yonkers M.C., based in New York and established in 1903. Today, in the age of social media, new clubs emerge online regularly.
Where does the AMA fit into all of this? The AMA is the largest motorcycling organization in America representing riders of all types of motorcycles. Individuals, clubs and even businesses affiliate with the AMA to take advantage of event insurance, event rules and numerous member benefits. The AMA sanctions thousands of events every year, organized by these groups, and each one of these events is expected to meet a standard for organization, risk management and purpose.
These AMA-sanctioned motorcycle events attract hundreds of thousands of riders every year and are an important economic engine for their host cities. At the core of every successful event is the collaboration between riding clubs and promoters and their local communities.
In many cases, they are driven by the big hearts of motorcyclists and their clubs, which raise funds by the millions every year for noble, charitable causes.
As pervasive as motorcycling has become, it is still misunderstood by many in the public sphere, not to mention the halls of government. That is why many clubs support the AMA’s advocacy in Washington, D.C., and why AMA members work tirelessly to change unfair laws and regulations in their state and local governments.
Within the AMA’s ranks, we welcome diversity and open discourse. An elected board of directors, representing our members and industry leaders, governs our organization. In 2013, for the first time in its history, the board elected a woman – Maggie McNally-Bradshaw – as its chair. Her vision, like that of her fellow board members, is what allows the AMA to represent the interests of millions of on- and off-highway motorcyclists across America.
Organized motorcycling in America is worlds apart from violence and illegal activity – in every way imaginable. The vast majority of motorcyclists are like those who you find in the AMA: law-abiding, generous, safety-conscious, freedom-loving enthusiasts who enjoy time on their motorcycles and advocate for fair treatment and equal rights.
Rob Dingman is the president and CEO of the American Motorcyclist Association.