Sep 17, 2012

An Open Letter to Rob Dingman

Two or three times a year, since I dumped my AMA (American Motorcyclist Association, not American Medical Association, Academy of Model Aeronautics, American Marketing Association, American Management Association, or American Music Awards) membership back in the early 1980's, I get a membership plea from that strange "organization." Every year, I glance over the organization's list of "accomplishments" and get a little pissed off before I toss the mess into the trash. This year, I decided to do something Geezerly; I wrote good old President Rob a letter.

Rob Dingman
President & CEO
American Motorcyclist Association
13515 Yarmouth Drive
Pickerington, OH 43147

Dear Mr. Dingman,

I appreciate your interest in my favorite transportation system. First, I have to say that 30 years after I last belonged to the AMA, I admire your organization's persistence, if not the frugality or common sense behind sending so many letters over so many years to someone who has shown absolutely no interest in belonging to your organization. I belonged to the AMA back in the days when I was an off-road racer and had to belong to ride on a few race tracks. Back in those days, the AMA was mostly an irritant and an arrogant rule-making organization that was as rooted in what riders wanted and needed as the IRS demonstrates during an individual income tax audit. So, when I quit racing one of the first things I jettisoned was my AMA membership card. Back in those days, the only real "benefit" AMA members received was a poorly constructed patch that a few of us stitched to our nylons but most of us tossed into the garage rag bag.

The most recent recruiting ad suggests that modern AMA membership has more to offer: AMA Roadside Assistance (a benefit with which more than a few of my friends have experienced discouraging results), discounts on stuff from dealers and other vendors, access to your website, and a subscription to the American Motorcyclist Magazine (which other MSF instructors are always giving me just to see me get pissed off at the latest goofy AMA legal campaign). I have to tell you that for $110 a year, I get 200 mile towing from AAA for all of my vehicles and I can't imagine where your 35 mile limit would be useful to me. AAA isn't too shabby in the motel and travel discount territory, too. So, financially, I'm not convinced that an AMA membership is a good move.

Where the organization would really grab my cash is if the AMA were my "toughest advocate for the freedoms [I] deserve as a motorcyclist." (I underlined and bold printed those claims just like they were printed in the letter.) The fact is, though, the AMA appears to be completely unaware of any issue important to me. A few months back, Peter TerHorst claimed to be paraphrasing you in saying, "“The three biggest problems facing motorcycling today is noise, noise and noise.” Lousy grammar, but a wonderful sentiment.
For a few moments, I thought the AMA was about to get on the right side of a fight, for a change. Almost a year later, the issue seems to have vanished from the AMA's plate or the AMA issues waffling statements that put the blame on the people who complain about motorcycle noise rather than the noise makers. Meanwhile, the noisy exhaust crowd is making thousands of enemies for those of us who ride regularly.

The recruiting letter bragged about how the AMA's campaign against motorcycle-only checkpoints was doing something for motorcycling, while we continue to contribute 13-15% traffic fatalities while providing less than 0.1% of the country's transportation miles. I've never heard of the AMA promoting lane-sharing and filtering or seen any effort from the organization to help commuting motorcyclists obtain reasonable parking access. While there is something to the claim that the AMA's promotion to fix the glitch in the Consumer Product Product Safety Act that accidentally included vehicle lead-acid batteries in the banned materials, we all know there are alternatives ATV manufacturers could have used for those batteries and that this was a non-issue for typical motorcyclists.

The fact is that the AMA does not represent anything I care about and that is either a comment on how weird I am or how out of touch the AMA has become. The AMA claims to represent 235,000 motorcyclists, but the Motorcycle Institute Council (MIC) found there were 10.4 million motorcycles in the US in 2008 and about 9 million licensed motorcyclists. That means the AMA is representing about 2.6% of the country's motorcyclists. Of course, only about 200,000 of us commute to work on a daily basis, so you could just as well concentrate on us instead of the boneheads. In fact, until the AMA quits representing the "rights" of drunks, hooligans, and noisemakers you're wasting your time and postage sending me these silly letters.

Hell, I've been trying to get Andy Goldfine to move the Ride to Work Day organization into the void the AMA has left between racers, gangsters, and the rest of us. I even gave them $100 this year to try and inspire a little political action. They do more for commuting riders than the AMA has done in 88 years, but that's not enough. As your website says, the original AMA moto was ""The slogan of the AMA will be: An Organized Minority Can Always Defeat an Unorganized Majority." That's what US motorcyclists desperately need, an organized minority. You could be that organization, but you're going to have to work harder on the important stuff and lay off of the obviously destructive crap.

Thomas Day
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Magazine


  1. Hi Geez,
    I have to agree with you. I let my guard down last year and again joined the AMA. Then I read in a recent issue of the AMA rag that the President (AMA not US) believed that they needed to engage with the non racers...well duh. This was the 'light bulb' moment for me again. I will not be renewing. We 'tweeners' are still being left in the dust by the AMA. If the AMA wants to support racing good on them. I have no interest and do not in anyway benefit from their agenda. Why is there no one to represent us, still?

  2. As usual, we get the government (representation) we deserve. We let the AMA focus on crap that doesn't matter by giving them out cash when they have failed to do us any good. With the tiny percentage of riders the AMA does represent, you'd think they'd get some message from that, but they, like all humans, are slow learners.

  3. Here in NY, we do have the motorcycle-only checkpoints, and they are infuriating if you believe in equal treatment before the law. I have witnessed one in action, and very arbitrarily they pulled over several bikes doing nothing obviously wrong and gave them and their bikes the third degree, which of course found something that they were writing them up for. Again, these guys looked like typical middle-aged or older Harley guys with bright shiny bikes and even wearing most safety gear. I'm guessing one of the bikes had non-approved exhaust because it seemed somewhat loud, but certainly these guys were not part of the bigger hooligan problem. And, I have used the towing service a couple of times, for my cars, and it was no worse than others I have used, including AAA. The 35-mile range worked fine in both situations. Having said all that, I disagree with many AMA political positions, particularly with regard to protecting wild areas.

  4. By the way, I should have added that around here the pricing I see would be more than $200 per year to get AAA coverage for me, my wife, and our cars and my motorcycle. I could probably pay less than that for a tow in most circumstances and I don't think I average a tow per year, even though I do drive older cars.

  5. I can see how the AMA towing coverage would be more useful in some areas. 35 miles rarely does me much good. AAA is a bit cheaper in MN, which makes it more competitive, apparently.

    I'm sort of tossed about the idea of "equal treatment," since motorcycles insist on special privileges (noise, dedicated purposes for license fees, and pirate parades, for example) and are such a high percentage of traffic noise sources. We've been violating the national law for so long it's become a habit and one we feel entitled to abuse. In MN, I suspect that more than 75% of the bikes on the road have illegal pipes.

    Knowing that my bike is legal, during non-rush hour times I might not object to a fair spot inspection. I would like to see vehicle inspections for emissions, noise, and safety make a comeback. When CA stopped inspecting vehicles, road safety went down dramatically and motorcycle noise rocketed (literally). If we had to put the legal pipes back on once a year, we might leave them on.

    I'm with you on public land use. I just don't see OHV users being responsible enough to be trusted with fragile natural resources. On the other hand, if we're just going to hand it over to corporations to rape and pillage, I suppose it doesn't matter.

  6. I like your idea of Ride to Work expanding into a full-blown motorcycle organization for the "rest of us." For example, I was rather irritated the other day to see a public pay parking lot with a sign that said "No Motorcycles." However, this same town had something that I would like to see other places: odd shaped pieces of pavement not good for much else were designated free parking for motorcycles only. Another problem coming down the road is how will motorcycles be dealt with when computer-controlled cars become street legal.

  7. The smart highway thing is huge. We are absolutely not on the radar for those systems. It's quite likely the design solution for everything the public doesn't like about motorcycles and motorcyclists; move us off of the major roadways.

  8. Totally agree with the noise issue. Keep stock pipes, or at least do not install loud pipes. I have heard the rationalization, over and over, loud pipes save lives. When I split lanes, I modulate my head light, sometime flick my turn signal back and forth, or hit the high beam button (in daylight), to let vehicles know that I am coming through. Always show courtesy.
    Motorcyclists are patriots, as far as I am concerned. We take up less space, use less gas, and suffer more injuries than any other vehicles. Hopefully the safety issues can be ramped up.
    Personally, I own ten bikes, ride most days, and have not dropped a bike, in the street, since 1969. Motorcycles have the ability to out maneuver and out accelerate cars or trucks, and so it is my objective to stay ahead of problems, and keep my bike in a nice spot on the road. Peace to all riders!


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