Brief History of Bikers’ Rights and the MRF


n      Spurred by the first major legislative problem - a NY law to requiring registration of motorcycles as motor vehicles rather than bicycles, the New York Motorcycle Club formed a committee to determine if a national motorcyclist enthusiasts organization was needed.  That same year, The Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) was formed. The purpose was to defend and protect the rights of motorcyclists.


n      By 1910 the FAM was working against the Chicago City Council on a restrictive measure to eliminate the sharp “pop-pop of a motorcycle.” First noise ordinance?


n      Motorcycle and Allied Trades Association (M&ATA) was formed with a goal of re-vitalizing the Bikers Rights movement started by FAM. Due to the drain on FAM by WWI, the M&ATA became the primary national motorcycle association. The FAM fizzled completely by 1918.


n      The M&ATA at their May 15, 1924 meeting created a riders division to be known as the AMA (now the American Motorcyclists Association). A new slogan, “An organized minority can alone defeat an unorganized majority,”


n      AMA lobbies against an Iowa bill that would double motorcycle registration fees to $10. The “Muffler Mike” campaign started to urge responsible members to use legal mufflers because “noise was the single biggest public relations problem confronting motorcyclists.”


n      AMA leader Lin Kuchler states that “99% of motorcyclists are clean-cut enthusiasts.”  (Where the term 1%er came from)


n      AMA in conjunction with the trade organization (now called Motorcycle Industry Council) forms a Government Relations Committee to help combat the onslaught of legislation that accompanied the boom in sales in the 1960s.

n      The Federal Highway Act included requirements for states to pass motorcycle helmet use laws and motorcycle operator licensing requirements.

n      States failing to comply faced the loss of ten percent of their federal highway construction funds.


n      Georgia enacts the first state helmet use law.

n      This issue was the spark that started the state motorcyclists’ rights movement that we know today.


n      Easyriders Magazine, at the urging of motorcycle clubs, created the Choppers Manufacturers Association and began working on a nationwide effort to protect the rights of bikers. They then came up with the acronym ABATE, which stood for “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments.” Choice of ABATE as an acronym was no accident.  Webster defines the word abate as “to beat down; to put an end to; to nullify; to reduce in degree or intensity.” The job at hand was to nullify the intrusion of the government into our lives.

n      The prevailing mood was, “it’s us against them” with “them” being Big Brother in all his controlling forms.

n      Distrust existed between many State Motorcyclists’ Rights organizations (SMROs)


n      Meeting held in Lake Perry, Kansas to discuss the formation of a national ABATE.

n      Some SMROs preferred to remain independent.

n      Rob Rasor of the AMA, Ron Roloffof the MMA of California, and Ed Armstrong of ABATE of Chicago, testify in front of congress that the helmet law was not the answer to motorcycle safety.

n      Congressman Bud Shuster complimented the bikers on their testimony saying that they did a much better job than the American Association of Railroads who preceded them.

n      Albert Benjamin Kelley, vice-president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests eliminating motorcycle injuries by eliminating motorcycles.


n      As a result of the work of a small group of very active bikers, Congress repeals the blackmail provisions of federal law.


n      The idea for MRF was created by Michael Farabugh, Debby Farabaugh and Wanda Hummel in the humble surroundings of a garage in Granger, Indiana.

n      ABATE USA Seminar held that September in St. Louis, MO. This was the first “Meeting of the Minds” (MOTM).

n      MOTM leads to the creation of the Motorcycle Rights Fund (MRF), governed by a Steering Committee


n      Amid clear signs of renewed federal interest in regulating motorcycling, the Steering Committee expands its agenda.

n      MRF is the first motorcyclists’ rights organization to place a lobbyist in our nation’s capitol.


n      Proposed national helmet law is stopped in Congressional committee.

n      The MRF undergoes a complete reorganization, adopts bylaws, a new name, and a membership structure.

n      Name changed to the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.


  • MRF defeats OSHA attempt to require motorcyclists to wear helmets at work regardless of state laws.


n      The MRF begins publishing white papers on issues important to motorcyclists. 


n      MRF sets a nine-point legislative agenda for the 105th Congress, coordinates federal lobbying efforts of SMRO’s. 


n      The “Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century” (TEA-21) is passed.

n      National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) priority areas include accident prevention and motorcycle safety.

n      No penalties on states without helmet laws.

n      Motorcycles to be included in the planning of ITS (Intelligent Transportation system).

n      No motorcycle bans on federally funded roads.

n      Restrictions placed on NHTSA lobbying in the states.


n      The MRF announces the creation of the Young Activists Scholarship Fund. 

n      MRF begins transmitting the MOTM on Internet Radio (Through INBRadio’s website).


n      The 20th Annual Meeting of the Minds is held in St Louis.  Today, the MOTM is motorcycling’s premier political leadership summit. 

n      Crystal Maney from CBA of Buncombe County, NC wins first Young Activists Scholarship Award.

MRF’s Mission Statement:

To continue developing an aggressive, independent national advocate for the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle which is financially stable and exceeds the needs of motorcycling enthusiasts.

2004 MRF Legislative Agenda

1. Promote safety on American roads for ALL road users by rescuing rider training budgets.

Since the September 11 attack, rider training is in crisis with state budgets for the program being sharply reduced or even eliminated. The MRF's plan for the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21) provides special grants to enhance motorist awareness of motorcycles.

2. Balance the nation's transport system by increasing motorcycling in

Every year, commuters in cars squander a staggering $72 billion in lost time and wasted fuel gridlocked in 68 of our largest urban centers. Cash-strapped and traffic-clogged, states are debating tax hikes to increase road capacity. Opponents say we cannot build our way out of this crisis, but even newspapers, customarily critical of sprawl, insist that more lanes belong in the mix. Something else belongs in the mix: the motor vehicle that cuts congestion, slashes commuting time and skimps on fuel. That vehicle is the motorcycle, and its advantages are as staggering as the problems it helps solve. Carrying one person to and from work, compared to the auto's 1.1 persons, motorcyclists complete urban commutes in a fraction of the time of other motorists, while imposing 51 times less road wear. If just 10% of the 1.5 trillion annual car miles were traveled by motorcycle, America would save over 4.1 billion gallons of fuel - enough to power every freight train in the nation for a year, with enough left over to send over 100,000 tractor-trailers around the world. The MRF's initiatives for TEA-03 (the reauthorization of TEA-21) will conserve fuel, eliminate road wear, ease traffic and parking congestion and drive jobs and the economy. It will boost motorcycle rider skill training and motorist awareness of all road users.

3. Break the choke hold on motorcyclists’ rights and safety posed by the Environmental Protection

At present, the EPA has imposed unacceptable emissions control standards on street motorcycles. These new standards are extreme and unnecessary for the following reasons:
• Every new motorcycle is cleaner than ever before. They are twice as clean as the old 1975 standard requires.
• Street bikes are not even a relevant part of the vehicular pollution problem. If all street vehicle pollution emissions were equal to the length of a football field, the contribution by street bikes would amount to a quarter of an inch on that field.
• Tougher standards will wipe out custom shops, the aftermarket parts industry, and small-volume bike makers, eliminating tens of thousands of jobs across America.

4. Rescue health care benefits for riders in case of accidents.

Due to a HIPAA provision, insurers can now extend health care benefits to employees who have accidents while driving cars, while denying accident benefits to employees who ride motorcycles. It is unfair, it is discriminatory, and the MRF is fighting it with innovations at the state and federal levels.

MRF’s Core Values:

Brought to you by Tim Nelson, Lee McCubbin and Vinny Neuman (10-5-04)