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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming:
"WOW, what a ride !!!"

On the Couch - Volume 3

American Historic Rules Motocrossers Avoid

These are really my last thoughts and comments on youth racing and the decline in AHRMA membership, voting, and regions racing independently. I’m asked about it all the time. I have one guy that comes to my shop whenever AHRMA has a set back or changes a rule making it more difficult to keep membership growing, and this guy loves it like a fat kid loves cake. He seldom races an AHRMA event. I can’t remember ever seeing him at a national in 9 years that I’m racing. I loved racing nationals with AHRMA a few years back, I never had any desire to see AHRMA go under, or suffer in any way, I still don’t. Why would I, my living is made from people racing, destroying and restoring vintage bikes. The rules they make seldom if ever effect me, but a lot of people who race under the AHRMA banner have valid complaints, others who seldom or never make an AHRMA race just love to talk about it for some reason. So once and for all, here’s how I see it.

Almost 2 years ago, I was interviewed by Mr. Michael McCook for this website, McCook Racing. One of the questions Michael asked me was: “Where do you see the future of vintage motocross going and can riders look for any changes in the 2005 northeast racing program? ” The following paragraph is the majority of my answer:

“Everyone needs to keep something in mind if you truly love to race vintage bikes, and are concerned with the longevity and protection of it. If something unforeseen occurs either with your independent vintage group, or AHRMA in your region and you want to remain a racer, you may face the fact that at your next race one of two things may happen. Either you’re going to end up in tech inspection with someone measuring your suspension and putting a sticker on your helmet, or you may be lined up next to a bike with a lay down kit on it as you wait for the youth class to complete their moto. That’s the reality of it.

For vintage racing to have a future we all need to support it; in all its forms. At this time AHRMA doesn’t offer a youth class. Perhaps in the future they will. In the mean time, get out with your son or daughter and race with an independent club”.

No, I do not have the gift of prophecy, but I wasn’t far off either.

Fact: There has been volumes of complaints, lots of ideas, and just pissing and moaning in general over the passed two years about AHRMA, youth classes, numerous classes at races that often cater to one entrant, premier bikes, certain bikes from 75-77 without “real homes” and of course, post vintage-evolution bikes running on the same day as vintage bikes. Did the majority of any of it get resolved? NO! The biggest issue to me is the youth class. Why is it my biggest issue? No kids, no future, its not all that difficult to understand. Many of my thoughts apply more towards the northeast region, but it is becoming a trend in other regions as well. In the event you haven’t seen it before please read the following statement from the board of AHRMA: (Italicized, under some paragraphs are some of my thoughts)

From the Board:
Regional concerns

AHRMA has been wracked by legal controversy and costs during the last 10 years. We have been brought to Chapter 11 Bankruptcy by relentless forces. In an effort to fend off other potential problems the AHRMA Board met by telephone on 26th March to discuss several matters, one of which was the danger presented to our Association by AHRMA regions which are not prepared to follow the AHRMA rulebook.

AHRMA has never had a “top brass” presents at regional events. To keep track owners happy, regional coordinators often have to add support classes such as mini bikes, youth classes, veteran and modern support races to help cover the nut, otherwise, we are not getting an invitation back, can you say “Una-Dilla”?

AHRMA’s counsel, Ted Bendelow, was present and once again carefully presented the legal arguments against allowing “youth” racing at AHRMA events. You can read his insurance analysis elsewhere in the newsletter. He pointed out that any racing classes or processes which are not specifically mentioned in the AHRMA rulebook fall into a similar category and if used at an AHRMA event place us in legal jeopardy.

Really Ted? Rumor has it that at a recent race, there were sidecars and motard bikes running. I understand there has also been an addendum to the rule that if a non AHRMA club is running an event, and invites AHRMA to join them that day, youth classes can be run, as long as it isn’t AHRMA that promoted the race.

In order to finally make the Association’s policy crystal clear a proposal was made during the meeting to allow youth racing under certain carefully controlled circumstances following the AMA model. This proposal was defeated unanimously. The Board felt that there is no place for “youth” racing in AHRMA or the long-term dangers it brings.

***Good call, I guess the AMA model for youth racing doesn’t work. After all, only 66,000, that’s sixty six thousand youth riders attempt to qualify for Loretta Lynns every year.****

Subsequent to the defeated motion a second proposal was brought to the table in order that no misunderstanding of the Board’s intention with regard to variation from AHRMA’s stated rules could be made.

“That any AHRMA region which refuses to respect the AHRMA rulebook and any Board requirements shall be suspended as an AHRMA region. This suspension shall remain in force until Region leadership is in place which will follow the AHRMA rulebook and Board requirements.”

***This is almost as laughable as the youth classes. Let me get this one straight, your going to close down AHRMA in a region, leaving racers with no organization, then your going to recruit someone( I’m sure they will be lining up for this too) to take it over, run it the way you see fit, bring AHRMA back in that region and expect racers to show up again? Yeah, OK, I’ll give you three more words “American Classic Racing”.

Suspension means that the Region shall not use the AHRMA name, logo, classes or rules with regard to any events it may run. No fees will be returned to that region and no activity reports or ads will be accepted for Vintage Views or the web page.

I have one question here. Since when can a rule by one organization, not be used by another?

Maybe someone from the NBA should tell someone at the NFL they can’t use “time out” or” over time”.

Oh, one more thing, if anyone reading this believes AHRMA invented the terms Sound of Singles, Battle of Twins or Bears, do a little research, they were used over a decade before in Europe and in England.

Individual AHRMA members of a suspended region shall remain in good standing with AHRMA and shall retain all their rights and privileges.

This action is taken to protect AHRMA and its members from possible legal and financial damage which might arise from AHRMA’s apparent association with events and actions over which it clearly has no control or responsibility.”

So it’s a law suit thing? Legal jeopardy, is that it? Now where was it I read…… Oh yeah, in the AHRMA rulebook in Vintage Views and on their web site that “AHRMA is a not for profit organization” Not for profit means, you need to spend or re-invest 80% of what you make each year back into the company. Perhaps in computers to figure out scoring so we don’t have to wait three months to see the results of a race, perhaps that same computer can be used to sign racers up the day of the event too, much like what happens every week across the country when 1000+ racers show up on a Sunday morning and are on the line racing by 11 AM. If you spent 80% of it, you wouldn’t have anything for anyone to sue you for, and one more thing: THE BENEVOLENT FUND IS FOR INJURED RACERS, NOT A WAR CHEST to pay for a lawsuit that could have been settled years ago with an apology and a cold Guiness!

Fact: There was a vote this year for new trustees, everyone wanted a “new regime” fresh ideas and the possibility of regional coordinators running regional events the way they saw fit in order to keep promoters and track owners happy. Did this happen? NO, in fact, with the old regime still in place, regional coordinators HAVE to play by the AHRMA rules regardless of poor gate numbers, or loose the AHRMA moniker, its class names etc. Other clubs east of the mighty Mississippi have learned what American Classic Racing proved 7 years ago, give the people what they want, attendant numbers don’t lie.

(Mitch Winder and the Midwest racers, welcome to the free world, by the time you read this the Mid-Atlantic boys may be outside the fence too)

Fact: AHRMA has over 5200 members, each one with the power to vote for new trustees, this took place over the winter of 2006-07, and the grand total of voters was just about… 1200 or about 22%. But I guess this was an important vote, the total was about 1000 the last time there was a trustee vote.

Why 22%? Just my thoughts on this nothing can be confirmed or denied: The members of AHRMA have lost their trust in trustees. There is no need to go down memory lane and rehash any of it, Ill sum it up for you in three words: Lawsuit-Benevolent Fund.

The sad part is, not voting, was like voting for the person you didn’t want to win. However, and much more serious is, people not voting, means people not caring either way, again, they have lost trust and feel they have lost control of their “member run” organization.


I also discovered something else this afternoon I never knew before; there is NO AGE MINIMUM for trials in AHRMA. There are riders well under 18 who ride trials, some as young as eleven. Here’s a riddle for you. Go to the front page of the AHRMA website, look at the youngster riding the trials bike, find out who he is.

Hint: This fella can’t get served a beer anyplace in America and he’s been riding trials for years.

Another rumor I heard was the reason there is no youth class in motocross is due to the fact you would have to let riders under 18 road race and dirt track as well. In some sense I agree, I wouldn’t want to be motoring down a straightaway in Daytona, head for a turn, and have a kid next to me, however I guess they feel its fine to let a minor as young as 11 loft a front wheel onto a slippery wet log or a boulder wearing short sleeves and a half helmet while there is NO AMBULANCE required at an AHRMA trials event.

Let me stress something again and make it clear. I really do not want to see AHRMA fold, I never did. Racing nationals is an awesome experience. For people who have the proverbial hard-on for AHRMA, it’s something you may never understand and a completely different topic for another day. For those of you that did do it, and took your family along, you know what I’m talking about. For the record, I do not have a kid that races, I have no agenda in the matter. Keeping the youth away is bad enough, but you also keep the adults away when you do this.

Is the racer who had a great time with his kids at regional races going to go to AHRMA nationals now that AHRMA has positively shut the door on kids? I’m not so sure. There are many riders who only ride nationals. That’s all they do every year, so regionally, it will never have an effect them.

AHRMA isn’t going anyplace, not any time soon the way I see it, however here is the caveat: Keep coming up with irrational rules for regional coordinators to play by, threaten them with pulling AHRMA out of the region, open a wide smooth road for independent clubs to house your vintage motocross homeless and watch your membership continue to shrink. I commend regional coordinators who for years did what they had to do in order to keep their region afloat. I considered doing it myself at one time, but alas no more.

Joe Abbate #43F



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