Motorcycle Clubs and Groups

ABATE of Kansas, Inc., District 5

Written by  July 31, 2004

People ride for different reasons. People ride different makes of machines. Some want to wear helmets, some don’t. There are riders who like protective gear with armor. Others like the feel of jeans and leather.

And when motorcyclists are on the road during the heat of the summer, or sitting in their front rooms while their bikes have been put away for the winter, there’s someone watching out for them to make sure their riding choices are not impeded. It’s not an angel, per say, but an ABATE lobbyist.

ABATE? Never heard of it?

Think of it as the ACLU for motorcycle riders. ABATE, pronounced A (long A) BAIT of Kansas Inc., is a motorcycle rights organization that began 29 years ago at Lake Perry in Kansas by a group of motorcyclists who didn’t want government bureaucrats creating legislation that would take away their motorcycle freedoms.

“The original definition of ABATE was A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactment,” Sheri Lesmeister, ABATE’s District 5 Representative, said. “The now, more frequent acronym used is American Bikers Aimed Towards Education.”

ABATE District 5, which covers Johnson, Miami, Linn, and Wyandotte counties in Kansas, is one of 12 districts throughout the state. ABATE has grown from its beginnings at Lake Perry, and is now in approximately 30 states.

“That’s the last I knew,” Lesmeister said. “It could be more, now. We have approximately 400 members in District 5, and when people join ABATE, they have the support of a full-time paid lobbyist, all the people who are active in the organization, and a newsletter every month letting them know what’s going on with legislative information for state and local issues.”

Members also receive information about ABATE events, rallies and runs, a patch, and a $2,000 insurance policy for accidental death and or dismemberment. You can join ABATE for only $20 per person per year. Monies from dues and fund-raising events go towards fighting for the rights of all motorcyclists.

“It’s important that people know we are a motorcycle organization and not a club,” Lesmeister said. “It’s not a Harley group; we represent anyone who rides and it doesn’t matter what they ride. “Raising money is important because you never know when it is going to be needed. Some years there might not be anything going on, but when someone tries to introduce legislation that would take away a rider’s freedoms, the money is there. “It’s difficult to do a spur-of-the-moment fund-raiser when you need the money now.”

Case in point; last year ABATE donated thousands of dollars to fight the Environmental Protection Agency on the behalf of small motorcycle-based businesses, because it was trying to force the California emission controls to be adopted nationwide. While ABATE was not successful in defeating this regulation, they were successful in getting it postponed for additional review in 2006.

“If this new regulation is enacted, it would wipe out a lot of independent shops, like Frank’s (Pedersen, owner of Motorcycle Works in Olathe, Kansas),” Lesmeister said. “It would not have allowed riders to alter their machines, such as putting different pipes on; they could have only purchased items from the dealers where they bought the motorcycles.”

ABATE also has been active in helping prevent the helmet law from being enacted in Kansas, and two years ago helped stop legislation that would have forced motorcycle riders to wear bright orange vests.

“We also pushed to repeal the helmet law in Missouri this past year,” she said. “We’re not against helmets; we support safety. But we are pro-freedom of choice, and that’s the main purpose of ABATE. ABATE prefers to focus on automotive driver awareness and rider education. We believe in avoiding accidents instead of making crashing safer.”

“Legislation comes from all different arenas: insurance companies, or a senator or representative pushing their own agendas, or a mother who has had a son or daughter killed on a motorcycle. It could be many things, and we’re not saying they are all bad. “We are not anti-helmet; we are pro-safety, but we want freedom of choice.” ABATE’s mission is even more important today that it was 29 years ago, Lesmeister said. “Twenty-nine years ago, there weren’t that many people riding,” she said. “Today, there are millions of motorcycles across the United States, and they need to have their rights protected.”

ABATE districts host meetings once a month that are open to the public, and district reps meet with the state board once a month. Each district, as well as the state board, is responsible for its own fund-raisers.

District 5 is currently offering tickets at a suggested donation price of $10 to win a custom chopper built by Motorcycle Works, which will be given away next June during the district’s Down South Country Run at LaCygne, Kansas.

The state’s fund-raising event takes place each Labor Day. It’s a three-day event with bands, vendors, a bike show, games, camping, and plenty of food. “Traditionally, more than 3,000 people show up,” Lesmeister said, “But there are more than 200 acres, so there’s a lot of room for people to spread out so they are not on top of each other.” For members, it’s $20; non-members pay $30.

And where is it?

At Lake Perry, of course, where ABATE originated 29 years ago.

To find out more about ABATE, go to www.abateksdist5.org.

Story and photos by Chuck Kurtz