All About the ABATE Organization

Standing Up for Riders' Rights

Motorcycles lined up while parked
Yuji Kotani/Getty Images

If you have been around the biking world, you have probably heard of ABATE. The acronym ABATE stands for American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.

ABATE is a motorcycle rights organization that brings attention to a variety of issues affecting riders. They have been known to push for the repeal of helmet laws, and are also involved in safety training and charity work. 

The group got its start in 1971 when EASYRIDERS, a motorcycle machine, was published for adult bikers.

Lou Kimzey served as the editor. At the same time, the National Custom Cycle Safety Institute was established, and part of the EASYRIDERS staff was a part of the group for distributors and manufacturers. They wanted to devise safety standards for custom parts -- mostly front ends and frames with raked necks.

The magazine began a bikers' organization known as the National Custom Cycle Association. It was later changed to A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments (ABATE). By 1972, Keith Ball became an associate editor and director of ABATE. The organization then deployed coordinators into different states so the bikers could organize on the local level. 

In early 1972, Keith Ball arrived on the scene at EASYRIDERS. He became Associate Editor of EASYRIDERS and Director of ABATE. Through the work of Keith and the guidance of Lou, ABATE started area coordinators in different states to help organize bikers so that they could better represent ABATE locally.

During those days, the group did a lot to ensure safe parts. In fact, without their efforts, there may not have been choppers on the road.

In March of 1977, ABATE, through the help of the staff at EASYRIDERS, held a State Coordinators meeting in Daytona, Florida. It was decided as a matter of policy that ABATE, nationwide, as a lobbying organization would discourage back patches on cut-offs.

This was decided as necessary in order not to be misjudged as a "club," either by outlaw groups, police, or Joe Citizen. At this meeting, it was also decided that it was about time ABATE got organized, with a charter, bylaws, etc. Nominations were held, and five State Coordinators were elected as a steering committee to take ideas from all the members and chapters, and boil the results down to a charter and bylaws. Fuzzy Davy from ABATE of Virginia was elected spokesman of the steering committee along with Donna Oaks from ABATE of Kansas, Russell Davis (Padre) from ABATE of Pennsylvania, Wanda Hummell from ABATE of Indiana, John (Rogue) Herlihy from ABATE of Connecticut. A meeting was set up for Labor Day at the second national ABATE get-together in Lake Perry, Kansas. This gave the new steering committee seven months to get everything together.

At the Kansas meeting, Lou Kimzey could not make it because of a sudden illness. In his place he sent Keith Ball, Joe Teresi, Pat Coughlin, a union organizer, and Ron Roliff, business agent of the M.M.A. A hall was rented by EASYRIDERS so that a professional meeting could be conducted. At this meeting a proposal for a new national was presented by the people from EASYRIDERS.

In this proposal was a five- member board of directors. A problem arose when it was learned that none of the board would be made up of any of the state coordinators or any ABATE people, but would be composed of people from California, led by Ron Roliff of the M.M.A. This intimidated a lot of hard working ABATE people. Also, none of the recommendations of the ABATE steering committee were considered.

After a lot of in-fighting, the state coordinators were asked to send what they thought should be changed and to submit their ideas to Lou Kimzey. Lou had sent around a letter explaining that he was sorry that he had missed the meeting in Kansas and that he was scheduling a meeting in Sacramento in October 1977. Lou paid the air fares of the steering committee members (5), put them up in a hotel, and then attempted to explain how and why things had gotten out of hand.

Unfortunately, ABATE people who had not been invited to this meeting provoked uncalled-for attacks against Lou and EASYRIDERS. Lou had tolerated a lot of mud slinging concerning forming a national organization; thus he stated to the people attending the meeting that he and EASYRIDERS were relinquishing the organization to the people attending the meeting in Sacramento.

Out of this mess two national organizations were formed: one in Sacramento; the other in Washington, D.C.; the latter being formed by all the state ABATE organizations. In March of 1978, ABATE chapters held another meeting in Daytona. The Sacramento people sent Pat Coughlin with another proposal. It was rejected by the ABATE organizations attending. 'At this meeting the ABATE chapters were told that the Sacramento group was not going to change its name (National ABATE) and was going to go on doing business as usual. It was decided that the D.C. base national that was formed by the state organizations should be dissolved, thus doing away with a lot of the hassles taking up everybody's time, and that the states should get back to doing the business they were formed to do--fight state anti- motorcycle legislation.

ABATE formed five regions in the country, each region having about l0 states. Each region has a Regional Coordinator who coordinates information between the state ABATE organizations. Each ABATE state organization is now independent and on its own. Because of all the hassles of trying to form a national organization.

The trust and funds needed, the probability of another attempt at forming a nation is most unlikely.

In the meantime, ABATE people all over the country are taking care of business as always, and no matter what happens, they will be there taking care of business.