ABATE Motorcycle Organization Supports Riders' Rights

The group put aside a contentious past to stand up for riders

Motorcycles lined up while parked
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ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) is a motorcycle rights organization that brings attention to issues affecting riders. Members have pushed for the repeal of helmet laws and are involved in safety training and charity work.

The group started in 1971 when Easyriders, a motorcycle magazine, started publishing for adult bikers. Lou Kimzey was the editor. At the same time, the National Custom Cycle Safety Institute was established, and Easyriders staff members were 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.

ABATE Founded

The magazine began a bikers' organization called the National Custom Cycle Association, later changed to A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments (ABATE). By 1972, Keith Ball had become an associate editor and director of ABATE. The organization deployed coordinators to several states so bikers could organize locally.

Through Ball's work and Kimzey's guidance, ABATE located area coordinators in several states to help organize bikers so that they could better represent ABATE. The group worked to ensure safe parts; without their efforts, there may not have been choppers on the road.

In March 1977, ABATE, through the help of EASYRIDERS staff, held a state coordinators meeting in Daytona, Florida. ABATE decided as a lobbying organization to discourage back patches on cut-offs, so as not to be considered a "club" by outlaw groups, police, or citizens. ABATE also decided to get organized. Nominations were held and five state coordinators were elected as a steering committee to take ideas from members and chapters and turn the results into a charter and bylaws.

Fuzzy Davy, from ABATE of Virginia, was elected spokesman of the steering committee, which also included Donna Oaks from ABATE of Kansas, Russell Davis (Padre) from ABATE of Pennsylvania, Wanda Hummell from ABATE of Indiana, and John Herlihy (Rogue) from ABATE of Connecticut. A meeting was set for Labor Day at the second national ABATE get-together in Lake Perry, Kansas. This gave the steering committee seven months to get organized.

Organizing Leads to Disagreement

Kimzey couldn't make the Kansas meeting because of a sudden illness but sent Ball, Joe Teresi, union organizer Pat Coughlin, and Ron Roliff, business agent of the Modified Motorcycle Association (MMA), in his place. At this meeting, a proposal for a new national organization including a five-member board of directors was presented by people from Easyriders.

Discord arose when people learned that no state coordinators or ABATE people would be on the board, which instead would comprise people from California led by Roliff. This intimidated a lot of ABATE people. Also, none of the ABATE steering committee recommendations were considered.

After a lot of infighting, state coordinators were asked to submit to Kimzey their ideas for change. Kimzey apologizing for missing the Kansas meeting and announced that he was scheduling a meeting in Sacramento, California, in October 1977. He paid the steering committee members' airfares and put them up in a hotel, then attempted to explain how things had gotten out of hand. ABATE people who weren't invited to this meeting provoked attacks against Kimzey and Easyriders. Kimsey told people attending the meeting that he and Easyriders were relinquishing the organization to the people attending the Sacramento meeting.

Two Groups Formed

From this, two national organizations were formed: one in Sacramento, the other in Washington, D.C. The latter was formed by all state ABATE organizations. In March 1978, ABATE chapters held another meeting in Daytona. The Sacramento people sent Coughlin with a proposal that was rejected by the ABATE organizations attending. The ABATE chapters were told that the Sacramento group wouldn't change its name (National ABATE) and would conduct business as usual.

It was decided that the Washington group should be dissolved and that the states should get back to doing what they were formed to do: fight state anti-motorcycle legislation.


ABATE formed five regions in the country, each with about 10 states. Each region has a coordinator who manages information between independent state ABATE organizations. Because of the infighting involved in trying to form a national organization and the funds required, another attempt to create a national group is unlikely. In the meantime, ABATE members all over the country are taking care of business as always.