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A Watershed Moment – Nancy Sabater Named AMA Motorcyclist of the Year

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has always been the sensible, thoughtful, conservative protector of the Good Name of Motorcyclists and Motorcycling, and they’ve done something which you might find a bit startling – the lynchpin and cornerstone of motorcycling in America named motorcycle activist Nancy Sabater as AMA Motorcyclist of the Year.

Sabater took home the prestigious award for her estimable contributions to repealing a Nanny State ban on sales of youth powersports vehicles, and for that, she should well have been commended.

The AMA Motorcyclist of the Year title goes every year to “the person or persons who had the most profound impact on the world of motorcycling in the previous 12 months,” and Sabater was certainly that person or persons.

Sabate prevailed over a truly insane “lead law” and sealed the deal as President Barack Obama signed legislation which overturned the ban on Aug. 12. The legislation ended a three-year battle to save American youth from a life without riding motorcycles (a horrible fate) and kept this country free from cages-only ignominy for future generations.

“This was a victory on many levels.”

-Nancy Sabater

“A number of partners had a hand in our victory over this misguided law — the motorcycle industry, race promoters, parts distributors and others, but it’s Nancy and those like her — the individual enthusiasts — who truly put the rubber to the road, gave our cause a face in the crowd and brought this victory home,” AMA president and CEO Rob Dingman said. “They were the most influential motorcyclists of 2011, and AMA member and grassroots activist Nancy Sabater is the AMA Motorcyclist of the Year for her stellar work on behalf of families and kids.”

So when did the madness begin?

In 2009 shortly after Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, the law was a result of reports that cheap,  imported (generally from China) children’s toys were testing high for lead content. It’s true, lead is just plain bad for kids and presents serious health risks. But the CPSIA legislation was written in such a way that it banned the making, importing, distributing or selling of any product intended for children 12 and under that contained more than a trace amount of lead. The upshot was that dirtbikes and ATVs sized for kids fell under the umbrella as they might contain trace levels of lead in parts such as brake calipers and battery terminals.

Did it matter that it’s inconceivable that parts like that were never, ever going to end up in a kid’s mouth as a teething ring? No, according to legislators, it did not.

Thousands of individual motorcyclists, with Sabater the most vocal dissenter, fuhgood fight to repeal the law.

Sabater was also involved in two initiatives which preceded the fix itself: the AMA Family Capitol Hill Climb last May 26 and cranking out a slew of videos Sabater produced of well-known racers and motocross industry personalities talking sense about the lunacy of  portions written into the lead law.

“This victory is something that demonstrates the fruits of our labors. Something really happened here. We effected change. We showed these kids that if you want something hard enough and you work hard enough, that you can get results,” Sabater said. “Who knows what battles we’ll fight next, in D.C., for the AMA, for the rights of motorcyclists? This was a victory on many levels.”


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