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Malcolm Smith: Mahatma Gandhi of Motorsports?

“There can be no turning back for us hereafter. We will keep on our fight till [self-governance] is established in India. Those of them that are married should take leave of their wives.”
-Mahatma Gandhi, to followers on the eve of the Salt March to protest restriction of salt transport in India, March 11, 1930

Okay, maybe it’s not exactly the same thing, but 79 years after the founder of the Indian republic began his famous campaign of civil disobedience, motorcycle legend Malcolm Smith protested another government’s onerous regulations with his own campaign of peaceful protest. But this one involved selling motorcycles and ATVs instead of the right to make and distribute salt.

We’ve covered the industry’s reaction to the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which bans the marketing, display or sale of consumer products containing even trace amounts of lead to children 12 or under. This includes, unfortunately, most kid’s motorcycles and ATVs.

So to draw attention to the injustice of this new law – which unfairly targets motorcycles while exempting automobiles (which kids ride in, not just on) and other items not intended primarily for the use of kids – Malcolm Smith organized the “Kids Love 2 Ride” protest to bring attention to the harm the ban is causing to small businesses, kids and families.

During the event, held at Smith’s multi-line dealership in Riverside, California, consumers were shown the banned products and allowed to “purchase” them at dealer cost, even though the vehicles will not be delivered until the ban is lifted. But he went one step further, actually selling three verboten units to supporters Jeff Ward (multi-time AMA National Champion), customizer Troy Lee and Glen Helen Raceway owner Bud Feldkamp. Supercross megastar Jeremy McGrath and Baja 1000 champ Scott Harden were also on hand to lend moral support.

In light of the heavy potential fines involved with willfully disobeying the big, bad Federal Government, this is a bold step for a business to take. Sales Manager Todd Baldwin said he couldn’t comment on the legality of their actions, but said they’re ready to face legal action or fines. He hoped the protest would encourage other dealers to make similar statements against what Malcolm feels is a right that is taken away from motorcyclists. They’re pleased that the event received more interest and attention than they had expected.

In addition to infringing on the rights of kids and families to enjoy motorcycling, the law is negatively affecting an industry that’s already struggling with slumping sales and tight credit markets. You can find out how you can help end the ban by visiting the AMA website or Malcolm’s Kids Love 2 Ride site.

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MD Readers Respond:

  • I they want to ditch this ban ALL YA GOTTA DO is make DAMN sure they have to include school buses and minivans …POOF no more ban Sammy
  • Wow, I really hope that the reader responses posted to the article about Malcolm Smith’s protest over the CPC’s enforcement of the “anti-lead” law aren’t representative of your readership. If they are then I’ve been visiting the wrong website! Anyone brain-dead or blind enough to equate Draconian enforcement of a blatantly anti-commerce, protectionist law with loud pipes aren’t the kind of riders I want to be associated with. Malcolm Smith should be given some kind of award or something for taking on the CPC the way he did. Almost wish I had a little one to buy a “killer, lead-laden” dirt bike for!

    It’ll all start sinking in eventually, I hope, that the Feds are not our friends when it comes to motorsports. >From arbitrary land closings (here comes the Omnibus Land Use bill again), to bizarre emissions regulations, limits on home-built vehicles, etc, etc… JOHN

  • Tell Sherm that lead is used in all types of products, not just paint.
    Tire valve stems have lead in them even the manufacturing process for
    the frame and plastics include lead although very minute amounts.

    The Yamaha TTR line and the Suzuki DRZ 70 have electric start. So they
    have lead acid batteries. Compare the sealed batteries in those bikes
    to the size of the batteries in your average automobile. Millions of
    kids are halued around inside cars all day long and there is no
    legislation for that.

    What does the CPSC think?? Children are going to chew on the frames and
    fenders of these motorcycles. Marvin

  • Malcolm is right. The lead ban on beginner off-road vehicles is totally bogus and ridiculous. It’s an intentional move to choke off the “dirty” blue collar sport of off-roading by making it harder for youngsters to get started.

    It’s O.K. for the privileged elite to play with powerboats, yachts, super cars, jets and the like while they binge on drugs and booze, but I guess they’re just special.

    My son is an aerospace engineer and my daughter is a lawyer who both got started on mini-bikes and still ride. I’ve ridden motorcycles most of my 67 years and the lead hasn’t killed me yet. I’m also an engineer, active bicyclist and environmentalist and can tell you that both the lead ban and the fossil fuel argument are absurd.

    We have to stand up for our rights right now or they will be taken away. The next move to kill our sport is to close our riding areas and create millions of more acres of wilderness. Gary

  • Thanks for the article… I don’t have children but I do race a Yamaha TT-R 110 in the F2 class of Oklahoma SuperBikers. The lead ban has put a damper on our sport because we are unable to obtain parts and service for our race bikes. In addition, jobs are being cut in the service departments because of the ban. I proudly support Malcolm Smith and believe he is making a move in the right direction in getting this issue brought into the spotlight. Chaun
  • The responses below the Malcolm Smith “Gandhi” story should include the explanation that most of the lead in small motorcycles isn’t in the paint. It’s in battery parts like lead terminals and plates, carburetor parts and electrical devices like stators and rotors. The tiny amount of lead in paint doesn’t amount to much compared to a couple lead battery terminals or alternator brushes. Frank
  • “Sherm” must not have any children, and he must not have any
    experience riding off-road motorcycles. Otherwise he would know that
    mini-motorcycles aren’t street-legal for riders under the age of
    about 15 or 16 anywhere in the U.S. Which means that, in general,
    outside of rural areas they aren’t used by kids for getting around.
    They still use their bicycles for that.

    Instead kids tend to use mini-motorcycles for family outings, or
    racing, on weekends. Note that riding an off-road motorcycle isn’t
    an activity that provides no exercise; quite the contrary. Going
    with family to enjoy off-road recreation beats the heck out of having
    your kids sitting around watching television on the weekends as many
    kids now do in this country; since everyone now tends to be afraid to
    send their kids out to play unattended.

    Also, Sherm must not have read any of the articles on this topic.
    The problem isn’t “lead in paint” on mini-motorcycles. Leaded paint
    hasn’t existed in this country for decades. The problem is that you
    can’t have a modern motorcycle without lead used in some of its
    components. There is lead in the plates in a motorcycle’s battery.
    There is lead in the plain bearings that the crankshaft spins in.
    Children aren’t going to be having any contact whatsoever with this
    lead in their mini-motorcycles. Which is why this law, as applied to
    mini-motorcycles, is asinine. Randy

  • Maybe its a good thing – the equivalent of banning kids under 12 from
    being fossil fuel consumers. Let ‘em ride bicycles till they are 13. Why
    start growing motorheads as soon as they get out of diapers?

    And how long do you think it will take the teeny-gascycle manufactures
    to get the lead out? I’m betting they are already mixing the new paint.
    Its needed for the billions of bicycles the tots ought to be riding.

    When the dust settles, leadless paint will be as common as dirt, all the
    bikes will be under-12 legal, and the motorcycling community will be
    remembered for another “sky is falling” episode. Loud pipes sa………Sherm