Charles Umbenhauer

"It was never about the helmet, it was about choice."
—Charles Umbenhauer

Charles Umbenhauer

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politics—BIKER STYLE
Between the Lines December 2019 issue

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An Interview with our Retiring Lobbyist

BTL – As you approach your official retirement date, what do you see as your greatest accomplishment?

Charles – Without a doubt, it was the modification of our 35 year old mandatory helmet law which Governor Ed Rendell signed into law in 2003.  We now have been enjoying that freedom for almost 17 years. 

BTL – Who did you enjoy working with the most. 

Charles - Well again without question it would be Governor Rendell followed closely by Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll.  Catherine loved ABATE and the motorcycle lifestyle and there was not anything she would not do for us.  She loved the Gettysburg Ride and rode with us on several occasions until her health began to fail her.  I miss her dearly. 

BTL – Who turned out to be your biggest disappointment? 

Charles - Governor Tom Ridge, I worked for several years to get Ridge on board with modifying the helmet law and I think we had it lined up to happen until the bill allowed not only repeal of the helmet law but also of the eyewear provision.  He claimed he was opposed to that but I still believe to this day, it provided him with a convenient out. 

BTL – How many motorcycles have you owned?

Charles – A dozen, everything from my first bike a Honda 350 Scrambler that I purchased in 1968 and my last bike a 2012 HD Road King. 

BTL – Which was your favorite bike? 

Charles – My favorite bike was a 2006 Dyna 35th anniversary Super Glide FXD135.  The craziest thing about it was I hardly ever rode it and when I traded it in on a new Road Glide it only had 125 miles on it.  I just checked on the internet and if you can find one, it will cost you about $10,000.  Wish I would have kept that bike. 

BTL – Do you think you will ever own another bike?

Charles – Well only time will tell, I would like to but at 74 it does not look good but if I went out to get one tomorrow I would buy an Indian Scout. 

BTL – What do you plan to do in your future?

Charles – Well the rumor is I am going to write a book about my motorcycling experiences and my involvement in the motorcyclists rights movement.

BTL – When will we see you again?

Charles – Well unlike so many other ABATE members that seems to fall off the face of the earth, usually for some silly reason, or they just can’t get along with their fellow members, I plan to stick around for as long as I can.  Our new state legislative coordinator John Kruger has asked me to lend a hand with the 2020 L & L Seminar.  I am more than happy to do that mainly just so I can see all of you at least one more time.  I will be introducing the new lobbying team and will be part of the opening chat with the membership and I will also once again be the moderator of the Friday evening Panel Discussion.  And I will be on hand on Saturday evening for the banquet.

BTL – What is your greatest concern for ABATE of PA in the future? 

Charles – That is a tough question but it does concern me that the membership in general has not grown much over the years.  It is difficult to understand why in a state as big as PA and with all the riders we have, we have not succeeded in growing very much.  This is one way I look at it and it may or may not apply to your chapter, if you were new to ABATE and just attended your first chapter meeting, the question is, would you come back for a second meeting and if not, why?  Were you greeted by members of the chapter and made to feel welcome?  Did they talk about upcoming events that would be of interest to the general motorcycling population, including you?  And I could ask a hundred more questions but I think you get the idea. 

Now that you have picked my brain, can I count on you and your chapter to support the 2020 Seminar.  Buy your tickets now, send a chapter sponsorship, collect some interesting items for the auction.