Motorcycle Movements…The Early Years

A.B.A.T.E. of PA’s roots ultimately go back to September 7, 1903. On that day in a clubhouse owned by the New York Motorcycle Club in Brooklyn, New York, the Federation of American Motorcyclists was formed. The FAM was the first motorcyclist’s organization that extended beyond a single town.

The FAM lasted for sixteen years. During that period, it set up competition rules for racing nationwide and played an early political role in dealing with restrictive local ordinances. In 1919 the FAM folded due to declining membership in part due the effects of World War I.
In 1916, another group was formed called the Motorcycle and Allied Trades Association. The M&ATA represented the motorcycle manufacturers, dealers, and accessory makers of the day.

When the FAM folded, the M&ATA recognized the need for a group representing the interests of riders. Out of this recognition came the M&ATA’s Riders Division.
On May 15, 1924, the M&ATA Rider Division officially became the American Motorcycle Association (AMA), which is still with us today.
The AMA for many years dealt with the sanctioning of motorcycle racing and touring events, and with improving the image of motorcycling to the public in general. This situation remained basically the same through World War II and the Fifties.
From 1903 to the 1960’s, the motorcycling community was internally focused. There were efforts, especially on the AMA’s part, to present a positive image of motorcycling to the public. There was little emphasis on political activity by motorcyclists. The idea of motorcyclists actually banding together and influencing legislation wasn’t part of the landscape yet.

Next: The Political Awakening