May 17, 2007

Annals of AMA Rule Making History: the Death of the Kickstand

In light of the recent revelations of how major decisions are made by our sport’s sanctioning bodies, I began to wonder about how some of the other rules came to pass.

Did you ever wonder how kickstands came to be outlawed on motocross racers? In all honesty, I have no idea how this rule came to pass, but I certainly have my suspicions.

Imagine the year is 1973. Motocross in America is on a roll, and the newly released silver & green-tanked Honda Elsinores are flying out of dealer showrooms and soaring around motocross tracks all over the country. Some of you young folk may find this hard to believe, but those motorcycles, every last one of them, came equipped with kickstands straight from the factory! That’s right, no need for lugging around bike stands and all that, just one quick flick of the ankle and the motorcycle would stand up ALL BY ITSELF.

Incredible technology.

And incredibly dangerous, apparently. It appears to be common knowledge that kickstands are banned today because they present a hazard to the health of motocross competitors… at least, the ones contesting events sanctioned by the AMA. At those “outlaw” tracks, you’re on your own, baby.

So maybe, back in the day before this common sense prevailed, racers raced with those dangerous pieces of steel hanging from their frames, and there was a spate of kickstand-related injuries. Imagine being the local AMA representative/referee at a racetrack one Sunday, and some kid in the 125 Novice class gets taken off in an ambulance because he had his lung punctured by someone’s kickstand. Or a chain-reaction crash caused a bunch of riders to go down because one guy’s kickstand deployed at an inopportune moment and high-sided him across the track. Just think of the pressure that AMA guy must have felt.

“Something must be done about these kickstands. It’s more than obvious that they are an unacceptable hazard to the health of our members.”

But what to do? Maybe they brainstormed a number of solutions. I can imagine that the first guy that suggested REMOVING the kickstands was shot down with the quickness: “Motorcycles have ALWAYS had kickstands. We can’t remove them! If we do, how will we ever get our bikes to stand upright without our help? No, a better solution must be found…”

And then one bright guy piped up, “I’ve got it! We need to invent a motorcycle that can stand up on its own! Then it won’t NEED a kickstand!” With that, an entire team of people set off to invent such a beast.

Thankfully, cooler (and smarter) heads prevailed, and the AMA settled on simply writing a rule that requires racers to remove their kickstands before they can set a knobby on the track. Yet even with this rule in place, it took the manufacturers a few years before they stopped putting kickstands on motocross bikes. But now, every motocross motorcycle sold today (unless it’s a KTM) is without the offending appendage.

And what happened to the team that wanted to go in the other direction? Why, they invented the All Terrain Cycle, or ATC, which eventually evolved into today’s quad racers.

(P.S. – none of the above is true. Well, some of it is…!)

Next in the Annals of AMA Rule Making: Why you’ll be disqualified from an AMA National if your footpegs don’t fold at precisely 45 degrees…

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