Malcolm Smith Protests the CPSC Minibike Ban

Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm Smith...see the connection? Now with video!

Photography by Scott Cox

Malcolm Smith Protests the CPSC Minibike Ban

Civil disobedience. Not to free a nation of oppressive English rule. Not to free a people from immoral laws and treatment. No, Malcolm Smith's battle is against interpretation. It is against one organization, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and its interpretation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, a law designed to keep unsafe lead levels out of children's toys. A noble cause, but as detailed in our "Minibikes Banned" story, the CPSC has ruled that the act applies to children's motorcycles and ATVs, too, effectively outlawing them!

So, Malcolm Smith, 68, off-road legend, the man who inspired a generation of kids to ride in the movie On Any Sunday, now a motorcycle dealer, is taking a stand to ensure that future generations of kids can ride and recreate in the dirt.

To protest the ridiculousness of the CPSC's ruling, Smith, many of the now-famous riders he inspired, and hundreds of fans and friends gathered last Thursday at his dealership, Malcolm Smith Motorsports in Riverside, California. As Smith tells it, he was standing in the store (recently named a Top 100 Dealer in the nation by Dealer news magazine) when a mom came into purchase a minibike for her child, "So the whole family can ride in the desert together," she said.

Smith then found himself explaining to the woman how a law enacted to set ingestible lead-content levels in toys had been applied to child-size motorcycles, ATVs, parts, accessories and safety equipment—despite the fact that vehicle components that contain lead are nearly impossible to ingest!

"At that moment, I had had enough," Smith said.

Out of this frustration, Smith and friends swung into action. To highlight the unfairness of the law's interpretation, to draw attention to the ill effect it is having on motorcycle dealerships across the nation, they staged an act of civil disobedience. Smith simply sold two motorcycles and one ATV banned by the law.

One customer was multi-time Motocross, Supercross and most recently Supermoto champion Jeff Ward, who purchased a minibike for his son. Troy Lee, pioneering designer who brought custom-painted helmets to the peak of popularity, also bought a minibike for his son. The final purchase was by Bud Feldkamp, former race partner of Smith's and owner of Glen Helen Raceway in nearby San Bernardino, who took home an ATV for his grandchildren.

Other supporters on hand included Supercross champ Jeremy McGrath, multi-time Baja winner Johnny Campbell, multi-decade-spanning off-road champion Scot Harden, Pro Circuit honcho Mitch Payton, and hundreds of other enthusiasts—all braved the 91 Freeway traffic to show their support.

So how is this law enforced, and what might the consequence be for breaking it? It is a bit of a mystery. As of yet, Smith has not been contacted by any member of law enforcement. Online research shows that a dealer can be fined $100,000 for every violation of the law, meaning Smith could be facing up to $300,000 in fines. But at this point, the legal repercussions of these actions are unknown.

What's next? We don't want to give it away, but Smith says he is planning a modern version of the Boston Tea Party. Stay tuned. More immediately, Smith says he is heading to Baja to enjoy the sport he inspired so many to try—and is now fighting for, to give even more the opportunity to experience the freedom that is motorcycling.

Malcolm Smith Protests the CPSC Minibike Ban

Glen Helen track owner Bud Feldkamp seals the deal. Malcolm, as ever, smiling, even as he faces up to $300,000 in fines. So far, the CPSC has taken no action.

Smith's protest drew local and national media coverage, including a story in USA Today. More actions are planned.

Where's the Lead Police? Smith and the buyers line up. The CPSC is receiving up to 5000 letters and e-mails a day protesting its interpretation of the new lead-content law.

Wardy and the kids, off to jail? Jeff Ward, first famous as the pint-sized wheelie-king in 1970's "On Any Sunday", buys a minibike for his children.

Two AMA Hall of Famers: Larry "Supermouth" Huffman interviews Jeremy "King of Supercross" McGrath about the minibike ban.

Malcolm Smith Motorsports is a multi-line dealer in Riverside, California.

The Troy Lee family, happy with their purchase. Ironically, this ban by the CPSC, a safety watchdog organization, makes it illegal for dealers to sell not only vehicles but child-sized safety gear!