Last month the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) delivered a stay order for the entire United States and its territories to ban the sale of all listed consumer products marketed for children 12 and under that, as stated in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), may contain traces of lead.
On that list was the hot-button item, the minibike, along with all related parts, safety gear and accessories, thus shutting down a (recently struggling) hundred-billion-dollar economic boutique industry.
The powersports industry, consumer groups, safety advocates and parents across the nation collectively asked for exemption before a majority of congressional leaders voted the recommendations of the CPSC into Public Law 110-314 on Feb. 10.
What do the local minibike kids think about the ban?
“I thought that [the ban] wouldn’t be good,” said Hunter Rastavan, 11, of Lake Elsinore. There’s a lot of people in this sport, all the kids out there on minibikes, and it wouldn’t be fair ’cause everybody wants to ride.”
Marcus Gaffner, 10, of Temecula, said sadly, “When I heard about the ban it made me feel really bad that I couldn’t get a new 85cc bike. I’m outgrowing my 65cc bike. Isn’t this about Chinese products and not American or European products anyway?”
Austin Madigan, 8, of Temecula, stated, “I don’t think that it’s fair that as my parts wear out I won’t be able to get any more. Then I can’t ride. It ruins the sport.
“We’d have to skip up to a 250cc bike for me to ride and that’s not safe. I’m not big enough yet for that size bike, but our family has discussed it anyway.”
Austin’s 9-year-old sister, Abbey, felt the same way: “This sucks, because if we grow out of a 65cc we can’t get an 85cc. I agree with my brother. It ruins the sport.”
Abbey and Austin’s mom, Valerie, mentioned that riding dirt bikes has been a positive reinforcement for her son.
“This is Austin’s second race,” she said. “Last week his teacher called me and she said, ‘There’s a 100-percent improvement in his classroom participation since he started racing.’
“It really makes a difference on what we expect of him in return for what he expects from us – to go racing.”
Recently, Alex Lamarr, 9, of San Diego, was on a desert ride with his family when his minibike broke.
“Oh, yeah,” said his mother, Michelle, “Alex knows plenty when it comes to the unintended consequences of this minibike ban.
“We clearly explained to him we could not get any parts to fix his bike. He cried, saying, ‘They’re messing with kids’ dreams.’
“Right now he’s on a borrowed bike for this race, and we’ve explained to him that if he breaks any parts we can’t fix the borrowed bike and he’s done with racing. He cried again.
“I promised my daughter that when I bought a toy hauler I would buy her a quad. I bought the toy hauler three weeks ago and had to sadly explain to her that I can’t get her the quad I promised… It’s really sad.”
According to Alex, “They’re messing up the kids’ dreams of becoming professional motocross riders. The CPSC was really rude and not nice in making their decision.
“It’s not fair for them to make a decision without the public’s vote – a decision that affects people who do this sport by people who don’t do this sport.
“I’ve earned the privilege to make good decisions and ride my bike. They were very irresponsible to do this.
“I wouldn’t eat a minibike part, anyway – I don’t eat much fast food.”
On the industry side
Amanda Langston, co-owner of Langston Racing in Lake Elsinore, knows all too well how it is to be a race parent.
Her son, Grant, is currently a professional Supercross racer.
“This minibike ban and the lead content thing is absurd,” she said. “I’m absolutely appalled. There are people in charge of this country who are directly inept at overseeing the public’s interest and economy.
“This has created a hardship on our business and we have to share the disappointment with our customers.
“We have race parents coming in needing a cylinder. I can get them aftermarket pistons, rings and heads, but the cylinders are only made by the bike manufacturers and they’re totally banned from supplying to us.
“I hate to have to tell loyal customers with hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars invested in their kid’s worn minibike, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t get you that part that you need. Your kid’s bike is as useless as the minibikes that were for sale on our showroom floor.’ This whole mess is very frustrating.
“I’ll support any legislation that is actively turning over this ridiculous law. Come on, a kid would have to consume an entire dirt bike in order to address the levels of lead stated in the CPSIA. Who’s to say if it really would be absorbed in their intestinal track, anyway?
“There’s more lead in tap water than there is on a minibike.”
On the political front
Seth Levy, a third grade student at Barnett Elementary School in Ramona, decided to address the issue in writing to US Congressman Duncan Hunter of the 52nd District, based in San Diego County.
Seth and his family got a response from Hunter. So did Levy’s classmates.
Hunter saw the opportunity to respond in twofold: first to the Seth in a thank you and explanation on his attempts to remedy this scenario, second with an hour-long Friday morning assembly with Seth’s classmates.
“The meeting with Duncan and the class was awesome,” said Seth’s dad, Ted. “The kids all had questions regarding the lead and minibike ban.
“[Hunter] spoke with all of the kids, basically to say that anything that had lead in it may be a hazard, and signed autographs. It was a great learning experience for the kids talking with a real elected official who cares.”
More from the kids
Team Cobra rider Skylar Smith, 7, of Huntington Beach, said, “I think it’s not fair if I had to wait five years to ride a bike again. Without proper training and practice I probably won’t be very safe at that age to pick up at the level where I’m at today.”
Moreno Valley’s Cory Ferguson, 8, stated, “I’m not that dumb that I’d eat a battery terminal. We don’t even have batteries on our minibikes. It’s stupid ’cause they – the government – doesn’t even know that.”
Cory’s grandfather, Mark Swanson, is a teacher and an advocate of parent-child interaction and community involvement.
“About 50 of the 700 kids in our school do motorized sports with their families,” he said. “I can only speak about the kids in my class. Their parents who are sticklers on expectations and rules – that reflects on their grades.”
“Cory has issues with reading,” continued Swanson, lovingly patting his grandson on the back. “We’ve tried football, baseball and karate. It’s this incentive [motocross] to do well in school that caught Cory’s total attention.
“It’s a full-blown family plan to keep him focused in an activity where the entire family unit gets to vote on the weekend’s activities by utilizing choice.”
Dustin Barnes, 8, of Aliso Viejo, said, “My favorite part about being in my pit with my mom and dad with my minibike is just sitting on it.”
Lake Elsinore brothers Kyle, 8, and Kody Van Tienen, 7, are also disappointed.
“I’ve been riding for three years,” said Kody. “I would feel sad if I couldn’t ride anymore with my brother. I like riding on Sundays with my mom, dad and brothers.”
“I didn’t really like the idea of the ban,” stated Kyle. “I’ve talked to my best friend across the street, Shane. It’s too bad Shane can’t get a bike now and ride with me like we had planned.”
Kyle’s advice for other kids across the country: “Keep pushing your limit on your dirt bikes and never give up.”
From the big kids
To protest the ban, some big kids are stepping up to the plate.
As of press time, Malcolm Smith was set to defy the CPSIA at his dealership near the auto row area of Riverside at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, selling banned minibikes to race celebrities Jeff Ward and Jeremy McGrath.
To comment on this article online, visit www.myvalleynews.com.
For updates on the ban, visit the following:
• Motorcycle Industry Council, www.mic.org
• American Motorcycle Association, www.amadirectlink.com
• Americans for Responsible Recreation Access, www.arra-access.com
• Congressman Darrell Issa, www.issa.house.gov