If you have visited this site periodically over the years you know there are a lot of articles with a business or industry slant. I’m a business writer and consulting analyst by trade, and an avid motorcyclist and racing fan — particularly motocross racing.

One area I’ve never covered is the essential business of running a motocross track. Though rarely discussed — except when there’s a legal brouhaha of some sort or someone is complaining — track owners, operators, and promoters are absolutely essential to the health, growth, and preservation of motocross. Continue reading

New message from AMA president and CEO Rob Dingman, posted on the AMA website earlier this week [found via Ed Kuhlenkamp], adds a little clarity to the direction of Dingman’s AMA. In summary, Dingman reiterates his commitment to build member benefits and refocus on those things that are important to members. This is a good thing.

But as we have noted here before, the AMA attempts to serve multiple constituencies with differing goals, needs, and objectives. It is far from a given that those goals and objectives are mutually compatible. I appreciate Dingman’s apparent sincerity and his desire to do the right things, but until I see someone speak forthrightly to the conflicts inherent in this approach I remain skeptical that one organization can make this work. To my knowledge no single organization has ever done this. The AMA has certainly not managed it in more than 80 years of trying. Can they in the future? The first step is to admit that this challenge is real and substantial. Failing that, the answer is definitely no.

I was discussing all the turmoil at the AMA today with a friend, who asked me, “So what do you think about all this? Is Dingman going to make it better?”

Quite simply, I don’t know. Sweeping out all the old creates the potential for rapid, positive change. It creates equal potential for rapid, negative change. That Dingman is creating potential is good. That’s as far as I will go.

My objectives for an organization that represents me (AMA or otherwise) are pretty specific and have nothing to do with racing, bike rallys, magazines, or camping discounts. Here’s a few things I want:

  • An organization that takes my concerns as a dirt bike rider, living somewhere other than southern California or the Northeast, seriously.
  • An aggressive, activist approach to fighting land closures and other offroad-hostile legislation.
  • Some of the dollars taken from me and my buddies via dues aimed directly at Congress.
  • An internet-centric organization that makes it easy and brain-dead simple to engage in activism, ala Downsize DC and MoveOn.org
  • Strong guidance and leadership programs for political action against land closures, bad laws, etc.

This is just off the top of my head. But so far I haven’t seen anything that clarifies how these things fit the new AMA agenda.

no_amaBoy, things got pretty heated over the AMA firings last week. Cycle News reports on two separate, strongly-worded letters from interested parties. The first, from former AMA president Ed Youngblood (read the entire letter here) indicates Ed is really pissed:


In my opinion, the current regime is monstrous, and I am simply dumbfounded that the AMA Board of Directors seems tolerant of this style of management, if not complicit. It has caused me great pain to watch the deterioration of the AMA, but I expect my unhappiness is nothing compared to that of the employees, volunteers, and supporters who have been directly affected by it. There is very little I can do about this situation except cease to be a party to it in any direct or indirect way.


The second letter, from AMA Superbike Media Manager Larry Lawrence, says AMA personnel are in “open revolt” (read the entire letter here):


I, along with many others inside the AMA, are not pleased at all with the atmosphere of fear Dingman has created among the loyal and hard-working AMA staff. My friends at the AMA, who’ve I’ve known and worked with for years, are afraid to talk to anyone about what’s going on. The threat of being fired is apparently being held over everyone’s head. There seems to be no dissenting opinion allowed from Dingmans’ company line. Some even fear their email and voice mails are being monitored and the leadership has done nothing to fight that impression.

My dealings with Dingman have been few. We met for the first time at Laguna Seca during the MotoGP weekend. He sent me an email asking what I thought of the new vision for the AMA. I thought it a little strange that he would ask my opinion after the new vision had already been announced. Perhaps he could have asked me beforehand so he might have been able to take differing points of view into account.

Instead of truly wanting my opinion, I took it to be an effort to find if I was loyal or not to his vision.

You may be thinking this sounds like open revolt of AMA personnel against its own leadership. You would be correct in that assumption.


This is some serious pisstivity.I have no idea where Dingman is going with the new vision. The AMA is badly broken and needs fixing. Whether Dingman’s vision of what’s broke, and how to fix it, align with my own is far from clear. But here’s the three things I do know from having been party to this kind of thing many, many times:

  • the AMA is a business and it’s broken. When someone new is brought in to fix a broken business the first thing that happens is a house cleaning.
  • People who have done a good job in the past often get cut in the house cleaning because they don’t fit. In fact, it’s often because they have been so good at the past they can’t let go of it. The new regime needs to reduce friction going forward. You can’t be constantly justifying yourself against the past, with old-timers continually arguing every move. You can’t drag people along. It just sucks too much energy.
  • The process of cutting people is ugly – especially if they have been good and loyal employees – and no one ever gets it right. It’s the worst job in the world. But it happens every day.

The big question for me is quite simple — Who is Rob Dingman’s AMA going to represent, the riders or the industry? Because we are not the same, and the AMA of the past has not done the riders many favors. Many of the staff and Directors have been there for years, some for decades. Former AMA Chairman Dal Smilie left last month, after more than 25 years. These people need to go, and more need to follow. If they had the answers we would already be enjoying them. The organization, or institution or whatever you want to call it, has not served us the way it should have and the people who have been running the AMA are responsible.

Having said that, I don’t mean to be disrespectful of those who have worked hard and it sounds as if these firings were handled very, very badly. That’s not a good sign. But the AMA has not done much of anything for me personally, or the broader dirt bike community in the South, Southeast, or Southwest ever. And I want that changed. I want the focus to be entirely different than what it was. I want the organization to do things that support us more effectively. Will the replacements serve us any better? I have no idea. We need to watch carefully for signs of what Dingman is really up to. If it’s not to fully and completely serve the riders in both legislative and commercial domains we need to pull our support and go elsewhere.

headknockerHeads rolled today at the AMA, at least according to the crew at PitPass Radio on tonight’s show. I listened to the archived MP3 file since I got in late. According to co-host Ed Kuhlenkamp three people were cut loose:

  • Tim Owen – legal counsel
  • Greg Harrison – Sr. VP Membership/Communication
  • Bill Wood – Director of Communications

Ed also mentioned that possibly one other person could be involved in this reshuffling. As we’ve noted here before, the AMA is a business and should be run like one, with employees held accountable for performance. That new president Rob Dingman is shaking up the old-line personnel is a good thing. This is a common practice in for-profit businesses and is quite often required if any significant change is going to succeed. Not that old-timers are bad, but people get complacent, comfortable, and set in their ways. Real change often requires new personnel who don’t have the history and baggage that can come from years of experience with a company.

Nothing showing up on the AMA website about this yet. Not surprising since one of the guys leaving is the guy in charge of communications. More here as I learn more.