Law a lead weight on motorcycle dealers

A recently enacted federal law intended to keep children safe from lead-based products has thrown a wrench in sales of kid-sized motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

The new lead-toy law, which went into effect Feb. 10, applies to motorcycles and ATVs designed for kids. The law requires dealers to pull the models from showroom floors or face steep penalties because the vehicles have lead in components such as battery terminals and brake parts.

Some dealers who had recently purchased shipments of the bikes and ATVs in anticipation of this year’s riding season say the law may have an unintended consequence. It could make the sport more dangerous than it needs to be for children, whose parents might end up buying them larger, adult models.

The bigger bikes and ATVs have the same components that contain lead, but those vehicles still can be legally sold.

“The dangers of putting someone on a bike that is too big for them, to me, is worse,” said Cliff Allen, sales manager at All Terrain Motor Sports, 3080 Interstate 70 Business Loop.

For example, bikes with a 50 cc engine displacement, which are designed for children younger than age 10, can weigh about 100 pounds and top out at 20 to 30 mph. The next size up, a 110 cc bike, weighs about twice as much and hits faster speeds, Allen said.

Since the ban, the shop has yanked about 30 bikes, which are valued from $1,200 to $2,500 each. Allen already has turned away customers who were looking to purchase bikes for their kids.

Allen said the ban could be a disaster for the motor sports community. Although the industry doesn’t rely on sales of kids’ bikes, youth interest in the sport usually prompts other family members to purchase bikes.

“Kids want a bike, so dad wants to get a bike and ride, too,” Allen said.

Arne Summers, owner of All Sports Honda-Artic Cat, 555 25 Road, said he was notified by Honda of the impending ban merely a week in advance. That leaves him with more than 20 kids bikes, valued at more than $25,000, collecting dust in storage.

On Friday, the ban was lifted from ATVs designed for children ages 12 and older, he said.

Summers said he hopes that is an indication other bikes and ATVs will soon be approved to sell.

Summers said he’s been telling parents looking for bikes for their kids to be patient. He worries, though, that if people tire of waiting, they’ll abandon the sport. He said he sells 50 to 75 kid-sized bikes each season.

Dealers say lead poisoning isn’t a factor unless children ingest the lead.

“When they put this law out, I’m sure they didn’t even imagine this,” he said of the motorcycle ban. “I’m not sure many kids lick their motorcycles and chew on their fenders.”


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