The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is pleased to announce the final member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Class of 2009: motorcycle accessory innovator and apparel pioneer Robert Bates. Bates is among nine motorcycling heroes who will be honored at the 2009 induction ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas this Dec. 5.
"In many ways, motorcycling attracts individuals, and that individualism often manifests itself in how we customize our motorcycles," said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman. "This social phenomenon was not lost on Robert Bates, who developed a broad range of products that connected with motorcyclists, from aftermarket pillion seats to leather jackets. As one of the first businessmen to leverage this affinity for personalization, Bates helped establish an aftermarket industry that is thriving today."
Added Don Rosene, chairman of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Committee: "After I bought my first real motorcycle, a Triumph Bonneville, the next thing I needed was a Bates leather jacket. I thought as much of that jacket as I did my new motorcycle. I know Robert Bates made many other motorcycle accessories, but I’ll never forget my Bates leather jacket."
Bates started Bates Manufacturing Inc., in Los Angeles in 1939 to service and overhaul motor scooters and sell accessories. Almost immediately, he began designing and building scooter windshields. When the metal for his windshield rims was no longer available during WWII, he developed a plastic rim that he later patented. In the late 1940s, the company began publishing a popular catalog that featured motorcycle accessories and leather apparel.
According to Bob Rudolph, who purchased Bates Manufacturing from Bates in the late 1950s and renamed the company Bates Industries, Bates’ early innovation and business relationships established the foundation that helped the firm thrive when it began manufacturing the popular Bates colored-racing leathers that most people remember it for today.
"Robert Bates founded the company in a 600 square-foot garage, and from there it grew into a business that had a reputation for quality jackets, pants, aftermarket seats, a popular headlight, windshield, fairings and saddlebags," Rudolph remembered. "He also had a strong rapport with the dealers, and he stayed with the firm to help manage our dealer network after I purchased the company. Bates was a true pioneer in the motorcycle accessory industry."
Bates is the ninth and final member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Class of 2009. He joins off-road racer Randy Hawkins, suspension pioneer Gilles Vaillancourt, off-highway rights activist Mona Ehnes, industry entrepreneurs and technological trailblazers Geoff and Bob Fox, longtime motorcycle safety proponent David Hough, noted race team manager Gary Mathers, and successful dirt-track racer and tuner Chuck Palmgren.