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An Essay on Loud Pipes

Copyright, 2012, R. Fleischer

Below is an edited version of a posting I did to an Internet mailing list on Friday, April 20, 2007. It was in response to someone's posting about feelings being hurt, due to a disparaging remark about Harley Riders.  I have updated/edited the posting, since.

While generalities are just that, & do NOT apply to all Harley riders  (All BMW riders do NOT wear fancy riding suits, do NOT have matching helmets, bike colors, do 50,000 miles a year & are snobby).  Still, generalities apply (after my duly counting Harley loud pipes in MANY areas (at least in the Western States...all of them!), compared to NOT loud pipe Harley's.

Harley riders, in MY ESTIMATION, are the very worst offenders, with loud pipes in a very high percentage of riders' bikes.

It is unfortunate, but a rather large percentage of Harley riders are not riding quiet motorcycles, not even reasonably quiet motorcycles.   The noise is causing problems for all motorcyclists in the U.S.   The truth REALLY IS (I get the monthly sales figures for aftermarket AND Harley Screaming Eagle stuff...), that the VAST majority of Harley purchasers modify their exhaust systems as the FIRST thing after purchase....and...the DEALERSHIPS are promoting & installing these items.   Companies promote these products like crazy.   How many companies promote loud noisy pipes for BMW? Triumph? others?   

The latest California law that says that from model year 2013, mufflers must have an official approved label, ....affirming that this law is being complied with regarding sound levels.  Just the need for such a law is just one more thing happening to all motorcyclists due to the irresponsibility of a few.

Are you aware that in some places owners can't even ride QUIET bikes on their OWN property?    MANY condominium projects & many other places, can legally restrict motorcycles.  Even off-road areas, far from residences, have been restricted.  Even on private land, OTHERS are restricting the use of private land....families cannot even ride dirt bikes, that includes their children, on their own land.

Did you know that for DECADES, the beautiful "17 Mile Drive" in California has been restricted: NO MOTORCYCLES. 

Restrictions abound...and are INcreasing.  Nothing new about this.

Guess WHY all this came about?

There ARE BMW riders who have noisy pipes, but they are VERY few and far between.   When I see/hear them, I make a point of asking them to go back to quiet pipes...NOT just asking them to quiet down THEN, but to replace the equipment with QUIET items.   I HOPE you do the same, no matter the brand.

I have owned just about every make of bike there is, including a fair number of Harleys.  I am not against Harleys.  I AM against very loud pipes.   The "loud pipes save lives" group are immature, IMO.  They install equipment to emphasize that immaturity; they have egos that feed on "look at ME"; they dress to appear immature, right down to the black leather jackets, the fringe, the ineffective and black beany helmets.....and....; they often act immature in other ways.  They are...and have been... giving a very bad name to all bikers...or, rather, motorcyclists.   They seem to want to be held out, to be different, to be noticed....and the emphasis is NOT on every aspect of that word.

I am NOT against pipes that are slightly louder than stock.  What I AM against is excessively loud pipes that greatly annoy others.

That some use "Harley" with vast stereotype images & words, is, perhaps unfortunate, and, yes, may hurt YOUR feelings, but truth is truth, facts are facts.  I have NO PROBLEM backing up my FACTS on what Harley buyers are doing with their exhaust systems. It is hardly anecdotal because of my keeping track for a long time, in various places in the USA, of percentage of ALL riders that have loud aftermarket exhaust systems. It is NOT just anecdotal.  I have INDUSTRY SALES FIGURES, all across the United States.  I get an insider industry magazines every month.  MUCH of the advertising deals with aftermarket exhaust items that are designed to make lots of noise, and give certain impressions.

I want to be fair about this.  There is a secondary group, non-Harley, that also has loud pipes. They sound very different, but are still very annoying. These are almost 100% riders of multi-cylinder Sport Bikes, with some being dirt bikes going someplace on public roads.  Interestingly, most dirt bike riders have quiet machines.   A high percentage of sport bike riders have aftermarket loud exhaust systems, brands like Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Kawasaki, ETC.

Not long ago, whilst doing some AMA magazine reading & then internet work in laying out what the wife & I are going to do about Rallies, etc. for some of the year, I ran across an advertisement for what seemed like a nice ride & tour.   I navigated to the website, & as the site loaded up I heard LOUD PIPES...from the very noticeably HARLEY motorcycle danced across the screen.   I looked no further.   I don't want to be there.  I am sure THEY don't want us, either.

My wife & I (nor, me as a solo) will NOT attend Daytona, we will NOT attend Sturgis, we will NOT attend the Laughlin Run.  We won't be at most AMA events either.  Have I ever attended such events: yes, many times.  Things got worse, rowdy, noisy, a long time ago.  We won't attend due to the very annoying loud pipes......and at many events that goes on all night.  It has nothing to do with naked women (my blood is red....and I have plenty of testosterone), and many other parts of these gatherings/events.   I love a Party.   I love naked, or partly naked women.   What is THE reason WE will not attend?  Loud pipes, 24 hours a day.

The last AMA event (I'm a Life Member) that I attended was an District 36 AMA tour campout, in California.  It will be my last, won't EVER be another I will attend, EVER.  Why?   At this FAMILY event, of perhaps 100 or 150 there, about a dozen insisted on displaying their mighty pipes, loudly & continuously.

This noise problem has, long ago, resulted in increasingly serious problems for motorcyclists.  It is starting to come to a head, with the U.S. going along with many European standards and the new California Law, that was effective (well, on the books effective) in 2013.   Keep in mind what drives politicians to make laws. Eventually, the police might actually find a way to make 'citations for noise' profitable enough for local police departments.  If so, that is, hopefully, the end of noisy pipes. Along the way, one can expect a LOT of police problems..and other problems.

In MY estimation, the only thing keeping police departments in the U.S. from issuing huge amounts of noise violations is one simple fact:  When an local officer in most States writes a citation for anything, LITTLE of the court fine comes back to the LOCAL police department.  Thus there is no reason (unless a LOT of complaints in one area) for the local police departments to issue citations for things that are not financially rewarding to the department.  If asked, the excuse offered is that they are too busy, 'dealing with serious crime...'.

Eventually, however, the politicians, & the police, will find a way to get sound measuring equipment, use it, & start issuing citations in goodly quantity, because politicians will figure out how to keep more of the money from the traffic tickets at the local level.  This is in addition to an Officer ADDING a noise complaint to any traffic stop, where appropriate.  It might reach the point that some type of policing at city or county or State level will find it pays the department to have an officer on payroll just for excessive noise levels.

I also want to mention THIS:
Some are riding with a stick-it-in-your-face attitude towards car drivers.  This also backfires (excuse the expression) on all riders.  If you want to speed or cross the double yellow line, I think it should be up-to-you....but...BUT....let's not do it aggressively around car drivers, eh?

Noise standards have been proposed & there are industry and SAE standards of measurements.  Some Police departments are being issued noise meters.  I am all for this. 

I don't like Regulation, I don't like Big Daddy Government, but I see no choice, because I am TIRED of having MY riding restricted.

Until the Harley owners, as a group, AND OTHERS.... start disciplining themselves, Harley owners in particular will continue to be mocked, sneered-at, & generally various those not in that group.   Even the AMA is, FINALLY, pushing more & more for use of real standards, using sound meters.  Due to my belief that the AMA membership rolls decrease is not being helped by any AMA attitude about noise (mild as the commentary was), I think the AMA will continue to be relatively quiet, since its 'experiment' with articles on noise.

You, if a Harley rider, may not like it, & it may creep into an internet message or talk around the campfire now & then, and, I admit, from occasional snobbyness ...and some good natured (?) kidding....about what you ride....but it is what it is, and there are reasons Harley owners are thought being anti-social & much more. 
comes to mind.

No one here is deliberately trying to hurt your feelings.   Stop whining.  Do something about fellow loud pipe riders. NO MATTER THE MAKE OF BIKE.     I will BET you do NOT.

It is for certain that there are some Harley riders who are NOT loud pipes types.  I know some, some are very old friends of mine. I ride with them now and then.  I also have made note of my tabulating who in a group of bikers has loud pipes...and I kept records of the brands involved.....  But, until folks start disciplining themselves, & making CLEAR that certain types of annoying anti-social behavior is NOT ACCEPTABLE, you can expect what you see & hear about Loud Pipes Riders.,,,,and, worse yet, you can expect increasingly strict laws & enforcement from the Public/Police, as well as restrictions on where folks can ride.

There is a reason why drivers of quiet sidecar rigs who are not showing off (in many and various aspects) are warmly embraced.  Grandmothers ask to ride in them, non-motorcycling crowds gather around them when they park someplace.   These common ordinary, almost 100% of which are non-riding people would NEVER go up to & start a conversation with a loud pipes rider;....who looks like an, what they will do is complain to their Representatives...and VOTE for laws that might end up being broadly awful.

On a practical note, I suspect a rather large percentage of all motorcyclists ride at over the posted speed limits at times.   The Authorities (that's the COPS!) will tend to, I think, overlook mild to moderate speeding, in favor of targeting the show-off, loud-pipes, 'lookee at meee' rider. 

***There are other types of motorcyclists that are very bad for biking in general:  street stunt riding showoffs and those that ride VERY much faster than traffic, and weave in and out of traffic...very aggressive riders, in other words.  Please don't be one of those either.  Plenty of car drivers are way overly aggressive...but the other car drivers tend to remember and associate MOTORCYLES.

Have fun, enjoy riding.....but ...keep the bad antics away from the common folk, eh?
((If you want to act baaaad...keep it out of public


06/17/2011:  edited, updated.
Sept. 2012:  edited, updated, and added QR code, language button; updated Google ad-sense.
December 2012, I removed the now bad SouthPark link which had been:   Wish I could find a direct link
someplace. It is NOT available at this one.
02/18/2016: Update fonts, lines, metacodes, slight changes to text.
06/14/2016: Update.

Copyright, 2012, R. Fleischer

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