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An Essay on Loud Pipes

Copyright 2020, R. Fleischer

Below is an edited (several times) version of a posting I originally sent to an Internet mailing list in April, 2007.  It was in response to someone posting about his feelings being hurt, due to a disparaging remark about Harley Riders.

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 helmet & bike colors, do not do 50,000 miles a year & are not snobby).  Still, generalities apply, after my counting Harley's with loud pipes in many areas of all Western States, compared to Harley's not having loud pipes.

Harley riders, in my estimation and by count, 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 and other reports for aftermarket AND Harley Screaming Eagle items...), 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 indication of things 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 remote 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.   When I see/hear them, I make a point of asking them to go back to quiet pipes.   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.  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 black beany helmets ...and ...they often act immature in other ways.  They are ...and have been a very bad name to all motorcyclists.   They seem to want to be held out, to be different, to be noticed ...and the emphasis is NOT on safety 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.  It is primarily Harley riders who, with their loud exhausts, wake up people trying to sleep, in the wee hours.  Guess how those folks are going to vote, regarding noise laws, and telephone, write, send E-mails, etc., to Authorities, about loud exhausts?

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. NOR do I have a problem backing up statistics showing, strangely, an INCREASE in accidents of those having loud pipes; exactly the opposite of one argument made by Harley owners with loud pipes.

I want to be fair about this.  There are a secondary groups, non-Harley, that also have loud pipes. They sound very different, but are still very annoying. These are almost 100% riders of multi-cylinder Sport Bikes, with some few being dirt bikes going someplace on public roads.  Interestingly, most dirt bike riders have fairly 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, from my computer speakers 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 (or 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 (I am a Life Member) 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 at some 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 (remember ...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, even from very long ago, resulted in increasingly serious problems for all motorcyclists.  It is slowly but surely 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.   Likely not in my lifetime.

In MY opinion, the only thing keeping police departments in the U.S. from issuing huge numbers of motorcycle 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....'.  Enough $$ citations for excessive noise, and maybe they could afford to have another Officer dealing with serious crime.  Perhaps a few lawsuits for not enforcing the law?

Eventually, 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 motorcyclists ride 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!

Noise standards have been proposed & laws and regulations enacted.  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.  I'm way overly tired of being woken up in the wee hours.  It affects my health.   Until the Harley owners, as a group, AND OTHERS.... start disciplining themselves, Harley owners in particular will continue to be mocked, sneered-at, & generally put-down various ways 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 of ...generally being anti-social & much more.  The word Louts comes to mind. You Loud Pipers are ruining the sport for all of us.

No one here is deliberately trying to hurt your feelings.   Stop whining.  Do something about 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 riding with loud pipes.  I know some, some are very old friends of mine. I've always ridden with them now and then.  I also have made note of my tabulating who in any group of bikers has loud pipes ...and I kept records of the brands involved.  Until riders 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 you can ride.   I will expect folks to VOTE for these restrictions!

There is a reason why drivers of quiet sidecar rigs are not showing off in risky riding/driving, do not have loud pipes ....and ....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 outlaw, 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 who is riding riskily, has loud-pipes, a 'lookeee 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 those who weave in and out of traffic ...very aggressive riders, in other words.  Please don't be one of those.  Plenty of car drivers are way overly aggressive ...but the other car drivers tend to remember and associate aggressiveness with MOTORCYCLES.

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

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.
02/18/2016: Update fonts, lines, metacodes, slight changes to text.
06/14/2016: Update.
11/04/2017: Edit for fewer color changes and font changes, cleaner HTML (but, not TOO much editing of same!).

Copyright, 2020, R. Fleischer

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Last check/edit: Wednesday, December 16, 2020