Archive for the ‘Loud Pipes’ Category

Motorcycle Noise In The National Parks

Monday, April 27th, 2015
OFMC at Colorado National Monument

The OFMC at Colorado National Monument.

For two and one-half years I’ve had our backs in the national parks, but that ends as of Friday.

As an editor with the National Park Service I have been in a position to crucially reword documents when they have spoken about how motorcycle noise is totally obnoxious and something needing to be eliminated. I have made it my personal job to change that wording to read something like “the noise of loud motorcycles” or “noise from loud vehicles.” The point being that, despite the general public perception, only some motorcycles are loud, not all of them. And noise from loud cars and trucks is just as objectionable as noise from loud motorcycles.

But my gig will wrap up on Friday, May 1, and after that there is no one who will be watching out for us in that way. So here’s an idea: how about if motorcyclists make it a point not to annoy the public, especially in the parks, with loud noise?

The National Park Service even has a page on their website about this issue. “Motorcycle Riding in the National Parks” only seems lukewarm as it is in regard to bikes, stating that “riding a motorcycle through a national park can be an acceptable way to experience our nation’s natural and cultural heritage.” You see that? “. . . can be an acceptable way . . .” That kind of gives the connotation that they’d really rather not have us there but if we’re not totally obnoxious they’ll tolerate us. And the site adds, “Over the past ten years, complaints from visitors concerning excessive noise from motorcycles have been increasing.” By the way, my editing duties do not extend to the website.

Now, lest those of us who don’t have Harleys with extra loud aftermarket pipes get too smug, let me point out that engine noise is not the only issue. If you have a sound system that blasts out music that you can hear when riding, that can be pretty unwelcome, too. Aside from bothering people, it bothers animals: “Noise can adversely impact wildlife by reducing the area over which they can communicate and listen for potential prey or predators. Natural sounds are also important to park visitors, 90 percent of whom say enjoying the sounds of nature is one of the top reasons they visit parks.”

So here is the NPS recommendation for riding your bike in the parks.

Ride Respectfully

  1. Obey speed limits.
  2. Avoid traveling in large groups.
  3. Avoid excessive acceleration or revving of the engine.
  4. Turn your engine off instead of idling.
  5. Use horns only when necessary for safety.
  6. Turn down radios or use a headset.
  7. Be extra sensitive near campgrounds, lodging, and visitor centers.
  8. Operate your motorcycle as quietly as possible to minimize disturbance to wildlife and other park resources and respect the experience of other visitors.

Biker Quote for Today

Happiness isn’t around the corner, it is the corner.

Motorcycle Noise? At Least Talk Sense

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Triple Pipes

I'm betting this is not a quiet motorcycle.

My wife sent me a link to a story on the National Public Radio website that she figured I would be interested in: Vroom, Vroom, Hmmmm: Motorcycles As Literary Metaphor. While I found the story interesting, I also found the comments interesting, but not in what these people had to say.

What was interesting was how predictable it all was.

Right off the bat was this remark: “It’s difficult for me to appreciate this story since I find the noise pollution produced by lots of motorcycles to be abhorrent. ”

Yeah, right from the word “Go!” the battle was on. And just as predictably, the riders lined up on two sides crying that loud pipes save lives and that skillful riders don’t need loud pipes to ride safely. The main point in my mind was that both sides were spouting some truth and a lot of bogus garbage. For instance, in some back and forth on loud pipes, the noise proponent said it helped make people aware of him in traffic when he was in someone’s blind spot. The reply was a blasting about “What the heck are you doing in someone’s blind spot in the first place!!!”

Hey, I’m sorry, but when you ride in traffic, such as when you use your bike to commute, you’re in heavy traffic a lot and you are constantly in and out of people’s blind spots. It’s inevitable. A skilled, attentive rider will make a point to be aware and to spend as little time as possible in blind spots but you are in and out of them constantly, if only for a second or two.

Heck, just today I was riding home and twice had people start to pull into my lane because they didn’t do a head check and at the instant they decided to make their move I was in their blind spot. I pay a lot of attention to blind spots but they are unavoidable.

But here’s what I have new to add to the discussion. A few days ago I was in my car going down a similarly crowded multi-lane street, and I knew there was a guy on a bike a little behind me to my left. And from what I could tell, this guy was not paying attention to where he was in my field of view. You know what? He was on a Harley and even when I couldn’t see him in my mirror I could hear him. I knew he was there.

Now, I’ve always been more inclined toward the skilled-riders-don’t-need-loud-pipes position. I have three bikes and they’re all quiet. Somehow I’ve never been in an accident; must be skill or attentiveness or something. And I know that most of the noise a bike makes is heard behind it, not in front of it where it matters most. But there I was, hearing this guy even when I couldn’t see him. I just don’t think you can deny across the board that no, loud pipes don’t save any lives ever. Maybe not as many lives as some people would like to think, but I suspect they do save a few.

Is that justification for making a lot of the non-riding population hate us by blasting them with mega-noise? Absolutely not. I didn’t say this guy was really, really loud, he was just on a bike that does make some noise–a good bit more than the Kawasaki I was on today. And that was enough. Just because some noise can be a good thing, that doesn’t imply that absolutely deafening noise is a better thing.

How about if we all just use common sense? You guys who want your bikes loud, don’t go overboard. Don’t go making us enemies everywhere you go. And you guys who think loud pipes are worse than useless, it won’t hurt you to admit that there’s probably at least a kernel of truth in the claim. And how about if we all make it totally clear to the real offenders that even other riders don’t care for the black eye they’re giving us all?

Personally, with those guys I really don’t believe that safety is the issue at all. They’re just using that as an excuse to hide the fact that they’re too self-centered to care about anyone but themselves. Don’t let them get away with it.

Biker Quote for Today

Turns gasoline into noise without the burdensome byproduct of horsepower.

Loud Pipes Tick People Off

Monday, May 26th, 2014
Motorcycle Mufflers

Even if loud pipes do save lives, you better believe they seriously annoy a lot of people at the same time.

One of the biggest risks of excessively loud motorcycle exhaust systems is that influential people will get sufficiently annoyed that they will bring pressure to “do something about it.” Unfortunately, doing something about it all too often sweeps up the innocent along with the guilty.

Now, with the decline of newspapers it’s hard to say anymore how influential someone like the editorial page editor of the Denver Post is. Years ago that person had a good deal of influence.

Which all leads up to the fact that Vince Carroll, that aforementioned editorial page editor, had a column in Sunday’s paper entitled, “Mobile Noise Pollution,” in which he made it totally clear that too many bikers have pissed him off for too long. While the loud portion of our rider community claims that “loud pipes save lives,” other segments reply that “loud pipes risk rights.”

I’ve never been a loud guy myself. I have three bikes and none of them are louder than the typical car. And they’re a lot quieter than a good many pick-up trucks I’ve seen and nothing close to making the noise a semi makes. So my reply to the loud pipes save lives argument has always been that hey, I’ve never been in an accident, so maybe attentive riding and practiced riding skills are really the main things you need to save lives–forget the noise. And there are a lot of people out there like me. Somehow we survive year after year despite our lack of noise.

Sure I’ve had some close calls. We all have, haven’t we? The road is full of idiots. That’s why you always ride defensively, as if you were invisible.

And at the same time, I’ve known people on loud bikes who have gotten hurt. Was it just that their loud bikes weren’t loud enough? Yeah, let’s try making them even louder and then see how rabid the general public becomes toward shutting us all down.

Now, I’ll give it to Vince that he was not lambasting all motorcyclists. He very carefully made the point that his grudge is with a minority. But here are the words of warning:

Yes, they (loud bikes) are much harder to ignore. We can agree on that. But if safety can be achieved only by becoming a public nuisance–a questionable claim–then maybe these hobbyists need to find another pastime.

As I said, it’s hard to say how much influence someone in Vince’s position has any more. But what if a few legislators read his column and they agree? Perhaps they’ve had similar experiences. And they do have the power to do something about it. Then what happens?

Biker Quote for Today

The great riding pleasure is “to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women,” all from a smaller, less powerful bike.

Loud Bikes Targeted By Denver City Council

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Noisy motorcycles have drawn the ire of the Denver City Council and the Council has now passed an ordinance singling them out. This is good and bad.

The good is that the Council is trying to address the legitimate concerns of the populace. Let me give an example. The issue is about noisy bikes downtown when the bars close. Closing time is 2 a.m., so a lot of people who live downtown are asleep . . . until the biker boys rev their engines. My dentist lives downtown and periodically I’ll mention one of my bikes or one of our trips. Then he’ll go into his usual rant about the racket the bikes make late at night. He has every right to be unhappy and I’m sure he welcomes this new ordinance. I’m happy for him.

The bad is that the ordinance wasn’t necessary, and in singling out motorcycles it does nothing about noisy cars or noisy trucks. The city already has a noise ordinance and what the police need to do is enforce it, regardless of vehicle type. The way this ordinance works, your bike has to have a muffler with a particular stamp on it, and if you don’t have the stamp you get a ticket. So what if you don’t have the stamp but your noise is within legal limits? Too bad. American jurisprudence is now turned on its ear and you are guilty until proven innocent. In the meantime, while the cop is writing you a ticket, an illegally loud truck drives by unmolested because the cop does not have a decibelmeter to prove that he is in violation. Or to prove that you are not.

The police say they can’t afford to issue decibelmeters to all cops so this discrimination against motorcyclists is warranted. Well, downtown is a very finite space and Lodo, where most of the action is on a Saturday night, is even more so. How about giving those cops decibelmeters, or at least a few of them, and have the ones with the meters come to the assistance of the ones without when needed? No, that would make too much sense.

Fortunately the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) got wind of this and is getting involved. With any luck, their experienced team will lead the Council to an acceptable alternative. But if you ride an obnoxiously loud bike, don’t think the AMA is going to save your butt. They’ve made it clear that they have no love for overly loud bikes making people hate bikes and bikers. If you’re over the noise limit it won’t bother them one bit to see you get a ticket. As long as it’s legitimate and not carried out in a way that illegitimately targets bikers and excludes other actual violators.