The problem with loud pipes

It’s springtime in Canada. The snow and sand are gone from the roads, the sun is shining, and the birds are singing — but you can’t hear them, thanks to your neighbour’s loud pipes.

It’s getting a bit frustrating repeating this message every year, but it’s necessary. Loud pipes are a huge problem for the motorcycle community as a whole, and it’s time riders woke up and ditched their straight-throughs. Here’s why.


Loud pipes make people angry

It’s all very macho to wear anti-social patches on your leather vest and scowl menacingly at soccer moms while you blip your loud pipes, but there are consequences to making everyone else angry, and every year, more and more people are getting fed up with this kind of activity.

A quick scan through the CMG archives indicates St. Johns, Vancouver and Trois-Rivieres all introduced regulations to fight loud pipes last year. In 2016, we saw Edmonton and Strathcona County in Alberta do the same, along with Vancouver and the Central Kootenay region in BC, and the entire province of PEI announced an anti-noise campaign aimed at fighting noisy bikes. Go back through the news, and you’ll see city after city named, in every province. People are angry.

Now, the more selfish and cynical rider might say “So what? I can always beat the ticket in court!” And that might be true, in the short term, but the rage over selfish motorcyclists blasting everyone else with their noise isn’t going away. Year after year, you see many of the same cities trying new tactics when the old methods are thrown out in court.

Alberta is proving to be a fierce battleground in the war on loud pipes, with Edmonton and Calgary constantly looking for new ways to shut down motorcycle noise.

This year, Edmonton was back in the news, with talk of adopting a “noise camera.” It works on the same principle as a speed camera, but instead of photographing the plate of a speeder, it shoots a photo of a vehicle that’s breaking noise bylaws. And Calgary (another city that’s got a problem with loud pipes) is watching Edmonton’s progress closely, considering adopting the technology. The entire province of Quebec is currently in the middle of a five-year study to come up with a plan to fight noisy motorcycles. These governments aren’t giving up. And in the end, they’re going to win.

That’s going to result in one of two outcomes. We could see a complete ban on altering your exhaust (which is what PEI is proposing). This would potentially also mean a crackdown on exhausts that meet noise requirements, but aren’t stock equipment. Everyone gets punished in this case, not just the noisy motorcyclists.

The other possible outcome is a regional ban on motorcycle traffic. We’ve already seen this in many towns in Quebec, and it would be a bad thing to see it spread to other provinces. If the current trends keep up, that might happen.

But as bad as both of those near-future outcomes are, it’s the long-term that’s worrisome.

We live in a society that’s not very impressed with motorcycles at the best of times, which is why we’re always met with opposition when we propose things like lane-splitting or filtering. There are lots of people who think motorcycles ought to be banned on safety grounds, and in a world where self-driving cars are just around the corner, it’s going to be increasingly hard to find a place for motorcycles to fit into the street transportation scene. If the general public has a bad view of bikers thanks to a constant blasting of loud pipes, it’s going to be even harder to elicit sympathy if the insurance companies threaten to shut us down in a few years.

Loud pipes don’t make you more safe

And now, I can hear the retorts from the loud pipes crowd: “Who cares? My loud pipes keep me safe, so I won’t get rid of them. After all, Loud Pipes Save Lives.”

We’ve discussed this before on CMG, and the answer is still the same: Loud pipes don’t create a safety bubble around your bike. In fact, they could even put you at more risk.

Noise fatigue is dangerous. Prolonged exposure to excessive noise can result in fatigue and hearing loss. Hearing loss will reduce your ability to notice signs of danger (sirens, mechanical problems, or vehicles in close proximity), and will also reduce your concentration (according to the US Dept. of Labor), as well as impair your “performance in spatial attention” due to background noise, according to this US government study from 2006.

Statistics/studies don’t show loud pipes help. When you look at the statistics, they seem to indicate riders with loud pipes might be more likely to crash. The 1981 Hurt Report found  bikes with loud pipes were not less likely to crash, but possibly even more likely to be involved in an accident. Page 421 of the report states:

Aerostich gets it. Visibility is what saves your life, not loud pipes.

“The modified exhaust system was typical of many accident-involved motorcycles, and also typical of many motorcycles observed during exposure data collection. The modified exhaust is overrepresented in these data, but not with high significance.”

So if studies find loud pipes aren’t safe, what do they recommend for safety? Europe’s comprehensive MAIDS report doesn’t prescribe loud pipes, but on Page 98, we get this recommendation instead: “The ability of the PTW (Powered Two Wheeler) rider to see and be seen is a critical element of PTW safety. As mentioned above, the largest number of PTW accidents is due to a perception failure on the part of the OV (Other Vehicles) driver or the PTW rider. The vehicle operator failed to see a PTW or OV.

It further states“The use of the PTW headlamp has been recognised as an aid to conspicuity.” In other words, Bright Headlights Save Lives, not loud pipes, and being seen is the best way to avoid a crash, not being heard.

The loud pipes crowd is usually hypocritical. If the people who believe in loud pipes are such safety advocates, how come they’re almost always wearing improper riding gear? You rarely see someone riding around with loud pipes and also sporting a full-face helmet, an airbag suit (or even head-to-toe riding gear), proper riding boots and gloves, etc. They’re usually on bikes with inferior brakes, and wearing riding gear that does little to protect them in a crash. I can confidently state that I’ve never seen a rider with loud pipes also sporting a high-viz jacket. It seems the loud pipes advocates are only willing to adhere to safety measures that coincide with an image of a tough guy (or girl).

V-twin cruisers are typically the worst culprits, but there are plenty of dual sports and sport bikes with excessively loud exhausts as well.

So where does this leave us?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have aftermarket pipes on your motorcycle; of my three bikes, one has an FMF can and one has a Leo Vince exhaust. But use some consideration for your fellow motorists, bystanders/homeowners, and even think of the possible impact your loud pipes are having on your safety as a rider. Get your exhaust down to a reasonable decibel level, and if you really need more noise to stay safe on the road, buy an aftermarket horn. They’re far more affordable than a new exhaust anyway, and you won’t be hassled by The Man over your noisy bike. And in the long run, we’re all going to be better off.

57 thoughts on “The problem with loud pipes”

  1. Is the real issue loud Bike pipes?? if it’s going to be a loud pipe law then they have to add the F350’s modified exaust with pipes as big as dryer tubes. Tuner cars,Leaf blowers chain saws lawn mowers. I work a lot of sgift work and getting awakened by Landscapers gas powered Leaf blowers is annoying. The employees wear ear protection not the rehsidents.

  2. The Doppler effect is observed whenever the source of waves is moving with respect to an observer. The Doppler effect can be described as the effect produced by a moving source of waves in which there is an apparent upward shift in frequency for observers towards whom the source is approaching and an apparent downward shift in frequency for observers from whom the source is receding. It is important to note that the effect does not result because of an actual change in the frequency of the source.

  3. Had a Loud Pipe moment today. On the Interstate in Maine – loaded with somewhat restricted side/rear visibility, so driving the cage cautiously. Stayed out in the fast lane at an on-ramp until I was sure no one was entering, then signalled and pulled into the slow lane. That’s when Guy on a Loud Harley passed me up the inside about 80mph (limit 70mph). And that’s about when I heard his pipes. That’s right, he passed me on the inside using the on-ramp beacuse his pipes made him invulnerable. I did the mirror check and side check and signalled for several seconds before moving over. Never heard his pipes, and he obviously decided pulling in behind me (on the limit) was too conformist. Whatever – but the pipes you hear from the rear. Not the front. Think about it

  4. Anyone with a modecum of intellect sees thru this verbose article. Visual apprehension is restricted to each individuals usable field of vision. Auditory field is 360 degrees.

    So if I’m on my bike sitting on the 401 cruising with the flow of traffic going 100+ and you need to change lanes and you are busy smoking a cigarette as you eat your Big Mac changing the radio station and texting your wife about dinner you already KNOW I’m around you and you need to look prior to moving over a lane. I put 30,000+km annually on my bike and it is a common occurrence where my
    “Loud pipes” make a driver in my danger zone aware of me where if they didn’t hear me they wouldn’t have been.

    As with any group, there are the idiots, no you don’t “need” to rev it at red lights, or coming into a parking lot, that’s simple make machismo and posturing. HOWEVER, they ARE proven to be safer than not. I am proof, I wouldn’t be able to write this if I didn’t have loud pipes.

    Sounds like this author simply doesn’t ride enough in the real world to embrace its benefits,
    Therefor,
    Im shocked he thinks his uneducated opinion matters.

    1. Well I have over 300,000 km on a bike in Canada and have never felt that loud pipes were necessary. I have lived most of those years in Hamilton and can count on one hand how many times I’ve had an issue with not seeing me. I wear bright clothing, Watch all traffic around me and well ahead. Never use a headset for music and have upgraded my horns with a relay. I now sound like a very loud Porsche and I am not afraid to use them. Never understood why riders seem timid to beep the horn. Quiet pipe also don’t draw the attention of police and I’m know of several instances when cops would have gotten out the radar gun if they heard me coming. To each his own but there are better ways to keep yourself safe. I do like a bit of a rumble but you don’t have to rattle the windows.

      1. Hi vis vests/helmets and bright lights (of which i am also a proponent of) only work when the driver looks. I fail to see the relevance of it in your rebutal to my post when it was obviously sound related.

        Loud horn is not a bad thought, do you honk it to make the oblivious aware PRIOR to them doing something stupid? no, probably not…..hmmmm if only there was a way to let them know we were there.

        Got out the radar gun if they heard you, so? whats the problem? As an author and advocate for safe, high vis, attentive riding, why would you care if the gun is on you? You most certainly wouldn’t be speeding would you?

        Personally i dont give a toss if i get a loud pipe ticket, and i have actually stated that to an officer who mentioned them. When asked why i explained to him and he agreed with me that ANY device that can prevent an accident is a viable one. No ticket.

        The problem with these blanket statements is it is only your opinion. Not factual data, and stories written like this give the opposition ammunition against the entire riding community. If you’ve traveled 300,000km on bikes then by all means let us hear your exploits and adventures. However i find it inappropriate for ANY author to make blanket claims that are blatantly inaccurate. Loud pipes have saved my life. Fact. THAT is worth writing about.

        There is, in fact, ZERO factual data published on the loud pipes/safety debate. Why you ask? Because near misses and the noise bringing to attention a rider is present to another vehicle preventing an accident isn’t quantifiable. These incidences aren’t registered.

        1. My error and my apology George Ginn, i skim read the header and made an inappropriate assumption you were the originating author and my reply reflected it, so half of that just wont be relevant to you. lol

    2. “Anyone with a modecum of intellect sees thru this verbose article. Visual apprehension is restricted to each individuals usable field of vision. Auditory field is 360 degrees.”

      On the other hand, anybody with a modicum (note spelling) of knowledge of how sound waves propagate will easily understand that our sound waves emanating from REARWARD facing pipes generate sound pressure away from which we are moving. The energy of the sound waves moving ahead of us carry very little actual exhaust component compared to the area behind the vehicle.

      Honestly, I can’t even begin to understand how this is even the tiniest bit difficult to understand. Surely, we’ve all been witness to that quiet airplane coming towards us that becomes much, much louder as it passes by overhead and REMAINS much louder as it continues on than it was as it approached our position. The same is also true of anybody who even vaguely pays attention to the volume of approaching vehicles at ground level. A bike approaching you 60 meters away is much quieter than the same bike that has passed you and is 60 meters away. Why? Because after the bike passes, the exhaust is ‘trumpeting” those sound waves towards you instead of away from you.

      You’re not incorrect that sound propagates in all directions. It is folly, however, to suggest that the SPL of that sound is equivalent in all directions.

      1. Anyone petty enough to point out a simple spelling mistake on a motorcycle based “blog” is usually called an inferior troll, and does it to make himself look better. However, you also missed the fact i should have used comprehension instead of apprehension, both work, but first one is a great improvement.

        I never once stated that a 360 degree auditory field is uniform. That assumption was made solely by you, not my words. A jet’s engine noise is louder once the SOUND wave gets to you, not after the jet has passed you by…….and yet you must be able to hear it first to know where to look from where its coming.

        Confucius said it best, i believe: “To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.”

        As an ordinary John Smith on a motorcycle who has witnessed first hand the effects of both stock and modified exhaust in relation to other vehicles on the road and their behavior i KNOW i am heard better with loud pipes, i KNOW that the second a driver is made aware of my presence on a motorcycle, i am much safer. As stated, ive lived this, both in a vehicle and on a bike.

        As a motorcycle mechanic/builder, exhaust reflection, absorption, cancellation, resonation and back pressure are all factors i am aware of.

        I’m sure running an internet podcast, and being the son of a great musician you learn alot about sound, however. Unless you are a rider (dont think so), and have first hand knowledge of it, i suggest this may be one of those topics that firmly relate to the Confucius quote i posted for you.

        1. “A jet’s engine noise is louder once the SOUND wave gets to you, not after the jet has passed you by…….and yet you must be able to hear it first to know where to look from where its coming.”

          Correct, of course. That point is not in question. However, whether it be a jet engine or piston engine, how we experience sound directly correlates with not only how long it takes for the sound to reach us, but also the focus with which we experience those waves. The megaphone nature of an exhaust outlet truly does concentrate the wave form such that the vast majority of the sound is rearward on the vast majority of motor vehicles and jets. Most piston aircraft have downward and slightly rear-facing exhausts, while turboprobs primarily have exhausts that exit the engine cowl on the same horizontal plane as and perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft.

          A fun experiment for you is to take a vuvuzela just above the surface of and parallel to water. Blow the horn and watch how the ripples propagate across the surface of the water. Note, too, that the wave propagation directly in front of the horn is much stronger than the waves closer to the mouthpiece. This is caused by the geometric spreading of our strongly focused point source.

          In the case of drivers in modern cars with windows rolled up, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to hear you until you are right beside them, and if there’s loud music with whomping subs, they may not hear you at all. With regard to animals, such as deer, it is true that a deer is more likely to hear you with loud pipes, but they are prone to unpredictable direction when bolting out of fear. There is no shortage of bikes with loud pipes that have had unpleasant exchanges with deer on Canadian highways.

          I spent many years around motorcycles, as both a rider and as a parts manager at dealerships in Toronto. I also spent years working as an audio technician at various recording studios prior to relocating to Japan. I’m confident in my understanding of the physics involved.

  5. You can have loud straight through exhaust without being a dink about it. My pipes are almost straight through and can be very loud – but they don’t have to be loud unless I make them loud. I made them for my Twin Cam, very little baffling. I like them a lot because I like to listen to my engine. I can set off car alarms at will but am mature enough to not feel the need do that. I can give it a little rev if I think it could help when someone is getting too close. And then I hear these dinks sitting at the lights needlessly revving their engines – too stupid to understand that every time they do that they are washing down their cylinders. I have been riding HD’s for a very long time. To me being loud like that is the mark of new rider.

    1. Sorry, but that’s bullshit. Any big twin with nearly straight pipes will be annoyingly loud even at idle. On the move it will be loud anywhere you go. Can you pull away from a stop quietly? Accelerate up a hill quietly? I’ll bet not. Your rationalizations are just that.

  6. Am I the only one who has seen the advertisement about the guy who drives up to the train crossing and he can’t hear the train going by him? Modern cars are so damn quiet that nothing you do will be heard by a driver.

    In the summer of 2016 my muffler started to crack. Took me more than a year to find someone able to repair it.
    The week before I pulled into the shop it had cracked all the way through: there was nothing coming out of the muffler, everything was coming out mid pipe. This was the loudest thing you ever heard.
    This was of course when I got rear ended by a driver. I wasn’t hurt my bike wasn’t hurt but that guy had no clue I was there.

    Loud pipes do not break through the fog of clueless driving.

    (I do want to say after I got my muffler repair I was amazed at how much more I enjoyed riding because I had not realized how much vibration was coming through)

    The second thing I want to bring up is that in Quebec you are now allowed to ride with your brights on all day long; the law has been changed.

  7. Personally loud pipes or ” look at me riders ” usually the same ones you see riding around town seeing there reflection in store front window, Pretty boy riders, very annoying to the public. Not singling out cruisers to each there own but that loud farm tractor no exhaust sound all 70 hp about the same as a vw bettle is not appealing. Big bad bikers, me in leather, me wear face mask with piss pot helmut or non at all, dumb a#$. Coming from a quiet R1200RT rider one who lost his bike to a deer. It’s a risk that I will take again without annoying the public.

    1. “Not singling our cruisers.” Really! I teach people to ride motorcycles. I teach both the M1X and M2X courses as well as the testing for each course. I see more sport bikes than I do cruisers and ALL of the sport bikes have extremely loud exhausts on them. If you think that only one style of rider likes loud pipes, guess again. Sport bike riders are just as guilty of liking noise than anyone else.

  8. I correlate loud pipes with open face, shorty helmets. In the rare instances that I’ve ridden with an open face helmet, I’ve noticed that wind noise above 60 kph tends to be the dominant sound, drowning out stock exhaust. Therefore, the answer (to the rider) is louder exhaust so he/she can hear/enjoy the sound.
    Perhaps the answer is to take cue from the modern auto world. Make open face helmets with earphones that pipe digitized exhaust sound to the rider’s ears.
    Either that or mandate full face helmets with visors to cut wind noise.

  9. There is a sound that says well tuned and not ratty. Some like the back firing, which implies poor jetting or bad tuning fir the EFI crowd. Some of the loud bikes don’t even sound good and, their owners probably don’t realize they are losing power (cruisers), as they only rev to 5500 rpm. Rave engines are revving at close to max rpm and their exhausts are tuned at peak, which the street rider usually doesn’t ride at.

  10. I went to the first Moto Social of the year at Trinity-Bellwoods Park at Queen St in Toronto the other week. The most common of the very loud bikes there were Harleys and superbikes. Each group had its own approach to extreme noisemaking. The Harley guys seemed to love revving their bikes at start-up (an efficient way to shorten engine life), and doing burnouts or at least hard accel. The superbike guys seemed to like rolling along slowly, or just sitting there, revving to the limiter and holding it there (also really superb for engine wellness).

    I love bikes, but this spectacle went well beyond childish right into embarrassing. At one point, a guy on a bicycle rode through all the racket and fumes yelling “Motorcyclists! F#cking wankers! Look at you! What a bunch of pathetic f#cking wankers!” wagging the thumbs-down all the way along.

    I laughed hard, because he’d nailed it. Who else in the world goes so far out of their way to annoy others who ask nothing more than to go about their lives in relative peace?

    Revving up our loud bikes is not a smart way to win the affection of lawmakers. Nor is it likely to provoke anything beyond utter loathing among fellow citizens. It doesn’t matter what our reasons are for being loud. No one cares. They just think we’re being selfish twats in need of all available attention, good or bad. A bunch of Donald Trumps on wheels.

    If loud pipes really do save lives, maybe medium-loud pipes will still keep a few of us in one piece.

    As for my own eardrum sins, I own a 2nd-hand KTM 950 Super Enduro V-twin that came with twin wide-open FMFs. First time I heard it start, it sounded like a Spitfire. Cool sound, I thought, but not practical or healthy for my already-battered auditory system. I installed the dB-killers, still found it too loud. I’ve just repacked the mufflers in hopes of replacing the high-freq rip with more of a low-key Barry White basso profundo. Haven’t got it back together yet, so not sure if it worked.

    My point: There’s a middle ground between “loud because I f#cking love loud” and sweet-sounding yet respectful of other people’s right to a little peace. I suppose finding oneself in that middle place is called maturity.

    I’ll confess I was once young — and guilty of loud-assedness (on no less than a two-stroke triple). If I’m boring now because I don’t want to annoy the whole world, so be it. At least my neighbours still invite me over for beers.

  11. I’ve been riding for forty-five years, first on dirt bikes, but mainly on the street since getting my license. Since then, I’ve run the gamut from UJMs to sport bikes, ancient Beemer airheads to an oilhead GS, and landing finally (for now) on a VFR800F (the Honda Accord of motorcycles, I know). Each of these has had its own sound and, yes, that sound has been part of the exhilarating experience of riding. At idle and low revs, some were pleasant (KZ650, R100/7) and some were kinda meh (VFR, Yamaha Vision). At higher revs, ALL were plenty loud by any definition, though some sounded great (VFR, Vision) and others just sounded strained (R1150GS, GS750E). A lot of that depends on intake noise, which is not necessarily all that apparent to the bystander.

    So, I completely get that sound is a big part of the riding experience. There is no dishonour or anti-social tendency in feeling that. But at the end of the day, intrusively, disruptively loud pipes aren’t about what the rider hears, but, by definition, what everyone else hears, like it or no. That matters. Most adults would not dream of sitting in their own backyard, at any time of day, blasting AC/DC (or Shostakovich) at 115dB. That’s because they’d have to face their neighbours. You know, be accountable for their behaviour. But somehow, blasting around OTHER people’s neighbourhoods with pipes wailing at the same levels is ok?

    Loud pipes are antisocial, full stop. False rationalizations like “loud pipes save lives” are just that; false. Grow up, people.

    1. Ha! Exactly. I dare say most of the loud pipes advocates would suddenly realize the cost of noise pollution if I pulled up to their street with the Doof Warrior in tow and started to run through some riffs at 3 AM. mad max doof warrior

      1. Or any time of day, for that matter.
        Some people are just selfish and put their desire for a cool sound (or saving lives, or scaring off deer, or whatever) above consideration for others.

  12. In my neck of the woods, rural western NY State, there are a LOT of deer. I have personally seen, MANY times, a deer up ahead of me on the side of the road. They hear/feel sound of the pipes, look up and run the opposite direction! In late Sept early October they start “running” across the roads and at that time of year I don’t care if my High beam is a little too bright for the oncoming car, or that my pipes are too loud, I want every advantage I can get against a deer running in front of me, and if my lights and pipes bother you tough $hit, I want to be around for the next day!

    1. I have to say, I have spent a lot of time deer hunting and can assure you they don’t need loud pipes to know you are there.

      1. Your logic that loud pipes are safer for deer is flawed. The noise startles them, but they don’t always run in the other direction, they sometimes jump across the road. I know, I hit one – with my loud pipes!

        1. Yes, but they react sooner and run off, and it gives me more time to react too. A lot of times they will be gone by the time time I get to where they were on the road. I’ve been riding Harleys for 45 years, everything from factory exhaust to straight pipes. I don’t like the sound of straight pipes anymore, I prefer a “Stage 1” exhaust setup. Still a little rumble but nothing that will hurt anyones ears. That’s a good compromise, and to the people that don’t think so, “grow up Nancy and get a life”!

          1. I agree. There is plenty of room for “louder pipes,” like a reasonable aftermarket exhaust. But the “loudest pipes” are going to hurt us all, in the pretense of added safety.

          2. I also agree. While I have often chimed in on these loud pipe discussions, it’s not that I hate all non-stock exhausts. I just have an issue with excessively loud exhausts, whether on a sport bike, CBR 300, or a cruiser. But we all know, there is a certain type that revels in making as much noise as possible. They go out of their way to rev and blip their engines unnecessarily to attract attention. Anyway, louder than stock? Fine. Louder than a semi coming down a mountain on the Jake brake? Too f@$#ing loud!

            1. There are cruiser riders around here who have pipes louder than that, I think. I know that I’ve never been woken up by trucks, but I have certainly been woken by one of the local cruiseratti who felt the need to blast by the house with his loud pipes every sunny morning all summer long a couple years ago (never in the rain, though, funny how that works).

    2. You might effin care if your bright lights disorient a car coming towards and you get run over because you’ve blinded the oncoming traffic. Use your head for something besides keeping your ears apart.

        1. Yeah, that’s pretty much the sort of response we’ve come to expect from the loud-pipes crowd. Their whole attitude is basically a big “Fuck you!” to everyone else.

  13. Loud pipes certainly DO save lives! If I’m in a vehicles blind spot I want them to know I’m there! You are far too vulnerable on a motorcycle and there are a LOT of bad drivers and distracted drivers on the road. Every advantage is a bonus, including my loud pipes.

  14. Please be correct in citons cities in your article, Trois-Rivieres has no ban on Motorcycle 😉 that by-law was never voted at the City council
    Beside that, i love the article

  15. I personally agree that there are pipes out there that are too damned loud, and it’s unnecessary. I think Indian was smart in that even their stock pipes have a reasonable level of rumble, and the Indian stage 1 slip ons are loud enough to satisfy most avid cruiser riders, but their all at legal decibel levels, and are both factory pipes.

    1. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with aftermarket exhaust, as long as the noise is kept around legal levels. But when you’re waking up the neighbourhood, there’s something wrong.

      1. I’m old enough to remember when the Kawasaki KZ1000 ELR came out with its own, quite reasonable, Kerker 4-into-1 exhaust on it. I may have selective memory, but that bike didn’t seem excessively loud to me. Moreover, I seem to recall that all the aftermarket makers had reasonable “street” cans/pipes in their lineups. The Bassani “Superbike” pipe marked a significant change in the trend from quieter “mid-spectrum” output to loud, deep bellows that rattled windows and woke sleeping babies for blocks.

        There are times here in Japan when some small-to-mid displacement 4-cylinder bike will blow past with a quiet-yet-hugely satisfying alto-to-tenor sound that is so reminiscent of those quiet pipes of the early ’80s. It always catches my attention and makes me smile.

  16. Enjoy your loud bikes while you can. There will come a time in the not so distant future when all bikes will be electric. Not only that all this bickering about mistakes people make while driving is going to lead to all of us losing the right to operate any vehicles. Insurance companies will put machines in control so no mistakes are made. I don’t care what kind of bike I ride as long as it’s my hands on the controls.

    1. Unfortunately when that time comes we’ll be debating just the opposite: these electric bikes are too quiet, how can we make them louder!

  17. Give me a break, loud pipes are nothing new, growing up nobody had stock pipes. Things have actually gotten better in this regard, even bikes rallies have taken to lecturing riders on quieting their bikes. Harley too.

    The only differences I see are the increases in self-serving self-righteous types, usually from the aging / full of regrets / get off my lawn types. Bitterness will kill them off long before any noise laws will become wide spread. Meanwhile these are the same types who buy Volvos with 1400 watt factory stereos, or any number of sporty cars that would easily pass the 96db noise limits they talk about imposing on bikes.

    It’s CMG that’s become oddly obsessed with this issue – Zac you actually believe that nobody respects us organ donor types because of loud pipes? C’mon, get real, nobody respects us because we’re the worst organized community that I can think of. It’s downright shameful actually. Potheads are better organized than we are. A handful of helmetless Sikhs are better organized with louder voices. Hell, refugees with bedbugs are better represented! And this endless internal bickering and attempts at clique shaming isn’t helping us one bit. Show me one open pipe type that went back to stock after reading this kind of article …somebody …anybody?

    1. “It’s CMG that’s become oddly obsessed with this issue”

      C’mon, rui, that’s just nonsense. It isn’t CMG that is introducing more aggressive stances on pipes or banning motorcycles from cities. Just because one might adore blatting one’s way around the province doesn’t mean that the neighbours appreciate hearing it. While it is all well and good to whine about bitter oldsters who are full of regret and are lashing out at the poor, poor motorcycling community, all that does is wallow in a victim role. It does nothing to appease those who have sway to create/enforce laws.

      And that is the real issue. It’s not about finger-pointing at those who would disapprove of the volume. It’s about realizing that motorcycling itself is at risk because of the very problem that those who disapprove are the majority. When that majority is able to effect legislation, the loud-pipe crowd put the entire community of riders at risk.

      Yes, the issue may be one of disproportionate disapproval (or it may not), but the fact remains that one either learns to work within the constraints of the system or the system will evolve solutions that push one out of the system entirely. In that latter case, we ALL lose. Erosion of freedoms is a serious threat in our modern, intolerant society.

      1. I had a neighbor complain about my starting up my Harley every morning to other neighbors – stock exhaust, no blipping. Did she have a right to complain? Is she the intolerant one, or am I?

        As an aside, her daughter would play Justin Bieber while I tried to find some zen floating about in my pool…

        Point is we aren’t only talking about open piped bikes, which I think we’d all agree is wrong. But there are a great many people who would want to see even moderately loud bikes gone.

  18. Good read, disagree slightly with one commenter about motorcycling being past its prime .I find more of us mid age crowd who’ve been riding since we where big enough to straddle the seat have changed our style of riding to more multi terrain ADV type of exploring the long back roads. But I think the posers are dwindling so maybe he is right but it matters little to me as I ride for enjoyment and adventure and care less what others think of my bike or me .very respectful of not making noise, even have been known to push out of a campsite if I’m off on an early start or keep my idle time short and sweet. Great seeing others from all walks of life in passing on the road .safe ride to all and keep the rubber side down 🙂

  19. I suspect my father is the only person in Harley-Davidson’s history that asked the dealer to take off the Screamin’ Eagles and put the stock mufflers on his 2005 Sportster. He told me that back in the day, Harley dressers were admired for the quiet, civil character.

  20. In the past I would have said that cruisers were the worst offenders, but lately there’s a guy who lives near me (presumably) who has been constantly buzzing up and down the nearby road late at night on his bike, in all weather. I’ve got to hand it to him for his toughness, but his bike, probably a Ninja 250 or something like that, has an incredibly loud pipe on it, and the sound that comes out is piercing, as he revs it quite high. Very annoying.

  21. Zac, don’t you have an aftermarket muffler on your DR650? I’ve never heard a big single dual-sport with an aftermarket pipe that wasn’t REALLY loud. You can short-shift but it’s still loud and when you do twist the throttle harder, it’s REALLY loud. I agree with everything you stated in this article, but, man, kinda hypocritical. If you want a pipe on the DR to save weight and give a slightly more pleasing sound, put a stock GSXR or Hayabusa muffler on it.

    1. I do. I had an FMF that was too loud so I got a Quiet Core for it, then changed over to a Leo Vince instead, as the Leo Vince is much quieter. My 350 has a Quiet Core in it; I bought it with the FMF already on it, or it would have the stock muffler.

  22. I’ve been riding for over 30 years – everything from dirt bikes to adventure bikes to tourers. Canada, US, southern Africa -15 Euro countries including Russia. Never needed a loud pipe.

    Two types like loud pipers – the ostentatious “Hey! Look at me!” crowd is one. Often privileged posers with very fancy bikes and who never really go anywhere – just cruise up and down like kids with their first car do on Main Street. It’s some sort of juvenile trolling for chicks, I guess.

    Then there are the boy-racers. They love motorcycling (more than can be said for the previous group – they love themselves) and want to be like the guys they see on TV flying around the Isle of Man. That’s more understandable, but those loud pipes are for horsepower (and not much) and on closed circuits. You know these guys too – full leathers – even in a climate where it rains all the time. So – not deep thinkers. But they are livin’ the life – until their skill runs out on a corner. (Type 1 ends up as a statistic because they can’t ride – Type 2 because they can ride but maybe not quite as well as they thought. There are old bikers, and bold bikers, but…)

    Loud pipes are illegal – everyone knows that. Enforcement can be difficult because many of those loud-pipe bikers are cops in real life (see Type 1 above). Macho guys with narrow lives. Families, mortgages. Rebels!

    But this problem is solving itself. Motorcycling is long past its peak. The Boomers are ageing and less interested in riding but also less tolerant of noise. I have a suggestion, though. First offence – warning. Second offence – substantial ($250) ticket. Third offence – crush the bike and make a sculpture in the park for kids. A quiet one

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