Zac vs. Loud Pipes

About three years ago, when Canadian cities first started to roll out loud pipe bans, I wasn’t terribly happy about it. Back then, a lot of people pointed out that the laws were discriminatory against motorcyclists, and I had a problem with that.

But not anymore. I’d hoped that after the initial uproar, motorcyclists across the country would get the message and tone their act down a bit, but that hasn’t been the case.

Increasingly, more and more riders (almost always cruiser jockeys, trying to be the next Sons of Anarchy guest star) seem to be coming to the conclusion that their exhaust just isn’t loud enough, and are modifying their mufflers to the point of public outrage.

Let me be clear: I have nothing against loud pipes, as long as you keep them on a race track, where they don’t bother the general populace. I don’t have anything against aftermarket mufflers either, as long as they’re not so loud they actually disturb the peace.

I’ve got a somewhat loud exhaust on my DR650 courtesy of an aftermarket FMF can. I went with the FMF because it was the quietest aftermarket exhaust I could find at the time, but I’m not out there labouring under the impression that if I twist the throttle while waiting at an intersection, I’m saving lives.

It seems lots of other riders are under this impression, though. Take, for instance, the numbskull that Editor ‘Arris and I saw while eating at an outdoor cafe in Wolfville on our spring tour. It was a nice night, and the local riders were out. Great.

Except, this one guy didn’t seem to get the idea of riding. His idea of a ride, apparently, was to slowly cruise up and down the main drag, clutch in, rhythmically blipping his throttle so he could show off his loud pipes. Were it true that loud pipes saved lives, the motorcyclist mortality rate at the local hospital would have dropped to zero that month.

But that’s just one instance, you say – why pick on all loud-pipers because of that?

Fact is, that’s just one more ludicrous example, but these twits are everywhere. I live on the main street in a quiet town on the St. John River. It was quiet, that is, until this summer. At 6:45 every sunny morning  (never in the rain!), a local cruiser rider thundered by. If I was lucky enough to sleep in, it woke me and my pregnant wife up every single time.

Of course, you never actually heard this guy until he was well past the house. If someone had been in the danger zone, about to pull out in front of him, they would have done so, regardless of his sound output. So much for loud pipes saving lives.

But if there is any merit in the saving lives argument why does the type that espouses this nonsense then don a beanie helmet, a jacket without proper armour (or no jacket at all), jeans instead of rash-resistant riding pants, and straddle an overweight, under-braked behemoth?

At the rate these Neanderthals are going, motorcycles are going to be hassled at every turn. Maybe we’ll see a nationwide trend to ban motorcycles from urban centres, as has already happened in some towns in Quebec. Sadly, once we’ve all had our motorcycles taken away by pissed-off citizenry (and who can blame them?), we might actually see a few lives saved.

The responsibility to stop this madness lies with all of us. Personally, I’ve ordered a Quiet Core insert for my FMF exhaust. It’s possible I may lose half a horsepower in the process, but the fact that I won’t remotely be part of the problem anymore will make it worth it. I’ll leave the life saving to defensive riding and the right riding gear.

Disagree? Is your exhaust saving more lives than the Red Cross and the War on Drugs combined? Let us know in the comments section.


  1. Now we have the addition of idiots with 200 amp stereos that have to be cranked up in order to “hear my tunes” over the bark of my straight pipes, no wonder the general public think bikers are a holes

  2. […] Trouble is, the AMA, arguably our continent’s greatest organization of motorcyclists, is much more concerned with ending helmet laws. No Canadian organization exists with the same sort of clout, but if they did, they’d probably be stressing the importance of loud pipes – the only concession to safety that most riders seem ready to make. Yes, that was sarcasm – to see how I really feel about loud pipes, click here. […]

  3. I don’t approve of laws aimed at loud motorcycles. The law should be aimed at loud motor vehicles, regardless of number of wheels. Fortunately, the old fashion of putting Blue Bottles on your 7 litre V8 muscle car went away forty years ago; obnoxiously loud cars have become rare. It would be good if obnoxiously loud motorcycles went the same way, but the law shouldn’t discriminate.

  4. Common sense is no longer common. It used to be that we cared for our surroundings (Neighbors) Now we live in a “ME” World.
    I am a driver for 36 Years and owned many Bikes (at present I own 45, since I collect Bikes) and not a single one ever had an aftermarket Pipe on them.
    Manufacturers go to great lengths to make sure that all parts fit nicely together and all work together and here we go and screw this all up????
    But the worst culprits are actually not the Bikers. It is just easier to pound on us, since we can easily bee seen. The worst ones are the Diesel Truck Drivers.
    Cummins went for years trying to make these things more quiet and now all these Idiots take of their brand new, quiet Exhaust systems and install noise makers, even drill huge holes in to their perfect pickup boxes and lead them up???? And the new trend of “rolling Coal”.
    Lets be honest! Noise is annoying! It does not matter where it comes from. It is just easy to pick on Bikers.
    Harley is the greates supporter of “Loud Pipes, save lifes” but even they have now announced Project Livewire their ELECTRIC Bikes Project. Will they install a bunch of speaker and make engine Noise, or will the expect to have driver do the Brommm broom Noise themselves?
    Maybe we can have the drivers collect all the playing cards from their poker runs and stick them in the spokes?
    I drive my Brammo Electric around town almost every day and have never been in danger, because they could not hear me go by.
    Everytime I get in to danger, it is because I paid no attention.
    36 Years of riding and I never had an accident! WHY? Because I drive like everyone else on the road is a moron and out to kill me!
    Think, look ahead and expect the unexpected and your good to go. If you feel that the noise of your pipes, traveling behind you, van save you from an idiot in front of you, maybe YOU ARE THE IDIOT.
    My 2 cents! (Maybe more 2 Dollars hahaha)

    • “,,, Because I drive like everyone else on the road is a moron and out to kill me!”

      Perfect!! For years I’ve been telling people I know who are new to riding the exact same thing.

  5. I have the same idiot in my neighbourhood, every sunny morning at 7am, I hear him roaring out of the park, blipping the throttle like he’s some kind of real-life Harley Davidson alarm clock. Whatever happen to common courtesy?

  6. Agreed. The only loud should be at the track, or if you have a vintage, and are extremely limited in selection. In which case, you might be “loud” but not LOUD. I got an 82 honda 4. Original mufflers were literally rusted off the original 4-4 downpipes. I had a couple solutions. Hunt for years and spend 2k on original exhaust, get a crappy 4-1 or 4-2 junk, or salvage the original 4-4, and get baffled aftermarkets that can mount in the OEM location. In this case, 15″ glasspacks. Was the only thing that worked and preserved the bike.

    I used to think it was a bit too loud, but a motorcycle examiner thought it sounded respectable, I do get comments on the sound, and the fact i cannot even hear my own engine beside some of these actually loud bikes, I now truly understand why people find it to excessive to just leave anymore.

  7. Maybe they should all buy a ‘SoundRacer V8 transmitter’ and patch it into their earphones. (Youtube it) They should make one that you can dial in your preferred motorcycle sound! Maybe they do? There’s nothing like having a BWs 50 sound like a Ducati 1199 Panigale — at least to you, under your helmet.

  8. I agree with laws against noise as long as it applies to everyone. Loud trucks and snowmobiles with pipes rattle my windows too. Actually sleds are the loudest.

  9. I see both sides to this argument & it pulls me both ways. The “LOUD” crowd feel if they can’t be seen, well then they can @ least be heard. I can identify with that, but I prefer to be seen and heard this way.(auxilliary front & rear lights,yellow bike,yellow reflective helmet,auxilliary air & electric horn, bright blue jacket,etc). My fear is that fighting proposed noise legislation (challenging exhaust noise tests in court as invalid because of inaccuracies inherent in these exhaust pipe noise tests,even SAE tests!) and winning your case could end up costing all of us. How? The Governator (Arnold, a fellow rider no less)while governor of California passed a bill to quiet EVERYBODY with a bike with a law mandating OEM exhausts or I believe an aftermarket equivalent that meets OEM standards and equivalency in regard to noise. This means that you run a stock exhaust PERIOD unless you can get an aftermarket pipe that meets ALL OEM standards. Meeting this std by the aftermarket pipe manufacturers is very expensive & time consuming,hence,very few of only the most POPULAR bikes will have a pipe made for sale for that bike. Leaving you with a stock exhaust and no legal aftermarket option. Until the pipe rusts out or you drop the bike and replace it with another STOCK exhaust that you hope is still available and at considerable cost. Challenge bike noise laws and ride overly loud bikes at your peril for fear that a law like the Governators ends up in Canada.

    • Some good points. This caught my attention right away, though: “The “LOUD” crowd feel if they can’t be seen, well then they can @ least be heard.”

      Actually, the physics of sound is such that we don’t really hear them till they’ve gone PAST us. When they’re coming up on traffic from behind, the car doesn’t really register the sound till the bike has at LEAST come up beside the vehicle. By that point, it’s usually too late to stop any potential stupidity on the part of the car. So, while I can be sympathetic to the desire to be heard, the reality is that only the neighbourhoods hear the pipes. The very ones that you’d want to hear it usually do not.

    • They tried to do something like this in the UK when I still lived there. It was universally rejected by the motorcycle community and never came into effect but they did introduce a law requiring a muffler to be stamped if it met noise regulations. All that was required for the police to do was look for the stamp.

      Of course, a muffler could still be drilled out but it’s an easy way to pull the slash cuts out of the after-market world on one fell swoop.

  10. Someone who lives in my neighbourhood with a 250 Honda with an aftermarket pipe revs the thing to red line before shifting gears. He does this at 7 in the morning and at midnight on the way home. There is no excuse for what he is doing. I’m just waiting for the neighbourhood lynch mob to string this guy up and make him eat his slip on. As they say, fences make good neighbours, so does a muffler on your bike.

  11. I also agree 100%, but the demographic you are talking about do not read the mainstream motorcycle articles, like this website.

  12. I tried a Hindle slip on with the quiet core on my KLR and still thought it was too loud, even though Cherie said you could hardly notice it when I rode off down the street. I just found it annoying and, unless you’re getting rear ended at traffic lights on a regular basis, a loud pipe does NOTHING for safety.

    • You make an interesting point, Bondo. I’ve noticed a trend in aftermarket pipes over the last few decades in that the dB output of the exhausts are increasing. Back in the ’80s, Hindle street can was very unobtrusive. Even Lang’s company has buckled to the market pressure of ever increasing volume. It’s disappointing that riders feel the need to be obnoxious. And loud pipes really _are_ obnoxious towards others.

    • Agreed Bondo. I fitted one to my V-Strom and although we had the quietest set-up available it was still on the loud side. I’d like to see aftermarket manufacturers have to provide noise level graphs of each of their pipes to at least help the consumer choose and maybe to even help the system remove the ones that are obviously too loud.

  13. Zac,
    Don’t think the quiet core on the FMF will make more than 2 to 4 dBA difference at idle bringing you down to – maybe – the 92 dBA idle of the J2825 test. And probably still over the 96 dBA criterion at 2000 rpm.
    Quiet street bikes like my 1938 old-timer are 79 dBA at idle and 90 dBA at 2000 rpm. Really quiet bikes are like the old 980cc BMW R100/7 I used to have – it tested at 69 dBA idle and 80 dBA at 2000 rpm. A 3 dBA decline is a halving of the perceived noise level.


  14. Agreed 100%. The antisocial racket made by the open pipe and loud can crowd is making all of us into anal apertures in the eyes of the public. When The Man comes to take away our rides and rights, we need to have the public on our side and if we’ve alienated everyone we will get no help!

    I don’t care if it’s a ricky racer, metric croozer or a gen-yoo-whine Hardley-Ableson, If it’s loud then PUT A CORK IN IT!!!

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