“Pissed-off citizens are slowly but surely mobilizing to fight against loud pipes. In recent years, city after city across Canada has started its own campaign to put an end to loud pipes. Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Bathurst, Saint John, St. John’s, and Kelowna have all taken first steps in the fight against loud motorcycles, to name a few. Quebec City has actually gone so far as to ban motorcycles from the Old City, because of their noise.” – Zac Kurylyk, Canada Moto Guide, July 2016
Last July, CMG’s Zac Kurylyk was fairly confident he’d put to rest the myth about loud pipes saving lives. He wrote about the Doppler effect and how there’s no evidence to support having loud pipes on a motorcycle actually making it safer. [Click here to read the article -Ed.]
Unfortunately, thanks to a lifetime of listening to planes, trains and automobiles – and whining — I couldn’t hear him.
Kurylyk may be spot-on and there’s simply no denying that an obnoxiously loud motorcycle is both irritating and ridiculous, but in my opinion, the bigger picture here has little to do with noise violations.
When officials start telling us our motorcycles are too loud, and that it’s become such a problem mass enforcement is required, my inner rebel screams this is just another example of police and government ganging up on bikers. It’s been happening ever since that first disgruntled World War II veteran came home from battle, cut the sleeves off his Levi’s jacket, hacked the muffler off his Harley-Davidson and went for a rip with his buddies.
The police may have us believe it’s the citizens who are fed up and mobilizing against the evil that is loud motorcycles, but if you dig deeper you’ll often discover it’s not the public initiating these concerns at all. Often it’s the work of a few pissed-off cops (or retired pissed-off cops), convinced anyone riding a Harley-Davidson is escaping a bank robbery.
While I respect most cops and appreciate their work and its challenges, I will say it’s been my experience that there’s a small percentage of officers with a general hate-on for burly, bearded men on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. I’ve actually had a policeman tell me in rural Manitoba, “we don’t want your kind around here.” Our crime was buying gas. When I asked him what exactly “my kind” was he just smirked and told me to fuck off before I regretted it. We took his advice and high-tailed it out of town.
He wasn’t concerned about the sound of our bikes; he was worried we’d stick around and start up a meth lab. There were three of us in the group: a teacher, a carpenter and me. I can see not wanting a writer in your town, but the other two are straight-up solid citizens who did not deserve to be profiled for simply riding motorcycles.
While that was only one instance, I’ve had other encounters with the police while on a motorcycle and been treated fairly and respectfully. It really depends on the attitudes of both you and the officer, and his or her agenda or lack thereof.
My point here is a great deal of this hyperbole regarding loud pipes is simply a smokescreen manufactured by The Man to rid the streets of evil bikers.
Can you honestly say, unless you live next door to a biker bar, that the sound of motorcycles is actually going to ruin your summer? It’s not as if these loud motorcycles are parked outside your bedroom window running 24/7 like your neighbour’s air conditioner. Where do we really fall in the big picture that is noise pollution? What about all those planes, trains and automobiles? What about the weed whackers, leaf blowers, lawn mowers and that annoying dog next door?
Sure, Harley-Davidsons are typically louder than most other passenger vehicles on the road, but about 99 per cent of the guys I ride with aren’t on obnoxiously loud motorcycles. They have swapped out the restrictive stock pipes for an aftermarket set that gives the bike that iconic Harley sound and slightly boosts the horsepower. V-twin engines are simply high-volume air pumps, and the better the air flows, the better they perform. To me the sound they make, when properly tuned and fitted with the correct exhaust, is music to my ears.
Sure, I’ll admit over the years I’ve had plenty of loud motorcycles. And I’m not here to baffle you with a bunch of bullshit about loud pipes saving my life. Back then my pipes were loud because I was a selfish punk who was constantly seeking attention. I outgrew that. A few years back, one of my buddies installed basically open pipes on his Harley. It was loud. Stupid loud. I could hear him arrive home safely, five kilometres away from my place. His bike sounded like a low-flying plane. Dogs would bark in his wake. He was annoying. He was a selfish punk, too. He also grew up — and installed proper mufflers.
If you’re a selfish punk on a Harley, you’re probably not reading this. But on the off chance you are, dummy up, install some proper mufflers and give The Man one less reason to hassle you. That said, depending on how you look and what you ride, you may still occasionally get pulled over on your motorcycle for riding your motorcycle.
It happens to me far less often now. In recent years, my bikes have rumbled about halfway between stock and obnoxious. I just bought a 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide and had Harley’s performance-minded Street Cannon slip-on mufflers installed. They flow slightly better than stock pipes and have a nice growl that isn’t the least bit offensive and would surely pass any roadside decibel testing.
My 1949 Pontiac, however, is another story. That beast shoots flames from the tailpipes and rumbles like thunder when I mash the gas. However, the only attention I get in that car, from the cops or anyone else, is the thumbs up. Go figure.