Opinion: Making our own rules

Motorcycles sure have their issues. Every year, we raise them at Canada Moto Guide and every year, readers argue the pros and cons and nothing ever seems to actually change. We think of them as “hot buttons”: Loud pipes, as Zac is railing against this week, and lane-filtering, as he wrote about last month, are two of the most polarizing challenges facing Canadian motorcyclists. There are others, of course: speed limits, Sikhs and their turbans, proper training, correct gear, all guaranteed to start a conversation and keep it going well past the time it should all be settled.

Interestingly, though, there are a couple of issues affecting us that were resolved long ago in very different ways, and they give us a lesson in what might happen with today’s concerns. Helmet laws and top-speed wars used to be a big deal, and while the first was settled by the government imposing legislation on us – end of argument – the second was dealt with voluntarily by the industry with a far more satisfying result.

Don’t get me wrong with helmet laws: CMG’s view is that riders should always wear a proper helmet, just as they should always wear All The Gear, All The Time. To ride without a helmet is just dumb, and selfish. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like to do so every now and again. My own personal rule is that if I’m in a helmet-free state, no more than one day in a year, I might ride without a helmet. It feels pretty good on a country road, not too fast, with sun on my forehead and wind in my hair. But I know I’m far more likely to be killed if I fall off the bike and that’s just selfish, so I set my own rule of only once a year. To be honest, it’s been several years now since I last rode anywhere without a helmet, but I still like to have the choice. I’m glad Canada has a mandatory helmet-use law in every province and territory because otherwise I’d be tempted to be stupid more often.

The original Suzuki Hayabusa was the fastest production motorcycle of all time.

The top-speed wars were more contentious. In the 1990s, most of the motorcycle manufacturers were competing hard against each other for the bragging rights of creating the fastest production motorcycle in the world. In 1999, Suzuki came out with the Hayabusa, the first easily-purchased bike capable of more than 300 km/h, and Kawasaki let it be known that the upcoming ZX-12R would be even faster. Legislators in Europe, however, were far less impressed and suggested that such motorcycles would be banned if they became any more powerful; consequently, all the manufacturers agreed to a voluntary limit on top speed of around 300 km/h, and the Kawasaki was toned down to keep its speed just a few km/h below the Suzuki, which was itself slightly detuned. Instead of pure speed, the manufacturers accepted they’d reached a practical limit and started focusing more on handling, response and comfort.

The point to all this is that the voluntary acceptance of limits is far preferable to the heavy-handed imposition of law, and we would be wise to remember this for the other challenges facing motorcycling. As Zac points out this week, many Canadian jurisdictions are considering blanket limits on motorcycles as a way to silence those with loud pipes, as has already happened in parts of Quebec; if we don’t make the decision for ourselves to stop pissing people off with overly loud pipes, then lawmakers will just prohibit all motorcycles from entire regions, whether they have loud pipes or not. This is the last thing any of us want – can’t we all agree on that?


  1. “To ride without a helmet is just dumb”

    I always ride with a helmet, but I don’t get preachy about it.

    As far as motorcycle safety gear is concerned, it’s all a joke compared to my 4,000 pound Volvo.

    • Yep, and your volvo is a joke compared to a Hummer. And a Hummer is a joke compared to tractor-trailer, etc, etc, etc. Are you saying that because we are vulnerable on our scoots that we shouldn’t bother wearing safety gear?

  2. Motorcycle noise was a big deal in 2010 when the MMIC got behind the idea of promoting the SAE J2825 test to any and all municipalities in this country.
    After testing a bunch of vintage bikes (52), doing some research on what was happening in various jurisdictions and seeing the J2825 test as used (misused might be the better word) by poorly trained policemen or by-law officers, I concluded that it would never be a general, widely adopted, method of enforcing quiet vehicle law, let alone quieter motorcycles.
    The test is also, by the way, less restrictive than the test requirements for the original stock silencers fitted by law to new motorcycles since the early 1980’s.

    I also think that lane filtering is nothing but “a bee in a few people’s bonnets” around here. My experience with the Ontario car and truck driver is that they are, by-and-large, pushy and very defensive of “their lane space” and will often defend it against any encroachment. Even to the point of threatening a rider.

    I don’t go looking to antagonize others on the road – particularly those who are bigger than me and surrounded by tin.

    As to helmets, I began riding a motorcycle in Ontario in 1958, 10 years before there was a “required helmet law”.
    but as I was a “wingback” on the high school football team and wore a helmet, of course when playing that sport. And I was a goaltender on the ice hockey team (and an early wearer of the primitive helmet/face mask for goalies).So I saw no problem with wearing a motorcycle helmet (a “pudding basin” type, called the Everoak “TT” to BSI1869 and approved for racing in the Isle of Man!) It was just part of the equipment. And the helmet was nice and warm when riding 5 days per week through the winter to and from high school. Of course in those days there was no Medicare system so if you didn’t want to incur doctor’s or hospital bills to repair injuries incurred when falling off the motorcycle you tried not to fall off and wore stuff to try to save your hide if you did.

  3. The frequency of loud pipe articles on here easily surpass any other fringe subject. Just off the top of my head, particularly if we’re interested in subjects that could better the advancement or understanding of our sport, I can think of a half dozen subjects I’d rather hear about. Let’s hear stories about how motorcyclists are represented in Canada – how successful (or not!) these organizations have been in representing our interests. I’d rather hear about accident statistics – why and how riders are killed or maimed, what are the trends and what’s been the reactions to it. Safety advancements, emission standards, off road access, rider training best practices. The list can go on.

    But it’s always loud pipes. Yeah, there’s been some articles on insurance, HOV access, filtering, etc., but in terms of frequency they pale in comparison.

    I know some open pipe types and guess what – they know they’re pissing people off. You won’t shame them into doing otherwise, this is their big middle finger to you. So other than clickbait, what’s the constant coverage doing? I frequent other sites, particularly US sites where open pipes are more common and no one cares about helmetless Sikhs, and this subject is just one of many, not headline news.

    It’s an enormous stretch of Trumpdotartitism proportions to think that our other issues would somehow dissipate if we could only & magically get the open pipe types to not think selfishly.

    • Rui, I always appreciate your comments, even if I disagree with them, because I know you are an experienced rider on many different machines. I don’t care if everyone agrees with me on here, as long as they are civil and honest.

      Having said that, loud pipes are very much an issue, and currently, the only issue that is getting enough attention from non-riders to see motorcycles banned or otherwise discouraged from riding in Canadian towns. This problem gets worse every year. Every time we mention it, I hear the same complaint: “All CMG talks about is loud pipes.” Not true. The last feature story we ran about loud pipes was back in 2016. We’ve also only run one news story about it so far in 2018. See for yourself here: https://canadamotoguide.com/?s=loud+pipes

      We cover all aspects of motorcycling on this site: lanesplitting, racing, adventure riding, touring, bike reviews, etc., and to single out one feature story and one news story for 2018 (not counting the April Fools piece) and say we’re hyper-focused on loud pipes is incorrect. If anything, we should be writing more about loud pipes, since it seems we have far more readers who care about that subject than we do about racing, etc., judging by the comments. Understand, I don’t plan to ramp up coverage on the issue, but judging by the numbers, it is exactly what people want to read about.

      • Zac, CMG is the best forum out there IMO so don’t get my intentions wrong, I’m really just trying to change the current narrative – open pipes are bad so lets stereotype our own and blame & shame & swear & name call. This helps no one, and frankly conflicts with the zen that motorcycles represent to me…though I guess that’s my problem. But every CMG article on the subject rarely leads to an intelligent conversation.

        At the end of the day, I don’t believe loud pipes are more predominant now than they’ve been before, just the opposite really. There’s ample evidence that our industry overall incl. manufacturers, bike rallys, and the like are doing what they can to address this issue that’s been around as long as motorcycles have.

        Maybe there’s been more “uproars” recently, but really it’s been around for as long as I can remember, after all the laws that exist today are there to combat loud pipes from the uproars of the past. Places like the old walls of Quebec have banned motorcycles for as long as I can remember. IMO, many of the unfavorable views of motorcycles in Quebec are more a product of the old biker wars than anything else. Oh, and maybe the SAAQ.

        Which raises the question – what’s really changed?

        Yes there’s more bikes out there, but also more people. I don’t think usage or the proportions are up (it’s still <3% of eligible pop. I believe). Despite the efforts of many, woman and millennials aren’t really buying into bikes as we’d want them to. And the greybeards are dying off or just leaving the sport. So, especially of late, the trends aren’t great.

        Counter to this (and the real reason why we may be seeing an uptick in complaints) is we have urban centers who are more inward focused then ever, but they aren’t just picking on motorcycles, they want cars gone too. They find excuses like noise, pedestrian fatalities, smog, congestion, etc., but the agenda is really build some sort of socialist utopia of walkable communities of like-mined lycra wearing foodie types who after exhausting their motorcycle or car complaints will rant about rent prices or TTC fares or whatever the fuk else. Fuk them!

        The only thing that should come out of these latest uproars from all these attention seeking representatives is to urge all motorcyclists to contact those same representatives with a singular argument – we should all fully encourage law enforcement to use the existing laws to punish those who don’t abide by the existing noise standards, be it motorcycles, or trucks, or cars, or whatever else. Tell police to do their jobs! Otherwise, putting any other restrictions on my use of my fully compliant motorcycle and my law abiding use of said motorcycle would be discriminatory and show prejudice.

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