The most widely read and hotly contested articles on CMG continue to be those about helmet laws and loud pipes. Battles rage on in the comments section where readers attack each other’s opinions, grammar, and occasionally even their poor mothers.
A quick scan through our archives shows provinces, cities and townships across the country are regularly launching their own anti-noise campaigns targeted at fighting noisy bikes. Toronto, where I was born and reside, is no different.
Last spring, amendments were made to City of Toronto Municipal Code Bylaw 878-2019 Chapter 591 related to noise. Enacted and passed on June 19, 2019, the revisions came into effect on October 1, 2019. Targeting residential and industrial construction, animals, home gatherings and places of worship, motor vehicles and more specifically, motorcycles were also included in the changes.
Repairing, rebuilding, modifying or testing of a vehicle between the hours of 9 pm and 7am could land you in hot water, as could having a motorcycle that emits any sound whatsoever that exceeds 92 dB. Those who take issue with such activities have been asked to dial 311 to file their grievances. And they have.
The other night I was touring the city with a friend aboard the 2020 Kawasaki Z H2. Pulling into Yorkville, we were met with stop-and-go gridlock. A bohemian hot spot in the 1960s where musical acts like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Steppenwolf, and The Band (under the tutelage of Ronnie Hawkins) cut their teeth, it has become home to the rich and privileged, making it a great location for exotic car spotting. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had this idea.
Piloting a 200 hp supercharged litre bike, I figured any interaction I had with Toronto’s finest would be related to speed, but evidently this was not the case. Crawling along in the summer heat, a police officer pointed at me and waved me down a side street. Naively assuming he was directing me to a faster route, he asked me to pull over.
Not being my first rodeo, so to speak, I immediately shut the bike’s engine off before removing my helmet and earplugs. The officer alerted me that there had been numerous complaints about loud pipes in the area and that they would be conducting a field sound level test. “Don’t people have more to worry about right now?” I asked, to which the officer laughed and responded, “Trust me, there are many other things we’d rather be doing than this right now too.” Fair point, as I’m sure he didn’t enlist in Police Foundations with a dream of enforcing the noise complaints of the city’s wealthy and elite.
Handing him the insurance and registration for the motorcycle, which was thankfully present and current, I assured him that as a stock motorcycle it should be within the designated parameters. A team of no less than three bylaw officers then approached, apologizing for the trouble.
One held a measuring tape to 50 cm from the tip of the exhaust pipe, before another held out a sound meter. At idle, the Z H2 registered 78.5 dB, well below the limit of 92. Had it broken that barrier, I would have been granted the gift of a $500 infraction. Thankfully, my experience was all very civilized and positive. I was polite to them, they responded in kind, and I left without a ticket. Others may not be so lucky.
I expressed my own thoughts on the Loud Pipes Save Lives debate after I was hit by an Uber driver while riding my very red and very loud Yamaha R6. Spoiler alert: I think it’s BS. Zac chimed in with his thoughts several years ago and his position
Hasn’t changed either.
In my experience, the problem is often the rider rather than the ride. I enjoy the sound of a nice engine as much as anyone and have installed aftermarket pipes on most of my cars and motorcycles, but throttle happy jerks that rev their engines ad nauseum to show off ruin it for everyone. No, I’m not talking about throttle blips when downshifting, I’m talking about those guys who sit in traffic and want everyone to notice them. Well mission accomplished, people noticed. Residents, government officials at various levels, police and bylaw officers. And they aren’t impressed. You’re the reason we can’t have nice things.
There are already enough negative opinions surrounding our hobby and this kind of behavior just creates more adversaries. Keep it up and municipalities in your area could ban motorcycles altogether. It’s already been happening in some regions. If you want to improve your chances of arriving home safety without incident, wear more visible gear, install an aftermarket horn or invest in rider training.