Saskatchewan’s New Policy Changes The Rules In The War On Loud Pipes

loud pipes
Credit: Zac Kurylyk

Saskatchewan is about to implement a province-wide crackdown on loud pipes through SGI, the provincial auto insurance agency. The crackdown starts in July, and includes cars, trucks and motorcycles — all must pass testing with exhaust noise below 101.3 db. For now, it seems the change in policy is about to go ahead with no serious opposition — although motorcyclists still have lots of questions about how it will affect them.

What’s Changing?

The first big question many riders have is, what exactly is changing? SGI’s website lays it all out here. The simplest explanation is: If a police officer pulls you over because your vehicle is too loud, then you will be required to take your vehicle to a designated inspection station for a test. As per SGI:

You’ll need to pay the inspection station to complete the test. If your vehicle fails the noise test, you’re required to fix your vehicle to bring it in line with the above policy. If you don’t fix your vehicle, your vehicle’s registration could be cancelled.”

There’s no mention of fines, so it escalates quickly to a cancellation of registration. That’s tough talk, and it’s a new angle. Until now, legislators were happy to hand out fines. Now, they’re talking about taking away your right to ride — at least, until your vehicle is in compliance with the law.

Your triple will be lumped in with four-cylinders for noise testing, while singles, twins and multi-cylinders with more than four cylinders are all together in another category. Credit: Triumph

They’ve already written the testing policy for all light vehicles. For motorcycles, three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines will be tested at 5,000 rpm or 75 percent of max engine speed, whichever is less. For motorcycle engines with fewer than three cylinders or more than four cylinders, the sound test will take place at 2,000 rpm or 75 percent of maximum engine speed, whichever is less. The microphone for the testing equipment must be with in half a metre of the exhaust outlet, and both sides of the bike will be tested. If one exhaust is louder, that’s the rating your bike will get.

You can see the official noise testing guidelines here. When you read it, you can see how the policy makers tried to get around some of the issues that have held back loud pipe laws in the past. For instance, there should be be fewer complaints about subjective sound testing if the tests are all performed under controlled conditions at an approved facility.

There will also be less of an issue with riders content to pay (or ignore) fines and keep their loud pipes, if their bike’s registration is cancelled. SGI’s official spokesperson line is that “Under the new policy, the idea is not to issue someone a ticket and have them pay a fine. It’s to bring the non-compliant vehicle in compliance with the law.” They can hardly be accused of cynical revenue generation, if that’s the case.

And as SGI’s spokesperson points out, this policy may be new, but it’s based on already-existing law. TSA 215 (“Create loud and unnecessary noise”), VER 18 (“Inadequate muffler that fails to effectively reduce noise”) and TSA 214(2) (“Driver perform any stunt or activity on highway that is likely to distract, startle or interfere with other users of the highway”) all addressed vehicle noise before. SGI’s new policy just changes how the law is enforced.

“Previously, determining excessive vehicle noise was subjective and relied on the discretion of the officer issuing the ticket,” says SGI’s spokesperson. “This new policy provides an objective, standardized decision on whether a vehicle is creating excessive noise.”

That’s not to say the new policy will hold up in court, but it does show some thought has gone into this.

You can tell SGI has spent some time thinking about previous failures of other jurisdictions to control noise pollution. Credit: Suzuki

Who’s Enforcing the Law?

For now, SGI says there are no plans for automated “noise cameras,” and SGI says it hasn’t considered implementing them.  Police officers will pull you over and give you the notice to appear at a noise inspection station.

“Our focus at this time is on implementing the current policy, providing the testing equipment and training to the inspection stations,” says SGI. “That said, SGI will continue to monitor advancements in technology to determine if there are more effective ways to regulate excessive vehicle noise.”

Why is SGI Dealing with Vehicle Noise Anyway?

SGI is best known for handling Saskatchewan’s provincial auto insurance, so riders are wondering why this Crown corporation is concerned with vehicle noise. The official response: “SGI has administrative and enforcement duties related to several pieces of legislation, including The Traffic Safety Act and Vehicle Equipment Regulations.” This is part of their jurisdiction, they’re telling us.

The Crown corporation also says excessive vehicle noise is disruptive to people living near busy roads, and that it can distract motorists and pedestrians, or prevent them from hearing emergency sirens. Loud vehicles can also indicate a vehicle has been modified in an unsafe manner, says SGI. But perhaps most importantly: “It’s been brought to SGI as a concern by municipalities and individual citizens across Saskatchewan.”

In other words: People have been complaining about the noise, and SGI is going to address the issue.

Although SGI is considered by many to be just an insurer, the province has handed over considerable oversight of the road systems to this Crown corporation.

What Motorcycles will be Affected by the New Enforcement Policies?

SGI says it chose the 101.3 db rating because brand-new, factory-spec vehicles are able to comply. Whether you’re riding a Harley-Davidson, a Kawasaki or a Vespa, they should all be OK, if they’re in stock configuration.

If not? Reading the testing procedures, it seems like single-cylinders probably have the easiest go, with their low-rpm rating. V-twins, maybe — although plenty of modified Harley-Davidsons are making a lot of noise at 2,000 rpm. Larger six-cylinder touring bikes, which are in the same category (2,000 rpm or less), should also find it easy.

But sportbikes and other multi-cylinder machines? Measuring their output at 5,000 rpm will probably work against them. However, this all remains to be seen in the real world when the policy rolls out.

For riders who’ve been wondering how their machines will fare, SGI has been running test-your-exhaust clinics leading up to the July implementation.

What About the Obvious Loophole?

There’s one obvious loophole here, one that riders in other provinces have been using to get around safety inspections for years. If your loud pipes get a ticket, nothing is stopping you from putting a quiet exhaust on the bike for the noise test, then re-installing the straight-throughs the next day, once you’ve got your stamp of approval.

However, given the time involved with the test, and the fact that there’s a cost involved, not to mention the time spent swapping out exhausts, it seems unlikely that many riders will find this appealing.

A stock exhaust should have no trouble passing the new testing procedure, says SGI. Credit: Triumph

Where Are the Noise Testing Stations?

The first noise inspection stations are supposed to come to Regina and Saskatoon, but they will eventually roll out over the whole province. At this point, we do know that some dealerships have been approached, with SGI asking them to become noise testing facilities. We haven’t heard of any dealerships actually agreeing to this year.

Obviously, this could prove to be a very sore point with riders, as it will be difficult and time-consuming for a motorcyclist in rural Saskatchewan if they are required to travel hours away to a noise testing facility.

What About Abusive Enforcement?

Considering that the testing procedure could itself be considered a punishment, considering there’s time and a fee involved, law enforcement could potentially hand out tickets for a trip to the testing station for machines that are actually road-legal, and they could even do this with no maliciousness, if they honestly believe a bike is too loud.

We will have to see how this one plays out. On its part, SGI’s media rep says:

“SGI is providing training on when a vehicle should be submitted to this type of test.

“It is important to note that even OEM equipment degrades over time and very well could fall outside of the limits that are set. SGI has seen this with several vehicles when conducting research into the topic.

“With that said, once the vehicle does pass, the owner is provided a certificate showing that it passes which they can present to enforcement at roadside if pulled over again.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for any organized protests at this point. Credit: Zac Kurylyk

What Will Motorcyclists Do?

Saskatchewan’s motorcyclists have long waged war against SGI, but the fight seems to be less fierce than it was a decade ago. At this point, we haven’t seen much in the way of organized opposition to the new SGI sound policy. There are certainly some harsh words against it on social media, particularly on the R.iders A.gainst G.overnment E.xploitation *R.A.G.E* Facebook page.

But aside from individuals calling, emailing, or sending letters to various MLAs or SGI executives, there has been no major organized pushback we’ve seen. Dealerships seem reluctant to comment on the issue, either passing a call off to some other shop or just plain hanging up the phone. One longtime Saskatchewan industry insider said he and other dealerships had received a letter inviting them to become a noise testing station, but that was the only communication they’d received. It seems many moto dealerships are still in the dark about the new program. He also said that based on infighting from various community members when confronted with harsh regulation changes in the past, he was not expecting any real organized pushback to this crackdown either

In summary: It seems like many riders are unhappy, but don’t expect much to be done about it in the next few weeks at least.

What’s Next?

The War On Loud Pipes is a renewed-every-spring story here on CMG, because all provinces and cities are facing the same thing. Non-riding Canadians are very unhappy about open pipes in urban areas.

With that in mind, I think we can make two predictions for coming months and years. First, the rest of the country will watch Saskatchewan’s battle, and write their own laws accordingly. Canadian provincial legislators aren’t exactly the most imaginative bunch. Read traffic laws, and they’re pretty much the same thing from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Saskatchewan itself will probably adapt the policy, depending how this summer’s enforcement goes, and the rest of the country will also adjust.

Second: Expect automated cameras to eventually come to Saskatchewan, even though they haven’t been considered so far. The reality is, there are only so many police officers to go around, and loud vehicles are everywhere.

Remember that one of the first well-known noise camera systems, the Noise Snare, actually had its genesis in Saskatchewan. Inventor Mark Nesdoly lived in Saskatoon when a loud-piped sportbike running up and down his street woke up his sleeping daughter, which planted a seed of an idea that eventually became the Noise Snare. He’s no longer involved with this technology, shutting his company down in 2013 after conservative-minded legislators dragged their feet on adopting his tech — nobody wanted to be the first to do so, he says.

However, a decade later, we see similar systems now being rolled out around the world, because the advantages Nesdoly lists are still true. Unlike a traffic officer, a camera is always on-duty, and it offers massive savings in wages. It avoids much of the fallibility of human error, and Nesdoly believes that checks-and-balances guidelines will ensure the wrong bikes don’t get ticketed.

“The rule with automated enforcement is ‘one doubt and it’s out.’ If there’s any question regarding the source of the noise – for example if there’s more than one motorcycle in the video – the team responsible for reviewing the data would automatically throw it out,” he says.

It may take years for these cameras to come to Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada, but traffic enforcement is generally moving towards automation, and the 1-2 punch of stiffer laws and fines combined with camera-driven enforcement seems like it’s just a matter of time at this point.


  1. I say bring it on.
    I’m absolutely sick of listening to fuckwits with fart cans on their tuner cars crackling and backfiring, cruiser boys with straight pipes, sport bikes with straight through cans, muscle cars with free-flow exhausts, tuned diesel pickups with 6″ pipes rolling coal and making a racket, and heavy trucks with straight pipes and using the engine brake. People trying to live around here, ffs, no need for all that extra noise. I’m not holding my breath waiting for anyone to do anything about it, because the Ontario government is useless, the Hamilton police are useless, and the city of Hamilton government is also useless (at anything other than raising taxes and wasting money).

  2. Bevel drive Ducati’s with Conti’s….?? I say fight,fight,fight,sort of cancelling moto-culture.
    All you Prairie guys get organized and push back.

  3. When this motorcycle noise issue came up in Ontario 13 years ago, the CVMG did extensive testing of Vintage and Classic motorcycles. All which had stock exhausts systems had no problem meeting the J2825 SAE proposed test. But many “aftermarket” and “Custom” systems on recent or “new” bikes do not muffle sufficiently to pass – as more recent testing in the USA showed. (Particularly at large throttle openings.)
    Most jurisdictions using it have found the test method problematic to administer and so use only the idle reading portion of the test rather than try to measure the higher revolution figure accurately.

  4. No exemptions for vintage machinery ? There are a lot of tractors and combines in Saskatchewan that likely wouldn’t pass that test – certainly more than there are motorcycles. Let the flaming begin- anyone ?

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