Friday, August 26, 2005

Republished 'Loud Pipes' Article

This is a republished article and is here for discussion purposes only, it doesn't represent the opinion of the author of this blog on this matter!!!

Ready to rumble ... and that's the problem

Friday, August 26, 2005

By Bud Wilkinson

Copyright © 2005 Republican-American

The melodious, throaty rumble of motorcycle exhaust pipes heard in the distance can provide a siren call to other riders on a sunny summer day, romantically beckoning them to quit whatever they're doing, pull on boots, gloves and other sartorial necessities, and head out in search of a twisting road.

At a more intimate distance, though, that rumble can morph into a roar. The obnoxious din may not shatter windowpanes but noisy pipes can serve as an unwelcome alarm early on a weekend morning or disturb the serenity of an entire neighborhood at any time of the day or night.

The issue of loud pipes divides not only riders and non-riders, but is divisive within the motorcycling community itself. Proponents of loud pipes inevitably recite the axiom that "Loud pipes save lives," insisting that there's a safety benefit in being heard before every being seen. As one Harwinton biker put it, "If it's not setting off car alarms, it's not safe."

"Guaranteed," affirmed Pat Mone of Bristol, chatting outside the Rider's Café in Waterbury, his pristine, red 2001 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide parked nearby."If you can't hear me coming, how do you know I'm going to be there?"

Earlier this month, e-mails circulated among some riders in Connecticut suggesting that state police were engaging in an orchestrated crackdown on loud pipes in Litchfield. The complaints were copied to Rich Paukner, who lobbies state legislators on issues affecting motorcyclists on behalf of the Connecticut Motorcycle Riders Association.

"This is probably the single most problematic issue we have in maintaining good relations," said Paukner of the motorcycle noise that often generates public complaints. "We create an environment in which we can't win." While motorcycle owners have long accessorized their rides, with higher-decibel, unbaffled "straight pipes" being a favorite option, especially among Harley owners, area residents also have a reasonable expectation of peace and quiet.

"This isn't 1960 anymore. We live in denser, more congested areas," said Paukner, suggesting that all riders have a civic responsibility not to offend. Paukner dismisses the "Loud pipes save lives" mantra. "It's a false argument. If that's the case, let's have all vehicles made louder," he said. Cliff La Motta, owner of Cliff's BMW-Aprilia-Ducati motorcycle dealership in Danbury, agrees. He compares having loud pipes to lighting up a cigarette in a crowded room of non-smokers.

"When I owned a couple of Harleys -- with loud pipes -- it had no noticeable additional effect in bringing my presence to the attention of other drivers, especially those in front," La Motta reported in an e-mail.

"It did, however, tire me out on long rides; annoy everyone around me, including guys I was riding with; (and left) a negative mark in any place where excessive noise (was) bothersome, which, coincidentally, was where the prime riding spots were."

Current state law requires that exhaust noise not exceed 84 decibels when traveling more than 35 miles per hour on a paved street or highway. That's noisier than the maximum allowed for cars but lower than the permissible level for buses and large trucks.

"There are loud pipes and there are loud pipes," said state police spokesman Sgt. J. Paul Vance, who reported that between April 1 and mid-August state troopers issued 198 tickets and 146 warnings to motorcyclists statewide for excessive noise. That translates into 10 tickets per week, which Vance said is "not really a lot."

In addition to increasing the decibel level of bikes, upgraded or after-market pipes, which can cost $400 to $800, can enhance a motorcycle cosmetically, but there's a sentiment among a portion of the riding community that it has simply become trendy to be annoying.

"It's a personal thing. It's a sound," said Don Kauffman, general manager of Yankee Harley-Davidson in Bristol, when asked why loud pipes seemingly proliferate. "They want a certain sound. They (also) can buy it for performance." Kauffman warned, however, that improper, non-Harley pipes added to the company's motorcycles may actually reduce performance and potentially negate an owner's warranty.

Harley-Davidson's position on loud pipes is firmly anti-noise. A column by Harley-Davidson president and chief operating officer Jim McCaslin in the January/February 2005 issue of "Hog Tales" magazine noted, "Negative news stories regarding motorcycle noise have increased 400 percent over the past 10 years."

McCaslin urged Harley owners to tone down the volume, even if that means yanking their straight pipes, before legislation mandates that they do so. "We need to think about the consequences our actions have on others. As tempting as it is, maybe we resist cranking up the revs at the next stop signal," he wrote.

The American Motorcycle Association also opposes loud pipes, noting on its web site "that few other factors contribute more to misunderstanding and prejudice against the motorcycling community than excessively noisy motorcycles."

The threat of being ticketed doesn't deter riders who favor loud pipes. "Loud pipes never killed anyone," said Mone.

One irony to the loud pipes debate, easily visible out on the highways every day, is that many of those riders who offend while stridently making safety claims forgo wearing full-face helmets and armored riding gear that would ultimately be more beneficial to their well-being than their noisy exhausts.

"Ride-CT" is a regular feature devoted to motorcycling. Have a story suggestion? Let Bud Wilkinson know by e-mailing him at

Republished from The Republican-American

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