Loud Motorcycle Pipes

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - Enumclaw Powersports


Why SB5544?: Part One

Loud pipes are just the beginning. WE are the solution.

The introduction of SB5544 this year was yet another blatant attempt to terminate motorsports activities on public lands. While the defeat of the bill on March 9 was a victory for all of us, you can be sure bills like this will appear again and again until WE, the riders, do something constructive to stop inciting such bills.

Street or dirt, loud pipes incite trouble wherever they go. The aftermarket straight pipes on this Yamaha V-Star crank well over 100 decibels.

That's right, it's WE who must work toward making these legislative attempts go away and there are a number of reasonable things we can do as individuals and groups to work toward the termination of future attempts against our existing right to ride on pavement, gravel roads or trails.

You might ask yourself sometimes – "What inspires these zany legislators to come up with these crazy bills?" The answer is simple - annoying motorcyclists and annoying motorsports enthusiasts. People who are blatantly intrusive on others lives. Are you one or do you know one?

In reality most motorsports enthusiasts are reasonable people abiding by the laws set forth. Jim Boltz, owner of Seattle Harley-Davidson, Cycle Barn and a member of the Washington Motorsports Dealers Association summed it up best in his speech at a recent off-road rally in Olympia: "How many people did it take to cause SB 5544 to be written? Approximately… six. Six out of 200,000. Six people with dirt bikes who were not willing to listen to their neighbors, not willing to consider any reasonable solution to a very real problem they were causing, and not even willing to be polite." He then went on to say "Bottom line - there are people who use motorized recreational vehicles irresponsibly. In all cases, the abusers are the issue, not their vehicle. Such people usually choose to abuse other things as well."

Let's have a look at a few obvious examples of the inspiration for bills like this. Things like loud pipes, stunt riding, and operating motorcycles without permission on private property all lead to bills like SB5544. The first in this series will be…


Whether you ride on dirt or pavement, loud pipes are one of the most annoying and illegal uses of a motorcycle. Not just toward those who don't ride, but for those riders who find a motorcycle outfitted with loud pipes not only an annoyance, but a flat out distraction when they wind up behind such a bike. The federal DOT standard is 96 decibels from 1 meter. If your bike exceeds that then you are inspiring the type of legislation aimed at shutting down motorsports activities and more.

Case in point. If every bike that came off the Vashon ferry at West Seattle sported a stock pipe, there would be no uproar from the neighbors and extra patrols to cite loud pipe users in West Seattle. Adding aftermarket pipes to a motorcycle that causes it to exceed 96 decibels is simply one of the most intrusive, ignorant and self-centered things a rider can do against a sport we all love.

So the solution that WE can provide? There are several.

  • No loud pipes allowed. There are a number of off-road groups such as the Northwest Motorcycle Association that don't allow loud pipes to be used during their events. In fact in competition, db levels are measured prior to insure a bike is within the limit. If not then that rider is provided packing for their pipe, otherwise they won't be competing that day.

    We can all learn from this example. If I'm putting on a ride event and find a rider with a loud pipe, I've never been bashful about sharing my feelings with them about how they are a menace to our sport and probably don't realize it. Some would not be comfortable doing that, others would. If you are, then do it.

    During the annual Trollhaugen, dualsport riders with loud pipes are not allowed to bring their bikes on the property where the overnight accommodations are and would have to walk half a mile up a dirt road to participate in the evening festivities. They're told this in advance and there's no such occurrence in reality.

  • Stop selling loud pipes. Dealers could opt not to sell loud pipes and there are a number who already do. Every time a dealer sells an excessively loud set of pipes like a set of Cobra 118 db straight pipes or the latest 107 db wonder from Two Brothers or FMF, it gets us one step closer to the next anti-motorcycle legislation. Every time that rider passes a senator or representative it's a reminder to them – "Oh yeah, I need to go author that anti-motorcycle legislation today."

    If a dealer insists on selling loud aftermarket pipes they can consider themselves part of the problem, not part of the solution. There are better ways to make a profit. Making a profit at the expense of the sport is a backwards way to run a business. There's more to it than just that. Chrome cannot be recycled and thousands of pipes go to the landfill as a result each year in the Northwest. That gets more than just the eagles screamin'.

  • Inform the users. How about a handout for dealers authored by the Washington State Motorsports Dealers Association about retaining your rights to riding? The document might outline ethics that are good for motorcyclists and the repercussions of riding beyond the law, such as using loud pipes. The handout could be furnished to everyone who purchases a bike and made available for free on the counters of the parts and service departments of every dealer in the state. In addition, the handout could be circulated during motorsports major events around the Northwest. A similar document could be developed for Idaho and Oregon dealers.
  • In the next part of this series we'll look at another obvious use of motorcycles that degrades the sport and it's acceptance by non-riders. Breaking Traction. See you next month.

    To be continued…

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