I write stuff. A lot of it is about cars and motorcycles.

The Perennial Loud Pipe Controversy

Maybe you think loud pipes are an important safety feature.  You’re entitled to your opinion, even if I think it’s a pretty stupid one. What you’re not entitled to do, however, is physically threaten city officials who want to keep the noise to a bearable level by introducing noise limits. But that’s what’s happening to Saskatoon city councilor Bob Pringle.

Saskatoon city councillor Bob Pringle says he’s received several threatening phone calls after asking city administrators to examine the possible prohibition of aftermarket exhaust pipes that amplify a motorcycle’s exhaust note. Pringle claims he hasn’t been threatened so much since his days as social services minister under former Premier Roy Romanow in the 1990s.

“Bikers are very angry. They feel like I’m targeting them unfairly and they need this extra noise for safety reasons,” said Pringle in a recent interview.

Many loud pipe proponents have called Pringle to simply tell him to back off, but others have been more sinister, he claims.

“I would love to meet you in a back lane and you wouldn’t come out,” said one caller, according to Pringle.

I guess if you’re foolish enough to think that super loud pipes are the only thing standing between you and certain death, you’re probably foolish enough to make terrorist threats against officials who try to limit the noise.

The thing is, loud pipes don’t actually appear to save lives.  The Hurt Report shows that motorcycles with modified exhausts are involved in accidents more frequently than bikes with stock pipes.  I wonder if that has more to do with the attitude of the rider than the decibel output of the pipes.

As Motorcycle Cruiser puts it:

Yeah, there are a few situations—like where you are right next to a driver with his window down who is about the to change lanes—where full-time noise-makers might help a driver notice you, but all that noise directed rearward doesn’t do much in the most common and much more dangerous conflict where a car turns in front of you. Maybe it’s the fatigue caused by the noise, maybe it’s the attitudes of riders who insist on making annoying noise, or perhaps loud bikes annoy enough drivers to make them aggressive. Whatever the reason, the research shows that bikes with modified exhaust systems crash more frequently than those with stock pipes. If you really want to save lives, turn to a loud jacket or a bright helmet color, which have been proven to do the job. Or install a louder horn. Otherwise, just shut up.

That last piece of advice is particularly good.

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4 Responses to The Perennial Loud Pipe Controversy

  • The Hurt Report is simply not valid anymore.  It gathered its data in the 1970s when we had fewer freeways, fewer commuting miles, no one had cell phones,  no one wore safety gear.  Back then cars didn’t have sound-proof windows and definitely loud pipes would shock the shit out of a cager.

  • In 1979 I bought a new Yamaha XS1100SF. It was quieter than most cars on the road.
    City leaders at the time were debating what to do with the problem of biker gangs zipping around in the big Park past the open-air theater on their “Sukis” with straight pipes, disrupting the play and irritating the 3,000 influential attendees.
    The easy answer? Ban motorcycles from the Park.
    It took 5 years for the law to be repealed. By that time I had moved out to the boonies to avoid the sound of the “Sukis” (and the idiot city leaders) myself.
    Isn’t this scenario similar to “rap music” noise? If you can hear sound beyond a certain distance, issue a citation!

  • If you look at loud pipes as the ONLY thing that saves lives (which you did), than yes, pipes are stupid and don’t work.  However, they do help you get noticed, and being noticed on a motorcycle is what it’s all about.  I say do whatever you want, there aren’t enough motorcyclists to really “annoy” anyone anyway.  What is the statistic?  Last time I was in motorcycle school they something along the lines of, “…3% of the American population ride motorcycles?”  It may seem like more, especially living in Texas Hill Country where it’s saturated with bikes, but…
    Also, I don’t think I’ve heard a motorcycle so loud it annoyed me.  It’s not like they sit next to my window and rev it the entire time. 

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