Friday, June 8, 2012

Loud and proud

I had my ear bent this week by a longtime Lincoln businessman who called about motorcycles. He's increasingly annoyed by loud bikes with low-impedance exhaust systems, or even open pipes, and wanted to know why the police don't do something about this. Fact of the matter is that we do, and the offense of unnecesary noise, covered in two chapters of the municipal code, is a fairly common ticket.

It is not, however, common enough to stick a sock in every tailpipe. The caller observed that the problem has increased in recent years, and I tend to agree. Motorcycle registrations are up in Nebraska, and it seems to me that every dentist has acquired a Harley. Not to pick on dentists, though, as I watch cops, judges, lawyers, and accountants roll into work daily on their steeds. Sometimes I think I'm the only upper-middle income 58 year old in Lincoln without a motorcycle.

The loud pipes seem to be a source of pride to many motorcyclists, for reasons beyond my comprehension. Adding to the din are the cafe racers, whose pitch is higher, but equally annoying when you're trying to enjoy a little peace on your patio. In the end, all I could do was commiserate with the complainant. An occasional ticket is not entirely effective in combatting a cultural phenomenon.


Anonymous said...

Good morning and happy Friday all. I had a 2000 HD and about 10,000 miles in eight months. Sturgis and a stay for three days on a ranch in Hermosa SD is something I will never forget. What I would like to forget is the number of close calls I had, none of which would have been my fault.
Loud exhaust on a bike (not the peddle kind that block traffic) serve as a horn of sort. Kind of like a skunk, you smell it and do not see it (like the peddle kind). After three near accidents which I am sure would have killed me, I sold the bike and made a profit. The nutty riders who think it is cool to do a wheelee (spelling?) all the way up Antlpe Vlly Pkwy bridge are riders who should have a pre-paid funeral plan. Good blog today.

Anonymous said...

I think it is also a safety issue as to whey some have loud exhausts. It lets the drivers of other vehicles know there is a motorcycle in the area, put your phone down and pay attention.

Not deaf yet said...

What's the fine for excessive noise? I would love to see open pipes and thumping audio systems turn into a major revenue source for the department.
For that matter, there should be a trophy for the officer who bags the most noise terrorists.

South Park writers express my feelings perfectly in "The F Word" episode.

Anonymous said...

Equally annoying is the low base thump from some wanna be hip hop artist slumped down in the seat.

Steve said...

I can understand the annoyance, but it doesn't get motorists attention, which can make a difference in safety (sort of like sirens on a fire truck). I'd like to more tickets to the drivers of cars that sound like they're about to fall apart from the vibrations coming from their music systems. Being trapped next to them at a long light is much more annoying to me than a short acceleration of a loud motorcycle. Many people love that noise. Why do you think racing is such a popular event?

Anonymous said...

My hubs had a motorcycle. I hated it for many reasons, including the fact that it was so loud. I asked him why he needed it so loud and he said, "so the other drivers know I'm there." Luckily, he sold it soon after our first child was born. The need for some extra cash was greater than his need for speed.

From time to time I see vehicles cut off a motorcycle, but more often see the 'crotch rocket' riders criss crossing in and out of traffic at very high speeds. It was especially bad on N 14th before it was closed. We'd hear a couple motorcycle races every night. I'm hopeful that the roundabout at 14th & Alvo will slow them down, but realistically it will probably take out a rider or two!

Clean said...

There may be something in the thought that the exhaust noise is good because it's a heads up to others on the road. Maybe it would be a good idea to outfit every vehicle with, say, a siren or maybe a constant train horn, to let other drivers know that there is another vehicle somewhere with six blocks.

Anonymous said...

Some people around here would give a lot to have their biggest problem in life be other people's loud pipes.
As a cop, I don't see this as a big problem and I'm guessing I log more miles on the city streets than this guy.
Some people should get a perspective on life and real problems.

Anonymous said...

Tom-If you (or anyone else connected with law enforcement) walk up to 100 Harley riders and ask about their pipes, 99 will say "Loud pipes Save Lives". As a longtime Harley rider, if I walk up to 100 Harley riders wearing my vest and jeans, and ask about their pipes, 99 will say they like the way they sound, will quote stats on the decibels produced, and tell me where I can get them for the best price.

A vest patch saying "Loud Pipes Save Lives" sells better at the local motorcycle store than one saying "Riding Sober Saves Lives".

And no, my pipes are not stock. And I really do enjoy the way they sound. But I try not to be obnoxious with them.


Anonymous said...

If your mode of transportation is so inherently dangerous that you need to disturb everyone within a city block so as to pinpoint your present location, perhaps you need to rethink your mode of transportation. A corrolary might be "I need my cigarette smoke to smell like manure, so everyone will know it is dangerous to walk near me while I choose to exercise my right to smoke."

Thanks for this post - I was under the impression that *I* was the only male in that demographic who did not own (or desire) a window rattling steel pony. Over the past half-decade or so they have become an increasing annoyance, thanks to the Discovery Channel.

Anonymous said...

I currently ride a bone stock 2006 900 Vulcan. It is quiet when I want it to be. Almost any motorcycle can be annoyingly loud at full throttle. The flip side is any motorcycle can be operated in a way that is not annoying to those close by. Over the years I have owned two highly modified Harley Sportsters that had straight pipes. No tickets for excessive noise during the twenty year period I rode them on the street. It is all in the twist of the wrist.
Gun Nut

Tom Casady said...


My time on a Harley was a good while back, but I don't recall anyone in those days justifying their glasspacks as a safety device. It seems to me that it was always about performance and machismo. The "loud pipes save lives" explanation must be something that has developed since then.

My personal motorcycle was a Suzuki, and pretty quiet. These days, I log my miles on a bicycle, and those pipes are exceptionally quiet, although the rider talks under his breath quite a bit when motorists cut him off.

Anonymous said...

Tom-Ask anyone that has ever pulled in front of a motorcycle causing a wreck, or turned left in front of a motorcycle causing a wreck, or done any other thing causing a motorcycle wreck, and the first thing they say 100% of the time is "I didn't SEE the motorcycle". Not one has ever said "I didn't HEAR the motorcycle". I have airhorns on my bike that produce 130 decibels of obnoxious noise ( needed I will push the horn button instaead of revving my engine everytime. Have a nice quiet weekend.


Anonymous said...

My 8 year old daughter asked me this spring "Dad, why are motorcycles so LOUD?"

I thought for a moment and all I could think to say was "I guess they really need people to look at them."

The more I think about what I said that morning, the more I think I was probably right.

I'm no psychologist, but loud motorcycles of any sort (or cars, for that matter) seem to fill voids in the lives of the riders. They are "props". Perhaps the rider wants to insert a streak of (relative) danger into their life, or recapture the control & choice they lose from 9-5 every day. Perhaps they feel invisible and desire to be noticed by society. Perhaps it is a way to purchase a certain type of character - patriot, rebel, steel cowboy, fast & furious, outlier, whatever. I get it.

I don't care about your religious agenda, politics, affiliations, gender, sexual orientation, income, skin color, or any other identifying characteristic. What you do in your home is your business and I do not question it. I have absolutely no issues with your right to choose props to support the lifestyle of your choice, as long as your prop does not impact my choices in my home.

Loud pipes are the most self-centered, egotistical, self-referential, "choice" on the streets today. When you drive your 120db "choice" through my residential neighborhood you are no longer a character, no longer "saving your own life," putting your own skin at risk or damaging your own hearing. You are a nuisance. You are a disturbance to every person in every home on that street. You are waking up children asleep in their own beds. You are drowning out any "choices" the person on their own property has made in what they are listening to or NOT listening to. You are alarming family pets. You are physically shaking the windows on homes, damaging other people's physical property... and sanity. You are screaming "look at me!"

Consider this - If I were to stand outside your home with a boom-box playing music at the same decibel level as your motorcycle pipes, you'd want me ticketed. I'm obviously disturbing your home environment.

Chief, let the unnecessary noise tickets flow. You have my support.

Anonymous said...

Loud pipes save lives

Anonymous said...

The big picture is, there are rude and dangerous people in cars, trucks, and on bicycles and motorcycles. And sometimes on Hot Wheels! My motorcycle has an extra loud horn too...and I've used it to get the attention of the car driver with a phone stuck in his ear.

Steve said...

My post at 8:22 should have read "does" get motorists' attention, and it does. Unfortunately, it's mostly those you've already passed rather than the ones ahead who might pull out in front of you or turn across your path. I would agree that those who have straight pipes or other exhaust systems that don't meet legal standards, or who intentionally make as much noise as possible, ought to be ticketed. That goes for cars and trucks, too, and especially for the stereos so loud you can feel them before you can even hear them.

On the other hand, performance is increased somewhat, motorists do notice you when they may not have otherwise, and it is music to the ears of many people.

I think most responsible riders avoid unnecessary noise just for the sake of it, and loud exhaust does not equal bad or illegal riding on the part of the biker. The crotch rockets make a much different noise, and you can just about bet money that if you hear one them screaming down the road they are speeding, pulling wheelies, racing, or performing some other unsafe act. You can't go more than a second or two racing the engine loud like that without exceeding the speed limit.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Steve!

Anonymous said...

June 8, 2012 9:47 AM : I read both of your posts. I have come to the conclusion that you spend the bulk of your time frowning. The trend of today's read was much like enjoying a day at the beach until the air I attempted to pass turned out to be ah solid (if ya know what I mean). Perhaps readers could post little crap icons or other insignia to alert readers to a peekaboo pooper post, much like a dip sign..

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:39, for a guy with an 8 year old, you seem extra old and crochety....many of the things you said sounds as if my 87 year old grandmother said them. You were right about one thing though, the loud pipes do scream "look at me". And that is the purpose. Prior to my getting "loud pipes" I was nearly hit numerous times by merging cars, lane changers who failed to see me, and many others with their head up their 4th point of contact. After the loud pipes were installed, it rarely occurred. People heard me and as a result, looked for me before chananew lanes etc...
Secondly, while reading your post, I imagine you are the guy I see with his t-shirt tucked into his jeans. And if you were standing outside my house with a "boom box" ( do they still make those?), I can only imagine it would be blasting some relaxing, easy listening music which featured an over abundance of saxophone riffs. Are you also the guy who calls police on the 4th of July because the fireworks " alarmed your family pet"?

Steve said...

I don't begrudge anyone complaining if noise is disturbging the peace of themselves or their family. At the same time, assuming loud motorcyles are some kind of substitute for true manhood, as many people assume of those who choose to carry guns, is at best, an argument born of jealousy. I ride a bike that can be loud if I choose to accelerate rapidly, and I often carry a gun. Yet, I have no insecurity as to my own manliness, and I care not whether I am armed or riding my "steel horse" when it comes to standing up for myself or what is right.

Steve said...

I must need new glasses. Seems like a lot of typos in my comments recently. :(

Anonymous said...

Loud pipes save lives. Enough said. I just pray that every motorcyclist makes it home safe after every ride.

Anonymous said...

Enough already. There are far bigger issues than bitching about loud pipes.

Zackary Soderquist said...

The difference between a loud motorcycle passing your house and standing outside my house loitering with a boombox is that the bike noise will be gone in a few seconds, you boombox isn't going away.

There are a lot of things that go bump in the night that can disturb a family pet or wake a child. Ever have your neighbor call a taxi and have the taxi driver honk for them at 3am?

Every vehicle get exponentially louder when you redline it. Even my pitiful Plymouth Neon 4 cyclinder gets loud when you romp on it.

No if you have a group of bikers loitering outside your house reving their motors .. similar to standing their with a loud boom box then absolutely you have every right to file a complaint.

If they are passing by and the noise is gone in a few seconds.. get over it life happens. If any temporary and brief loud noise should be ticketed.. then let me give you a list of things that should then, to be fair, ticketed for excessive noise... Car Alarms, people involved in an accident, anyone that honks their horn, your crying baby in my restaurant disturbing my meal.

My is factory stock with mufflers and when I romp on it is still very loud. Even if there was a way to make it quieter, which I don't think there is, then it would be a whole lot more expensive then a view tickets.

Dave said...

This addage that loud pipes save lives in utter bull-poop.

I had straight drags on my '78 Shovelhead, raising hell and making noise and still had someone turn left in front of me from the wrong lane. Yes we collided, and no I never had the chance to ask the driver if he heard me, as he fled the scene like a coward.

I believe that coward is now serving time in prison for a burglary and a death from a different traffic accident.

I ride a Harley, and I have semi loud pipes because I like the sound, but I do not believe that "loud pipes save lives" as many would state.

Nyfty said...

Loud Pipes Loose Rights! Around the country there are communities where motorcycles are banned.

I could go into a whole explanation of the Doppler Effect, but for an easy explanation next time you are at a grade crossing pay attention to when the train is louder. Before or after it passes your location. Now replace the train engine with a straight piped v-twin. For the rider the greater danger is in front of them, not behind where their straight pipes discharge.

If a rider wants to be safer, here are some suggestions. 1. Get some training. Riding a motorcycle takes a higher level of training and awareness than driving a cage. Get your eyes up and on a swivel. Look for problems before they are in your lap. Sign up for an advanced rider’s class either at SCC or with the NE Safety Council. You will learn tactics to handle those little surprises. 2. Make you and your cycle visible. Add extra lights front and back, Lane placement when you’re riding...don't be in a drivers blind spot; and don't hide behind a large vehicle when you are approaching intersections. Part the "colors" and wear something bright. An Australian study showed that riders who wore a white helmet were involved in 14% less collisions. And those who wore bright colored clothing could improve their odds by another 12%.
3. Eight hours between bottle and throttle. Pretty self-explanatory.
4. Get out and ride some miles. A rider who rides less than 5,000 miles a year is more likely to be involved in a collision. It has to do with loss of muscle memory and the perishable skills needed to be a safe rider. 5 Ride like the cagers don’t see you, because they don’t.

I look forward to seeing you on the road. You will see me because of my bright clothes and lane placement; but you won’t hear me coming or going. Oh by the way, I’ll see you first.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what's more disturbing here - the fact that there are so many losers who want to ruin the lives of everybody that they drive by, or the fact that the people who are supposed to enforce noise ordinances openly refuse to do so.

The rights of the majority are being trampled so that the motorheads can run wild trying to compensate for small apendages.

I hate every last one of you motorcyclists. But keep it up - the more of you that make absolute seflish asses of yourself just means more people that ban together to put more limits on your pathetic hobby.