The Loud Exhaust Question
“Loud Pipes Save Lives!!” Well,Â at least that is the battle cry. Is it true? Well, apparently that is the question. Some argue that in fact loud pipes do saves lives, while others say they have no effect. One side argues from the experience of having ridden both types of bikes, quiet and loud. Others erroneously draw conclusions from the Hurt Report.
Conducted by Harry Hurt, The Hurt Report is the most comprehensive study of motorcycle accidents ever conducted in the US. The data is sound, despite the fact that it is seriously dated and often misinterpreted.
On this issue, I myself find myself once again between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. Nothing gets my bloodÂ pumping faster than the sound of Rolling Thunder going down the highway. (Well perhaps with the exception of a certain blond that comes to mind). It is a primal and visceral call of the beating drums in the jungle. That said, I find the needless roaring of exhaust and the abuse of residential neighborhoods, as repulsive as my neighbor’s dog that barks at all hours.
Back to the Hurt Report. As far as I can tell, the Hurt ReportÂ makes one claim with regards to loud motorcycle exhausts: “Motorcycles with loud exhausts are over represented in the study”. That is to say, that many of the accidents studied, involved bikes with loud pipes. From this very limited and dated empirical data, the conclusion is often drawn that that loud exhaust have no positive effect in the avoidance of an accident. I have seen very well educated magazine writers, actually purport this hypothesis as fact. Anyone with a high school class in statistical analysis knows better than to draw such linear conclusions from statistical data.
It could simply mean that more bikes on the roadways at the time of the study had loud exhausts. Or perhaps people who tend to ride will loud exhausts drive more aggressively ….or passively. Both of which can cause an accident. There is simply no way in my opinion, to really know from this type of data. But yet the quiet pipe crowd continue to use this flawed example to boost their argument. These are the same people who want your headlight on and you to wear a florescent vest to increase your visibility or sensory display.
I had to break it to the Hatfield’s but sound does involve a sense. In my opinion anything that increases your sensory display, is an asset in combating the complacent, distracted and hurried modern commuter. Never mind animals which in my opinion are the most dangerous and unpredictable.
The McCoy’s on the other hand some how translate “loud pipes save lives” to “we need to make your ears bleed and wake you from a sound sleep at every opportunity”. The ultimate napoleon complex. I find this equally if not more disturbing. Despite the augments from the Hatfield’s what they are really saying is ” hey give us a break here”. So often we debate an issue on some ridiculous premise when the real credible argument is quite simple. The public deserves some peace and quiet. We want to raise a bit of ruckus and not be killed on the roadway.
So what’s the answer you ask. As with many of society’s woes, the answer is found in compromise. Soon enough the long arm of the law will start enforcing existing sound laws so the McCoy’s better start policing themselves. As for the Hatfield’s, I have seen more than one non-riding citizen get a thrill out of a bike with a good rumble to it as it passes by.. There also seems to be an American genetic code wrapped up in the iconic biker image, that says that there are still a few cowboys roaming around out there. They want some peace and quiet but somehow I get the feeling that they also are comforted by our existence. Though they may only choose to experience this freedom vicariously, they too feel the call of the drums and take pleasure in know that they are a key turn away from that experience.
In the end the best remedy is not laws but common sense and compromise. Lets take it upon ourselves to have more respect for others when choosing an exhaust. Rather than ear destroying straight pipes lets settle for something with sound but that you can keep quiet when needed.