Motorcycles With Loud Pipes Are Mostly Just Obnoxious

Motorcycle Rider

When I moved to Boston in the middle of the snowiest winter in the city’s recorded history, I made a couple of major mistakes. You could argue that moving to Boston in the middle of the snowiest winter in Boston’s recorded history was its own mistake, and I wouldn’t argue with you too much on that point, but oh well. I’m here.

For the purpose of this article, two different mistakes come to mind. The first is that I didn’t think to ask how close the nearest fire station was. That was a mistake because, as it turns out, my house is less than a block from the nearest fire station, and that means I have to listen to firetruck and ambulance sirens on a regular basis.

In the future, I’d prefer not to live that close to a fire station, especially such a busy one, but I can’t really get too mad at the firemen and EMTs for waking me up with their sirens. It’s not like they turn on those sirens to be jerks. They do it when because they’re on their way to save someone’s life, and I’m usually in favor of fewer people dying.

The other mistake I made was not asking the neighbors any questions about what the area was like when it there wasn’t five feet of snow on the ground. That mistake came back to haunt me when what initially presented itself as a quiet, somewhat dull area of town turned out to be home to far too many motorcyclists who are completely sold out to the idea that excessively-loud pipes save lives.

As a motorcycle enthusiast, I love the sound of a V-Twin engine, and I’m willing to concede that audible pipes probably contribute to a motorcyclist’s road safety. But where other riders lose me is when they insist that rattling my windows as they ride by is a matter of their own personal safety. They definitely lose me when they sit at the intersection just past my house revving their engines as they wait for traffic to move forward. When they ride by at 5:30 in the morning doing the same thing, I’m completely gone.

While no one has ever been able to prove that loud pipes actually save lives, all it would take is a quick survey of people with ears to prove that loud pipes are definitely obnoxious.

Paul Kane/Getty Images
Paul Kane/Getty Images

If someone wants to ride an obnoxiously-loud motorcycle out in a rural area where nobody else can hear them, that’s not a big deal. If all that’s at risk is their own hearing, people should be free to make that choice no matter what their reasoning is. In fact, as long as someone’s choices don’t have a negative impact on anyone else, they should pretty much be able to do what they want.

When that person’s decisions start impacting other people’s quality of life, though, that’s when personal freedom starts to run into limitations.

The thing is, people riding obnoxiously-loud bikes tend not to care about other people. What they care about is mindlessly repeating a few lines about America being a free country having to look out for themselves in an attempt to justify their own obnoxious behavior. They don’t care that the overwhelming majority of people can’t stand the racket they make or that their early-morning and late-night riding unnecessarily wakes people up, and they definitely don’t care about setting off car alarms or making babies cry.

No, they’re only concerned about themselves and their own illusion of safety.

The biggest problem with that, though, is that riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous. In the event of a crash, it’s far safer to be in a car than it is to be on a motorcycle, and responsible riders accept that they’re taking a risk every time they go for a ride. Anyone who is so worried about their own safety that they are willing to make babies cry just to feel a tiny bit safer shouldn’t be on a motorcycle in the first place. They should be buckled into the driver’s seat of a Toyota Camry.

Anyone who is willing to accept the risks that comes with riding a motorcycle can still take measures to protect themselves, though. Wearing a helmet, jacket, gloves, pants, and boots when you ride is proven to keep you safer. Continuing to invest in motorcycle safety classes will make you a better rider and will keep you safer. Paying attention while riding will keep you safer.

Adding extremely loud aftermarket pipes, though, has never been proven to have any positive effect on rider safety, and until it is, those riders need to know that it’s nothing but obnoxious.

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