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February 1, 2011

What’s that racket…?

Nick Diaz

A couple of years ago I wrote two columns on the merits (or lack thereof), of Harley Davidson motorcycles and some of the people who ride them, (or view them, or keep them in their garages as oversized paperweights).


I received some negative e-mails and nasty remarks about my intolerant attitude toward Harleys and Harley riders. I laughed them off, since many comments were stereotypically written in rather poor English, and the content was not worth listening to anyway.


What bothers me about Harleys, (actually, the Harley culture), is the noise.


While generalities are just that, and do not apply to all Harley riders, (the same way all BMW riders do not wear fancy riding suits, have matching helmet and bike colors, and do 50,000 miles a year), here’s my take on motorcycle noise, after riding these machines for 41 years and half a million miles.


It is unfortunate, but a rather large percentage of Harley riders are not riding quiet motorcycles. The noise is causing problems for all other motorcyclists in the U.S.A. The bold truth, in my view, is that a large number of Harley purchasers modify their exhaust systems as the first thing they ever do....and the dealerships are installing these items. Companies promote these products like crazy. How many companies promote loud noisy pipes for Yamaha? BMW? Moto Guzzi? Kawasaki?


Are you aware that in some places owners can't even ride quiet stock bikes on their own property? Guess why that came about!


There are Honda and Suzuki riders who have noisy pipes, but they are very few and far between. When I see/hear them, I sometimes make a point of asking them to go back to quiet pipes – not just asking them to quiet down then, but to replace the equipment with quiet items. I hope many others do the same, no matter the brand.


I have owned just about every make of bike there is. I am not against Harleys per se; I am, however, against very loud pipes. The "loud pipes save lives" group consists of immature people. They install equipment to emphasize that immaturity; they have egos that feed on "look at ME," they uniformly dress to demonstrate their individuality. They are – and have been – giving a very bad name to all motorcyclists.


That some use "Harley" with vast stereotype images and words, is, perhaps unfortunate; yes, it may even hurt one’s feelings, but truth is truth, facts are facts. I have no problem backing up my facts on what Harley buyers are doing with their exhaust systems. It is not just anecdotal. Much of the advertising in motorcycle industry publications deals with aftermarket items that are designed to make noise, and give certain impressions.


I will not attend Daytona, nor Sturgis; I do not attend any more large motorcycle events. It has nothing to do with partially naked women (my blood is also red....and I have plenty of testosterone), and other parts of these gatherings/events. I love a party. What is the reason I won’t attend? Loud pipes, 24 hours a day.


This noise problem is going to result in very serious problems for motorcyclists. It is starting to come to a head, with the U.S. going along with many European standards. Keep in mind what drives politicians to make laws.


In my estimation, the only thing keeping police departments in the U.S.A. from issuing huge amounts of noise violations is simple: If asked, the excuse offered is that they are too busy “dealing with serious crime…” That attitude can quickly change, depending on the reaction of local and state officials to popular demands. A “serious crime” can be easily redefined by legislative or executive edict.


Until the Harley owners, as a group, start disciplining themselves, Harley owners will continue to be mocked, sneered-at, and generally various ways. Watch this spicy, politically incorrect episode of South Park (warning: rough language):


If a Harley rider, you may not like it, but it is what it is, and there are reasons Harley owners are thought being anti-social and much more.


Stop whining. Do something about fellow loud-pipe riders.


It is for certain that there are some Harley riders who are not loud-pipes types. I know some; some are very old friends of mine with whom I ride now and then. Until people start disciplining themselves, however, and making clear that certain types of annoying anti-social behavior are unacceptable, one can expect increasingly strict laws and enforcement from the public, as well as restrictions on where people can ride.


There is a reason why drivers of quiet motorcycles and sidecar rigs are warmly embraced, grandmothers ask to ride in them, non-motorcycling crowds gather around them when they park someplace. These common ordinary, non-riding people would not go up and talk to a loud piper;, what they will do is complain to their local and state officials...and vote for laws that might end up being broadly awful for any motorcyclist.


I love the subdued, civilized throb of my Yamaha’s big V-4 engine. I think I’ll open the garage door and hear its lovely, inoffensive sound…


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