THE DEBATE GOES ON. I’ve never struggled so much to write a motorcycle article as I have with this one. A reader challenged me to enter the discussion about loud pipes earlier this year. At the time, I thought it an easy endeavor because I had my own years of experience and opinion on the matter.
However, I made a mistake: I decided to research the matter. And in the process, my opinion has been somewhat modified.
The Search for Evidence: “Loud Pipes Save Lives”
As you, too, might be inclined to do when seeking more info on a subject, I did an Internet search for “Loud Pipes Save Lives” and read through numerous articles at the top of the search results and much lower in the results.
What I came away with was less certainty on the subject than when I started. And more so than any time before, I recognized that truth can be illusive.
Now I don’t know if my personal experience is typical, or atypical, but I did ride for years with high-performance (and loud), exhaust pipes – when I was much younger. To this day, I don’t know how my ears survived. (Well, the fact is, now that I’m considerably more mature, the question of how well they survived is just as murky as my research on the matter of whether loud pipes save lives, or not.)
Although it appears my hearing is not as good as it used to be, how much of that is due to loud pipes or lots and lots of very loud concerts and very loud music blasting through headphones is difficult to discern. I’m sure it’s safe to say that neither supported long-term optimal hearing. (I only started wearing ear plugs while riding several years ago).
Loud Pipes Are Impractical For Long-Distance Touring
My first coast-to-coast motorcycle trip was on a motorbike with a high-performance, non-stock exhaust system that did not endear the neighbors to my notion of a spirited form of transportation. Although I’ve ridden coast-to-coast across North America a number of times since, I recall that first trip as a highlight of my life. And although I could discourse about the virtues of that summer adventure, in the early 80’s, for hours on end, one thing that I realized without any advice, feedback or suggestions from anyone else, was that loud pipes made for uncomfortable long-distance riding (and also that I would be switching from chain-drive to shaft-drive motorbikes for touring).
Personally, I don’t like loud pipes. As much as I love each and every kind of motorcycle, the only ones that diminish my enthusiasm for the brotherhood are those that disrupt the neighborhood harmony by announcing their every breath coming and going.
So, here I am, a long-distance, mature rider, with hundreds of thousands of miles of motorbike experience, who “used” to ride with loud pipes, and who has not liked them for years, and who is philosophically opposed to them due to their inherent and ongoing damage to the motorsport in the way they impinge on the lives of those non-riders whom are adversely effected by the noise pollution of their very existence. Hence, wouldn’t you think I’d be a vociferous opponent of the same?
Which brings me to the point of the first paragraph. I was already aware of the lack of real evidence that supports the concept that “loud pipes save lives.”
But lo and behold, my research did find anecdotal reports that extol the virtues of loud pipes.
The Truth, or Not?
So, what is the truth?
Are those riders who state that loud pipes “have” saved their lives just plain wrong?
What my research did “not” do is change my perspective on whether I, personally, will integrate loud pipes back into my riding: I won’t. In fact, in the future, I will likely include an electric motorcycle (which are practically silent), within a stable of riding choices.
However, what has resulted from my research regarding loud pipes is a softening of my perspective. Even though scientifically unproven, if riders’ lives have been saved because of loud pipes, or if riders believe they are safer with loud pipes, those are some compelling factors – at least for those individuals.
Even so, such does not address the rights of others to “not” be subjected to the noise of loud motorcycle exhaust systems.
In conclusion, although I am not an advocate for loud pipes, and even though I disagree with the use of the most obnoxious ones, and even though there is no hard evidence in support of their use as a safety catalyst, and even though the loudest pipes do damage to the overall public perception of motorcycling, I respect that there have been “some” quantity of riders (however large or small), who are still riding, purportedly as a result of loud pipes. Which has caused me to re-evaluate their application.
Better yet, what do YOU consider is the truth? Do loud motorcycle pipes save lives?