Our EPA Strikes Again

August 19, 2016

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Our EPA Strikes Again

Everybody who has been around American motorcycles long enough to have an opinion that counts knows what the Harley tax is. The Environmental Protection Agency thinks it means something else.

The Harley tax is the price you have to pay to transform the brand-new Harley-Davidson motorcycle you bought into the bike you want to ride. Some of the tax goes to add-ons like a sissy bar and a set of saddlebags. Some of the tax gets spent on improving the performance of an engine that was designed in 1907 and is based on an engine designed by Glenn Curtiss in 1903.

Your principal goal with an engine is to “open it up and let it breathe.”

The Harley V-Twin is an internal combustion engine. What it does is simple. It is called suck, bang, blow. A perfect mixture of air and gasoline – not too fat and not too lean but just the right mixture – gets sucked into a cylinder. A spark makes the mixture go bang. A lot of that energy is mechanically transferred into making the motorcycle go down the road. Meanwhile in the cylinder, some of the mechanical force blows the exhaust gases out the exhaust pipes. In a perfect world the pipes need to be baffled just enough to keep the exhaust gases going in the right direction.

Strangled Engines

At its most basic, the performance part of the Harley tax involves opening up the engine intake and exhaust so the engine can breathe. You have to either switch out your fuel injection for a carburetor, or modify your fuel injection. Then you have to replace your factory exhaust pipes. You have to do that because the engine comes from the factory strangled. Because the EPA makes Harley strangle this 109-year-old engine.

The bureaucrats who run the Environmental Protection Agency insist that everyday in every way we must all pollute less. No, the bureaucrats are not talking about the endless plastic bags and water bottles that are about to destroy the Pacific Ocean. They are talking about your motorcycle. For example, between 1977 and 1990, Harley was able to simultaneously increase the displacement of their standard engines and reduce the power of those engines by strangling them – by not letting them suck or blow as hard as they once could.

Carburetors And Tuners

The task of making a Harley-Davidson V-Twin engine run more efficiently used to be simpler when they all came with carburetors. You could just take off the carburetor and drill a hole through the metal plug that prevented access to the fat-lean screw. Or, you could install an alternative carburetor like the S&S (for Smith and Stankos) Super E. Then Harley stopped shipping bikes with carburetors because the whole suck, bang, blow wouldn’t work to EPA specifications unless the process was controlled by a computer. So what that meant was that you had to reprogram the settings on your Electronic Fuel Injection if you wanted the engine to perform at its full potential.

Ironically Harley, among other companies, stepped in to help. The brand that some old men still have tattooed on their arms sold a device called the “Screamin’ Eagle Street Performance Tuner.” The device could be connected to both a motorcycle and a computer and allowed the suck, bang and blow of a fuel injected engine based on a 1907 design to be tuned – to perform more efficiently rather than to work less efficiently. The device gave  mechanics the “ability to view the bike’s air/fuel ratio, O2 sensor readings, engine speed and temperature, RPM and vehicle speed, throttle position, spark advance and much more.”

Harley said the tuner was “designed to simplify management of street-legal performance calibrations as EPA-compliant performance modifications are made. It easily allows the rider or technician to view and evaluate engine operating parameters.”

Our Government

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Department of Justice called the tuner a “defeat device” that violates the federal Clean Air Act. The EPA’s position is that it “is illegal for anyone to modify a certified vehicle.”

Harley was fined $12 million. The motor company was also ordered to contribute $3 million to an EPA project that will replace wood stoves with cleaner-burning stoves. Harley must stop selling the tuners by Tuesday. The company must buy back all the tuners it has sold and destroy all the tuners that are now unsold. Additionally, the EPA has told Harley that it must deny all warranty claims on motorcycles that have been made to run efficiently using the devices.

Cynthia Giles, who is the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, grandly announced, “This settlement immediately stops the sale of illegal after-market defeat devices used on public roads that threaten the air we breathe.”


There is some context to this crusade to make Harley-Davidson motorcycles greener of which most news sources who have reported the story seem unaware.

First most motorcycles in the United States are not Harley-Davidsons. Most motorcycles in the United States are made by Honda, BMW, Yamaha or Suzuki. Harley-Davidsons are American motorcycles made by American workers who support American children. They are symbolic of American ideals in a way that Suzukis are not.

Secondly, all motorcycles in this country amount to less than three percent of all registered vehicles and only 0.7 percent of all vehicles miles traveled. Motorcycles are simply not a significant sources of air pollution. The total volume of methane from cow farts greatly exceeds the total volume of motorcycle exhaust.

And finally, there is a great tradition in this country of shade-tree motorcycle repair. The United States of America is simply a better country when mechanically inclined, amateur tinkerers are allowed to make the engines of their motorcycles run better – not worse. The actions taken against Harley-Davidson and it customers yesterday do not even seem intended to solve a real problem. And they will be and they should be widely perceived to be an admonishment of American individualism.

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45 Responses to “Our EPA Strikes Again”

  1. Wino Enzed Says:

    Fucking Fun Police. Like The ”Motor Company” needs that right now in todays climate. Remember when the same anal searching freaks put catalysts on the frames that looked like a thermos. Where are they now ?
    In landfills that sure helped the enviroment !!
    On a positive note there is supposed to be a new Motor out with single cam bottom end and 4 valves per cylinder.
    I am about to take my straight piped Fat Bob out and set off a few car alarms (hopefully)

  2. Dan-O Says:

    “The actions taken against Harley-Davidson and it customers yesterday do not even seem intended to solve a real problem. And they will be and they should be widely perceived to be an admonishment of American individualism.”

    You’re right, it doesn’t solve a real problem. It panders to the prius driving cocksucker “civilized” line walkers whose bitch ass is afraid of and (therefore) offended by masculinity and loud motorcycles. The pussification of American continues.

  3. WheresMyBoots Says:

    As if this shit wasn’t annoying enough, some group of dicks (and twats) are getting paid to come up with, and then enforce this bullshit. There must be some fucktard think tank somewhere trying to figure out how to tax ‘fun’.
    More and more Creedence’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ seems like a tune Those In Charge should maybe think about.
    Go forth Rebellians, and let your pipes blow the wigs off these bastards. They will always blow their womenfolk’s dresses up, that’s for certain.

    Respects, and Ride Free,

  4. Nickintx Says:

    Wth….they won’t be happy til we are all standing in a line somewhere with a bar code on our forehead .

  5. ak rack Says:

    Ah Rebel — you forgot squeeze!

  6. ak rack Says:

    “Secondly, all motorcycles in this country amount to less than three percent of all registered vehicles and only 0.7 percent of all vehicles miles traveled. Motorcycles are simply not a significant sources of air pollution. The total volume of methane from cow farts greatly exceeds the total volume of motorcycle exhaust.”

    EPA is its own worst enemy. Lots of people are just fine with environmental rules that keep the rivers from catching on fire — but then they go and do this dumb shit and it makes almost everybody think these guys have too much money and time on their hands.

  7. tiopirata Says:

    The EPA seems stuck with the very poor notion of measuring pollutants on a parts per million basis rather then taking into account engine efficiency.
    I have observed that whenever I increase the specific output of my bikes I am frequently rewarded with better fuel economy, so burning less fuel and therefore contributing less pollutant matter under normal riding conditions.
    In any case it is as you say Rebel, motorcycles only do 0.7% of the miles on US roads, Cynthia Giles and her ilk have no cause for complacency. Perhaps the miners and frackers should be sanctioned, or the airlines or…. you get the picture I know.
    HD is a whole lot smaller then VW Group, just saying.
    Respect as always.

  8. Brad H Says:

    So-o-o will the feds be using this new ruling to pull over motorcyclists, plug in a laptop, check the ECM settings and then ticket or arrest the alleged violators of this law with a charge of being part of a criminal conspiracy?

    Why not simply outlaw all motor sports in the country ” ’cause you gotta know all them thar tinker tuners have modified them thar injynes to run way outa fucktry spics!” Think of all the pollution we’ll stop!

    Maybe I shouldn’t give them any more ideas!


  9. RLG Says:

    Don’t they have insurance?

  10. Nuke n' Pave Dave Says:

    Well hell, when are they gonna put a cork in every cow’s ass and just let ’em burp their farts out instead? First these anal-retentive ppm counters at the EPA made us give up the copper base coat in our chrome so it’d rust faster than a lazy assed fellow such as myself could keep it waxed. Now this BS and I suppose the next thing will be that wimp on a bicycle O’Bongo writing one of his executive orders forcing us to put pedals where the motor used to be. Dammit, my Pan and my old servi-car parts chaser are looking better’n better every day. I guess it’s a conspiracy and they’re just trying to kill any dividends I’ll ever get out of the Motor Company stock that’s my only retirement money! Will they finally be happy when they’ve got it to where they can bust me for having to siphon my gas out of government cars or what?

  11. Nuke n' Pave Dave Says:

    Never mind the gas business. By then it’ll probably be down to 50 octane anyway…

  12. Nobody Important Says:

    ak rack – Indeed.

    The sequence of the four stroke internal combustion engine.

    Suck – Intake
    Squeeze – Compression
    Bang – Combustion
    Blow – Exhaust

    That being said, the HD motor, while incredibly iconic… ain’t the greatest lump out there. Ain’t the worst, either. It’s got issues. Particularly the heads. All HD heads suck, to one degree or another. They just don’t breath well. So anything that interferes with that, creates extra hassle, real fast.

  13. Paladin Says:

    In CA, motorcycles (new or used) are never emission tested. So, one just gotsta have a Harley Davidson, wait till the warrantee period expires, then purchase a Power Commander tuner (known as a PC5), which is far superior to Harley’s tuner. Do not buy the CA approved PC5. The CA approved PC5 will only allow one to adjust the low and mid-range metering, the top end metering is non-adjustable. Have a friend that lives in a non-nanny State (such as AZ) purchase the unit and send it to you.

    The way Harley Davidson has screwed over and commercialized their loyal, old school customer base, I personally would be looking at a new Indian before I’d be looking at a new Harley. If one looks at the posted video, most of the bikes shown in the video are actually new Indians. Maybe there’s a message there? Then again, maybe not.

    Long May You Ride (to those that deserve to),


  14. Largeandy Says:

    This is the same EPA BEING SUED by the Navajo Nation and the State of New Mexico for polluting the
    Animas river by their stupid ass liberal practices and releasing thousands of gallons of mining waste into a pristine river last year? Yea more good fucking liberal government helping us live our lives better! The EPA, Ohama Care and the VA…..aint they all spending our tax dollars wisely??? Fuck liberal pussies!!

  15. joseph plyler Says:

    I read an article this morning,Headlined,EPA says it needs eight more years to decide if ethanol mandate is bad for the environment. Sez it does not have the money to comply with congressional mandate.Well,everyone who isn’t a corn farmer will tell you it’s bad for the environment….except the Donald and Hillary.They looking for votes at any cost.

  16. popeye Says:

    Yet diesel motors remain mostly unregulated. Watch a truck accelerate up a hill and youll see more emissions than most 1000 mile per year harley garage barges put out in 10 years. Its hard to believe the goverment can ask you to void your warranty and fuck your customers.

  17. bob watts Says:

    Anytime the government gets involved in anything, even with good intentions, they usually manage to screw it up.

  18. Dutchboy frmo Says:

    By “ordering” HD to violate their Warranties the EPA is interfering with legal private contracts. The Motor Company management team and their army of attorneys needs to grow a pair and sue the EPA.

  19. Jake Says:

    Harley isn’t required to buy back the tuners it sold to the public, just the unsold dealer stock. Per their agreement with the Feds they won’t honor warranties on any bike that has been altered to defeat emmission controls. Harley told the dealers in a letter yesterday that they’re releasing a new tuner with the ’17 bikes called the. “Pro Street Tuner” but that it will NOT have access to air/fuel settings. Therefore no way to richen the mixture. If you read the EPA statement the warn aftermarket companies about manufacturing “defeat devices” as well. Life sucks for Power Commander and Vance and Hines right now.

  20. Jake Says:

    I notice that someone has mentioned that EPA is ordering Harkey to violate their warranty. You could go to court on that, and you might win, but you’d also be admitting in court that your motorcycle had been altered to defeat emissions controls which would open you up to the possibility of prosecution/massive fine/etc.

  21. Tom Joad Says:

    I was just thinking the same damned thing, Dutchboy!!!

    Ride on!

  22. david Says:

    The EPA Division of the corrupt “never steal enough” Federal gov. STOLE 15 Million from H-D on the fake BS premise of “environmental protection”. A forced “donation” is the BS government’s BS attorneys new term for THEFT.

    EPA corrupt attorneys do not steal from non-profitable businesses. The bastards saw the earnings report, then moved. Criminals in 300 buck suits.

  23. Ben Says:

    In California, car owners have to pay for regular smog checks, as well as paying much higher prices, than in other states, for reformulated gasoline, designed to pollute the environment less. In effect, the government is taxing it’s citizens to achieve a result, which should have been achieved through effective government. Specifically, the government has failed to address the issue of population growth. Instead of opening the floodgates for immigrants, who will be driving cars, even if illegal, the gov. should actively curtail them. Illegals can get drivers licenses now and they have rights on the road. The gov.encourages them to come. In light of the facts, “with slightly more than 38 million people (according to 2013 estimates), California is the nation’s most populous state—its population is almost one and a half times that of second-place Texas (26 million). One of every eight U.S. residents lives in California. By 2050, California’s population is projected to reach 50 million people,” these kind of regulations don’t matter, when you look at the big picture. The gov. is just kicking the can down the road. That road leads to Calcutta.

  24. Nihilist Says:

    .7 percent is about how many of my annual miles are not on two wheels. And I agree with tiopirata; my fuel mileage kicks ass, as does my performance. There are so many ways bikes exceed cars, etc. in terms of being “greener”, this is just plain ridiculous.

  25. Mercyful Fate Says:

    My own understanding of this issue is that the tuners themselves are labeled as “competition only” products. Thus, they are expected to be bought by racing enthusiasts that will be modifying their scoots to maximize performance on race day.

    However, these tuners were being installed, and the bikes calibrated, by HD dealers for the average joe customer with no expectations of racing. Had this not taken place there’d be no issue.

    Source: http://arstechnica.com/cars/2016/08/harley-davidson-to-pay-12-million-for-emissions-spewing-aftermarket-tuners/

  26. Paladin Says:

    A correction is needed on my comment on the CA approved Power Commander. The CA approved Power Commander has the low and mid range metering locked (where the adjusting is needed when changing pipes and air cleaner), NOT the top end. I apologize for any unintended misinformation.


  27. Base Says:

    Just have to wonder who the MO CO pissed off on the hill? Didn’t donate to the suggested politico? Get wacked with a fine! Fail to rub elbows and participate in a $5000.00 a plate fund raiser? Get whacked with a fine!

    If it was truly about the environment and not some ass hats personal agenda they would shut down Animal agriculture today. Being it is the largest producer of what impacts not only the environment but also so many lives (human & animals) in a negative way.

    But if you consider that animal agriculture contribute billions into the industrial politico machine, then it becomes clear!


  28. Dark Corner Says:

    This could all go away if Trump is elected in November. Or it could be just a warmup if Extremely Careless Clinton wins.

    Vote accordingly.

  29. rob Says:

    Question is, how long before they go after the manufacture of these products by any company? After reading this I just ordered a backup XL-ViED for by Sportster.

  30. rob Says:

    Follow on to my previous post. Quote from Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden, head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Anyone else who manufactures, sells, or installs these types of illegal products should take heed of Harley-Davidson’s corrective actions and immediately stop violating the law.” Enough said.

  31. BigUglyMotherFucker Says:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    During the two hundred and forty years since this sentence founded our country we have approved, acquiesed or been apathetic enough to make it a lie.

  32. Sandmann Says:

    Here in Germany, the environmentally conscious (cough!) authorities have been putting Harley’s Big Twins in a choke hold for years, with the same result Rebel described above: Stock H-D engines are running like crap, and you have to invest at least 2-3k to get it running properly.

    In my opinion, the most viable options for EFI-models are TTS Mastertune and Dynojet Power Vision (even better as it comes with a display). Although it might look somewhat bizarre to sit in front of your sled with a notebook on your lap in order to get it running properly, it’s definitely worth the effort.

    Starting next year, the notorious “Abgasnorm Euro 4” will take full effect, i.e. all new motorcycles registered after 1 Jan. fully have to comply with it. Fortunately for me and many other people who bought their rides before that date, we have a provision called “Bestandschutz” (something like “right of preservation”) which means that all motorcycles registered before the effective date (as well as the custom exhausts/air cleaners installed on them) are ‘protected’ and do not have to be modified (read: choked!) to comply with the totally ridiculous emission regulations imposed on us by the motorcycle haters in the EU commission.

    To cut a long story short:
    F**k emission regulations for motorcycles (and the dickheads in the EU and elsewhere who made them up)!

    Respect to the deserving,

  33. DocB Says:

    Since late 2002 Harley has sold two versions of it’s tuner. The Street Tuner and the Pro Tuner. I went to a workshop on both systems in late 2002. The street tuner is not good for much if you’re looking for serious horsepower. “Street Tuners” allow street legal uploads of maps that are epa approved. For example, If you install a legal air cleaner and pipe set, there is a canned corresponding map in the tuner software that can be uploaded and still be street legal. The “Pro Tuner” allows you to change just about everything in all the tables, essentially writing your own maps. The late model Pro Tuners also have an auto tune feature that acquires data on a dyno run or street run and suggests performance changes to the tables. The Pro Tuner was only supposed to be used on off road, closed circuit units and is marked as illegal for use on pollution controlled vehicles.
    The average guy doesn’t know what to do with all this stuff so he buys the tuner and takes it to the dealer to have it tuned. So the dealer makes money on the tuner sale, installation, and an expensive dyno run. Most of them have installed expensive dynos in the back room. They sell the Pro version and tune the bike in their new Dyno. In this part of the country it all runs up to about $800. It’s the electronic version of changing jets in a carb.

  34. Lurch Says:

    Blacksmith, that link is no longer available.

  35. Wrong Way Says:

    The order sounds very aggressive. Sounds like the EPA will financially rape various companies over this kind of stuff.

    There are more important issues to deal with in this country. Seriously.

  36. Phuquehed Says:

    Fuck the feds. Fuck the little pansy motherfucker who thought this shit up. Fuck the Obama administration for letting this happen. Fuck the pigs who probably had a hand in this scheme somewhere, somehow. It’d be a nice wish come true to read all the faggots in the EPA who come up with shit like this all got an incurable case of botulism (or whatever is incurable in the scenario) at an office party and croaked so that *hopefully* Trump gets to place persons into their stead who actually have common sense, pride in America, and a fucking backbone to tell any whiny vegan prius driver to fuck off and die…preferably by being eaten by a shark they wanted to save.

    Seems our government is more and more willing to just hand over this country to some foreign entity. China literally has a small town here in the states, I just skimmed the other day. Now with TPP (and not enough people screaming at their pissant congresscritters and senaterats to stop it) getting stronger, more and more of our ‘Made in America’ gets to go overseas somewhere and more and more *anything* ‘American’ is dropped down a rung. The government wants foreign crap to be on top and anything ‘American business’ to be destroyed.

    Now it seems I get to have *two* sayings to live by…#1)You get my gun, bullets first, and #2)I’ll stop tinkering on my bike when you chop my hands off – see #1.

  37. Shovelhead Says:

    I agree with everything you said….you do have a way with words!!

  38. cyclingscholar Says:

    If TRUMP wins these silly regulations will go away. If Bee-yotch wins we need to rediscover State Nullification and the 10th amendment, and resume the war on regulation that began with Reagan and died with BushII (not Obama…).

  39. rollinnorth Says:

    Neither The Donald nor Mrs. Clinton will be able to do much about thi$:



  40. dogbreath Says:

    I would not put much hope into Trump – the laws and regulations that he cares about all have to do with real estate and the financial system that he makes his money from. And that ain’t got nothing to do with a bunch of greasy bikers. Every President has his priorities, and his is personal enrichment.

    Heres a different link to info on the new engine: http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/harleys-all-new-milwaukee-eight-big-twin?src=SOC&dom=fb

  41. Steel Says:

    EPA just like all the government. Smarmy bureaucrats with an agenda that sit around making up rules and regulations to justify their existence and expand their domain to get more funding. They can’t seem to grasp that a point is reached where common sense is exceeded and punishment of consumers and industry occurs. The Harley situation is one of those. We all get screwed.



  42. Leonard Goveia Says:

    The future for us is obvious,EPA will only get worse..The engine that we love ain’t long for this world…Will it help the environment by h-d no longer producing its flagship engine ?,No,fuck No…If all h-d owners quit riding it would help the environment one fucking bit..getting tickted for altered engines is just around the corner and trust me,it ain’t going to be cheap…jusMyThots

  43. Bone Head Says:

    An uncontrolled dictatorial agency like the epa should be defunded and set out on the curb for garbage day. Tell me (or any home wrench) what to do with a motor is just plain simple bullshit…verges on being criminally unconstitutional.

    Guess I should take comfort in having various carbs shoved under my workbench. I’ll order a few jet kits before those get outlawed.

  44. Marcos Soria Says:

    HD needs to fight it’s own fight. Maybe HD owners are too loyal.

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