Motorcycle Pollution

November 19, 2009

All Posts, News

Yesterday, Arizona became the first state to try to opt out of the new air pollution regulations for motorcycles that are scheduled to take effect in 2010.

The new set of laws would have mandated emissions testing for bikes registered in the Phoenix metropolitan area. In a written petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality argued that only 3.5 percent of the vehicles registered in Phoenix are motorcycles; that emissions failure rates for bikes are down; and that repairs to improve motorcycle emissions do not substantially improve air quality.

Smog Checks

Fifteen states now require emissions inspections for cars and trucks in one or more municipal areas. The states are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin. Arizona would have been the first state to mandate motorcycle emissions inspections.

Last February, a California State Senator named Fran Pavley introduced Senate Bill 435 which would have mandated smog checks for motorcycles. The bill was dead by July. But, the fact that such a bill was introduced at all is a bad omen for bikers.

The new EPA regulations are intended to drastically reduce pollutants emitted by motorcycles. One admirable goal is the reduction of hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions by about half. But, the actual effect of the new regulations will probably be more harassment of bikers by police.

Anti-Social Good Bikers

For decades, helmet laws have been used as weapons against bikers. Police routinely use real or imagined helmet law violations as a pretext to stop, interrogate and search motorcyclists. For almost a decade in California and recently in Tennessee, wearing what might be the wrong kind of hat – a non-Department of Transportation approved helmet – was probable cause.

Helmet laws are intended to protect stupid bikers from their own stupid selves. The laws implicitly assume that motorcyclists do not wear helmets because they are morons. The punishments for helmet law tickets are understood to be educative. And, a social good argument has even been contrived on behalf of helmet laws.

That argument is that motorcyclists who are injured are an unfair burden on decent society because public institutions may be required to pay for their hospitalization. The argument assumes that a biker who is cut off by a drunk and crashes might have escaped serious injury if only he had worn the right kind of government approved hat.

Bikers As Polluters

In the last five years, the social good argument has been used to allege that motorcyclists are noise polluters. “Noise pollution” is generally defined to be anything louder than a dial tone, which is about 80 decibels. It is common for noise pollution opponents to describe any sound louder than 55 decibels (which is about as loud as a cat saying hello) as “harmful.”

Most of the action on noise pollution in the last year has been in Maine, where a bill is even now working its way through the state legislature that will outlaw after market motorcycle exhausts. Last summer, bikers were stopped at Maine road blocks and given “courtesy inspections” of their tail pipes. The courtesy inspections were mandatory, of course.

The new pollution standards for motorcycles are also designed to rigidly enforce social good. And, who among us, does not believe that deep down inside we are good? And also, who among us can doubt that we are all now about to get blamed for little Topher’s and little Tuscany’s asthma attacks.

Our polluting ways have already been headlines in many newspapers. For example, last summer, the influential Susan Carpenter wrote a couple of features for the Los Angeles Times that compared Harleys to Hummers and claimed that bikes are responsible for ten percent of all the pollution in California. So now, that it has been published that is an established fact.

One Law We Have Broken

It has been illegal to modify motorcycle emission control devices since 1977. In an EPA document that explains the new motorcycle standards Big Brother states:

“We are not changing existing provisions of section 203(a) of the Clean Air Act, as established in 1977, which states that it is illegal ‘for any person to remove or render
inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine in compliance with regulations under this title…after such sale and delivery to the ultimate purchaser….’ In other words, owners of motor vehicles cannot legally make modifications that cause the emissions to exceed the applicable emissions standards, and they cannot remove or disable emission control devices installed by the manufacturer.”

These emission devices are the exhaust and the fuel injection that now comes with your brand new motorcycle.

The problem, as you may have noticed, is that Harley-Davidsons are essentially 19th Century machines powered by two cylinder, internal combustion, gasoline powered engines. They burn gasoline. They exhaust the gases that are byproducts of burning gasoline. And the only way the manufacturer can make these things meet current pollution standards is to give them asthma – to limit the oxygen they can breathe in and the exhaust gases they can breathe out. Which is why a factory new Harley is dangerously underpowered and inefficient.

The first and simplest thing almost everybody does when they buy a new motorcycle is “let the bike breathe.” So soon bikers in at least some jurisdictions, will be guilty of breaking a whole new set of laws. Soon motorcyclists will be blamed not just for being too stupid to live unsupervised lives and for being loud show offs. Soon bikers will also be indentified as the cause of global warming.

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15 Responses to “Motorcycle Pollution”

  1. sled tramp Says:

    Up here in Orygun we have a number of electric motorcycle companies.I’m already invisible to a cage,now they think I want to be quiet too. I’m sorely tempted to find an electric bike parked somewhere and slap a “Loud pipes save lives” sticker on it.

  2. DOC Says:

    This shit is all MY fault. I did it all and I’d like to take the hit all by myself. I don’t have long to live anyway so just put me on the cross and get it over with. Let everybody else go free.
    your pal

  3. lattlayfottfoy Says:

    Guys with loud pipes that rev them at every opportunity have only themselves to blame for this. People are tired of the noise.

  4. sled tramp Says:

    I have no freakin’ idea what you just said…..dude! SHARE!!!!
    But fear not, you and me bud…Butch and sundance…we’ll go out together in a blaze of loud exhaust from shotgun pipes.(But you go first OK? That shitmight hurt….)

    I have just assured my dawg that you sir,are NOT a motorcycle enthusiast of our world.”People are tired of the noise”…that’s like telling a beautiful woman to hush up during a screaming orgasm.

  5. c8652 Says:

    Way to go Doc! Can we get you buy a couple of rounds before you punch out? Help you max out your credit cards and die drunk, happy and in incredible debt? We will memorialize your valor and stand up character. We will print tee shirts with your mug on them and give them to only the fairest, raven haired double “d” women so that the honor of your selfless sacrifice will be sanctified through association with all things righteous.

    And then we shall ride. Out of the saloons, the bars, the bowling alleys, out into the night. And we shall plant these hardy, nubile models of mans majestic triumph in a place of honor on our law breaking sleds and roar away with our straight pipes defiantly pounding out the staccato, honoring the your memory in a fitting manner. And our passengers shall be so filled with the emotion of the moment that they will lift the tee shirts over their heads, waving them wildly, exposing the supple swell of their generous bosoms’. Then we will take these women. And they shall know the presence of a lust filled man.

    And we shall do this every year round this time so that your memory will not fade. We will recruit kindred souls to further the ranks, and tell tall tales at the bar, at the camp fire or in the holding tank, of the one we called “Doc”. And all shall know that he went before us without hesitation, gladly saving us all from further persecution and unjust sanction. Yours will be a lasting legacy.

    So how about it?

  6. DOC Says:

    DEAR c8652

    DAMN BRO ……………………….. I’m SPEACHLESS

  7. Bear Says:

    sorry dude you gottta TYPE LOUDER, I’m stone fuckin’ deaf from sitting next to Richy Rich come “MC Rich Burb Boy” with his 5000 watt atom smashing stereo on wheels blasting the latest “Yo, got my glock, gonna smoke dem bitches, blah, blah, blah” “Music”. There are chuckleheads in every crowd. I have 2.25″ open exhaust; they’re loud. After running me over you wont be able to tell the responding officer that “I never even heard him” (unless of course you have the same system as MC R.B.B.). My bike is loud, but I show others the same respect I demand. I don’t ride through town or my neighborhood racking them off. If you’ve got someone locally who’s being a dick, handle it. I found standing in the street with a baseball bat was all the convincing the big pipe, little dick fucker near me needed to understand I didn’t want to hear his shit at 6am. Be a creative problem solver, don’t just bitch about it and sick the local politicians on the rest of us.

  8. sled tramp Says:


    Wow…….not sure exactly what you were really saying but…..
    Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwww………..That was fuckin’ GREAT!!!!!

  9. 10guage Says:

    Shit my scooter isn’t “street legal” now and never has been. Truth is if a copper wants to jack you he will and can. So we’ll have to spend an extra hour every two years taking our smog shit on and off before/after getting it smogged. You ride around here without being heard and you will get splattered. I got clipped lane splitting not long ago and I believe my pipes saved my life. especially in the days of the sound proof cars. Even the little Jap cars advertise sound dampening.

  10. Nookster Says:

    Dear Doc and c8652,

    Right the fuck on! Lets do this thing! LOL….

  11. Swampy Says:

    Hey, you guys, let’s keep it up! Maybe we can get ‘ol “lattlayfottfoy” in the spirit and he’ll cut the muffler off of his Honda CIVIC! LMMFAO!

  12. The Creep Says:

    The good ‘ole Sheriff’s department in Anaheim Hills gave a “courtesy” pipe inspection last year. Looked for Federal Smog and Sound Regulation stickers that had been removed and, of course, checked the decibels of those two wheeled machines from ten feet away. Anyone they found in violation during this “courtesy” check was given a ticket. The main movers and shakers that got the ball rolling on this checkpoint were some jerkoffs that live on Imperial Highway right before it turns into Canon, off the 91 freeway. One of these assholes was interviewed by the O.C. Register and asked why he hated people cooler than himself and he said “When these guys come up the hill with their straight pipes, it’s so loud it vibrates my windows and gives me instant migranes.” He was clearly angry that the sound of a bike got his wife off more than he ever did. I am agitated the bikes weren’t loud to cause a structural beam to fall on his head.

  13. c8652 Says:

    @ The Creep.

    I was gonna add something about his old lady and teenaged daughter but you snuck it in there at the closing. “I’ll bet it gets his wifes’ nipples hard and makes the daughter tingle”. Who the fuck are they to put mansions on those hills anyway? And why the hell would they carve that sweeping 4 lane glass paved road through it if they didn’t want us to appreciate the fruits of their labors? I was find with the cow trail but since they added the asphalt it adds to my euphoria. Lock up your daughters! Lock up your wives! Lock up your windows , run for your lives!

    Don’t they have to publish their courtesy intent prior to D-Day? I recall seeing the DUI notices but haven’t read the oc register lately since Hollywood was all they would report on.

    Hopefully they will find some other ethical violators to focus on and leave us to our tools of destruction. Didn’t they have a problem with the entire OC Sherrif leadership? Weren’t they all boinkin each other and dealing from the bottom of the deck? What the hell?

  14. Grumbler Says:

    After replacing the oem exhaust system with aftermarket pipes, I covered the openings with old socks and hung it up in garage for a rainy day.

    Haven’t been hassled for loud pipes since my Santa Cruz days in the ’70s. Loud pipes by themselves aren’t the issue, it’s just a matter of knowing when to keep it down and when to let them rip.

    My old lady was in Los Gatos the other month, and was behind a Mongol. She noticed a LGPD cop just up the street. The Mongol took off like a gun, and raised both hands off the apehangers to flip off the cop as he roared by with his pipes at full blast. Cop just sat there dumbfounded. Wish I had been there. ;)

  15. The Creep Says:


    That’s awesome! I wish I had been there too, even at the risk of catastrophic bowel failure at the sight of such pure awesome! It would have been totally worth it.

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