Motorcycle Noise And Money

January 4, 2012

All Posts, Editorials, Features, News

It is tempting for bikers to laugh off the holy crusade against “motorcycle noise” and aftermarket exhaust pipes. In the first place, the reasons for replacing the stock exhaust on a Harley are obvious to the people who do it.

Back in the day, 82 inch Shovelheads made about 70 horsepower right out of the box. Brand new 82 inch Twin Cams make about 58 horsepower. The reason for the decrease is that modern bikes are intentionally set up at the factory to run inefficiently. They must run poorly in order to meet the mileage, noise and pollution abatement goals that are mandated by a self-righteous and distant bureaucracy.

It all seems like so much red tape to most riders. Harley-Davidson does not build motorcycles that run well. Harley builds motorcycles that meet arbitrary and fatuous government standards. The standard set of improvements made to brand new motorcycles even has a name. Most people call it “the Harley tax.”

The Harley tax is the amount new owners must pay to “let the engine breathe.” The results of changing the pipes and air filter and fattening the gas to air mixture are immediate and potentially life saving. Motorcycles are small and vulnerable, so riders commonly try to stay safe by out-accelerating danger. And, factory pipes frustrate that ambition to stay alive.

Loud Pipes Save Lives

Secondly, as anybody who has ever actually ridden a motorcycle knows, Harleys are not vehicles so much as they are cloaks of invisibility. It is not simply a matter of motorists not seeing motorcycles. Drivers tend not to recognize the motorcycles they see as other motor vehicles sharing the road with them. So it is common for drivers to simply run over bikes. In the United States these collisions make the papers about 15 times a day. And, it is much harder to survive a freeway collision on a bike than in a car.

Motorcycles that are loud enough to be heard inside a sound-proofed passenger compartment are not only better able to run away from bike-blind motorists. They are also much harder to ignore. Even motorcycle cops know this.

In 2007, the city of Oakland put stock pipes on all 30 of its Harley-Davidsons. The new pipes stayed on until an Oakland cop riding a Harley with a stock exhaust was struck by a driver who said he never knew the motorcycle was there.

According to then Oakland Deputy Chief Dave Kozicki, “the decibel drop sparked a chorus of complaints from other officers, who said they felt less safe.” The department concluded, Kozicki went on to say, that “it was in the best interest of the officers to put more-audible pipes back on.”

The Noise Nuts

The campaign against “motorcycle noise” is also easy to dismiss because it is led by a bare handful of fatuous and unpleasant busybodies.

The concept of “noise pollution” was invented in 2004 by a UCLA professor of “political activism” named Ted Rueter. Rueter started a campaign called “Noise Free America” and as recently as 2005 he had to justify the concept to the left leaning digest Utne Reader. “A lot of people get off on noise and think that there’s something wrong with peace and quiet,” Rueter told the digest. “We’re still fighting a public perception that this is a trivial issue and anyone who’s concerned or interested in curbing noise is a crank.”

Other cranks became aroused when they heard Rueter’s seductive call and most of them took pains to make themselves appear more important than they actually are. The well known and often quoted group Noise Off is a guy named Richard Tur. (The spelling is not a typographical error. He actually spells his last name without the final “D.”)

A “citizen’s group” in Maine, called MECALM (Maine Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles) is a guy named Andy Ford who has a neighbor who is a state senator. A similar “grass roots organization” in New Hampshire called NHCALM is another guy named Bill Mitchell.

It is common to underestimate how important fanatics like Rueter, Tur, Ford and Mitchell are becoming. But, they are important because they are warping public perception and inspiring new laws.

New California Law

One of those is a California law scheduled to go into effect next year. It is called the “Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act” and it was sponsored by a California State Senator named Fran Pavley. Pavley said her new law was aimed at “a few bad apples on our roads (who) are infringing on the rights of others with their illegal, attention-seeking loud pipes.” Pavley’s statement was a loathsome lie but it became true because nobody was able to contradict her.

Pavley is a former middle school teacher who represents the most affluent neighborhoods in Los Angeles and she demonstrates a tendency to treat other adults as if they are her middle school students. She is so ridiculous a person that it is also tempting to either ignore her or laugh her away. Unfortunately, she has the power to enact ridiculous laws.

Pavley’s law effectively forbids Harley owners from replacing their exhausts with better ones. The act requires motorcycle exhausts sold after 2012 to have a visible EPA stamp. The law also requires that motorcycles not exceed a sound level of 80 decibels which is 1.3 decibels quieter than New York’s tony Indochine restaurant on a quiet night as measured by the Zagat restaurant guide. It is 10 decibels quieter than a normal conversation, 30 decibels less than a lawn mower and about 15 decibels quieter than the police bikes in Oakland when they idle. Eighty decibels is also five decibels quieter than the traffic noise inside an auto with the windows rolled up.

Searches And Fines

Police departments throughout the country have eagerly jumped on the motorcycle noise abatement bandwagon. Not only is “loud” quickly becoming probable cause to detain passing motorcyclists. Ensuring that all passing motorcycles are not “loud” has become a reason to implement motorcycle road blocks. These road blocks are, in effect, dragnets that allow police to stop bikers in order to try to get something on them.

The 80 decibel limit is so arbitrary and unreasonable that it gives police a reason to stop and fine everybody. And, as everybody already knows, these fines are a growing revenue source for cities and towns desperate for cash. They are in effect, in the most literal way, highway robbery.

Money, rather than neurotics, is the main reason why motorcycle noise abatement campaigns are picking up steam. There is money in “motorcycle noise” for police and politicians.

Chris Real

There is also money in “motorcycle noise” for a guy named Chris Real.

In order to write the new California law and similar laws in cement, police must have a scientifically justifiable standard for measuring motorcycle noise. And, they must also have the equipment to make those scientific measurements. The author of the scientific procedure is an entrepreneur named Chris Real. He also makes the equipment.

The new standard for measuring motorcycle noise is titled SAE J2825. SAE used to be an abbreviation for “Society of Automotive Engineers.” It is now the trademark of a for-profit company called SAE International. SAE sets numerous standards ranging from socket sizes to the standard dimension of cargo containers. It leans heavily on independent contractors to invent its standards. Chris Real, who owns a company named DPS Technical Incrporated in Upland, California is the author of SAE J2825.

For the last year, since the California “Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act” was signed into law, Real has been teaching the procedure he invented to cops around the country. The training in California has been subsidized by the state Office of Traffic Safety. The same state agency has also subsidized a campaign in Elk Grove, California to see how much revenue police there can generate by writing motorcycle noise tickets. The Elk Grove police have been writing the tickets for the last year. They don’t write noise tickets for jackhammers or trucks. They only write noise tickets for motorcycles.

Real’s procedure uses what Real sells. DPS Technical’s main product is a “law enforcement sound measurement kit.” The kit includes a “Sound Level Meter, ANSI Type 1 Field Calibrator, 2 vibration tachometers, measuring tape, OHV RPM testing data, spark arrester probe and case.” It also includes “certificates of calibration, personal protection equipment and field carrying case and (an) informational DVD.”

A “typical kit for field enforcement purposes,” the “PN: SLM ENV KT 1” costs $3,100.

No highway robber should be without one.



49 Responses to “Motorcycle Noise And Money”

  1. Wretched Man Says:

    I recall GlennS saying some time back (I believe on thread about lane splitting) how most cagers are just rushing from one mall to the next to see where their next “sale” item is… absolutely oblivious of anyone on a bike(Glenn is far more eloquent than I am)
    After 3 decades of daily riding here in Africa experience has taught me to have a loud pipe…I had a 1200 S BMW that had an aftermarket pipe but a stock 883 was much louder….as a result I often narrowly escaped being some ,moron’s hood ornament.
    I now ride the BMW superbike that has a loud “bark” and in urban traffic IT IS A LIFE SAVER!
    Even the Sportster I rode in the USA last year had loud pipes, they are essential.

    PS missing some of the “old regulars”

  2. Hangaround Says:

    Most motorists see a tunnel. I see a concert hall!

  3. Phuquehed Says:

    Hey Jim…fuck off you shit-stain. You don’t like it, quit whining about it and posting moronic diatribe about your whiny hate of it.

  4. Shovelhead Says:

    Stop whining!

    Live and let live, I could care less how loud your motorcycle, truck or hot rod pipes are. My old man, a WWII veteran, the Generation we all thought was too square to understand what was going on in this Country. Was more tolerant and believed in more Freedom for Americans than this younger Generation ever will. He would cringe every time he heard of a new law controlling Americans. “That’s what we fought against” he would say.
    he was born in 1920…died in 1983. Just think of all the new laws passed to control us just in his lifetime and from ’83 to now. Loud pipes?? Who gives a fuck, leave it alone!

  5. Parsifal Says:

    @ Va.Bob – yeah, I don’t know? Like N.C.Rider said, some of his remarks and comments have been off lately? Maybe Meh’s true colors has come to surface?
    At any-rate there are the remarks by this “Jim,” character that aren’t any better.

    Loud pipes? Music to my ears.

  6. Va.Bob Says:

    I could be wrong,but I don’t think the regular “Meh” posted that shit.It doesn’t add up.

  7. NCRider Says:

    Parsifal – Amen!!!

    Meh – You said “It makes me want too swerve into them.” WTF??? Thats low. Do you even ride? Between the remarks about alcoholics and now this, I will be skipping over your posts for sure. I agree with Parsifal…You should not be here. And btw, I love loud pipes. The louder the better, you idiot.


  8. Parsifal Says:

    @Meh – oh, well hell, you freaking nimrod! Here I thought you was Rebels Parrot? Freaking wah-baby tree humper. I like trees, and I love my loud pipes, so what are you even doing here? Hypocrite much?

    You even said it yourself – when”I HEAR A HARLEY,” blasting past me ????

    Just so you know “boy sprout,” after the age of 55 nobody see’s you. Unless you pose a threat or are noisy, people will run over you, both figuratively and physically.

    So here is my RETORT for the last 6 or 7 years – GEE! Officer, I know I have loud pipes, but it ain’t like anybody can FUCKING see me! Meh! That.
    Chump! – and I’m sure glad to know you think running over motorcycle riders is no big deal.

  9. Meh Says:

    I cannot wait for the passing away of the Baby Boomer fucktards that ride loud bikes. I’ve heard loud pipes when hiking in the woods (three miles away from the nearest road). When I hear a Harley on the road blasting past me it does the opposite of “saving lives”. It makes me want too swerve into them.

  10. Jim Says:

    Living in Milwaukee we see this garbage all the time among the many other bad habits of tailgating, no signals, lane splitting, excessive speed, ( well … not Harley’s),rolling stop signs, riding over the centerline, road hogging, ect . It’s never the pure virgin bikers fault..always someone else. The pipes are loud for safety but no helmet, who are you wannabes trying to fool? I can’t hear you when your behind me and if you’re dumb enough to get in my blind spot I call that Natural Selection . But I love your pipes, especially when I crack open the cutouts on my big block and let you crybabies have taste of your own medicine..for your safety, of course, so you know I’m there.

  11. Bit J Says:

    After I read this article I can see why people perceive “bikers” as some kind of devolving human sub-species.

  12. High Brother Says:

    Aging Rebel? More like “Aging Retard”

  13. Sieg Says:

    Believe this same nut-job posts on CL Milwakky about “loud Harley pipes” pretty much constantly.

    FTF / FTP
    Fuck The Muffler Sniffers

  14. Rebel Says:

    Dear Jim C.,

    Thank you for illustrating what a noise nut is. Your sweeoping generalizations are both fatuous and rude.

    I think the noise off page you use as an email address is both inaccurate and uninformed.

    First of all, loud pipes do save lives, largely because people do not see motorcycles so much as hear them. People see what they expect to see and what they expect to see are cars.

    Second, exhausts on a two cylinder motorcycle are necessarily loud if the bike is to function properly. Motorcycles must be muffled, which is to say baffled, in order to operate properly but over muffling simply prevents these fairly basic engines from breathing. That’s why a stock Harley manufactured in 1980 produced more power than a stock Harley with a significantly bigger engine displacement produces in 2014.

    The reference to the 2007 DOT report is particularly stupid. Yes, motorcycles are usually “the striking vehicle” in motorcycle car collisions because cars don’t see motorcycles and turn right in front of them. The motorcyclist is usually just riding straight down a road, a moron turns in front of him and the motorcyclist does not have time to make an evasive maneuver.

    You sound like a mid-manager. I bet Steve Carrel will play you in the movie somebody will someday make about you. And, I bet you aren’t nearly as much fun Steve Carrel.


  15. Jim C. Says:

    Noise pollution is an invented issue, eh? What a mindless lie. Look up articles like “Decibel Hell” or countless studies on noise causing anxiety and depression. Do you hog-nuts ever need to sleep or relax yourselves? Let me guess, you’re fine wearing earplugs when some other God driving a Harley or boom car prevents sleep? Others sure aren’t.

    The joke about the difference between a Harley and Hoover rings truer than ever. Everyone I’ve met so far who rides a Harley has an attitude problem and thinks they’re God’s gift to cool detachment. The lowest form of human nature; minds that never escaped high-school. Low-brow delinquents who need mechanical props to be somebody, since they lack moral character.

  16. observer Says:

    fayettnamhoe: a poet among writers

  17. fayettenamhoe Says:

    thanks rebel for the put up, its called life by the thoughts of action, fuck the interaction its a let down, greasy, allways ugly when a person has to put up with the b.s. concrete i can bounce off of

  18. fayettenamhoe Says:

    bob Says:
    January 31st, 2012 at 8:39 pm
    [email protected] don’t go too slow in front of a commercial the left lane.—————————————————————————–so sorry, you don’t, got it,—- mutch later

  19. bob Says:

    [email protected] don’t go too slow in front of a commercial the left lane.

  20. Rebel Says:

    Dear Fayettenamhoe,

    Welcome back!


  21. fayettenamhoe Says:

    fuckit, and then it will be the flat black paint, then the dirty clothes, then the toothless smile, greasy hair, worn out seat, lack of chrome, beard, dented fender, going to slow, fuckit, etc etc, it don’t end, get used to it

  22. Possible Fucktard Says:

    Oh, I’m still hanging around but since I’m not a patch holder I mostly stay out of things that don’t concern me. Don’t worry, I’m not a cop either. I’m too old.I’d have to be chief or commissioner or some such. Appreciate your missing me but you might have five shots left so I better keep close to the door.

  23. ruffrider Says:

    possible fucktard:

    missed you. Where you been?

  24. possible fucktard Says:

    I think you’re looking at this all wrong. If bikers are to be legally defined as terrorists they should be required to put loud pipes on their ride to aid in threat recognition. A big cloud of grey oil smoke would help in visual identification of senior members of the international conspiracy. If you don’t know any fundamentalist muslim Americsan biker jihadists it just proves how successful they’ve been at covert infiltration. And they could be wearing turbans under those helmets so they should ban those too.

  25. DirtyBruin Says:

    Something I’ve always wondered – when a law like this gets struck down as too vague or whatever – what has to be done to get the fines refunded and license points (if any) reversed on all the people who got stuck by it while it was on the books? Because if it’s not proper law, those fines were taken … illegally. (I’d also say that if anyone’s insurance went up because of such a ticket, they’re then entitled to a full refund from their insurance company – like that’s going to happen.)

  26. Junior Says:

    Legislatures pass unconstitutional ordinances/statutes all of the time. A statute is not LAW until it has been upheld by the higher courts. Noise legislation aimed at one specific noise emitting device and not others is a simple case of discrimination. Discrimination cases are easily won because so much precedent has been established. Kops and their departments know that few will fight and appeal and they know they will make money until someone does appeal/fight and wins in a higher court. The PD’s know what is and what is not discrimination. The appeal process will take months or years, the PD’s will make plenty of money off of YOU until the scam is exposed for what they knew it was all along – Discrimination.

  27. YYZ Skinhead Says:

    Uh…yeah. In my hood there is a rider on some kind of V-twin (I have never actually seen the guy) who rumbles down my street every now and then. His bike has loud pipes and they make less noise than the garbage truck, the gazillions of leaf blowers, and the vacuumbrains in their gigaton ShitUrineVomits with “anti-music” blastin’ sufficiently loud to be heard in Arizona.

    Which of the above do you think would be targeted by noise legislation?

    YYZ Skinhead

  28. Stevo Onepercenter Says:

    In England we are about to have ‘type approval’ laws which effectively ban the modification of ANY vehicle. Not from our own democratically elected government-but from the European Union, a German dominated dictatorship which now holds power over 60% of our laws in the UK, despite 88% of Brits wanting to leave the EU. Thanks for that go to the rabidly pro European left wing nutters that governed here for 13 straight years, signed away our sovereignty and bankrupted the nation. You think you got it bad?

  29. skunk Says:


  30. Glenn S. Says:

    I joined the NWSC chapter of ABATE and will be at the meeting at the Shrine Club in Wellford this Sunday, (absent unforseeable emergencies). I’m sure they’re organizing a ride to Columbia and, if I can take Tuesday as a vacation day (which I probably can) I will ride. If you happen to see me around, say hey. I ride a flashy blue and purple (HD calls it “black ice pearl”) Superglide with a high passenger backrest type sissy bar and, during the winter, I’ve got a windshield on it with a support decal for the preemminant club hereabouts.

  31. Rebel Says:

    Dear Chingon,

    Oh no it passed. It just will not go into effect until January 1, 2012. That’s why so many cops are already training on the field kit. I understand the CHP already has purchased multiple kits.

    Motorcycle noise is what Clinton called a “bite sized issue.” It doesn’t mean anything but it can be portrayed to be a “quality of life” issue. And it is easy to punish people for it. And the people who get punished do not have a lot of political power. It makes it appear that government is actually doing something while the politicians ignore war, poverty and homelessness.

    Schwarzenegger signed it into law before he left office.


  32. Rebel Says:

    Dear Skunk,

    I have Thunderheaders on my bike.


  33. chevyweight Says:

    this bitch… you can almost see the idea formulating in her mind
    “””bikers + chicken shit tickets = $$$$$”””

    caption from link:

    Rob Varela / Star staff 9/19/09 Port Hueneme. California State Senator Fran Pavley, right, watches as Damian “Chief Greywolf” dons a Parkview Elementary School Mustangs cap during a ceremony celebrating the Port Hueneme school’s 50th anniversary Saturday. Bujanda was representing the Tribesmen Motorcycle Club Nomads Chapter, Port Hueneme, which recently donated $500, which will be used for library books for the school, from a fundraiser the club held.

    on a lighter note, a big thanks to our chickenshit coward liar non american president for quietly signing the NDAA aka “indefinite detention without trial act”, this dec31 st , which also allows for military police to arrest us for being “belligerent” – i wonder if loud pipes/ disturbing the peace could be considered being belligerent ???

    if you want quiet then turn your hearing aid down, you old bag of santorum

  34. skunk Says:


  35. CHINGON Says:

    YOu got to be kidding me Rebel, This is the dumbest thing, I guarantee this lady must have been holding her self and ended up crapping all over herself because a loud pipe scared her LOL… well hopefully they dont pass it my son and I have very loud exhaust on ur bikes. and it does get peoples attention and avoids them from swerving our way. If you ask Me its clearly a lady that has nothing better to do with her life.

  36. Abraham Iker Says:

    Glenn, Heads up dude!

    SC does have a helmet law for those under 21 years old. However, Senator Anderson (D-Greenville) has pre-filed bill S. 1046 on 12-5-2011 that would strike the terms “under the age of twenty-one.” Striking those terms would mean that the helmet law that currently applies to those under 21 would apply to us all. ABATE SC is calling for a showing at the capitol next Tuesday which is the first day of the legeslative session to oppose this bill. The link to the ABATE site and Gov. Haley’s 2008 video at the ABATE support rally is . The law that currently applies to those under 21 requires and 3/4 or full face helmet and a visor or goggles. It doesn’t allow for half-helmets and glasses.



  37. Chesty Says:

    Real is a dipshit scam artist of the highest proportion. He is selling his snake oil at a fast pace and it doesn’t prove shit. According to the SAE standard the noise tests must be done in a pass by situation which means that you ride by the sensors at a prescribed speed at a prescribed distance in a certain RPM range. Is a pig going to set up his equipment and then let you ride by on a empty highway without any other traffic around? Are you going to let the pig ride your bike thru the test for him to prove you are illegal? Yeah, right. The end cut (slash up, slash down, end cap) also affect how his equipment measures. Whether you have a Touring bike with a pipe on both sides of the rear wheel or a softail with just right side exhaust affects the measurement too. Their law isn’t enforceable in court but who is going to spend the lawyer money to defeat a couple hundred dollar ticket and even then you may get thrown out of the courthouse simply because Real says he is right.

  38. Rebel Says:

    Dear K,

    Terrorist is the new magic word. If some federal cop, you choose the name, wakes up a bankruptcy judge in the middle of the night after an evening of debachery and convinces him that you are a terrorist, maybe even a “street errorist,” the feds can now make you disappear. Like you can be disappeared in any other thrid world dictatorship.

    Probably I will have to write something on this. I have gottan a lot of mail on it.


  39. Glenn S. Says:

    I’m glad I’m in SC. It might be a backwards backwater that locks up more people than most, run by a bunch of religious nutcases that keep the sidewalks rolled up in the small towns on Sundays, but they haven’t “progressed” as far as California. The governor and the state Attorney General are members of ABATE, there’s no helmet law, and there are enough RUBs to make the cops think twice before they pull somebody over for riding a bike.



    “Holy Crusade”??…I think not. I have it on good authority that God loves loud pipes; ever heard thunder?! It sounds like the other guy to me…

  41. RVN69 Says:

    For all you unfortunates living in Cali, there is a company called American Custom who will replace the baffels in your stock mufflers. You will probably still be screwed if they are using a decible meter, but you will still have the EPA stamp for visual inspections. And no, I don’t get any money from that company.

    Potius Mori Quam Foedare

  42. Uesque Says:

    Look at 1:38 of the video, his own voice and background noise register 79.4 decibels.

  43. Nihilist Says:

    Rebel, as usual, thank you for your in-depth investigating. Interesting bit re. the Oakland PD experience. Wondering if/how this changed their attitude to other riders who have made the same kind of mods? Anybody know?

    Ruffrider, you are absolutely correct. One would think that, with a $3100 kit, the man would be whipping that thing out at every opportunity if only to drum up citations and fines to justify its cost. Maybe that will happen after all, maybe not…but the way they’re going after tattooed riders in the name of nabbing terrorists, I imagine the fan that the shit is hitting just got turned up to a higher (albeit much quieter!) speeed.

  44. ruffrider Says:

    So this is just about bikes? No kids with their boom boom sterios, no trucks with their jake brakes, no low riders or little jap cars with screaming exhaust. I’m not mad at them, why the hell should they be pissed off at me. And the boats on the lakes. This is just a noisey place, yet quiet by the worlds standarde.
    Redding pd, and redbluff pd neither run stock pipes on their bikes.
    We should be formeing the STATE of JEFFERSON up here from Shasta county up to K-falls. Thats what my drunk ass thinks.

    mucho respecr

  45. IRISHPUNK Says:

    At $3100 per test instrument, plus LEO training and a shit load of donuts, the Pigs will need to write a lot tickets and fast to pay for it. The video had everything but how long its gonna take for them to get a return on investment.

    Anybody who’s familiar with Huntington Beach, Ca PD and their BS pipe tickets will know that they will have their equipment paid for in no time.

  46. observer Says:

    Seems someone might be able to prove in court that Mr. Real’s product, at $3,100 per pop, as well as his pimping of same, is a huge fraud perpetrated against the tax payers of this state. It isn’t enough to solve the larger problem, but if at least this bottom feeder could be brought into the light of even today’s ‘justice’, the discreditation of his part in it may serve to start some push back against the rest of it.

  47. K Says:

    Hahaha love it. F!^@$%^ people have nothing better to do?! Was just talkin to my boy about almost hitting a rice rocket cuz he pulled a side by side turn maneuver (…that I woulda done too on my sled) and I couldn’t hear him or see him! Luckily, nice save, last minute, or homeboy was curb meat. Reb, post some knowledge on the law that passed during holidays that folks are spooked on, something fed about ‘anybody can be labeled a terrorist’? I’m hearing a lot of scuttle on that one as Uncle Sam steals our rights…again. When is Nor-cal seceding?! OK maybe if we can get Mendo, Humboldt and Trinity to secede…now there’s an idea. OK, toss in Shasta and Sonoma too and that’s a beautiful country.

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