You may hear, “Loud pipes save lives, bro!”
  • You may hear, “Loud pipes save lives, bro!”
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Let’s talk about these super loud motorcycles around town. What the hell?! I’m tired of turning a blind eye, or ear for that matter, to the subject. These guys think they can just blast through our neighborhoods anytime of the day while breaking the sound barrier. And we all just sit around and take it. What gives them the right to do this? To trample upon our quiet time. Noise pollution is a real thing and it runs rampant throughout our lovely city. How is it still legal to parade around on a glorified chrome bicycle with a blustering squeeze box?! These bikers have no regard for other people’s peace of mind. There’s no law against farting out loud, but most of us have enough common sense not to do it during a movie or near someone else. Motorcycle noise is pretty much the same. Any decent person would have the common courtesy not to crank one out right next to someone’s ear. What I’m really bitching about is protecting the sanctimonious gift of personal space. When you rev your engine past my house, it treads on me, and on my peace of mind. Do us all a favor and take your bike to the shop tomorrow to tone it down. It’s not going to make you any less cool if your bike purrs like a kitten. — The Guy Down the Block, North Park

I’ve known my fair share of bikers over the years, from crusty, helmetless Harley riders; to ATGATT nerds on those Beemers that were designed to cross continents, not parking lots; to hipsters on retromodern café racers and metric choppers; and, the rarest breed of all, people who consider a motorcycle just another way to get around, rather than an emblematic lifestyle choice. With the possible exception of the last category, all of them will answer your question by picking from a variety of stock phrases. You may hear, “Loud pipes save lives, bro!” which, somewhat spuriously, assumes that motorists will suddenly stop snapping freeway selfies and start driving with reasonable care because they heard a motorcycle. You also might get, “Quit treading on my freedom, because America, bro! If you don’t like it, go back where you came from!” by which the speaker of course means that you should retire to a gated community with all the other Prius drivers because you’re neither as cool nor as badass as the biker in question.

My money’s on, “They just want to be cool.” But virtually nobody will come out and say that, because few things come off less cool than admitting a desire for coolness. People constantly underestimate the importance of coolness; of possessing some immeasurable allowance of cultural cachet; of inspiring the admiration and envy of one’s peers. But, that’s what it is. People want loud bikes because they’re cool, or at least cool to some, and they will 100 percent disagree with you on the whole kitten-purr thing.

And it’s not, strictly speaking, “legal.” Consult California Vehicle Code § 27202 if you don’t believe me.

So, when your idea of what’s cool bumps squarely against someone else’s, who wins?

I have racked my brain on this very subject and have yet to come up with a reliable solution. Wars have been fought for less. Don’t hate the messenger on this one, I’m just trying to offer a little explication.

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spudboy Sept. 27, 2017 @ 12:42 p.m.

Great write up and topic. I am a motorcycle rider, not the V-twin type, but road many kinds in over 40 years of riding.

I've always kept my bikes (in particular the dual sport thumpers) to the dB levels the forest service has set. My hearing isn't perfect, and I'll be damned if I start having to wear a hearing aid at 55 years old. Loud bikes are loud to the rider, and the surrounding area.

It's usually once a week at least, that some wannabe pulls in the clutch in and winds the bike out, setting off car alarms all down the street. Why? Because the can, and don't get ticketed for dB levels.

I wonder why I was pulled over by SDPD, years ago for my cummins diesel being "too loud". Yes it was straight 4" from the turbo back, but NO WHERE nearly as loud as the 100dB+ V-twins and I4s.

I'll go one step further and say I've never seen a gaggle of bikers pulled over for loud pipes. Okay off my soap box.


CaptainObvious Sept. 27, 2017 @ 12:51 p.m.

You missed it entirely. I have ridden for over 40 years, been leader of the pack with 3 piece patch on loud American steel, but prefer to ride alone on a quiet Honda. It's about needing attention. "Look, mom, look look look at me!. Watch the "F word" episode of South Park. Matt and Trey got it right.


rplm Sept. 27, 2017 @ 4:17 p.m.

Loud motorcycles (and cars) do not save lives. Ask any emergency room Dr. I despise the noise pollution, abuse and disrespect, and I know many others feel the same. Nothing cool about it. The TV show South Park hit it right on the head with their episode, "The F word". I believe season 13, episode 12. I had never seen the show until I was referred to it specifically for this episode. They nailed it and it is hilarious. So please tune in and get a clue as to what people really think of you.


intoit Sept. 27, 2017 @ 4:54 p.m.

My neighborhood is badly impacted by these jerks with modified mufflers. We get their noise from the freeways as well the major streets that function as "freeway sewers". San Diego has this problem much worse than most cities because the SDPD and the CHP refuse to enforce the laws that bans these vehicles. Even stranger is that it is illegal to sell a vehicle that has these pipes but every motorcycle business in SD will sell and install them. These businesses are as illegal as store selling alcohol to minors. Yet no police action. I just wish the police would do the job we pay then to do.


bfumeck Sept. 29, 2017 @ 9:48 a.m.

Not only will most not install them, but many manufacturers have bans on shipping them to California.


Ian Pike Sept. 27, 2017 @ 4:59 p.m.

I like my motorcycles loud for the same reason I like my rock bands loud and my car stero loud. It's cool as hell.


dwbat Sept. 27, 2017 @ 5:31 p.m.

I used to like rock bands loud, too. But the damaging noise gave me awful tinnitus for life, starting in 1991. It's not cool at all now.


bfumeck Sept. 29, 2017 @ 9:45 a.m.

It’s not an EXCUSE, which lends itself to a fictional reason, it’s an EXPLANATION. Loud pipes save lives. If the police enforced using one’s turn signal, which I bet the majority of you don’t do as proven by the fact that more than half of San Diegans do not engage in the practice of, or simply fully stopped at red lights and stop signs, which there are laws stating to do as well, then many motorcyclists wouldn’t be getting run down and the need for the louder pipes which alert others that they are coming would no longer exist, at least in the streets. As a prior person commented, cars make way sooner when they hear the louder pipes while “legally” splitting lanes in traffic. Perhaps if all don the laws were being enforced, especially the hands free only for cell phones law, there would no longer be a need for law abiding citizens to require a need for louder new pipes. This covers the majority of riders. For the minority who feel the need crack the throttle to deliberately make noise, they are just jerks, they will always be jerks whether blasting their music in their car, speaking at the theater while the movie is on, etc.

The whole “they do it because they think they are cool,” thing is a hasty generalization being bought into by feeble, little minded dweebs who clearly are suffering from some sort of motorcycle envy.


DJ Stevens Sept. 29, 2017 @ 10:20 a.m.

It's OK, buddy. I give you permission to admit that you just want to be cool. Don't we all?? Nobody will judge you here.


bfumeck Sept. 30, 2017 @ 3:31 a.m.

Thanks for proving my point. Jerks will always just be jerks.


CaptainObvious Sept. 30, 2017 @ 4:56 p.m.

No, Bfumeck, it's a lame excuse. The Hurt Report, nor any other legitimate motorcycle safety research has ever correlated loud pipes to a reduction in accidents. If "loud pipes save lives", why dont they point them to the front?


jazzed Sept. 30, 2017 @ 3:03 p.m.

I think wanting to be cool is a pretty weak justification for abusive behavior. This is a value that is relative to a person's maturity. Young people engage in this type of behavior but I hope as they mature they will look back with shame on how they behaved. Unfortunately, the next generation will come along and engage in the same type of behavior. I think everyone regardless of age should look to the Golden Rule for guidance. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Being cool as the expense of deliberately disturbing others is selfish and mean spirited. They have not reached the first rung of the maturity ladder. Civility and respect for others are real values as opposed to being on a loud motorcycle which is nothing more that yelling "me me me I crave attention and this is only way I can think of to get it". How about earning real respect by getting an education, having a job, and raising a family. This is real maturity.


dwbat Sept. 30, 2017 @ 9:04 p.m.

Those individuals who engaged in bullying probably thought it was cool, too.


HarleyChiky Jan. 6, 2019 @ 12:07 p.m.

Hahaha...says the "Ask A Hipster" column writer, who wrote an article titled "MMM Bop, was one heck of a song".


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