Challenging loud pipes theory

Loud pipes

Do loud pipes really save lives?
I’m sure someone will give me an example of how they reckon a loud motorcycle exhaust saved their lives, but I just don’t understand how.
Let’s look at this very clinically.
Supporters of this contention say that loud pipes alert motorists that there is a bike somewhere about.
In a situation of impending collision, the bike is approaching the vehicle it is about to collide with, right? It’s not going in the opposite direction, is it?
They may be approaching from the side, from in front or from behind, but they are not riding away from the vehicle with which they are about to collide.
So the noise of the bike really needs to precede the bike to alert the impending collider, right?
But exhaust pipes don’t face forward. They face backward with the bulk of the noise trailing behind, not going out in front of them.
I’ve heard some pretty loud pipes, but no matter how loud they are they fail to alert motorists inside cars with the windows wound up, the airconditioner on and the radio playing.Akropovic Open-Line exhaust system on a Harley-Davidson Road King - loud pipes
I have been guilty of driving a car and having no idea that a motorcycle is coming up behind me and into my blind spot. Not until they are alongside or already past do I actually hear their exhaust pipe.
Just how loud would exhaust pipes have to be for people in front to hear them clearly and be a truly effective safety alert?
Rather than adding to the already cacophonous state of our urban traffic, wouldn’t it actually be better and safer for riders to alert traffic with a short blast on the horn?
If you are riding along a street and see a car sitting at an intersection and you are not sure they have seen or heard you, wouldn’t it be more effective to give a couple of quick taps on the horn to gain their attention?
A horn blast surely has more of an alert tone than the gradually increasing rumble of an exhaust pipe facing the wrong way.
There are other things you can do to get yourself noticed such as changing speed and moving around on the road.
All these proactive safety measures are much better than the ingrained and misguided trust in the safety values of a loud pipe. In fact, reliance on a loud pipe could be hindering your active safety avoidance measures and placing you in greater danger.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the sound of a baritone exhaust note. That rumbling sound is music to my ears and motivation to my soul.
But I detest those barking, angry pipes that give me a headache and only serve to upset  most of the population.
In fact, noise (barking dogs, traffic, trains etc) is the most complained about issue in suburban life. Do we really need to attract more anger against bikes and bikers?

Kawasaki Ninja 300 with Arrow exhaust - loud pipes
Kawasaki Ninja 300 with Arrow exhaust

While loud pipes may not necessarily save any lives, they most assuredly are bad PR for a minority group that gets enough bad press as it is.
Let’s be honest, the people who advocate loud pipes love the sound of the pipes and/or love people hearing them and being intimidated. And maybe they have small penises and need to compensate … watch this short video.
Like I said, I love the sound of a nice macho pipe, but nothing so loud it gives me a headache and nothing that will cause my neighbours grief every time I come home at night or head off early in the morning.
While I’ve never witnessed a loud pipe saving my life or anyone else’s I have witnessed loud pipes causing dogs to start barking and horses to run into barbed wire fences.
My favourite bike noise is actually the roar of the bike inhaling, rather than exhaling. The MV Agusta Brutale 1000 has an absolutely divine induction roar.
And best of all, it sounds like a Singer sewing machine when it goes past pedestrians, motorists, dogs and horses. That’s because the induction sound is cleverly pointed at the rider and not the passerby.
Motorcycle and car manufacturers have been spending millions of dollars on research into how to best channel these “good” sounds toward the rider/driver rather than at the passing scenery.
This has mainly been forced on them by increasingly stringent noise limitation laws, but the byproduct is that we get more entertaining motorcycles to ride and we cheese off fewer motorists, pedestrians, dogs and horses.
However, I am willing to be corrected if someone can give me categorical proof that a loud pipe saved their life. Just leave your comments in the box below.

 

21 Comments

  1. My opinion….I ride my bike every day in summer. It has a aftermarket exhaust which is quiet until I hit about 5k rpm. Being someone that rides in traffic a lot of the time with stock bikes ahead of me I notice how cars change lanes without noticing them, whether they rev or hoot. I on the other hand hardly ever suffer from this, being that I ride between cars at a lower speed with my bike in second (over 5k rpm). The cars can hear the bike from the front a lot more than a stock one. I understand that at high speeds they wont notice it as much but doing 60 or 70km/h they certainly do. As for people moaning about bikes with loud pipes, not all bikers tear down side streets at high speed late at night. If I rev my bike it can be heard by a car that is 100m ahead of me when lane splitting. Scientifically it makes no sense to some. But my question is… do you ride in heavy traffic? If you are a weekend rider only then you dont have experience riding in heavy traffic with a loud vs oem exhaust. Will a loud pipe save my life? No, i ride my bike, not the exhaust. But I am noticed by cars a lot more than the stock bikes that sound like a lawn mower. Just my opinion from experience.

  2. Loud pipes do not save lives There is no evidence at all that loud pipes save lives. That is a myth bikers dreamt up to respond to people complaining about the terrible noise their bikes make.

    If loud pipes saved lives safety organization would advocate their use. But they don’t.

    For example the Motorcycle Safety Association (sponsored by Harley) does not advocate their use in any of their motorcycle safety publications

    https://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/mom_v16_color_hi_res.pdf

    http://msf-usa.org/downloads/if_you_ride_a_motorcycle.pdf

    Nor do any of the motorcycle manufacturers advocate the use of loud pipes. Why don’t they advocate the use of loud pipes if loud pipes save lives as bikers claim? Answer is simple. Loud pipes do not save lives. Bikers mount them because they like the sound and enjoy bothering people

  3. Loud Biker Thugs will tell you that “Loud Pipes Save Lives.” This is a myth, a lie, and nothing but an excuse for bad behavior.
    Loud pipes do nothing but increase rider fatigue; increase rider reaction time to audible stimuli; unnecessarily assault the citizenry with illegal decibel levels that are especially dangerous to our children and our elderly; startle the unsuspecting caged public resulting in a fight-or-flight response; violate the right of every citizen to exist within an environment free from excessive and dangerous noise levels. The Hurt Report clearly debunks the Loud Pipes Save Lives myth…the truth is, Loud Pipes Violate Rights.

    Let’s follow the Loud Bikes Save Lives argument to its logical conclusion. If “noise” is truly the answer to traffic safety then let’s install sirens on bicycles and mopeds. Let’s require that every motor vehicle under a specified gross weight operate continually with its horn activated. And again, If noise is the answer to accident avoidance, why aren’t Goldwing, BMW LT – RT – GS riders falling like flies? Operators of these motorcycles are some of the safest, most professional riders on the roadways. Noise as a safety factor is pure NONSENSE and only serves to feed the hedonistic, selfish, personality of the loud thug biker community!

    Want to be safer, a more professional, respectable biker? Wear bright colored clothing, proper safety gear like a DOT approved full-face helmet, gloves, heavy jeans, padded jacket, full MC boots and practice defensive riding techniques.

    Respect the public, don’t be a loud motorcycle THUG!

  4. my thoughts on this is, if your window is up and the radio is blaring in the car as you mentioned in your article, how will they hear a motorcycle horn…meep meep …loud pipe are much louder…or must we fit 120db air horns…love your articles Mark, just my 2 cents worth…rambling here….lol

  5. I agree that bikes shouldn’t be so loud that they hurt people’s ears and bother folks, animals, and the like. I also agree that a good baritone is one of the best sounds in the world. I rode my Thruxton with the stock pipes for a couple months, then switched them out for louder ones. Changing the pipes (and air filters and carb jets) made a very noticeable increase power, and suddenly my machine sounded good. Am I noticed more than before? I think so. I don’t count on being seen by automobile drivers any more than before, but I do notice that people are aware of me more than before. They can hear me coming. Sometimes it’s nice to have an animal or a pedestrian know you’re coming, after all. Incidentally, the only speeding ticket I got on my bike was well deserved, and I’d have been slapped with it regardless of what kind of pipes I was running. But do loud pipes really save lives? Maybe not. Let’s keep them from being obnoxiously loud in any case. Are pipes that potentially increase people’s awareness of your presence worthwhile? I think so. But I would want my different mufflers regardless, since I love the music my bike plays through them and the additional power my machine has as a result of them.

    1. theRands, I’m not surprised you love the music you bike plays through your aftermarket pipes.

      It might not surprise YOU that I like listening to The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Who and The Allman Brothers at CONCERT LEVEL. It’s the best way to listen to rock music.

      But because I have respect for my neighbours, I don’t listen to my music at concert levels in my back yard……or even inside my home at night with the windows open. At worst, I confine my personal “concerts” to daytime hours….and with the windows closed. As I said, I respect my neighbours’ ability to enjoy THEIR idea of a good time…..which might be……NO NOISE AT ALL. To each his own.

      Bikers tend to be individualistic and non-conformist. I know, because I’ve been one for 52 years. But as I matured, I also wised up. I realize now that just as one man’s junk is another man’s treasure…….one man’s concert is another man’s HELL. I hate country music…and I love loud bikes. But I keep my rock and roll to myself…..and if I want a dose of screaming straight-throughs……I head for the track.

      Wanna be seen by inattentive car drivers? Wear hi-viz clothing, stay out of blind spots, move around…….and if/when all else fails, blow your Stebel.

      LOUD PIPES = PENIS COMPENSATION

      1. Meanwhile, the guy next door just got home from night shift and would like to sleep .But oh no, he’s got to listen to your daytime concerts of 70’s junkies.
        Hypocrite.

  6. Experience, observation, concentration and a level of skill is what keeps you alive on a motorbike, not noise. Claiming that noise helps is a cop out. The claim that ‘noise makes bikes safer’ is a version of the misguided claim that cars cause the majority of motorcycle crashes, a statistically questionable claim. Every driver/rider involved in a crash bears some of the responsibility for the crash. Sure, when a bike and a car collide, it is the rider that suffers most. But that is a consequence of the decision to ride a bike and is not inherently the fault of the car driver. In the case of the numerous bikes I have seen over the years stuck under a barrier or in the bush on Mt Glorious, for example, I will hazard a guess that the riders in those cases were 100% responsible. Complaining about dozy car drivers is just a way of failing to face up to the responsibility of keeping yourself safe. It is also a lame excuse for arrogantly annoying the great majority of your fellow citizens, which it seems is the main aim of way too many Harley riders. Why do they want to amplify that ‘wet f*rt’ sound anyway?
    It is offensive noise that has the greatest potential to effectively kill recreational and competition motorcycling. Noise is the dominant reason so much land has been closed to off-road motorcycling and motorcycle sport. It is noise that gives the non-motorcycling residents who live near good bike roads, race tracks and trails an easy and effective basis for complaint to the authorities about motorcycling. So it is time motorcyclists realised this fact in relation to the future of motorcycling.
    I would rather minimise my audibility to the coppers than maximise my audibility to everyone. In my experience, quiet bikes get booked less often of speeding.

    1. What rot
      Firstly
      So the car than came skidding through a red light 4 seconds after mine went green. Wiped me out and ruined my working life. It is somehow partly my fault because I chose to ride a bike. The law disagrees.
      Secondly
      I bet most of those bikes you see crashed on mount Glorious are the guys who think they are in a Moto gp on there sports bikes. Funny that.
      It’s funny how harley riders don’t really care what you ride but the mick doohan wannabes seem to have the chip on their shoulder.

  7. Experience, observation, concentration and a level of skill is what keeps you alive on a motorbike. Claiming that noise helps is a cop out. The claim that ‘noise makes bikes safer’ is a version of the misguided claim that cars cause the majority of motorcycle crashes, a statistically questionable claim. Every driver/rider involved in a crash bears some of the responsibility for the crash. It is the case that when a bike and a car collide, it is the rider that suffers most. But that consequence comes from the decision to ride a bike and is not inherently the fault of the car driver. In the case of the numerous bikes I have seen over the years stuck under a barrier or in the bush on Mt Glorious, for example, I will hazard a guess that the riders in those cases were 100% responsible. Complaining about bloody dozy car drivers is just a way of failing to face up to the responsibility of keeping yourself safe. It is also a lame excuse for arrogantly pissing off the great majority of your fellow citizens, which it seems is the main aim of way too many Harley riders. Why do they want to amplify that ‘wet fart’ sound anyway?

    It is offensive noise that has the greatest potential to effectively kill recreational and competition motorcycling. Noise is the dominant reason so much land has been closed to off-road motorcycling and motorcycle sport. It is noise that gives the non-motorcycling residents who live near good bike roads and trails an easy and effective basis for complaint to the authorities about motorcycling. So it is time motorcyclists realised this fact in relation to the future of motorcycling.

    And I am constantly amused by the claims, regularly made by the bike media and individuals that a loud pipe allows the bike to ‘breath’ better and produce more power. Firstly, both claims are often nonsense. And if a loud pipe does contribute to additional power, that additional power will almost always be produced only in the upper rev range. The stock bike will most often produce more power than 80% of riders can exploit anyway. For example, Paul Feeney told me last year that when his workshop was preparing a couple of Husqvarna race bikes for dirt track, they tried a range of after market exhaust systems and none made more power than the stock system and every after-market system was marginal in respect of MA noise limits, whilst the stock system is super quiet.

    I would rather minimise my audibility to the wallopers than maximise my audibility to everyone. In my experience, quiet bikes get booked less often of speeding.

  8. Now you have stirred the pot Mark!!!!!! LOL

    I have two bikes…. one loud one stock. While I do not have anything other then subjective observation (which I am sure many will shot down) I do believe that I have had fewer “incidents” when riding the loud bike v. the stock. I have also noticed more people “looking around” to try and find me when riding the loud bike.

    Just my observation as a guy with both (and will continue to have both) …oh and I will not respond to comments on my comment.

  9. Here is my personal observation. I have a “slightly louder than stock” Ducati which is bright red. I have found that when I get it serviced and ride off on a black, small, quiet courtesy bike car drivers notice me a lot less. I have more people running into my lane etc. Even riding down two lane roads when the guy in the right lane is holding up traffic, they are more likely to get into the left lane when I’m on the Ducati. I’m not sure if the red colour or the louder pipes contribute more, but I’m definitely less invisible!

    1. Have you tried requesting a “red” loaner……….wearing a “hi-viz” vest when your bike is in the shop…….and “blowing your horn” when people cut into your lane? Just sayin.

  10. So the numptees think loud pipes save lives? What a crock. The mantra “loud pipes save lives” is the domain of the gay pirates wrapped up in their just-bought-from-eBay patched-up vests.
    You can see or more accurately hear them at any cafe on a Sunday morning.
    They are the attention-seekers you hear accelerate away on their just-bought shiny new Harley with the straight-through pipes from the Screamin’ Eagle catalogue.
    What the general public think of the brain-dead morons one can only guess. I can’t stand the noise and I love bikes.
    Having said that there is nothing like the sound of a nice sports/touring V-twin fitted with a set of aftermarket mufflers. But these are usually not as loud as the straight-thru systems on the pirates bikes and not fitted solely for the purpose of attention seeking.
    The only thing these straight-thru systems do is alienate the general public even more towards bikes. Oh and send the riders deaf. My wife witnessed one of the funniest things ever at a servo in Khankoban a few years ago when a couple of “Hells Accountants” pulled up on the obligatory HD with pipes and they had sent themselves so deaf the entire conversation consisted of the words “hey” and “what”. Hilarious it was.
    I also agree with the horn bit. Have fitted a Stebel air horn to one of my bikes and it has proved very effective on several occasions awakening the slumbering and/or texting sheep in their cars.
    You wanna save your life on a bike, learn how to ride properly ya numpty.
    Now get off my lawn.

    1. The Pirates are drinking beer at pubs mate
      Not sipping soy lattes with diet milk at some $15 for toast cafe.
      Why don’t you get your head out of your arse and go and talk to a harley rider. You may just find he is a normal guy.
      Maybe alpine star just don’t make a suit big enough for him. As in men’s sizes
      Why is it all sports bike riders have chips on their shoulders??

      1. “A normal guy”? What could be normal about a guy who intentionally soups his bike to deafening noise levels which endanger the public?

  11. The manufacturers design and produce perfectly good exhaust systems, so it beggars belief as to why anyone would want to go against their design specifications or agitate other law abiding road users by installing a louder aftermarket exhaust. As to their effect upon awareness of an approaching motorcycle rider – I rarely ride at below the speed of sound so what’s the point.

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