by Victor Wanchena
After four years of abuse on salty winter roads the exhaust on my Ural finally gave out. I was riding home late one evening when I noticed a slight increase in the exhaust note. Something to check out when I get home, I thought. This was followed by a KA-BANG and the tinkling sound of something metallic being drug along the road. I stopped, and there hanging unceremoniously from the left muffler was what was remained of the baffle. A little roadside persuasion removed it the rest of the way. I headed home with a helmet-filling roar annoying me the entire way.
The next morning I called my local Ural dealer to order a muffler. My dealer delivered the sad news. Sorry comrade, they’ve been back ordered for sometime. A container full of parts is slowly making its way across the Pacific. Undeterred and taking a stab at being resourceful, I remember a conversation I had with a Harley-Davidson dealer. He had told me about the mountain of stock pipes they had lying around. Seems no one wanted their stock mufflers after putting on a set of righteous loud pipes. Perfect, I’ll adapt a set of H-D mufflers to the Ural as a fix until the stock mufflers show up. So I call this dealer and ask if I can come by and grab a set of take-offs. His answer surprises me. He didn’t have any left. What, I thought you had a mountain of stock pipes? He went on to explain that over the past couple of years the demand for after market pipes had dropped dramatically. This was news to me. If the loud-pipes-save-lives pundits were to be believed, hardly a bike rolled off the showroom floor without a set of loud pipes.
The dealer went on to explain. H-D had been had been hard at work quieting the motor’s internal and intake noise. They had done a very effective job of this. Once the motor was quieted the engineers were free to make the exhaust slightly louder. This was all done while staying under the DOT limits for sound. Genius! H-D had also removed the vast majority of the loud pipes from its catalog of accessories, leaving only a few for “closed course use only”. This work had not gone unnoticed. Customers were more than happy with the exhaust note of the stock pipes. The number of riders wishing to envelope themselves in the din of loud pipes was steadily diminishing.
This was very good news. Not for my Ural, mind you. I’d have to come up with a new plan. But I do see this as a very good sign that we, as riders, are beginning to turn the corner on the noise issue. Harley-Davidson should be commended for seeing that noise had become a big issue and taking intelligent steps to solve the problem. Their forward thinking may ultimately help control a problem that threatens our use of the road. It also pleased me that consumers were starting to get the message. Responsible motorcycling was much better than further scrutiny and regulation. Ultimately, the responsible rider does the most to protect the freedoms of motorcycling. Granted this is just the first of many steps that must be taken, but to paraphrase an old saying, the ride of a thousand miles begins with the one spin of the wheel.