by Bruce Mike
I’ve been working at Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly for over a year now and I realized recently that I haven’t gone off on a rant yet. I know it’s not because I don’t have opinions about things. I have an opinion on pretty much everything. Some things I’ve read in the news recently have motivated me to share my thoughts on an issue that tends to get a lot of people pretty fired up; loud pipes. I know this is nothing new, and everybody writes about it, but as is the case with most of my opinions, I like to think my perspective is not only different, but it’s the right one.
I need to start out by saying I have bikes with stock exhaust and bikes with “performance” exhaust. My daily rider is an H-D Roadglide with true duals and Screamin’ Eagle slip-ons. Some people think it is loud and others think it’s just right. I concur with those who think it’s just right. I also have a 1973 Yamaha RD-350 with expansion chamber pipes that are ridiculously loud. The pipes are circa 1973 so I think they’re really cool.
This is where my opinion comes into play. I am under no illusion that my loud pipes will save any lives. In fact, I think that satement is a bunch of crap. There are two reasons I have loud pipes – improved performance and I like the way they sound. If I was allowed only one reason it would be the way they sound. I’ve always loved loud bikes and loud cars. I have standards for loud. I don’t like little cars with “coffee can” mufflers and I don’t like loud bikes that sound broken. Give me anything with a big cam and straight headers and my heart starts pumpin’. The sound gives me an adrenalin boost that makes me want to let loose with a “God Bless America”!
For me that’s what loud pipes are all about. They feed my rebel spirit. They go hand-in-hand with why I don’t wear a helmet and why sometimes I like to exceed the speed limit. They have absolutely nothing to do with making my bike safer. If I want to ride safer, I need to wear a helmet, gloves, high-viz gear and I need to drive defensively. I know this. I’m not stupid. I will not defend my pipes as being some safety accessory or my not wearing a helmet as a way of increasing my field of vision. These are choices I get to make and I don’t need to defend them to anyone. I do need to be honest with myself and be willing to accept the consequences for these choices. If I get hurt because I wasn’t wearing a helmet or I get a ticket for loud exhaust, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.
This brings me to the three stories I read recently. They were about motorcycle accidents and all of them were a result of driver error. I did a little internet research and it appears to me that about half of all reported motorcycle accidents don’t include another vehicle. They didn’t give any numbers but I would guess most, if not all of these, could be attributed to driver error. This tells me if I make less errors, I’m safer. I’m convinced that advanced rider training and continued practice makes me a better rider, two things I need to commit myself to.
Back to loud pipes. To all you folks who have them – stop kidding yourself, you’re not saving anybody’s life. To those who hate loud pipes – get over it. This is America. We’ve got choices.