by Victor Wanchena
The piece was entitled “Vroom.” A rather large photo of a sport bike doing a wheelie hugged the text on the left. The main issue of the piece was a rather opinionated, one-sided view of an issue that has been a growing concern for motorcycling for some years. For those who didn’t see it, it was an opinion piece featured in a recent Sunday edition of the Star Tribune. The writer, Mr. Charles Denny Jr., was very critical of motorcycling and painted a very dim picture of the maturity level of most motorcyclists.
Mr. Denny wrote about the level of noise generated by motorcycles operating near his home. He saw it as unnecessary noise because he saw no useful purpose for motorcycles. Throughout the text he took cheap shots at us, saying motorcycles give “juvenile emotional satisfaction” and that motorcycles are “a toy, albeit an expensive one”. His suggestion was that motorcycles should be banned from parkways. It is worth noting that Mr. Denny does live on a parkway. The arguments he presented were not terribly impressive; any logical motorcyclist could blast holes in it. And he finishes with a call for the city council to pass further ordinances in regards to vehicle noise.
Within hours of the piece hitting the streets, my email and voice mail were clogged with requests for me to respond; to hit back with both barrels. The problem is that, ironically, I agree with Mr. Denny. Excessive noise from motorcycles is killing us and is a problem that is not going away. The fact that non-stock, loud exhaust systems are wildly popular is drawing the ire and concern of people like Mr. Denny and we are having a tough time coming up with reasons why we’re making so much noise.
I see the greatest hurdle to overcome with noise is the perception that quiet equals lame. We have somehow ended up with the notion that noise equals power. That just isn’t true, but we can’t seem to embrace that concept. I’m not really sure where it comes from, but the bottom line is that the increased popularity on motorcycling, coupled with our love for loud exhaust, has motorcycling on a collision course with increased regulation and scrutiny; like yearly inspections or outright bans on certain roads. Don’t think it will happen? Stillwater, MN has announced they will begin ticketing riders with loud exhausts this year.
The obvious solution for motorcycling is to self-police. Resist the urge to put a set of loud pipes on your bike. Deride those that choose to live out the “Loud pipes save lives” mantra. There are enough laws and ordinances on the books already. Enacting further laws doesn’t solve anything. It simply adds another law to the books. Harley-Davidson is actually trying to address this, as they have seen the writing on the wall. All but a couple of their replacement exhausts systems they offer, as accessories, are legal for road use.
In the end I’m glad that Mr. Denny’s opinion was printed. By calling attention to this issue in a very public way, I hope that we as motorcyclists will begin to address the issue before those in institutional power address it for us. Motorcycles should be seen, not heard.