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Pipeburn Poll: Do Loud Pipes Really Save Lives?


Posted on August 13, 2011 by Andrew in Other. 78 comments

We’ve all seen and heard it a million times before. On tees, patches, stickers, badges, tattooed on your private parts after a particularly wild New Years party. Or is that just me? Anyway, have you ever stopped to think whether there’s any merit to the thought? Are loud piped-bikes really less likely to see their masters and commanders pay a visit to the big custom house in the sky? If that was a fact, why aren’t all bikes built to deafen?

The days of most cagers driving with their windows down while listening to a tinny AM radio with a $5 speaker that couldn’t rock a matchbox are well and truly gone. Look around you at the lights these days and you see windows up, 36 speaker sound systems pumping out The Pussycat Dolls latest pile of hot dung, sat navs a’satting and a’naving, and a disturbingly large percentage of drivers fiddling with their iPhones. How’s a few loud noises going to save you from these hung-over soccer mums with a car full of screaming kids, an incoming call, and a steaming lap full of Seattle’s finest? Could loud pipes really save your life? Time to decide, peoples.

 








  • Stephen

    It depends. Do the loud pipes in question know CPR or advanced first aid?

  • Jason

    I'd believe it if there wasn't a report of a HD being hit by a car and the rider dying or being taken to the hospital on a regular basis on the news.

    Loud pipes don't save lives but I suspect that full gear does.

  • stephen

    Yes. They may not be polite. But people hear you a long time before they can see you. Especially in congested city traffic. Like it or not. They do.

  • NYGuy

    loud pipe has saved my live a million times over, i live in NY and we have the "most craziest drivers" (if there is such a phrase) on the planet.. the cab drivers especially will stop on a moments notice, pull three lanes crossing without regard for on coming traffic just to pick a passenger. several times i have been in situations where my pipes has been the only deterrent. i do not like loud pipes, it gives me a headache sometimes but eh!

  • Bleeding Ears

    No, but they sure do a good job of pissing off everyone that hears them.

  • Dave in Kalifornia

    "Loud pipes" is a half-assed lame excuse… IF this were really the case, the pipes would point forward, to announce your impending arrival. In actuality- two blocks past (behind) you can still hear you. Annoying at the minimum. Public nuisance in the legal sense. Think about the gunships in Viet Nam.. They could come in hot, and not be heard- then for 10 mins after… lol

    The reality of loud pipes is derision from 'normal people' due to the noise factor- As an excellent example: ALL of my neighbors absolutely lost their minds when I moved into the neighborhood… why? because the *perception* that ALL motorcycles are loud, obnoxious machines- and their riders are all douchebags who just like to disrupt the peace… Since I have proven to everyone on my block that this is NOT the case (I refuse to put open pipes on anything, and if I service something with no mufflers, I require that the enter/exit my neighborhood QUIETLY… My neighbors actually LIKE the fact that there's more 'motorcyclists' around- rather than 'bikers'.

    Everyone likes to make it about FREEDOM and PERSONAL expression… Try making it about personal RESPONSIBILITY. pay attention to your surroundings.. Be attentive. Take your well-being and safety into your own hands. Trying to force others to do it for you by being a peacock is just stupid. It's the 'loud-pipe' advocates that make lawmakers want to regulate our sport/leisure/transportation into oblivion. Know anyone that can't have their motorcycle at their apartment? Or, even worse- in their subdivision? I do. Several, in fact. With society increasingly taking the 'not my fault' attitude to law- EVERYONE gets regulated in some fashion- Some groups more than others.. Motorcyclists for instance… Public perception counts for alot…

  • PorkChop

    Literally all of "Loud Pipes…" advocates I know ride in jeans and sleeveless t-shirts with no helmets and no gloves. While I honestly feel that all of these things are a personal choice, I also can't help but feel that using increased safety to justify your desire to have a loud bike while at the same time ignoring actual safety gear seems a little disingenuous. It seems to me that loud pipes have a fan base simply because they are loud — and that's fine, but just own up to it already.

  • Stats

    First of all, I think there's maybe a distinction to be made between louder-than-average and car-alarm-tripping-loud. IMO, going from quiet to louder-than-average helps, while going from louder-than-average to car-alarm-tripping-loud is just obnoxious.

    And while yes, most of the sound does get projected behind you, you are in fact audible while riding in a car's blind spot. You are also audible to the car who is approaching you from behind in a faster lane, who wants to merge into your space, because the large truck/suv/etc behind you is blocking you visually.

    That all said, I'd ride a silent bike with full gear before a loud bike with no gear.

  • Clintonius Monk.

    Amen Porkchop, amen. Helmets, good gear, experience and safety courses save lives. If i hear your loud pipes, its because you are in front of me not behind. Hehe, its more like loud pipes save ego's.

  • GuitarSlinger

    No !

    A little wisdom from the race track . You always steer in the direction you are looking .

    Therefore if a driver looks over at you to see what all the noise is about , three guesses where he'll be aiming his vehicle

    Right into you !

    Brilliant wouldn't you say ?

  • earlyWiz

    See "Dave in Kalifornia" for an American constitutional ethic; education/skepticism/tolerance/compromise; that there is a distinction between a RIGHT and a Privilege.

  • If the difference between life and death comes down to how loud your motorcycle is, then you need to reevaluate how you ride a motorcycle.

    Riders who pay attention, wear appropriate gear, and know how to ride their motorcycles save lives. Riding a motorcycle, like anything else in life, comes with an inherent risk towards life and limb.

    If you're not willing to stomach that risk don't get on a bike.

  • Kim of Copenhagen

    Shouldn't be too hard to come up with a real study, showing whether or not motorcycles with loud exhaust systems really are less likely to be in accidents caused by motorists who didn't notice them. Personally I don't think so, as I usually only notice a loud motorcycle coming up from behind the moment it's right next to me.

    Then of course there's the definition of 'loud'. Is it the 1983 Harley with stock muffler I once had (loudish), or the stock 1967 Triumph (definitely loud) before that. Or is 'loud' a 100+ cu.inch v-twin with straight pipes, being gassed through empty streets at 2 am, and waking up anyone not completely deaf already?

  • ogre

    Even as a rider I have had a bike in my blind spot but herd it so I checked and sure enough some one was there. People a so distracted these days while driving, bikes need all the help they can get to gain other drivers attention.

  • Jeffree

    Either way, get good with the old horn button people! It's really saved me a couple times.

  • Bugdaddy66

    I had a motorcycle patrolman explain to me many years ago if I wanted to stay alive on a bike, pretend your silent and invisible, and ride accordingly. Cagers don't see or hear bikes, staying alive is my job. Seems to have been good advice for the past 30+ years and close to 200,000 miles on a bike!

  • Lance

    I have noticed a difference when riding my Honda 919 which is sewing machine quiet unless you really punch it and my buddys Harley. His pipes are not loud but they have a feelto them like deep base and I have noticed drivers look to see where that subwoofer type noise is coming from. They are less likely to change lanes right over top of me when on the Harley.

  • Breed

    They may help dear hear you though. I think the best thin you can do for people in cars seeing you is bright clothing and good headlights. People pull out in front of me way more often on my v-max than they do on my FJR. The FJR headlights are far bigger and brighter.

  • zeke rigg

    i vote yes but only to a certain extent. first of i don't have a horn. so my horn is ripping on the gas for a second. the loudest bike i have had isn't that loud. an abrupt BRAP and tells people "hi i am gonna pass you." or "hi don't pull out in front of me." but some one in a house won't hear any thing from my bikes unless i rip on the gas. i one day i was riding with my stock pipe and air filter, a bee is louder, i know a lady didn't see me coming around a corner luckily i saw her or else she woulda plowed into me.
    one of my bmw friends always jokes that loud horns save lives as they are louder and can be used when ever. i would agree with him but 6v horns do nothing of the sort.

  • I have to disagree with NYguy. I live in Brooklyn and ride quite a bit in manhattan (and all the boros other than staten island). There is not a jet engine, cannon or stack of Pantera's guitar amps, that could stop a cab or livery driver from driving like a putz. They are programmed to hit you, and NOT even stop to see if you're still breathing!

    Seriously folks, for loud pipes to work, it would require drivers who actually pay attention to ANYTHING other than themselves. Unfortunately for all of us, that ship has sailed….

  • mattblatt

    No

    Loud pipes are annoying as fuck

    For riders that want attention, go ahead, shit on your neighbors

    I enjoy riding with my friends that ride stock, all differant bikes, and all differant likes

    Loud pipes dont save lives, attention saves.

  • psbero

    i believe that louder than average pipes help you be noticed, but obviously if its too loud then its just plain obnoxious and inconsiderate. slightly loud pipes should be simply be there in ADDITION to all of the other precautionary measures that you take, such as full gear, use of headlight, and riding in a manner that you assume no one can see you.

    Loud pipes alone are clearly not going to save your life. However, I believe having slightly loud pipes will help you be noticed at least SOME of the time.

  • P.J. Flyer

    NO, loud pipes do not save lives!!
    Harley riders, "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand!"

  • Without question they save lives. Just yesterday a car merged into my lane squeezing me into the semi in the lane next to me. A quick twist of the throttle and my obnoxiously loud pipes scared the shit out of him and he swerved back out of my lane. If the pipes weren't loud I wouldn't be typing this today.

    This is a regular occurrence on the streets of Perth.

  • Greybeard

    I do not favor loud, in your face FTW pipes but loud noises do, indeed, catch your attention.

    If they didn't why are so many people pissed at loud bikes?
    Someone MUST be noticing them.

    Then. consider that the likes of Nathan and Leslie make a fair wage outfitting trains with loud horns.
    http://www.dieselairhorns.com/sounds/K3LA_CSX.mp3

    And that's for a vehicle operating in an extremely defined space!

    Question comes down to exactly whose head is up whose arse when two vehicles try to occupy the same space at the same time.

  • I live where there a TON of old retired folks in those friggin battleship sized motorhomes all over the road in the winter. Those people are known as "snowbirds" because they actually live in the northern states and come to our area for the kickass winter weather. Most of them are over 60 years old.

    I have lost count how many times my obnoxious pipes have gotten the attention of some old blue haired lady that hugging the steering wheel and listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. The horn is useless. But them old folks hear those bikes. They dislike the "bikers" so the loud pipes tend to piss them off. Who cares, at least granpa got an eye on me as he manuevers his 50 foot land boat through traffic, cussing about "those horrible bikers" all the way. (I ride a 1982 Honda 750 *AMA Superbike* type bike .. not a HD … jsyk).

    Them blue hairs will gitchya every time if you don't have several methods of getting their attention. Pipes are just part of the smart rider's arsenal. Defensive riding and proper routes help a lot as well. Anything helps … loudly colored clothing, reflective stickers, modulating lights (front .. rear .. whatever). Any of it helps. Depends on where you are riding as to how effective any one method is.

    I've been in situations where I couldn't get to the horn button fast enough, and had to ~REV~ simulataneously with defensive maneuvers to avoid getting run down in Los Angeles traffic (I used to live there).

    So I'd say *yes* loud exhaust helps, but it shouldn't be your only means of getting cagers attentions.

  • jack

    ive noticed a lot of the responses to this being along the lines of personal experience, and sure, if you havent been in a situation where the loudness of your ride has alerted drivers to your presence then im sure your answer to this question would be no.

    my bike isnt very loud, a 72 honda CL350, but with my exhaust pipes open with a little baffle in each pipe its a little bit louder than stock, still pretty quiet though. ive had the experience of cycling for years as well, and let me tell you, if my bicycle could make more noise than i wouldnt have been in near accidents with cars not aware im there. thats with lights, reflective gear, all of it. here in melbourne cyclists are hit everyday on their rides to work/whatever, im avoiding bad driving everysingle time i ride my bike to work.

    my motorcycle makes a bit of noise, nothing absurd, but id say if you can do something that may make another driver on the road more aware of you the better. even if it doesnt matter 99 percent of the time, that other 1 percent of the time when it helps might be the 1 percent that saves your skin. also sensible head gear and leathers helps.

  • Exhaust systems are not just pipes… you can engineer them to be very silent at minimum rpm and to be loud screami' eagle at higher revs… Pipes that are always loud are extremely annoying, even for the rider itself (think of long highway trips) but they are useful.
    Here in italy our roads are not so straight or so large, and there's a lot of moutain too, if you got a loud pipe, maybe you don't make that turn and find a person, or a deer in the middle of the road, just because they heard you coming…
    The problem in the city are not just only the cars, it's my job to pay attention to them, are pedestrian, talkin' on the phone or jogging with ipod not watching traffic lights etc… and loud pipes DO the difference.

  • Bullson

    That "saying" is a Big pile of Bull.
    As far as I know, the pipes point rearwards und thus the majority of the noise is behind you. How is that supposed to save you from lame ass cagers ?

    BTW: The cager that switched lanes, when I was just about to pass him, and ran me over, didn't hear a tiny bit of my loud pipes.

    Cheers

  • I see, so since the pipes aren't facing forward, and "not designed" per se to be used as attention getters, they are not to be used then?

    So then, you've never taken notice of some idiot biker riding in your blind spot as you drive your car (due to the sound of his bike?). I most certainly have!

    You're either one of the oblivious car drivers, or a person with very little experience. ANYTHING that helps others notice you is an addition to your own safety. To think this idea is BS is BS. But it's ok .. Natural Selection takes care of those attitudes … eventually.

  • Alex

    I'm a driver and a motorcyclist, and in my car, I pretty much never hear loud pipes when I'm driving. When I do, it's not before they're right next to me — but even then I can't tell which direction it is. I'm pretty much your best case — a motorcyclist who is listening for motorcyclists — and it doesn't help me.

    Research agrees with my experience here: I don't think any motorcycle safety study ever has found that loud pipes are a safety advantage.

  • WhiteNoise

  • KC

    Loud pipes may alert people to your presence – somewhere – but so would leaning on the horn non-stop. Loud pipes are not the answer, they're another problem, and they make motorcycles and motorcyclists look (and sound) bad. What's lacking on motorcycles (and cars) are decent horns. Damn, they're limp.

    Loud pipes are not a replacement for riding like you're invisible. You'll just be invisible and loud.

  • Frank

    Loud pipes save my life in a time where everything is regulated and pc it's my litte breakout of everydays routine. I fell alive when i hear mine or other bikes thumping. When I once should be in a coma i'm sure I can be saved by the sound of a cafe racer.

  • He says it's just as true..as the usual statement.

    "OULD PIPES SAVE ELVIS"

    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=214991

    On a serious note (heh,heh) here in CA lanesplitting is less nervewracking on a bike that's putting out a bass "thump' of some sort.
    I ride one bike that has it and one that doesn't. I see peoples' heads turning to check the rearview mirror MUCH more when I'm on the "thump" bike.,

  • KC

    Well said, Frank. A motorcycle is an all senses experience. A motorcycle can make a sweet sound without going the unbaffled, straight pipe route. The best sound I've ever heard was from Supertrapps.

    But the loud pipe argument is up there with "I need a big SUV for protection from lousy drivers". Then lousy drivers get SUV's. How about we need 200hp so we can get out of the way – even if the max speed limit is 65mph?

    Is the argument that quiet motorcycles aren't safe? I don't that would hold up in the big picture.

  • "Is the argument that quiet motorcycles aren't safe? I don't that would hold up in the big picture.?"

    The answer to that argument would be to mandate a godawful loud HORN on every bike…activated by a strong squeeze on either handgrip

  • @davidabl – I think some sort of clench activated horn switch in the seat of a bike would be more effective…

  • Mattro

    someone with a decent decibel meter should sit in an idling car 30, 60, and 90 yards in front of vs behind a "loudpipe" motorcycle and take the measurements. something tells me the meter won't be moving much with the screamin' eagles pointed in the opposite direction.

    i'd much rather be able to hear the sounds around me better than sit on megaphones trying to announce my arrival in the wrong direction, anyway.

  • KC

    What about electric motorcycles? Playing cards in the spokes? Maybe a sound track and a really big speaker? I don't want to rely on the sound of my motorcycle to keep me safe.

  • Bullson

    @10Bones
    Didn't you read the part, where I described, how a cager ran me over, while I was riding with loud pipes ? (or didn't you WANT to read that ?)

    Besides: With more than 80000 k on motorcycles, I think I managed to gain a reasonable amount of experience. But thanks for drawing a conclusion without even knowing me *sigh*

  • Tom

    RELYING on loud pipes alone is just as stupid as relying on a helmet to prevent all head injuries or relying on your horn to get the attention and correct reaction of the intended driver. No one thing is going to save everyone's life and cannot be proven or disproved on a case by case basis. To paraphrase something I remember- The live you save may be your own…

  • KC

    I think we can all come up with horror stories about not being seen/heard and the disaster that follows. I got hit head on riding a big, tall, single cylinder motorcycle with headers, a Supertrapp and a set of Fiamm horns. He turned left – right into me. With the exhaust brapping and popping on a downshift and leaning on those horns. He asked "didn't you see me?" Yes, I did. I had the right of way. Apparently that included airspace as I flew over the car.

    Yes, I absolutely agree, anything we can do to be more noticeable is a good thing. I don't buy motorcycles that blend into the scenery or disappear at night (my Shadow RS is white). I don't wear black except for boots. Try finding high visibility motorcycle gear that looks good. It's not easy. Black jackets, dark blue jackets, gray jackets, might as well be camo jackets. Same with helmets.

    But loud pipes are a stop-gap solution and now we have noise regulations here in the states because of them. Nice move, straight pipers.

  • I think Loud pipes save the lives of pedestrians more than other drivers now, since in my area so many drivers don't pay attention, most of them are texting.

  • Adam.D

    There have been many time on my commutes to work where people sitting at stop signs and lights are more interested in the cigarette, cell phone, radio, or whatever they just dropped on the floor, than looking before they go. When I see that and they are starting to roll, I crack the pipes a bit and they look right up and stop short. Opening up the throttle to make sure people take that second look has saved my hide many times. but honestly, nothing works better than keeping your eyes moving.

    06 M50 – cobra pipes

  • Jimbo

    That's kind of like asking "Do bikinis cause accidents" either way, I'd be willing to review the findings.

  • "@davidabl – I think some sort of clench activated horn switch in the seat of a bike would be more effective…"(than the clenching grips
    activated horn)

    Actually about equally effective, as all the clenching occurs simultaneously.
    Your suggestion is, I believe much harder to engineer..about as complex as those motorcycle airbags.
    And It would probably entail some sort of sensor in the rider's shorts. Like helmets, it'd probably require legislation to get compliance.
    While being much more difficult to enforce compliance than with helmet laws.

  • Joel

    I've experienced that loud pipes do greatly reduce the number of cars that try to merge into me. I've been riding a CB650 with a Cherry Bomb for a bit over a year; it's borderline obnoxious, emphasis on the obnoxious. I have still had to swerve out of the way of a few people who weren't paying attention to where they were merging. But for a 2-3 weeks I rode my room mate's very quiet modern bike, and had to dodge more people in that short amount of time than I've had to during the rest of the past year on my own bike.

  • Rohan

    In Sydney, Australia there's the 'look twice for bikes' campaign, which has media involved like bus ads, bill boards and other outdoor, not sure how effective this has been though haha

    I've got a CB750 with no baffle (straight through – ultra obnoxious) which seems to get peoples attention in any scenario – but it is very irritating and I acknowledge this, but at least I'm not getting hit.
    Might be selfish, but the next 50 years of my life are worth more to me than someones discomfort for 15 seconds. Given that the bike is mostly silver and black I think it would blend in more than anything, so i think the pipes really give me that extra dimension.
    If people want to complain about it being too noisy, this means that they're aware. Having said that I've never been changed up on or had any near misses!

    The other side to this, is the 63 Vespa VBB150 – I'm constantly getting changed up on, no matter where I am on the road or how defensive I'm being, people just don't see it! I could be right back looking at the driver in the face through the side mirror. Most of the time they don't even LOOK!

    At the end of the day, it's definitely a matter of opinion. From my experience, I choose loud pipes!

  • rmck

    Fact; sound travels at well over 1,000 kilometres per hour and despite a motorcycle's exhaust facing in the opposite direction you can hear a motorcycle coming toward you. The louder the decibels (dB) of the exhaust, the earlier you will hear the motorcycle coming toward you. I challenge anyone to disprove this.

    In my opinion, being heard increases the awareness of your presence to other road users nearby. If you can be heard, you are no longer relying on one sense (sight) of those around you. And it is also my opinion that a second sense (hearing) potentially increases the awareness of your presence by 100%.

    Shouldn't the question really be:
    "Does increasing your awareness to other road users, increase your safety?"

    If you answer yes to this question, then you cannot argue that loud pipes contribute absolutely nothing to saving the lives of motorcyclists.

    If you answer no to this question, then in my opinion, you have not ridded in traffic long enough to experience this first hand.

    Clearly however it is totally impractical for other reasons (such as noise pollution) to simply state that motorcycles should be sold with straight through exhaust systems.

    And no, I do not ride a Harley, and yes I agree many have obscenely loud pipes that I consider to be unnecessarily loud.

    I do love the crack of the straight through muffler on my enduro machine though!

    Safe riding all!

  • I'm undecided on whether loud pipes are good or not.

    I recently rode a colleagues 2009 Crossplane R1 which was fitted with a full Akrapovic system with no baffles. It sounded amazing and was really loud. When riding through town or approaching queues at junctions, cars would move out of the way ages before I got there the thing was so loud. But with it came a slight sense of paranoia.

    If drivers in their cars with windows up and stereo on could hear me, then that copper hid in the bushes a couple of corners ahead could definitely hear me.

    As standard bikes are louder than most cars anyway and while I agree loud pipes can help and do sound and look better than the original items, I do like hammering along with out causing too much of a scene.

  • Jay Allen

    once a '67 mustang pulled in front of my very quiet yamaha seca 400, and a guy in a jeep pulled in front of my open meg KZ1000+. Some moron in a malibu made a left turn in front of my legal normal Superglide, so in my limited study the problem is drivers and pipes didn't make a difference. I don't think pipes are as effective as 80W headlights, but I still blip my throttle at intersections so johnny or julie cage next to me knows not to change lanes where it might look empty

  • Brightly colored helmet, check.. Additional lighting, check (studies show drivers think bikes with spots or dual headlights are actually closer than bikes with single headlights) Reasonable protective gear, check. Serious horn, check. Somewhat-louder-than-stock pipes, check.

    That said, the guys I've seen with "loud pipes save lives" stickers on theiir helmets or bikes, were all wearing beanie helmets and no
    other protective gear…So for the straight pipes crowd, at least some of them anyways the saying is just an excuse for unsocial behaviour.

  • Slow idling while lane-splitting doesn't really make a loud enough noise to draw attention. Most harley riders with loud pipes can't lane-split quickly since their bikes are too wide and therefore they barely put-put through traffic, kind of walking their bike. Since they are so in the mode of "loud pipes save lives" they rev their engine to produce a large blast of noise at every car they pass to let them know they are there. This is SO ridiculous I can barely express my disgust in words. This is akin to me honking my horn at every single car I pass while lane-splitting. Sure, this concept draws attention to them and makes a mildly safer situation, but is beyond rational, reasonable and sensible and is the most ridiculous solution to the problem.
    Does holding down your horn the entire time your riding your motorcycle, save lives? Sure it does. But if you do this, you're just a huge asshole, piss everyone off and look like an idiot.

    Let's shoot down a couple of arguments posed here:
    While driving in a blind spot, loud pipes let the driver know I'm there.
    Answer: Never ride in a another drivers blind spot. This is a dangerous situation, is avoidable, and falls into the category of un-safe riding practices. Why the hell would you be cruising along in another drivers blind spot? Heavy traffic situations, this is sometimes unavoidable, I understand, so OK, maybe your loud pipes work here, IF you're revving the engine or are geared down and at high revs?

    The guy who couldn't get to his horn button fast enough? ROFL. You mean a 1/2" away from your thumb is slower than a twist of the throttle and a pull of the clutch lever? This is hilarious. In situations where I might have to use the horn, my thumb is literally hovering over the horn button.

    Horns aren't loud enough:
    Answer: Install a louder horn, dude. I've got a FIAM and that shit is so loud it scares me every time I use it. That being said, some drivers don't even hear a horn, loud pipes or anything else, so don't expect a noise to change the situation. You should already be correcting to avoid the danger while honking the horn and not counting on an audible alert saving your life.

    All this comes from being a motorcycle commuter and doing 60,000 miles in rush hour traffic in California over the last 3 years. At least 15,000 of those miles were done lane splitting. I had the flashing headlight thing on my last bike and it worked great, except when it didn't. I became so used to parting cars like Moses parted the Red Sea that I started counting on drivers to move. The guy who didn't see my flashing lights almost killed me because I became overconfident and wasn't riding defensively and wasn't counting on him pulling into me. In the end, gear, riding skills, and acting like you're invisible is the sure fire way to save lives. It never once crossed my mind to put on loud exhaust pipes to make myself safer. Loud pipes aren't put on for safety, they're put on for other reasons and then those people use "Safety" and "Saving lives" as a cover story for their selfish, noise polluting behavior.

  • Raúl Vicente

    I agree with psbero, 10 Bones, jack, Sime, Tom, Adam D. and Rohan. To me, they all appear aware that every detail is much more important while riding a motorcycle. Anything could make a difference. I also agree that extremely loud noises are objectable, but with the impossibility of regulating all of the bad drivers, I prefer ALSO to be heard, at least a bit. My stock SV650N exhaust isn't very loud (europe), but it serves me well when needed. One of the problems with electrical vehicles is the silent operation, and the concern with invisual pedestrians is a matter of concern already in discussion. But the real problem is the attitude of all that circulate on public crowded spaces: most of them just wish they could avoid the rest of the world while circulating, and end up seeing others as obstacles. The worst case scenario is this feeling leading to deadly indifference, and I believe it is getting worse.

  • KC

    This is one passionate discussion/poll. The bottom line is we, as riders, have to do whatever it takes to minimize the risks. That will be different for each of us and it will change as the situation changes. Loud pipes only give audible clues. What are we doing to be more visible? I'm not seeing a lot in this conversation about that.

    Here's an angle we didn't touch on – ear plugs. The noise involved with riding is a distraction all by itself. Between the sound of the exhaust and intake system, gearbox whine, wind and other ambient noise, I wear earplugs for any extended ride. More so with my open helmet than my modular. I find cutting down all that distraction actually improves my riding. I'm a lot more focused yet I can still hear well enough to be safe.

  • Mick P

    Loud pipes only save lives because it's illegal to have a sniper cull the noisy b*&€stards that blast past your house every night, otherwise they'd be the cause of quite a few sudden deaths. I've ridden plenty of loud bikes and loved doing so, but it was only when I moved to the city that I realised how ANNOYING it is to have 10 seconds of dialogue wiped out at a crucial moment in a film, or be woken up at 2am by some idiot who thinks that blatting his KTM on straight-throughs is great fun. What these people (and I was one of them) don't seem to realise is that while their joyous racket comes and goes pretty quickly in any one spot, they're not the only ones doing it. By the 10th or 20th bike of a summer evening I'm ready to set up a neck-high cheesewire.

  • Frank

    ahem… what was the name of this blog?…..;)

  • JNH

    Only safe policy: "Drive like you are invisible, and if they could see you they would *try* to hit you. "

    Worst policy possible: to put the obligation on the car driver to prevent the accident because he\she might have heard your loud bike.

    Loud pipes are nothing but rude — my chest -thumping cruise down this street is more important than your conversation, your sleep, etc. Rude, rude, rude. Pure noise pollution.

    Even a horn is next to useless because it won't make the car go away. Noise will not help you control your bike, stop in time, or find an escape path.

  • Razex

    What i really don't care.. blast …you bike ….
    A trains pass trough the town houses
    and stores and you are gonna tell me that
    a motorcycle is noisy or loud WHAT WTF

  • JNH

    Good policy: "Drive like you are invisible, and if they could see you they would *try* to hit you."

    Bad policy: put the duty for your safety on a car driver who might have heard or seen you.

    Loud pipes are simply rude. Your chest-thumping recreational cruise is not more important than the conversations or sleep of the people who live on every block in town. Rude, rude, rude. Pure noise pollution.

    Noise is useless — it won't make the car go away, and does not contribute to controlling the bike, stopping in time, or finding an escape route. Don't even bother with the horn unless you already have another, better, plan and the time and space to execute it if the car driver does not respond.

  • Gilgut

    Hmmm, loud pipes…nah.

    Drove an ambulance for years and people didn't hear or they ignored the siren coming from a large white box with lots of flashing lights….do you think a loud pipe will make you less ignored?

    Oh…you need to watch out for the other driver…actually, I worry about me. I don't care if the other driver shows up to work the following morning.

    The single most important safety feature on ANY vehicle is YOU!

  • KC

    Good point about emergency vehicle sirens/klaxons. We hear them but seldom have a clue what direction they're coming from. The same holds true for big rail trains. You hear the air horns long before you seen them. Then there's the boom-box cars. Reflected loud sounds don't give much of a clue about what direction they're coming from.

    It's probably that I notice this but why are the loudest street motorcycles piloted by riders wearing the least amount of protective gear?

  • keef

    I'm sure someone has already pointed it out, but how many times have you been blitzed on the highway by some sportbike with "GP" exhaust that you didn't know was flying by you until it already got ahead? Sound travels and it does so relatively slowly. It travels BACKWARDS, so the reason you don't hear loud harleys and squids when you're in your cage with your radio on is because they're behind you. So when soccer mom wants to merge without looking, the only way those pipes are going to help is if you're already in front of her.

  • Mike in Colorado

    It didn't kill me but I acquired my permanent limp when run down from behind at a "Y" intersection where I was at a stop sign on the upper right leg. I had the bike in gear and watched the car come to a stop behind me. Perhaps 20 seconds later, I was run over by the car because the operator forgot I was there according to the police report. They had been looking at oncoming traffic on the other upper leg of the "Y" that did not have a stop sign. I was on a CBR600 with stock pipes. I doubt the same would happen on the unbaffled Buell Cyclone I am riding now……..just sayin'!

  • Swann

    Last time on my Dragstar, I got hit from the back by a lady who was absolutly not paying attention to the road. She was relying on the sound of the motorbike and thought I was already far ahead when the traffic light turned green.
    Result: the bike went on fire, literally. So, NO, loud pipes do not grant anything but a nice sound and a good feeling, that's all.
    Bonne route!

  • The comparo between the two last posts is amazing. I guy fu'dup by quiet pipes, 1 guy by loud pipes.

  • vanduc996

    I can only speak for how I move through this world, but I find my ears to be even more useful a tool than my eyes in many circumstances.
    Whether walking, riding a bicycle, driving a car, or riding a motorcycle (less than all of the aforementioned due to helmet and earplugs) I find that my ears tell me a lot about what's going on around me and has a far better "range" than the 180 degree ish range of my eyes.
    I don't advocate ear splitting loud pipes, nor should a rider depend exclusively on the sound of their machine for their well being. However, I strongly believe that audible pipes are an important component of a rider's arsenal.

  • KC

    I can relate to Swann's post. I was stopped at a minutes long light at the entrance to a bridge. A car in front of me, a car behind me. I've got about 6 feet around me. I suddenly feel a hard bump – more of a shove. The car behind me rolled forward and contacted my rear tire. The driver was not paying attention. I rolled up a little. Bump again. I decide to have a chat with this idiot. "I did not see you". Really? I jump back on the motorcycle and decide splitting lanes is better than being crushed. The car rolls forward and bumps the car ahead.

    I was riding a tall, big single with a header/Supertrapp. Not loud, but not quiet, even at idle. The motorcycle and my gear was colorful enough to not blend in with the scenery. I had one of those annoying strobing brake light kits on that motorcycle.

    I don't know about elsewhere in the world but getting a license to pilot anything in NY is ridiculously easy. The skill levels required to get one are absurdly low. There's no tier system. This alone puts everyone at risk.

  • Definitely loudish pipes save lives. I used to have two bikes, a Kawasaki Zephyr 750 on a motad exhaust (0dB – literally, it was drowned out by a mouse farting) and a GPZ500s on a yoshimura straight through system (don't ask me, it came from ebay, all I know is that at idle it crackled, on a blip, it snarled and at full chat it sounded like a b52 taking off) :). Riding through even a small town like canterbury in the UK and on the zeph I would have at least one emergency stop a day and a lot of smaller moments. Riding the GPZ through the same traffic I would be able to ride through town without using the brakes at all, people just moved themselves out of the way!

    For me the difference is clear. That said, obnoxiously loud pipes will get you pulled over waaaaay too much.

  • sf rider

    everyone has 2 cents and loves to bitch but heres mine. too many types of motorcyclist to get everyone on board with everything. I say YES they save lives and yes they probably piss off more, but i like to be safe and piss some off. Not every driver will hear you but not every driver will see your new bright lights or your shinny reflectors or any other gay safety gear. Any dumb ass can get behind the wheel and run us over. Ive had plenty of fucking idiots on bikes almost cause accidents with me or riders around me. but i like being loud while splitting lanes. I do what i can to be safe, seen and heard. I rather have everything on my side i can even if only a few hear me its a few more then none. not saying it might not scare someone and cause them to swear and hit me, but for every retard on the road that picks their head up and takes a second look at their mirror/ blind spot and sees me or an other rider because they heard us first is an other day i get to ride. so ill stick with my loud pipes and oil leaking bikes because i dont give a shit what others think. when i kick it over at 3am on my way to work i smile ear to ear. keep them loud

  • irksome

    See: Doppler Effect.

    Straight pipes aren't "loud", they're annoying. There's a difference. Also, they're constant, whereas danger is conditional and occasional. It's like walking around screaming all day just because you got mugged once.

    Straight pipes don't save lives; helmets, leather, awareness and not riding in a driver's blind spot do. I find no difference between straight pipes on Harleys and t-shirted jackholes doing wheelies down the highway. Both are detrimental to actual RIDERS.

  • Rake

    I don't know about loud pipes saving lives. I never hear them until someone is splitting lanes next to my open window. Let's not forget the startle factor. The tendency of some drivers to jerk the wheel when startled. I guess if you have loud pipes you are hoping they jerk the wheel in the right direction…

    So I don't know if loud pipes save lives or not, but a loud horn might. At least it's pointed forward where it will do some good.

  • Bobby Winfield

    It's a damn shame these 'motorcyclists' have such poor self esteem.
    When I was growing up , you would get a fine for having a loud muffler.
    It was the way you were taught to respect other peoples right to a peaceful life.

    I wish they would bring back the helmet law and require tubes from the end ends of those obnoxiously loud pipes, to be run up to either side. That way, these peace disturbing anarchist would hear the noise they like so much, and I wouldn't have to have my day ruined by them.
    It's finally the time of year where one can open the window and enjoy the breeze, but with these law breakers running around, wasting precious gasoline and breaking the noise ordinance, that simple pleasure is ruined.
    What gets me the most, is that in most cites, Law Enforcement will not do anything about it.

    Loud pipe DO NOT save lives… they boost the self-esteem (lame) of the 'rider' and make the general public regard them as 'a-holes'.
    Why should I have to listen to your noise, because you are too scared to ride a motorcycle with quite pipes?
    I thought you were trying to portray a 'tough' image…LMAO

  • Twistedchildturnsmadmonk

    In the Philippines loud pipes do help. I hear them even though I don’t see them so I know a biker is about to lane split and cut in front of me.

  • BSAMatt

    Loud Lives Save Pipes.

  • surfish

    I ride and I drive.

    Loud pipes are obnoxious and are a sign of juvenile thinking.

    Drive and ride defensively and you’d likely to vastly improve your odds of living.

  • derrik sarkar

    Its better to be a bit noisy than complete quite, chances are it can not all the time…same like having protective gear but still bot 100% sure it will save ur life. So y not have loud pipes.