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Old 07-17-09, 03:23 PM   #1
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What's the deal with super-loud Harleys on the open road?

On a couple of recent rides -- over the North Cascades Highway, through Mt. Rainier National Park -- I've noticed some *absurdly* loud exhausts on Harley Davidson motorcycles being ridden through some pretty awesome scenery. (Let's be precise here - not other marques; just Harleys).

On a scale of 1 to 10, if a Honda Goldwing is a 3, and a stock Harley is a 5, and a Harley with a standard "loud" aftermarket exhaust is a 10, I'd rate some of these bikes at 15 or 20. I'm talking bone-tingling, ear-splitting, tree-shaking loud.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a motorsports fan, and understand the thrill of loud exhaust at a racetrack (e.g., I've been to the Indy 500 twice, and the noise of the start is big part of the attraction). I rode motorcycles as a kid and -- when I was 16 -- certainly got a macho kick out of ratting around on a friend's two-stroke enduro bike with an all-out racing expansion chamber on it.

But even as a teenager I kept my street bike *street legal.* And then I grew up.

However, the riders I see out on the open road are often our age, or older. So I'm not sure I get the sport of doing long-distance rides through beautiful scenery (like the Cascade Mountains) with awesomely loud aftermarket exhaust systems. I guess I understand the market for highly modified custom street bikes, and an occasional street ride with a super-loud exhaust to impress the kiddies.

But in addition to being rude, probably illegal in any jurisdiction with a noise ordinance, and totally out of character of the scenery encountered, isn't it just plain tiring to ride a motorcycle with that much noise? Does anyone understand what's up with this?

(Normally I would ascribe any such ridiculous behavior to testosterone poisoning, but I see women on these bikes, too).

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Old 07-17-09, 03:42 PM   #2
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I don't understand the noise business either, you'd think these people have gone deaf or will be deaf soon. I had a neighbor two doors down with a chopper with straight pipes, no muffler. It rattled my windows when he started it up. Arizona either doesn't have noise ordinances or doesn't enforce them. We have "Arizona Bike Week" every spring, and any excuse will suffice for large groups to zoom up and down the freeway all night on the freeway 2 blocks from my house. The noise is incredible. Open carry of firearms is legal in Arizona, and some of these riders have high power hardware strapped on to boot. It's the big D**k syndrome.
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Old 07-17-09, 03:47 PM   #3
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There are a lot of things that I do not understand...this kind of noise is one of them. Maybe it is like all else, it takes all kinds to make a world, and their fun is listening (if you can call it that) to their own noise and thinking that others like it too.
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Old 07-17-09, 03:51 PM   #4
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I've written several emails to different NPS offices about the noise pollution from those loud motorcycles. I've been 6 miles in the backcountry of Smoky Mtn NP and the bikes can still be heard. From what I've been told, the issue is being "studied". Hopefully there will be noise restrictions, at least in the National Parks soon. All I know is, if my car was that loud I would get cited. Why should a motorcycle be any different?
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Old 07-17-09, 03:54 PM   #5
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When I was a mere youth I rode a lowly Honda 175 cc. motorcycle. It didn't make much noise at all. I knew a guy who owned the same bike and he removed the baffles from the muffler and it sounded like a Hog.

I agree with the above, I think it's meant to be a testosterone surrogate, but I think it's pretty dumb.
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Old 07-17-09, 04:34 PM   #6
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I'll admit (with shame) that I got caught up in the Harley mania a few years ago and purchased a Fat Boy. Proceeded to lower it, chrome it, bore it, and put loud pipes on it. One ride of more than an hour and I promptly sold it. I was deaf in my right ear for a couple of days. What was I thinking??? I now ride a very quiet BMW Adventure bike. Love it.
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Old 07-17-09, 05:07 PM   #7
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I love the growl of a stock Harley and a nice set of dual pipes rumbling on a V-8 but these aftermarket motorcycle and the loud pipes on these little cars are high on my hate list. The next thing is the chest thumping bass of some of these audio systems in cars that will rattle the spotwelds loose in your car after a while. I generally can't deal with loud noises (ie) slamming doors, television too loud and things of that nature, no I'm really not an old grouch, I work in an extremely noisy factory all day and even with ear plugs and ear muffs my head is buzzing after 8 hours.
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Old 07-17-09, 05:16 PM   #8
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I didn't see this answer offered up in the previous posts, but I was told once by a Harley-riding co-worker (who kept his exhaust legal, but still loud, IMO) that they're noisy so they're noticed and therefore not run over, into, onto or otherwise maimed by other vehicles that otherwise wouldn't see them.

I'd like to see these guys and gals take their bikes through some of these NPs with deep-V canyons in the dead of winter.
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Old 07-17-09, 05:19 PM   #9
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I It's the big D**k syndrome.
It's probably more like compensating for the exact opposite.
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Old 07-17-09, 05:20 PM   #10
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I didn't see this answer offered up in the previous posts, but I was told once by a Harley-riding co-worker (who kept his exhaust legal, but still loud, IMO) that they're noisy so they're noticed and therefore not run over, into, onto or otherwise maimed by other vehicles that otherwise wouldn't see them.

I'd like to see these guys and gals take their bikes through some of these NPs with deep-V canyons in the dead of winter.
I've read about that: "Loud pipes save lives."
Idiots.
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Old 07-17-09, 05:21 PM   #11
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I didn't see this answer offered up in the previous posts, but I was told once by a Harley-riding co-worker (who kept his exhaust legal, but still loud, IMO) that they're noisy so they're noticed and therefore not run over, into, onto or otherwise maimed by other vehicles that otherwise wouldn't see
Yeah, I've heard that, too. There are t-shirts and bumperstickers that say, "Loud pipes save lives."

If you follow that logic, then bicyclists should all mount noise-makers to our bicycles so we're not run over.

Funny thing is that if you were really interested in safety I would think you would be wearing Kevlar racing-type riding gear, have your headlights and tail-lights on, and take other safety measures as well. Instead I see "loud pipes" riders in regular street clothing.
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Old 07-17-09, 05:24 PM   #12
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Forget Harleys. Porsches are the ugliest sounding vehicles on the road.
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Old 07-17-09, 05:31 PM   #13
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Funny thing is that if you were really interested in safety I would think you would be wearing Kevlar racing-type riding gear, have your headlights and tail-lights on, and take other safety measures as well. Instead I see "loud pipes" riders in regular street clothing.
Ah, but, see, there's the rub; if you're on a bad-***** hog killing everyone's hearing, you'd look like a dork if you wore protective gear. Seriously, I don't get it either, but it's gotta be a wannabe outlaw/free-spirit thing... Anyone with half a brain is going to be geared for safety to improve odds, not the other way around.

Hmm, where's my copy of Easy Rider?.....
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Old 07-17-09, 05:42 PM   #14
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And another thing...is it me, or is it my imagination, but, when I'm climbing some hill one of these clowns will invariably come along and not only pass me with ~2 feet to spare, but will also give a rather obnoxious twist of the throttle *while right next to you*?
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Old 07-17-09, 05:49 PM   #15
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I've read about that: "Loud pipes save lives."
Idiots.
I think it's more a matter of juvenile personalities saying "look at me, PLEASE look at me!"
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Old 07-17-09, 05:59 PM   #16
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I'm an avid motorcyclists; ride an older Moto Guzzi. This thing with loud pipes is simply lemming-like peer pressure. Those same morons that stress loud pipes saving lives won't wear a helmet or leather jacket. They will wear a leather vest, but no shirt. They wear buttless chaps (like that part of the anatomy won't crayola on the pavement!) and fingerless gloves. I've had a bad MC accident (stupid deer) and the helmet and leather jacket saved my hide and life.
I saw a great shirt at a Moto Guzzi rally that said: Loud Pipes Make Noise
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Old 07-17-09, 06:31 PM   #17
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I think it's more a matter of juvenile personalities saying "look at me, PLEASE look at me!"
I think that this is the main factor. Immaturity and the silly "desire to look the rebel". I have had more road "issues" with motorcyclists than other vehicles. There appears to be a distinct correlation between age/bike and behavior. The youngsters on their Japanese crotch rockets, fully decked in colorful leathers, seem to be the least bothersome.

I have come to subscribe to the adage:
"What's the difference between a Hoover and a Harley?"....


The location of the dirtbag.

Of course, YMMV!!!

Geary
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Old 07-17-09, 07:37 PM   #18
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They can't go fast, so they make noise! Idiots.

I am an avid motorcyclist, and I can't imagine listening to that racket on 1,000 - 1500 mile days.

But, then again, they are on TT bikes ......(tavern to tavern).......
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Old 07-17-09, 07:49 PM   #19
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As near as I can tell, it's part of "Harley Culture". It goes along with having lots of stickers with humorous sayings on your helmet (where they are a legal requirement, such as MA), leather vests worn over no shirt, etc. Some of the more interesting stickers I have seen on helmets read "DILLIGAF" and "Rehab is for quitters".

It is interesting that so many other motorbikes make little noise at all, and their riders seem to like them that way.

t4mv, it's not your imagination. I've got that a few times, but around the Boston area, it is also a trick of the kawasaki ninja, or "rice rocket" crowd. That group always twists the throttle, to produce a RING-RING-RING!!! sound. Perhaps it's some sort of secret language.

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Old 07-17-09, 08:00 PM   #20
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Riding by a local golf course last summer, looking at all the folks riding around in golf carts, got passed by a couple of large fellows on HDs. Stuck my finger through a helmet vent and scratched my head and thought "Wow! Look at the strenuous exercise those golfers are engaging in..........compared to those bad boys on their motorbikes."

(Been a little annoyed since I was told by a biker to "Get the ****** off the road" a few weeks ago.)
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Old 07-17-09, 08:28 PM   #21
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I am an avid motorcyclist, and I can't imagine listening to that racket on 1,000 - 1500 mile days.
1500 miles in one day. You are quite a motorcyclist!

I'm certain I couldn't safely do that in cage.
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Old 07-17-09, 09:12 PM   #22
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It's the big D**k syndrome.
I wonder if they realize that it sounds like a bad case of flatulence.
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Old 07-18-09, 04:35 AM   #23
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Benge,
I agree that noise pollution is a true irritant. Guess that even faced with the irritation I can't get as worked up as other posters here. This is a big country, with a lot of different folks just trying to get through the day with the activity of their choice. That doesn't make them idiots.
Now, my hearing is not what it used to be by any measure. Therefore, my motorcycle has stock pipes on it and it is quiet. But for all of the posters here who have a hard on for harleys, my guess is that 9 out of 10 of you couldn't tell the difference between a Harley and my Kawasaki if they were parked side by side. For those of you ranting about motorcyclists and their choice of riding apparel, whoa! Did you ever stop and take a second look at us when we are riding our bicycles? How puffed up do you think we look in our colorful finery? When was the last time you saw anyone riding a bicycle in full leathers to preclude a case of road rash?
Carry on.
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Old 07-18-09, 04:47 AM   #24
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I spent two days last weekend riding on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. By far the most annoying aspect of the whole ride, including getting caught in thunderstorms both days, was those long trains of loud obnoxious motorcycles. Plus this one group made a habit of passing me, pulling off into an overlook for god knows how long, and then passing me again. I saw and HEARD that same group at least 4 or 5 separate times. Horrible.

You fat old guys on Harleys are NOT Marlon Brando. Seriously, you're not.
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Old 07-18-09, 04:59 AM   #25
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Say what you want, but I call it normal human nature. Everybody wants to out-do everybody else, or at least keep up. Loud pipes on Harleys have always been the norm, and almost anyone who rides one will want to sound like a "real Harley". One Beatnick is right, it's usually just peer pressure.

Now, I agree, human nature sucks. But let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Before you get too far gone with the whole "what is wrong with those people" syndrome, consider the fact that many of you would probably do the same thing. I'm consistantly amazed at some of the testosterone charged attitudes and arrogance I encounter at bicycle events. Cyclists don't generally care what most of the rest of the world thinks. People are people, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones at others.

By the way, yes I have a Harley, but it's not one of the godawful loud ones the OP is referring to. Those bikes irritate me just as much as anyone, and probably more so because I am a long time Harley rider. Posers are everywhere.
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