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Noisy motorcycle exhausts could cost us

Akropovic Open-Line exhaust system on a Harley-Davidson Road King

A dangerous precedent has been set in Canada where a resident is suing his local council, police and a motorcycle group over excessive motorcycle exhaust noise.

Kawasaki Ninja 300 with Arrow motorcycle exhaust
Kawasaki Ninja 300 with Arrow exhaust

A 70-year-old Canadian has filed an $850,000 lawsuit in Edmonton’s Court of Queen’s Bench naming the city of Fort Saskatchewan, the local Mounties’ detachment and the Fort Saskatchewan Motorcycle Association, among others, as defendants. Richard Jones says the peace and quiet of his Zen Buddhist backyard sanctum has been destroyed by weekend warriors on motorcycles with load exhaust pipes. “The cretins are totally destroying what this town used to be,” he says.

The issue of loud motorcycle exhaust pipes has been bubbling away in several Canadian municipalities in recent months and has governments cracking down on loud motorcycles and cars.

If he wins, it could set a dangerous precedent, not just in Canada, but many other countries. It could cause lawmakers to create tougher noise restrictions, encourage police to crackdown on current restrictions and send motorcycle groups to the wall.

In fact, rather than the community softening to loud motorcycle exhausts, the advent of quiet electric motorcycles may actually make more people ask why bikes need to be so loud and could lead to even tougher noise restrictions in future.

While many motorcycle riders will loudly shout that “Loud pipes save lives”, the claim could fall on deaf ears as there are no studies that definitively support that theory. In fact, some studies suggest loud pipes make riders more aggressive, cause other motorists to react irrationally and do not make riders any more conspicuous.

The authoritative Hurt Report actually found that bikes with modified exhausts were overrepresented in crashes and that large, quiet touring bikes such as Gold Wings were underrepresented. About the only supportive arguments for loud pipes are anecdotal.


Noise limits vary in each country, but all factory supplied motorcycle exhausts for road use are legal. If you change the muffler, you will need to consult with your local noise regulations to ensure that the pipe is legal.

Akropovic Open-Line motorcycle exhaust system on a Harley-Davidson Road King
Akropovic Open-Line exhaust system on a Harley-Davidson Road King

However, that is not the end of it, as the packing inside a muffler can deteriorate over time causing the pipe to get louder. Just having a sticker or stamp on the exhaust to say it complies will not save you from a fine if a police officer or transport department inspector has a noise meter.

Actually what usually happens is they will issue a show-cause notice as the roadside test may not be sufficient to issue a ticket. Instead, you will be summoned to take your bike to a transport department facility for a proper noise test. If you fail, you will not only pay a fine, but have to present the bike again with a compliant muffler fitted before the bike is deemed legal.

Is it worth it for all our sakes?

I’ve only changed the muffler on a couple of bikes I’ve owned. While I love the sound of a deep note from an exhaust, I hate raspy exhausts and I find loud, droning pipes give me a headache on a long trip.

However, on many occasions I’ve been given a demo bike to ride by the motorcycle companies who have fitted aftermarket motorcycle exhausts in an attempt to please journalists. Some of them are illegal and even have warnings imprinted on them such as “Off-road use only”. I once rejected a test bike because of this, but it was excessively loud and my licence was short on points.

But if I ever have a bike to test which has an illegal pipe and I choose to take my chances with the law, I modify my riding behaviour. For a start, I don’t blip the throttle or encourage the bike to make loud noises when passing through urban areas (except maybe tunnels!). Out in the country, I’m also careful not to fire it up when passing livestock as it can frighten them.

If we all modify our behaviour just a little, we might still get away with it a little longer … before the noise/fun police and the electric motorcycle industry destroy all our fun. 

  1. Ha! I have to laugh that you are afraid of what might happen because of electric motorcycles. You’re absolutely correct. The new electrics are gaining ground fast because of the extreme power, quickness and very low operating costs. I ride a 2013 Zero S with a modified controller that gives me a 0-60 of three seconds flat. I have yet to be beat off the line by anything.

    Yes, my bike is quiet and I love that! I’m demonstrating every day that you can have a great powerful bike without the noise. I do have bike riders bring out the old tired meme of “loud pipes save lives”. All I can say to them is that if you’re scared of riding in traffic, maybe you should ride the bus. People HATE you for the noise you bring to their neighborhoods. They hate all motorcycle riders because of those of you who bully everyone with your loud bikes. The anti-noise people are gaining strength and we will win in the end. You guys are nothing but bullies, and maybe some of the police are on your side for now, we’re going to put lots of pressure on state governments and local jurisdictions to force them to ticket the hell out of the worst scofflaws and get you off the road.

  2. Hinchcliffe you’re a twit and a terrible journalist; three paragraphs of spouting opinions on riding behaviour does not constitute news.

    1. Gunslinger- That’s a very scary handle. But obviously the fact that the tide is turning against the noise mongers is news. At least to you. These facts that Mr. Hinchcliffe brings to the table are just that, facts. As long as a small percentage of motorcyclists continue to act as though no one, anywhere, at any time has a right to be free from illegal and invasive noise the tide will continue to turn. And turn not in your favor. You have had plenty of time to check yourselves and your noise pollution. The general public is sick and tired of hearing your noise.

  3. I can only hope that the U.S. soon follows suit. Obviously our northern neighbors have the huevos to confront these silly noise clowns. The motorcycling community in general and the Chopper Culture in particular has had ample time and opportunity to change their noisy, self-centered, anti-social ways. I’ve heard every excuse and nonsensical justification from the noise clowns about why we as a nation must tolerate their noise. Never mind that any reasonable peace and quiet has disappeared simply because a one small demographic composed of pathetic middle-aged men needs loud motorcycles to demonstrate that they really aren’t pathetic middle-aged men. Somehow their illegally equipped motorcycles make them the “last free men” or “super patriots” or WHATEVER. They are nothing more than a small, loud special-interest group. I encourage all you noise clowns to ride as hard and as loud as you can. Every time you shatter the peace and wake a family, or shatter the tranquility of a wilderness area, you make another enemy. You are the best PR the right-to-quiet movement could ever want.

  4. Your last couple of paragraphs sum it up. Modified behavior. Whilst the sound of the bike may attract both wanted and unwanted attention, it is also rider behavior and attitude that dictates the end result.

    Like you, I appreciate the low rumble sound of a vee twin, but not the ear shattering noise that some bikes have.

    1. Yep, pick your moment to be a hooligan when it doesn’t offend anyone!
      I mentioned the livestock because I have seen a beautiful horse gouge itself into a barbed wire fence because it was startled by an idiot revving his loud exhaust.

  5. I do pray and sincerely hope that this lawsuit is victorious over a noise plague, loud motorcycles, that is growing exponentially and is completely unregulated by our apathetic and PC law enforcement. I too am desperately seeking a civil attorney with the courage and tenacity to stand with me and fight for our right to enjoy an environment free from excessive and unnecessary noise, illegally loud motorcycles being one of the biggest culprits. My experience with those who knowingly and willingly assault the general public with illegal motorcycle noise is extensive and can be viewed at

  6. I cant believe my story has reached the wonderful Land of Oz. Anyone wishing to contact me with moral support, I welcome it. This fight will either be sadly short, or it will turn into an epic war.

    1. I will be in touch Rick as soon as I get some time to breath, this litigation thingy has taken over my life.

  7. This bloke lives in Canada, where I’d guess the riding season to be what? 5 months maybe and he lives in a suburb apparently with no lawnmowers, barking dogs, domestics, screaming children etc etc.
    I think this might come under what they call vexatious litigant, I mean suing the police? Really?
    There are already laws about excessive noise but the police probably feel they have more important things to do like fighting crime than worrying about what really are minor annoyances.
    I’m glad I don’t live in the same street as this bloke, bet he calls the cops every time someone has a barbecue.
    If I start getting like this at age 70 just shoot me!

  8. Interesting article – thanks for publishing it.

    I think that some pipes are very loud and the riders should be brought into line. But – and it’s a big but – in the ACT this is not really an issue in my opinion.

    I personally ride with a race pipe on the GSXR and I’m cautious when and where I have it on full noise. My next bike, which will be a HD, will also have a louder than stock pipe. Any bike I have will have a louder pipe as I do believe that it makes drivers around me more aware of my presence.

    And I’d rather cop a fine than be under the wheels of a clueless car driver or noise whiners.

  9. FWIW one place where loud pipes can save lives is out in the country.
    Roos, cows, horses, etc all run away when they hear the pipes.

    When I rode a BMW I had a few near misses, since I got the Harley, no problem.

    It’s just like having a bullbar on a car – out in the country there’s a good case for it, maybe in the inner city not so much?

  10. 1 MILLION bikers on the street looking for retaliation after noise law code take effect LOL

  11. It’s about time, thank goodness for the anti noise group. I ride and have done so for over 30 years, Harleys to Ducati’s, not just a weekend warrior. I log 20 thousand miles per year and I work full time, in Canada with a very short riding season. My current machine has after market exhaust, but there is a time and a place. Open highway no one around…perfect. City or near populated areas on the highway. way.
    Message to all you wanna be bikers, your idiots with obnoxious machines who look like they are dressed for a Halloween party…People are laughing at you, you look ridiculous, and yes people who ride are laughing even harder.
    You are not 1%ers, you are posers, you are not motorcycle enthusiasts either because you are more concerned with what you look like and what you ride and how much noise you make than the actual ride itself.
    Southpark episode titled “The F Word” says it all. Go ahead check out the episode..its what you are.

    Frank from Calgary Canada

    1. To Frank from Calgary …….. Couldn’t have said it better myself, ….. inadequate morons trying to impress someone.
      I’ve had a gut full of them too.

  12. Trucks?
    Police and Emergency sirens?
    Church Bells?
    Amusement Parks?
    Rock Concerts?
    Kids Playgrounds?
    General Highway Noise?

    Whilst you probably made a sh*t load of noise in your youth, do you now in your little remaining grumpy ass life, … want to make noise about everyone else having their youth.

    Go Save the seals ya old fart!

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