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Video lampoons loud pipe machismo

noise noisy exh plate machismo crackdown

Do loud pipes really save lives or is it more about machismo and attention-seeking behaviour?

This hilarious video lampoons the latter theory.

Loud pipes theory

I won’t be popular for this, but “Loud Pipes Saves Lives” is a theory, not a proven fact.

I’m sure many readers will provide examples of how they reckon a loud motorcycle exhaust saved their lives.

But let’s look at this scientifically.

Supporters of this contention say that loud pipes alert motorists that there is a bike somewhere about.

In a situation of impending collision, the bike is approaching the vehicle it is about to collide with, right? It’s not going in the opposite direction, is it?

They may be approaching from the side, from in front or from behind, but they are not riding away from the vehicle with which they are about to collide.

So the noise of the bike really needs to precede the bike to alert the impending collider, right?

But exhaust pipes don’t face forward. They face backward with the bulk of the noise trailing behind, not going out in front of them.

High frequency sounds are easy to discern direction. However, low frequencies such as exhaust noise can be omnidirectional.

That makes it difficult for a driver in an air-conditioned cabin with the radio on to discern where the noise is coming from.Loud pipes save lives keyring - motorcycles EPA cars exhaust machismo

Guilty driver

I have been guilty of driving a car and having no idea that a motorcycle is rapidly riding into my blind spot. Not until they are alongside or already past do I actually hear their exhaust pipe.

Just how loud would exhaust pipes have to be for people in front to hear them clearly and be a truly effective safety alert?

Rather than adding to the already cacophonous state of our urban traffic, wouldn’t it actually be better and safer for riders to alert traffic with a short blast on the horn?

If you are riding along a street and see a car sitting at an intersection and you are not sure they have seen or heard you, wouldn’t it be more effective to give a couple of quick taps on the horn to gain their attention?

A horn blast surely has more of an alert tone than the gradually increasing rumble of an exhaust pipe facing the wrong way. (Be aware that in some jurisdictions, blowing the horn may be illegal, except for emergency warnings.)

There are other things you can do to get yourself noticed such as changing speed and moving around in your lane. (Dare I say, bright riding gear may help, but certainly not your machismo.)

All these proactive safety measures are much better than the ingrained and misguided trust in the safety values of a loud pipe.

In fact, reliance on a loud pipe could be hindering your active safety avoidance measures and placing you and your machismo in greater danger.

Machismo note

Road names motorcycles Triumph Street Scrambler machismo
MBW’s Triumph Street Scrambler has an aftermarket pipe that is not illegal

Don’t get me wrong, I love the sound of a baritone exhaust note. Not that gets my machismo going! That rumbling sound is music to my ears and motivation to my soul.

My Triumph Street Scrambler has a legal aftermarket exhaust pipe that is not annoying, but has a lovely, musical note.

However, I detest those barking, angry pipes that give me a headache and only serve to upset most of the population.

In fact, noise (barking dogs, traffic, trains etc) is the most complained about issue in suburban life. Do we really need to attract more anger against bikes and bikers?

While loud pipes may not necessarily save any lives, they most assuredly are bad PR for a minority group that gets enough bad press as it is.

Let’s be honest, the people who advocate loud pipes love the sound of the pipes and/or love people hearing them and being intimidated.

Just go back and watch the video again.

While I’ve never witnessed a loud pipe saving my life or anyone else’s I have witnessed loud pipes causing dogs to start barking and horses to run into barbed wire fences.

Favourite noise

MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR Pirelli now sole supplier to MV Agusta machismo
MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR “organ pipes”

My favourite bike noise is actually the roar of the bike inhaling, rather than exhaling. The MV Agusta Brutale has beautiful “organ pipes”, but it’s the induction roar that is absolutely glorious.

And best of all, it sounds like a Singer sewing machine when it goes past pedestrians, motorists, dogs and horses. That’s because the induction sound is cleverly pointed at the rider and not the passerby.

Motorcycle and car manufacturers have been spending millions of dollars on research into how to best channel these “good” sounds toward the rider/driver rather than at the passing scenery.

This has mainly been forced on them by increasingly stringent noise limitation laws, but the byproduct is that we get more entertaining motorcycles to ride and we cheese off fewer motorists, pedestrians, dogs and horses.

What do you think about loud pipes? Leave your comments in the box below.


  1. Don’t get me started on loud pipes, I’ve been hating them since I started riding in 1971. Most over-loud bikes are just anti-social crap. But back to the topic at hand: safety. Nah, don’t buy the theory that loud bikes are safer. An ordinary bike with standard pipes makes plenty enough noise to be noticed.

    But what is making me worry is the extreme silence of electric cars. They definitely pose a safety risk in ordinary everyday situations such as car parks or anywhere pedestrians are about.

    1. Modern internal combustion cars are virtually silent anyway so won’t be much different. All that noise you hear as a car goes past is tyre noise. That won’t change.

  2. Have to agree I doubt loud pipes save lives and the induction noise floats my boat the sound of the engine on my z1100 winding up stirs my soul and loins same wind my Harley has standard pipes so not overly loud bit sounds great my neighbours must agree or they not have the balls to complain lmao

  3. Stupid video & biased article.

    The writer also contradicts his own argument:
    exhaust pipes don’t face forward. They face backward with the bulk of the noise trailing behind…
    low frequencies such as exhaust noise can be omnidirectional.

    I’m happy with a driver knowing I’m “somewhere” around them, without needing to pinpoint exactly where. Riding around honking the horn whenever I’m near a car would annoy everyone, and probably cause accidents as an older or easily startled driver may brake or swerve in reaction to a horn near them.

    Of course, there are some riders (I’m looking at you, H-D owners) who enjoy showing off with the loudest bike & annoying everyone as they ride past, but I believe that’s definitely the minority.

    Absolutely biased & misguided article.

  4. Try not contradicting yourself and you might make a stronger argument. Like you said, exhaust is omnidirectional just like a horn except the horn is far more annoying and illegal if used inappropriately.

    Do you actually go around beeping people because you feel unsafe? Sounds like you could use a good shot of machismo.

    Why would you think loud pipes would cause exclusion of any other safety measure? Ridiculous article, just like your opinion on what a good sound is.

  5. I disagree that high-frequency sounds are easy to locate. That’s what the alarm calls of little birds are all about – they’re high-frequency to make it tough for predators to find them.

  6. The last bike I owned was a Harley wideglide. I bought it new. It had the Californian stock exhaust and there was zero noise. The engine made more noise. The primary drive made more noise. I worked out that of every hour that I rode, I experienced a minimum of three near misses with other road users. Car drivers mainly. It took about a month for me to remove the baffle and replace it with some shorty pipes.
    From that day forth, maybe 30 odd thousand kilometres of riding, I could actually see people looking over their shoulder, actually shoulder checking. Amazing! Only one person in a 76 series cruiser almost ended me. Two and a bit years and only one person.
    Do loud pipes save lives?
    I believe they do. The exhaust noise may sound a bit obnoxious or anti-social. But it does also demand other road users to pay attention to what’s happening back in their blind spot.
    Saved my life at least five or six hundred times.

      1. He was able to count them before, now his brain is to rattled by the noise to notice all but the worst offenders.

  7. Wow, yet another article with zero credibility about loud pipes. Filled with theory, presumptions and personal opinion using examples of doppler effect to justify his point. Here’s a fact for everyone, if loud exhausts are getting this much attention then they are doing their job. I want to get attention. I want to get noticed. So thanks for noticing. Ps, I’ve lost count of how many times my exhaust has gotten someone’s attention and potentially saved my life.

  8. Loud pipes are an excuse to terrorise the public, masquerading as a quick-fix for bad roadcraft.

    I don’t think any benefit conferred could ever outweigh the negative effects that they have on the publics perception of us as road users. For example, I’ve been the victim of a road rage attack because the perpetrator thought I was part of a biker gang. Needless to say, the fact that I had a aftermarket exhaust probably contributed to that.

    Furthermore, it obfuscates far more important strategies we can implement to keep ourselves safe. We should be investing in the greatest asset we have, our brain, and learning to ride defensively, as there’s really no better strategy to keep ourselves safe on the road.

    But you won’t see anyone with a loud pipe, showing up to rider training courses on the weekend. At the end of the day, they really have no interest in pursuing true rider safety, they just want a band-aid solution that also justifies they’re incessant need for attention and self-gratification.

    Sure, a loud pipe might make motorists look twice before changing lanes into you, but by not putting yourself in vulnerable situations to begin with, you’re staying far safer on the road.

    1. 10 seconds in “Trav” and your annoying and ignorant to the real world. How does loud pipes “obfuscate” any safety measure?

      You don’t see loud pipes at a training course because most people learn to ride before making ANY mods to their bike including pipes.

      Lastly, let me get this straight, some guy “road raged” cause he thought you were a bikie? Were you with a group or alone? Either way you assumed it was due to your pipes at the time… Right.

      Have you ever even been on a group ride? I highly doubt it.

  9. OK to all the comments thus far – all viewpoints valid, did anyone besides me just laugh out loud all through it & then re watch it? Tick! MY gs 500 made more noise than my now W 800 – any bike would!, but I ride aware/defensively & so far so good (taps head) touch wood (makes same sound) & really the makers of this video just made it for a good laugh out loud – job done boys.

  10. Fatigue kills!
    Anything that increases fatigue is likely to get you killed.
    Loud irritating noises that don’t go away increase fatigue.
    Loud pipes kill.
    And if you don’t stop reving that piece of crap outside my window at five in the morning I’m gunna murder you!

  11. You are entitled to your opinion, as we all are. Only issue I have is the link to “machismo”. My wife’s bike has a louder pipe than any of my bikes ever have. She selected and bought the pipe cause she likes it. What does any of this have to do with “machismo”. Don’t stereotype and your opinions might make more sense.

  12. My pipes aren’t stupidly loud but they are easily heard. Maybe they won’t stop an ‘impending collision’ but they sure do wake up the drivers that are asleep at the wheel when I’m say, lane splitting- particularly in traffic jams or slowly going through a car park and they start to back out without looking.

    Good enough reason for me to have slightly loud pipes because they certainly work in those situations.
    Its confidence inspiring and quite satisfying watching people jerk their heads around as they awake from their driving slumber.

  13. ‘Loud pipes save lives’ and exactly how has this been proven? Has someone surveyed police depts in say Aust and got statistics on motor cycle deaths? No
    Loud pipes are a wank to put it nicely, totally anti-social. Being banned as we speak in lot European countries, hopefully such ban will carry on to Aust. soon.

  14. Loud pipes make people pissed off with motorcyclists. It’s a fecking own goal making us sound like hoons as well as disturbing the old folk.
    And yes my Dr has a noisy pipe but I put up with it for the power and I try hard to be gentle on my neighbours.
    So yeah I like a BRAAAAP and miss my 350LC for exactly that. But I’m 57 and noisy pipes are a PR disaster. Except for bikies. They need loud pipes. For their own special PR.

  15. This day and age you with electronic zombie who are so wrap up in their phone and social media. That loud pipe is not going to save you. What will keep you out the morgue , hospitals or accident is your riding skills and being aware and prepared to maneuver out of harm. Your pipes don’t avoid threats that is the riders responsibility to navigate and predict how and when to maneuver his machine.

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