The pipes, the pipes are galling

Peter Jackson
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As a Telegram columnist, I try to be fair, accurate, persuasive and, occasionally, whimsical, but anything that appears on this page with my photo is simply my opinion. Nothing more.

So, when someone like Tom Hawco of St. John’s says I have a “pious perch” or “sanctimonious pulpit from which to hurl opprobrium” at the readership, I tend to sit up and take notice.

Mr. Hawco used those words in a letter to the editor, published in this past Saturday’s more widely distributed Weekend edition of the paper.

It’s not the first time someone has accused me of being preachy. If presenting an argument as clearly and forcefully as I can is preachy, I’m guilty as charged. But I take no moral or spiritual high ground. If Mr. Hawco believes that pleading for decency and mutual respect is somehow high-handed, I can only hope he is in a small minority.

Here are some of Hawco’s rebuttals to my complaint that loud, aftermarket motorcycle pipes are an outrageous scourge in this city and beyond.

First, his response to my observation that no proof exists to demonstrate loud pipes save lives: “Using this logic, could it not be equally argued that such pipes do provide a safety benefit because it has not been proven that they do not?” This is a classic example of “ad ignorantiam,” a fallacy which posits that a specific belief is true because we don’t know that it isn’t true. There is no proof zombies exist, so it is equally likely they do exist? Please.

Here’s Hawco again: “Jackson and others would have us believe on the one hand that the pipes create noise that everyone can hear and yet maintain this has little or no effect on other drivers’ behaviour in relation to the bikes (other than to annoy them).”

At no point did I even suggest drivers don’t notice loud bikes. The question is, does their behaviour result in a safer ride for the biker? For that, see the previous argument.

Hawco says my logic is “fuzzy,” yet goes on to say the “main reason … bikers change out their pipes is to release the motor from the various constraints imposed at the factory.” Huh? What happened to the safety reason?

OK, let’s examine this excuse. The fact is that aside from competitive racing advantage, “unleashing” the engine from constraints is insignificant and entirely unnecessary. Car owners don’t do it, mainly because cars are required to have proper muffler systems. Imagine that.

I’ve heard from other bikers who abhor the aftermarket pipe phenomenon. In fact, bikers who shun the pipes are worried that loud bikes are turning the public against motorcyclists completely.

I think they’re right.

I looked at the situation across Canada in the July 4 column, but there are some interesting things going on south of the border, as well.

The American Motorcycle Association, which bills itself as “the world’s largest member-based motorcycling advocacy organization,” has taken a strong stance against noisy pipes. Here’s part of its policy statement:

“The AMA believes that few other factors contribute more to

misunderstanding and prejudice against the motorcycling community than excessively loud motorcycles. All motorcycles are manufactured to meet federally mandated sound control standards. Unfortunately, a small number of riders who install unmuffled aftermarket exhaust systems perpetuate a public myth that all motorcycles are loud.”

The AMA does add that efforts to regulate excessive sound sometimes miss the mark. But they make no pretense that loud pipes are in any way defensible.

Note that in the U.S., aftermarket pipes are actually a federal matter. They are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

And here’s a juicy tidbit: in 2010, the Terminator himself — the one astride a Harley Fat Boy, shotgun in hand, in “Terminator 2” — enacted legislation in California to curb aftermarket pipe noise.

According to Motorcycle USA, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill authorizing state police to ticket motorcyclists who install non-EPA-approved aftermarket exhaust systems.

The writing is on the wall for loud pipes. Non-bikers and bikers alike have cried out against this madness. Jurisdictions everywhere are determined to fight it, reacting to a tide of opposition from peace-loving citizens.

As one preachy columnist in St. John’s, I am only a drop in the ocean.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor.


Twitter: pjackson_NL

Organizations: American Motorcycle Association, Environmental Protection Agency.And

Geographic location: California, Canada, U.S.

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Recent comments

  • McLovin
    July 19, 2012 - 20:35

    Ah, that explains it, to understand your logic, one only has to realize that any other opinion but yours is a "diminished thought process" and therefore wrong. As I've stated 100 times before, I get what you folks are saying. It's just time to grow up and move on. You tried. It didn't work out. A for effort. Would a gold star make you feel better?

    • More like mcclueless
      July 20, 2012 - 08:07

      Protest as much as need but you've proven with every post that you don't get. Now your confusions has extended to believe that government is opposed to preparing legislation to deal with this problem ("You tried. It didn't work."). Neither level has said it was opposed to it. In fact, what is happening is both levels of government are debating over who has the authority to enact the legislation. This is just another example of how you're not getting it. Your reasoning skills are limited.

  • McLovin
    July 19, 2012 - 07:22

    Oh, here we go again, this letter and another story among the top headlines today. Three or four people who work at the Telegram also live downtown and now they have to shove their views down our throats taking advantage of their employer! I wonder why the other media outlets aren't reporting on this foolishness? This is going to be just like that crowd out in the Goulds who were trying to get Water and Sewer, isn't it?

    • More like mcclueless
      July 19, 2012 - 07:54

      Still can't grasp it can you.

    • McLovin
      July 19, 2012 - 08:32

      Can grasp it quite fine thanks!! DT does not want motorcycles or their riders in the area. DT asks City and Province to do something about it. Neither City nor Province agrees with DT. DT Kicks, whines, screams, complains, write letters, etc. DT still doesn't get way, kicks, whines, screams, complains, write letters again. Still don't get way. DT Continues to embarrass itself over such an irrelevant issue. Repeat! Sound about right for just about every issue that pops up DT?

    • More like mcclueless
      July 19, 2012 - 09:30

      It would have been quicker to just admit you don't get it rather than ramble on with the proof that you don't get it.

    • McLovin
      July 19, 2012 - 11:40

      Would be a lot simpler if you bought a bottle of rum, a good set of headphones and some nice relaxing music.

    • More like mcclueless
      July 19, 2012 - 12:03

      Ah, that explains it. To understand your logic one must first undergo a diminished thought process.

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    July 18, 2012 - 13:33

    The irony in all of this is that the vast majority of riders who use straight pipes on their motorcycles actually have to ride with ear plugs so they can tolerate the sound of their own machines. How is that for your safety factor - loud pipes and drivers who can't hear!

  • Billy Maguire
    July 18, 2012 - 12:20

    GREAT follow-up, Peter. Take THAT, Hawco!

  • Rob Taylor
    July 18, 2012 - 10:16

    I have been riding motorcycles for 30 + years. I am not interested in putting loud pipes on my bikes but believe that the engineers who originally designed the bike know better than some of the aftermarket suppliers. I do not have a problem with bikers who install loud pipes. However, I do have a problem with bikers who go out of their way to try and get noticed in urban settings by overrevving engines just to make noise. The safety argument is mostly B/S.

  • John Smith
    July 18, 2012 - 07:21

    The one and only reason they remove the baffles from the exhaust is to draw attention to's a grade six mentallity of ...look at me everyone!...Look at me!!! I have a loud Harley! What they don't, or can't understand is that people are actually laughing at them...the louder they make their bikes, the more stupid they appear.

    • Christopher Chafe
      July 19, 2012 - 19:02

      John Smith, that could also describe those who partake in sipping on their lattee's at a DT coffee bistro. After all they only do that as well to look "hip" or "artsy".