The merits of loud pipes on bikes: there are none

Those arguing the safety merits of loud, after-market pipes on motorcycles are neglecting their own longterm health.

Britt Santowski has been riding since she was 25

Those arguing the safety merits of loud, after-market pipes on motorcycles are neglecting their own longterm health.

The sound of the pipes travels in the wake of the bike is essentially useless on the highway. Other vehicles only hear your engine’s roar when you are beside them. If you insist that noise will save your life, then an air-horn applied only in the moment of need, is probably your best bet.

Bear with me through this teeny biology lesson about sound. There is this thing called “frequency weighting” which measures a sound’s intensity. Frequency weighting is referred to as A-weighted decibels (dB), or dBA. A three-decibel increase is barely audible to the ear, but add five decibel and the intensity increases the sound one-and-a-half times. When you add 10-decibels, you’ve doubled it. In other words, the 10-decibel difference between 70 dBA and 80 dBA is the doubling of that sound. A 20-decibel increase (e.g., from 70 to 90 dBA) quadruples it. It’s logarithmic (exponential), not linear in scale. Actual pain is inflicted at 140 dBA.

There are two bodies that define permissible noise levels. Individual townships, set limits on community noise. The BC Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) defines what happens on the roads. In section 27, the MVA sets the dBA for motorcycles to a maximum of 91. With after-market pipes, you risk exceeding this limit.

But never mind the legalities. If you are so darn focussed on protecting your pretty little ass(ets), you may as well add your health to the list.  At 85 dBA, you risk damage to your hearing after eight-hours of exposure. At 91 dBA, you have two hours. At 103 dBA, you begin permanent damage to your ear drums after only seven-and-a-half minutes.

The main contributor to hearing loss amongst bikers is what’s known as the “wind noise,” generated as the wind whistles through your helmet as you ride. Which is why ear-plugs are sold in motorcycle stores. Add to that the deafening roar of after-market pipes, and you are accelerating your own self-inflicted damage.

For the most part, riding a motorcycle is fun. And for the most part, nothing happens. The reason why bikers are on heightened alert when it comes to safety is because when something does happen, it’s life-altering for the biker. Her life may never be the same.

Seems to me that proactively learning defensive riding skills have a better return on investment, when the principle at stake is your health and welfare. After-market pipes result in self-inflected injury in the long run. And if you can’t afford to take a course, and if you want to persist with arguing the benefits of a loud noise to wake-up those sleeping (or texting) drivers, invest in an air-horn. They can be even louder than pipes, and won’t damage your, the rider, in the long run. Which is, after all, the whole reason why we entered into this conversation to begin with.

On one online motorcycle forum on wind noise, “Jaystronghawk” chimes in, “Too Late for me .. But those who can hear .. save the gift .. once [the] damage is done [you] don’t get it back.”

Truer words were never spoken. Let’s hope you hear them.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lost dog reunited with family three months after going missing along Juan de Fuca trail

‘The poor thing was skin and bones,’ says one of the Sooke rescuers

Victoria family donates 878 falafel wraps to support Beirut blast victims

Wrap and Roll pulls in $20,500 during weekend fundraiser

Reimagined campaign continues to make Vancouver Island wishes come true

#UnWinedOutside allows participants to support Make-A-Wish Foundation, local businesses

Police investigating string of break-ins at closed Saanich care home

Electronics, tools reported stolen from Mount Tolmie Hospital

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Nanaimo woman will buy ‘supersonic’ hair dryer after $500,000 lotto win

Debra Allen won $500,000 in July 28 Lotto Max draw

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

Cougar euthanized after attacking little dog in Qualicum area

Owner freed pet by whacking big cat, but dog didn’t survive the attack

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

COVID-19 could mean curtains for film and TV extras

Background performers worry they’re being replaced by mannequins on film and TV sets

Most Read