By Karin Gelschus
Industry insiders familiar with the sport bike aftermarket are calling a recent, high-profile exhaust regulation excessive and unlikely to stand up to legal pressure.
Denver caught the attention of the industry this summer when it required all motorcycles to have an exhaust system made by the OEM. If a custom exhaust system is detected, a motorcyclist faces a fine up to $500.
Tim Calhoun, U.S. manager of LeoVince Exhaust and Engineering, believes the noise law won’t hold up in court once it’s challenged.
“Having a blanket clause law like the one in Denver is A) very undefendable for a city and kind of a waste of time and B) doesn’t resolve the core issue, which is people being compliant or manufacturers being compliant,” he said.
Calhoun’s not alone.
Camron Bussard of Cobra Engineering thinks all it’s going to take is some big lawsuit to get Denver to wake up and see it’s an unenforceable law.
“The Denver legislation is really crazy because so many of those motorcycles’ exhaust systems wear out, and they get replaced with aftermarket exhaust, not OEMs,” he said, “So if you have a bike that’s newer than 25 years old, even finding an OEM exhaust is next to impossible.”
But the noise issue isn’t limited to Denver.
Around the same time Denver’s regulation was enacted, New York City adopted a noise law of its own. Police can fine — at a minimum $440 — any motorcyclist having an exhaust or muffler system that can be heard from 200 feet away. In Lancaster, Penn., tickets are starting at $150 for any motorcyclist “drawing attention to themselves,” according to an Associated Press article.
Whether such city regulations stand up in court or not, Brett Smith, president of S&S Cycle, does believe the laws are having an effect on industry sales.
Smith, a member of the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Aftermarket Committee, said S&S is committed to making quieter products because its customers are going to need such products to keep them out of trouble.
“It’s our responsibility to make them,” he said, “and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Standardized sound testing
Whether Denver’s regulation and other similar laws across the country can hold up in court, Calhoun said there are things being done within the industry to prevent these laws from continuing to occur, which LeoVince Exhaust and Engineering has taken part in with the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC).
The MIC said it’s currently working with the American Society of Engineering “to develop a simple, economical and reliable in-use, on-highway motorcycle sound test procedure that will help reduce excessively high motorcycle sound levels.”
Exhaust manufacturing officials say much of the current sound testing is not standard or reliable.
Cobra Engineering’s Bussard said the readings on current sound testing devices can be changed dramatically just by the angle or location of the device. Furthermore, he says police are not trained to do that kind of testing.
Bill Wood, the director of communications for the American Motorcyclist Association, says not only are the testing procedures different, but there’s no level of consistent enforcement from one city to another or from one type of vehicle to another, which is why he believes new laws such as Denver’s are unreasonable.
“Motorcyclists might not know their bike is illegal in one city that they’re going to even though it’s legal in their home city,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the law won’t be enforceable.”
Besides the patchwork of laws from city to city that motorcyclists have to deal with, Wood said it’s not fair that these laws don’t hold the same standards to cars.
Calhoun agrees, calling the Denver law discriminatory.
“You’re telling them you can’t put an aftermarket exhaust on them (motorcycles). Well guess what: You’re telling them for every car that has a Meineke or a Midas muffler on it, you would have to ticket every vehicle on the road with those,” Calhoun said.
S&S Cycle’s Smith believes a lot of the current inconsistencies, such as testing in wildly different fashions, are going to start improving sooner rather than later.
“A lot of idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies that exist where you have noise emissions and requirements will become more standard and more normalized,” he said.
But even with the MIC and aftermarket companies working on standardizing the sound testing, many people in the industry don’t think these laws are going to go away.