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Posts Tagged ‘Noise’

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger


Recently California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed SB 435 into law (without comment).

Sure, I’ve got an opinion.  I’ve got thoughts, but I decided not to write anything at the time because I just wasn’t in the correct mood.  Content is important, but feel is key.  How do the words flow together, I’m I overly biased, is the reader gripped?

All good questions, but back to the main point… SB 435 requires all street motorcycles built after 2012 to have EPA-labeled exhausts and includes rising penalties for noncompliance.  Interestingly is that ABATE took a neutral position on this bill.

Isn’t this how it always happens.  You’re having a grand old time, enjoying the moment and then someone announces their child peed in the shallow end of the pool as you watch everyone exit the water and wonder about the level of chlorination.

The fact is that laws which regulate the motorcycle aftermarket have been in place for many years and specifically on aftermarket exhausts, the Feds mandate (in the Code of Federal Regulations Part 86, Subparts E and F) that new on-road motorcycles are required to meet limits on specific chemical emissions and that all motorcycles built after 1985 meet a stationary noise limit of 80dB. Furthermore, under Section 203 of the Clean Air Act, it is illegal for any person to remove or bypass (“tamper” with) any piece of equipment that helps a vehicle meet the above standards. To eliminate confusion, manufacturers are required to use matching standardized labels on both the frame and exhaust of any motorcycle to meet these requirements.

It’s true that the aftermarket exhaust manufacturers are quite adept at including detailed disclaimers with their products as being “closed-course-only” use and clearly stating that installation would violate federal law. But, I’m not aware of any dealer in the northwest who has discontinued selling and/or installing aftermarket performance exhaust/parts.  It seems there is this entire segment of the motorcycle industry operating in a gray area of the law that now have their days numbered.

Harley-Davidson 2012 models will launch in 10 months (August 2011) and this new law does not bode well for riders across the country.  Why? Historically, California emissions laws developed by the California Air Resources Board tend to become federal law (for example: EPA New Emissions Standards).

Laughing photo courtesy of Mr. Schwazenegger.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Over the weekend a riding buddy had a dealer remove the stock exhaust system and along with some engine work he upgraded the bike to a Vance & Hines Pro Pipe 2-into-1 performance exhaust.  The Pro Pipe includes tuned length stepped headers with a highly efficient merge collector that feeds into the stepped megaphone design.  The new Pro Pipe is not a mellow sounding exhaust and although I didn’t measure the DBA’s, it likely pushes the limits on noise-emissions when you roll on the throttle.  The exhaust has no catalytic converter and missing from the new chrome are U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labels/stamps.

Speaking of the EPA…  On Monday the California Senate passed SB 435 by a vote of 21-16 and it’s now on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

The bill makes it a crime to operate a motorcycle manufactured after Jan. 1, 2013, that fails to meet federal noise-emission control standards. Motorcyclists whose vehicles lack the proper U.S. Environmental Protection Agency label would be subject to a fine.

It’s not clear that this bill will do much to address excessive sound or reduce emissions, but it seems to unfairly target motorcycle owners.

For example, it’s not practical in a real world traffic stop situation to locate the federal label due to the inconsistent location of the lable and in turn may well result in unwarranted citations.  In addition, after-market exhaust systems (which are not always louder than stock systems) can be installed for a variety of legitimate reasons. A stock exhaust can wear out over time, be damaged, unavailable or prohibitively expensive.  Motorcyclists would be forced to purchase Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts, while automobile drivers will continue to be allowed to install exhaust components from non-OEM sources.

And what happens if you don’t live in CA and are considering a ride to the State.  Or maybe you’ll be passing through a small part of the state on the way to Reno Street Vibrations 2013.  Will you be unable to ride your motorcycle there because of this law or worry about being unfairly ticketed?

It’s important to note that the state of California often sets the tone for the nation in passing legislation where the other 49 states end up drafting behind.  This bill looks to drive up the cost of ownership and might be punitive for every rider while doing little or nothing to actually address the issue of excessive motorcycle sound.  Governor Schwarzenegger owns multiple motorcycles, but most believe he will sign this bill into law.

Then it’s only a matter of time for other states to follow…

Photo courtesy of Vance & Hines.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson is the only American motorcycle builder to survive the Great Depression and continue rolling today.

That fact and that the company has employed generations of workers as well as provided enthusiasts around the world with wind in the face fun has prompted lawmakers in Wisconsin to sponsor a bill to honor H-D as the state’s official motorcycle.

This seemed like a no-brainer to me, but an opposition group (Noise Free America) from Albany, NY issued a hysterical press release denouncing the legislation plan and comparing the “awful noise of Harley riders” to TERRORISM.  Huh?  One of the group members, George Atwood (email him your thoughts at: meteorite8877@yahoo.com) stated:

“The noise stresses people.  The noise ruins the quality of life in our neighborhoods and nation.  It frightens and intimidates people.  It leads to hearing loss, higher medical costs, lost productivity and loss of peace of mind.”

Geez, this group likely thinks Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lapse of security on Northwest Flight 253 where Abdulmutallab failed to explode the PETN?!  Maybe they think that H-D motorcycles are responsible for the coercion and torture tactics in Guantanamo Bay.   I’ll bet Atwood had a hand in writing the script for the recent South Park “F” episode?

This group creates more “noise” whining than what comes from the exhaust of my Harley.   I suspect they would complain about the sound of falling snow!  Talk about ignorant.   But, I’ve come up with a SUPER idea for the NFA group — don’t waste a breath and better yet help reduce the nation’s noise level by just waving this 11oz mug (see photo left) in the direction of those so called “noise makers.”

It’s nearly time to “ring” in the New Year.  Make some noise!!

Photo courtesy of WI State Journal and The Onion Store.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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South_Park

South Park Episode 12 - Harley Hatin'

Life imitates art or is it the other way round?  It turns out the “inconsiderate douche bag’s on Harley’s” are creating noise as they ride up and down the street wrecking everyone’s quite time on South Park.

It’s a protest movement in Season 13, episode 1312, where Cartman calls out a pack of bikers whose loud Harleys prove most irritating for the height challenged, truth-blurting, foul-mouthed characters. As the motorcycle noise escalates, the so-called “kids” take the matter into their own hands with graffiti and lobbying to have the dictionary definition of the term “f*g” changed to “annoying, inconsiderate Harley riders.”

There’s been plenty of Harley hatin’ on this blog comments section about raucous exhausts and loud bikes.  And regardless of your stance on the noise debate as to whether or not loud pipes do anything for safety, you’ll likely find humor (or irritation) in this episode that’s become rather controversial.  So much controversy in fact, that the New York Times has reported a gay advocacy group is protesting the episode.

Watch the 22-minute show here.  The show adds a new dimension to the anti H-D stance and I’m sure someone in the motor company is reevaluating advertisement placements.

UPDATE: 12.18.09 — Viacom has pulled down the YouTube versions of the episode under copyright issues and now the South Park site states “Due to pre-existing contractual obligations, we cannot stream this episode until 12.05.09”… It’s all about $$.  If you can’t wait then do a Google search as there are versions of it out on the internet.

Photo courtesy of Comedy Central/South Park.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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DenverColorado.  Well known for its magnificent scenery of mountains, rivers and plains.

Harley-Davidson management determined that the Rocky Mountain region with 53 peaks above 14K feet was the perfect place to hold the Summer Dealer Meeting in the Gold Rush mining town of – Denver. Later this week (July 25th) dealers will get revved up to ride the new 2010 models and discuss next year’s sales strategies.  At the same time Denver merchants will all be smiling as they enjoy a big boost from the ~1000 H-D reps and company personnel attending the meetings who will open wallets and infuse significant $$ into the local economy.

Wait!  Wasn’t Denver the city that passed one of the most unfriendly ordinances against motorcycle noise?!  Sure enough the city leaders passed a stringent ordinance (Chapter 36 of municipal code) to keep motorcycle “noise” at or below 82 decibels.  Most non-stock Harley’s idle at about 102 decibels with aftermarket exhaust pipes!  I’m not advocating obnoxious noise, but the ordinance also requires motorcycles made after 1982 to carry an EPA compliance seal or sticker displayed on the exhaust pipes verifying that the pipes have not been modified and are in compliance with the ordinance.  Essentially it’s stock exhaust or literally pay the consequence.

Not to worry — the Denver police have gone through extensive “exhaust sound training” to enforce the new ordinance.  Sure enough, 9News.com reported that an officer will make the determination if a motorcycle is louder than what motorcycles “should sound like” based on their experience and training and will initiate a traffic stop to inspect for the EPA compliance stamp.  Good grief –  reading that made me take a moment of pause and reflect on the legal system…  I could rant on about boom boxes, helicopters flying over neighborhoods, trash/waste trucks at 4:30am, high-pitched exhaust on imports, construction noise and festival events with loud music, but won’t.  It’s common knowledge that a lot of bikers (many who are affluent business people) have voiced opposition and totally avoid Denver now…and taking their $$ with them to other biker friendly locations.

The ordinance clearly is an attempt to limit one specific group in the motorcycle community and I’m sure there may be some quieter neighborhoods as a result.  But, how ironic that Harley-Davidson would compensate a city that obviously finds motorcycles just plain intolerable.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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Imagine for a moment you’re on a motorcycle trip during a beautiful August week through the Wallowa Valley.  It’s a broad corridor of grass, framed by big mountains and dotted with various ranches.  As the road climbs into the Wallowa Mountains you pass old growth forest and clear-running rivers then finally arrive at Hells Canyon.  You return home after the weeklong trip to find in your mail box a number of police photo tickets.  Huh?  At first you think it’s a joke, but then realize that Elgin, OR on Hwy 82 was the start of your Hells Canyon tour and you vaguely remember a police department, city hall and movie theater all being housed in a 1912 brick opera building.  You review the photos/information:

  1. Ticket #1: While entering Elgin rolling over a tread measuring system it was determined your motorcycle tires had insufficient tread depth.  $160 fine.
  2. Ticket #2: You stopped for lunch, utilizing the street side parking.  The automated parking meter photographed your 10min overstay.  $45 fine.
  3. Ticket #3: After lunch you make a note of the rough engine idle at this altitude.  The automated tailpipe emissions systems profiled the excessive CO2 via air sniffing microphones.  $210 fine.
  4. Ticket #4: As you departed town you may have rolled on the throttle and the automated noise camera recorded a 10 second video clip from a set of microphones and determined you offended the town’s tranquility level.  $377 fine.

You laugh and think that this level of government intrusion intervention is not possible?  Well think again.  It’s not if it will happen, but when.  For example in Germany, ProContour’s tread analysis system is being deployed and the European Union regulations authorize fines up to $160 if insufficient tread depth.  In Australia, Acoustic Research Labs have deployed the NGARA real time sound acquisition systems and excessive noise tickets are being mailed as you read this!  How long until an aggressive city government decides to roll-out these new revenue generating systems in a city near you?

Is this the price of technological progress or the ultimate “Nanny State?” Throw in a little city government enthusiasm to profit from the increased monitoring and….?  While we’re at it could we get a “bling” camera…I don’t know about you, but I get distracted when the sun catches all those spinner-wheels wrong.  It blinds me as I’m driving.

Maybe it’s time that I park my excessive carbon emitting loud tailpipes and balding tires at home and just invest in hearing impaired products?

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U.S. Stock Market

U.S. Stock Market

Many of us have attended some type of motorcycle rally.  They are a gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts who come together for the camaraderie and socialization.  It doesn’t matter if you ride ‘slick back’, are part of a riding association or MC.  The rallies can range from the mild corporate-sponsored Honda Hoot to Sturgis or the infamous Hollister.

Rallies can be large or small, and one-time or recurring. Notable annual rallies with attendance in the thousands from all over the country include the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Laconia Motorcycle Week, and Daytona Beach Bike Week. There are many smaller, regional rallies including the annual BMW MOA international rally, the Oyster Run in the Pacific Northwest, the Golden Aspen Rally (formerly Aspencade) in the Southwest, the Laughlin River Run and Street Vibrations in the West, and Americade in the Northeast.  There is also the Harley-Davidson anniversary rally in Milwaukee every five years.  Some rallies are ride-in events, whereas some like the Iron Butt rally involve days of riding and an actual gathering only at the end of the ride.

But my friends, the motorcycle winds of change are blowing and it’s not a nice smell.  As the song states… “For The Times They Are A-Changing…” – Bob Dylan.  After attending one major and 3 regional rallies this year I can report they are rumbling a lot less louder these days and here’s my extremely broad and completely unscientific, yet infinitely wise reasons:

1. Economy: in case you haven’t noticed it’s down.

a. Market investor gloom persists… see above charts with a 500-point loss brings the Dow’s two-day slump to nearly 900 points.

b. Harley shipments are down and the company has laid off workers

c. Japan’s four major power sports vehicle manufactures (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha) are down 26.8% this year compared to the same 8 months of 2007.

d. Gas prices. Escort rigs or trucks hauling trailers consume lots of fuel.

e. DealerNews reports that the Sturgis attendance was down 18% this year. Turnout was reported at 414,917 which compares to 507,234 in 2007 or down from the 633,000 in 2000. It’s been a steady decline pretty much the past eight years.

f. Laughlin River Run was down approx 10,000 from 2007. Attendance estimated at 60,000.

2. Demographics:

a. Repeat attendees which is not officially tracked is down. Fewer people going consistently year over year.

b. Aging population are making the most of their free time and have other forms of entertainment.

c. New riders don’t ride the same cruiser bikes or value the heritage of these events and don’t attend. No fun riding a sport bike when the Black Hills are full of motorcycles.

d. Competition for the major vs. local rallies have people making closer to home priorities. We’ve seen this with all the local Indian Casinos who have taken a bite out of Las Vegas.

3. Legislation:

a. The new Denver sound ordinance for motorcycles prevents rally attendance unless you have stock motorcycle exhaust.

b. Don’t drive to a rally in New York City’s high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. They banned motorcycles from HOV lanes and are ticketing. Never mind that Federal law stipulates that HOV lanes must allow motorcycles.

c. Myrtle Beach will never be the same…they approved a property tax increase earlier this year to fund efforts aimed specifically at eliminating motorcycle rallies. There are now 3 independent lawsuits filed against the city in hopes to limit the city counsel.

4. Policing: large numbers and aggressive preemptive measures being taken.

a. LEOs stop bikers heading up the Adirondack Northway before the start of the Americade motorcycle rally at Lake George.

b. Breath check stops outside Oatman, AZ during Laughlin River Run.

c. Street Vibrations ’08 SWAT teams highly visible, armed w/ para-military gear in show of force.

5. Greed: in search of the big $$

a. Rallies have been artificially expanded in length by vendors to capture more customer $$. 3-day events are now 5-day and many of the big rallies are 10-days or longer.

b. Motel’s often triple room rates and have instituted longer minimum night stays. Try to find a motel in Sturgis for a couple nights. Same for Laughlin River Run or Street Vibrations. The motels have forced earlier arrivals which up’s the ante for any event.

c. High prices for vendor space, basically merchants rent space for as much as they can get/gouge people.

6. 1%er Clubs: make city officials nervous and they over react with a lot of police presence at events.

a. Laughlin River Run feud/shooting (HAMC and Mongols) at Harrah’s.

b. First Sturgis shooting (Iron Pig and HAMC) in 20 years at a downtown pub.

c. Street Vibrations (HAMC and Mongols) had numerous citizens calling police concerned about a biker war given the killing of Mark “Papa” Guardado.

7. Repo Rates:

a. Little dark secret of the industry and hardly ever reported on is that repo rates have ballooned due to the mortgage/credit crisis. Go to the Spokane auctions and see all the bikes. A lot of folks used home equity loans to buy toys. When the interest rate skyrocketed so did the payments for the toys and the number of loan defaults has increased.

Just a few examples and any one of these wouldn’t be an issue in of itself, but the combination of problems are having a profound impact on the industry.

So are Rallies as we’ve known them over?  I believe so.  I can remember a few years ago being able to walk casino-to-casino in Reno during Street Vibrations with a beer in hand.  No more, the RPD stopped numerous folks this year.  I can remember 5 years ago staying at the Pink Flamingo (now Aquarius) at the Laughlin River Run watching HAMC prospects do bagger wheelie’s in the valet parking area.  Not these days.  All you’ll see is 20+ motorcycle police.

The real problem is that many of the “industry’s customers” won’t demand attention or seek corrective action to the problems. They have no will or united voice on the issue.  And we all know what happens to the squeaky wheel.  HD and so many other companies at these rallies are simply a corporation that makes money selling motorcycles and motorcycle accessories. The corporate officers want you to believe they are biker’s best friend, but at the end of the day it’s all about business and what will bring them the best return on their investment.  I get the capitalism gig, but where does it end?

Maybe when we’re all sitting around the motorcycle lift watching TV in the garage and toasting the “good-ol-days” when people ACTUALLY went to a rally rather than just watch them on the Discovery Channel?  Maybe it ends when more states do what Montana has done…tourism officials actually target motorcyclist as a demographic they WANT in the state and doing things (special web site, special MDT road reports, and suggested rides) to court us rather than legislate ways to ban us, limit noise, curtail events and hold public relation meetings evangelizing the negative media coverage against bikers.  It will change when state tourism officials recognize that clinging to the overturned lifeboat in a storm and hoping that somebody (the customer) finds them is inadequate.

So, slip off those steel-toed boots or $520 Ferragamo loafers and plan your next rally!  Besides, who cares what the destination is, as long as the route is awesome.

Photo courtesy CNN and Motorcycle Dairies web sites.

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