Oct 10, 2023

Noisy Kids Who Go Nowhere

I was sitting in my backyard, mostly enjoying the quiet country environment, but being intermittently blasted by various noise machines: motorcycles, jacked up pickups, sportscar-poser Honda Civics, totally illegal-for-street-use ATVs, and other noisy toys. After the umpteenth laughable Hardly yard implement passed by, I started thinking about the two motorcycles I've owned with aftermarket exhaust systems and the one with a hacked up stock pipe.

Back in 1993, I bought a like new 1992 Yamaha TDM from a doctor. I have no idea what he thought a TDM was, but he had spiffed it up with a custom Corbin seat, a Kerker pipe, and some nice luggage. By the time I got home, less than 20 miles later, I went to work replacing the Kerker with the stock pipe (which had been included in the sale). I found a victim for the Kerker with an ad at my local Yamaha shop and got $250 back from my sale price.

A few years later, I bought a barely used Suzuki SV650 from a kid in a Michigan suburb. A friend in Ohio picked up the bike and I took a train to his place to ride it home. The SV  had a Two Brothers pipe and by the time I had ridden the 800 miles back home I was ready to remove the Two Brothers pipe with a sledgehammer. Again, I found a dumbass in Minneapolis who sold me a stock SV pipe for $25 and another dumbass who paid me $250 for the Two Brothers.

My last loud pipe experience was with my Yamaha WR250X. That bike's original owner was a nitwit who took a hacksaw to the last 4 inches of the stock pipe. Having totally screwed up the fuel injection mapping, the bonehead also removed a chunk of the air box and the air filter in a failed attempt at regaining some kind of performance. Again, I found a dumbass on Craigslist who sold me a stock WR pipe for $25 and someone on Facebook who sold me the entire WR air intake system for another $25.

In all three of these instances—two carbureted motorcycles and one fuel injected—returning to stock not only quieted the motorcycle down it improved the performance. I'm not saying that an aftermarket pipe can't improve performance, but I'm saying most of the idiots who diddle with aftermarket pipes are too lame to do all of the dyno, rejetting, intake redesign, and fuel mapping work necessary to compensate for the reduced back pressure.

In the case of the WR250X, I even had the opportunity to drag race multiple times in multiple situations a substantially lighter Rider on a WR250X with an aftermarket pipe, a power commander, and a hacked up intake system. Mostly, we determined that the two bikes were not measurably different power-wise, but the noise difference convinced the other rider to start looking for stock parts. Even riding side-by-side near his bike made my ear-plugged-ears ring.

Now, back to today where I am listening to multiple mediocre-at-best motorcycles blubbering as loudly as a freight train, ridden (to use that word loosely) by total unskilled idiots disturbing the peace for no reason other than their obvious personal insecurities. This isn't a brand new thought, but it is one that has occurred to me repeatedly through this summer: I think it is a safe bet that damned few of the people with loud exhaust systems ever go anywhere on or in their vehicle.

I'd be willing to put some money on that, in fact.

From a bunch of years of accumulating odometer readings on motorcycles up for sale on Craigslist around the country, it's pretty obvious that the more crap someone piles onto a motorcycle the less likely they are to actually ride it. My late step-brother was an example. He poured more money into his Harley then I have invested in all of the cars and motorcycles I've owned in my life. Seriously. And for him, a trip from one end of Springfield, Missouri to the other was “a long ride.”

In the several hundred thousand miles I have ridden motorcycles in my life, I ran into all kinds of people on the road, riding all sorts of motorcycles, and almost universally the people who ride the most miles ride the quietest motorcycles. Even some of the big mile characters on vintage motorcycles, where a stock pipe is only available from salvage yards, do their damnedest to keep exhaust noise at a minimum.

There is nothing about the output from the exhaust pipe that tells you anything useful about the operation of the motor. In fact the less noise the exhaust makes, the more likely you are to be able to hear upcoming engine problems. More importantly, the pounding your ears take from excessive exhaust noise adds exponentially to the fatigue in a long day's ride. Obliterating what little information your ears can provide about hazards and traffic, doing permanent damage to your hearing, and adding to your distraction and fatigue is not conducive to putting in long (thousand mile) days.

And usually, when I've been forced to talk to these noisy pipe characters I hear that they think a hundred miles is an excessive day. And lots of them are really proud of themselves for riding 20 miles to a bar, spending the afternoon drinking and eating, and wobbling their way back home. So along with knowing that the loud pipe character is an asshole, it's pretty safe to assume he or she is a wimp.