Thursday, December 06, 2012

Hush the Harley

I've waited over 3 years to write this article because I figured it was a lost cause - but then I decided every cause is lost if it is never addressed - so here goes.

I rode a bicycle all the way across the United States of America in the summer of 2009 - and I didn't make much noise doing so.  But there were lots of other bikes on the road that were not so quiet - in fact they were extremely noisy - and they were everywhere quiet was expected.  I camped for most of the 3 months it took me to ride across the USA and I lost a lot of sleep due to these horrible loud machines.  They came roaring into the campground at all hours of the night and worse, they roared out early in the morning.  A bicyclist who has ridden 80 - 90 miles in a day sleeps pretty soundly and it takes some noise to wake them but a Harley motorcycle with modified pipes can do it from over 100 feet away.    Boo-hoo I didn't get to sleep much - big deal right? 

Now let's talk about our national treasures - the parks.  I rode through some amazingly beautiful State and National parks including the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota and Yellowstone.  The scenery was amazing but the sounds of nature were even more incredible from the seat of a bicycle.  I could hear birds, waterfalls, crickets distant thunder and even just the wind blowing through the trees and fields of corn.  It was amazing and just as I was entranced by all this natural wonder BRRRROOOOOMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!  The sound of that one motorcycle was louder than any fully loaded 18 wheeler climbing a mountain - and I mean that seriously.  After it had passed - the sound trailing for several minutes in the distance - all I could hear was a ringing in my ears and the silence of the startled animals.  In the larger parks like Yellowstone, the noise never ends.  I could be in the middle of vast wilderness and yet the drone of Harleys was ever present in the distance.  One after another VROOM! VROOM! VROOM!

I kept joking to myself that if we only had some sort of technology to somehow muffle these machines we could ALL enjoy nature in a much more natural way.  But of course we do have such technology - it was invented shortly after the invention of the internal combustion engine a few years back.  So why can't we force these bikes to use this technology?  Well we can - and we do - or at least we try.  In researching for this article I learned that all motorcycles are manufactured under strict EPA noise regulations and that no Harley in the USA is built with those loud pipes.  Furthermore, we have laws in many states that forbid noise over a certain level.  This outrageous noise is actually a choice that people I will now call FOOLS illegally pay extra for because they think it's cool.  It's not cool - not even to other experienced bikers - which is another fact I learned while doing my research.  Isn't that interesting?!   Even other experienced bikers think these people are fools.  Yet they continue to get away with this violation because they have an intense political lobby (money) and the noise ordinances are difficult to enforce.

The only argument these FOOLS have for wanting to be this noisy is that it is a safety issue - as if they can only be seen by other drivers if they are heard first.  To that I would like to quote a line from the beginning of this article "I rode a bicycle all the way across the United States of America in the summer of 2009 - and I didn't make much noise doing so".  That's right folks - 4800 miles on a bicycle and I made it there alive.  I'm not the only one either - lots of people ride bicycles on the very same roads the Hogs ride every day - safely.  How is that possible without being heard???  Their argument is just stupid. 

I want to make a difference on this issue - more than just griping about it in my blog.  I think it's time for me to get involved politically and I found there are some good groups that are already working with current laws and EPA standards to hush the Harleys - one called Noise Off and another called Noise Free America.  Fools who think they are entitled to make extreme noise under the guise of the Constitution are a tough group to battle and it will take an army of people  I will now call "Real Patriots" to make them stop the foolishness.  I hope any reader who is annoyed by these fools will also became a Real Patriot and join a group to help fight for quiet.  

If we could be successful it would would make a huge difference and I'll tell another brief story from my bicycle trip as proof.  One day riding through the mountains in Washington State I was stopped early in the day due to a thunderstorm.  A local resident pointed out the county fairgrounds as a good place to camp for the night but mentioned there was a motorcycle club staying there that night.  Just wonderful I thought - no sleep for me again.  With little choice I set up my tent, crawled inside and read a book for a while until the storm which actually wasn't too intense finally let up.  I emerged from my tent only to realize that dozens of motorcyclists had arrived while I was reading and they were all setting up their tents and enjoying the day.  How did I not hear that many motorcycles arrive?  It turns out this was a BMW motorcycle club and they were all properly - legally - muffled machines.  I enjoyed hanging out with that group and we all chatting at a normal voice levels without yelling over the noise of illegal pipes.  I slept like a baby that night and in the morning I once again emerged from my tent to realize that many of the bikers had already left and I didn't even hear them leave.  That is a true story. Isn't that the way it should be?  It is called common courtesy - which isn't so common among the Harley riders.   Let's make a change.