Posted February 13, 2002 - 11:02 AM
NOISE RESURFACES AS A MAJOR ISSUE
By Bill Dart, AMA District 36 Legislative Officer
Noise has always been one of the biggest reasons people don't like dirt bikes. I am not talking about just environmental groups that don't like OHV recreation on general principles and philosophy, either. We can deal with almost every issue they raise. We can deal with water quality, air quality, erosion, wildlife issue, botanical issues, archaeological issues, and user conflict issues. Often, all of these are just surrogate issues for the real, underlying reason; nobody likes noisy dirt bikes.
I don't think we will ever be able to satisfy environmental extremists, but we need to quit making the general public mad at us over noise. Susie Soccer Mom doesn't like noisy dirt bikes. Joe Six Pack doesn't like noisy dirt bikes. Virtually every single elected official, appointed regulator or public land manager, doesn't like noisy dirt bikes. I don't like noisy dirt bikes.
Noise has always been a major issue, but until a couple of years ago, the trend was towards much more quiet dirt bikes. Water cooling, tighter engine tolerances, better induction systems, and better mufflers had brought the sound level of most dirt bikes down into the mid to low 90 db range by the early 90's. Most of the older, louder air cooled bikes have gone to that big riding area in the sky, or are rusting out behind the shed under a tarp, and noise complaints had dropped off as a major issue.
So what happened? New four-strokes are what happened, especially the popular Yamaha 400/426 series. While right on the margin of legality, they are still too noisy right out of the crate. But the problem really gets bad when an aftermarket exhaust system is installed, which it seems about 90% of these bikes have today. Dirt Rider magazine did testing for power and sound levels on all of the popular exhaust system available for the Yamaha 400/426 series, as well as the new Suzuki DRZ400. According to their testing, the Yamaha measured 100 db stock, barely within the 99db, plus or minus 2 db, mandated by California law. But none of the aftermarket pipes tested came in below 102db, and most were between 104 and 106 db. This means that NONE of the aftermarket pipes for the 400/426 are legal to use anywhere on public lands in California, not even for racing.
"But, those are racing systems," is the response from the aftermarket companies. Baloney! AMA rules have a maximum noise level of 99db. None of them are legal for AMA amateur racing. And what about other private tracks that aren't AMA? Well, many of those tracks have been shut down. Why? Because people hate noisy dirt bikes! I asked most of these companies if they had ever tried to get a permit for a new track, as I have several times. I bet you can guess the single biggest reason why many tracks are never granted permits. If you guessed noise, you are starting to get the drift on the noise issue. Even the thin thread of credibility about the YZ400/426 being a race bike and the aftermarket pipes were designed for closed course racing, went out the window when we read a similar test on all of the pipes for the Suzuki DRZ400.
Unlike the Yamaha, the Suzuki doesn't pretend to be a race bike. It is a recreational trail bike that would cost more to make truly race worthy than a couple of Yamahas. It makes very good useable power, but less than the Yamaha. What really impressed everybody who has heard one is just how quiet it is, yet it still has outstanding performance. Dirt Rider tested it at 90 db with the stock pipe, which is very quiet, and it still puts out over 40 horsepower. For comparison, the latest 426 Yamaha has about 45 horsepower and the Honda XR 400 puts out just a little over 30 horsepower.
Well, the DRZ400 noise got just about as bad as the Yamaha, once the stock pipe was replaced. Not a single one is AMA legal, according to the Dirt Rider data. Only one is barely California legal, the Stroker spark arrestor model, at 100 db. All the rest are between 102 and 104.
But, what about all that extra power that comes with the noise, isn't that reason enough? Well, in the case of the Yamaha, none of the pipes even matched the stock pipe's midrange, where most riding is done. Most of them made less than one horsepower more than the stock pipe. A couple made less than two horsepower over stock, one at extremely low RPM, and one at nearly 11,000 RPM. In fact, some of them were even lower in power than stock at almost every RPM. A one horsepower gain at the ends of the powerband, while losing several horsepower in the most used midrange, does not amount to a performance increase.
What about that choked down Suzuki? It must have made major horsepower leaps with an aftermarket system, right? Sorry, Charlie! Only modest gains were made, a horsepower or two. Barely noticeable. But, boy, EVERYBODY noticed the difference in sound levels.
Expect Heavy Noise Law Enforcement in 2002
Where do we go from here? Well, the OHV Division just convened a committee to address the noise issue, of which I am a member. They have been charged with developing a recommendation for a new sound limit law. The Motorcycle Industry Council has already recommended that level be lowered to 96db, with no plus or minus variation, as a level the industry can comply with. This is likely to be the highest the new law will allow.
"But so what?", you might say. Nobody is enforcing sound limits anyway. Well, things are changing in this field as well. Noise enforcement will be a priority next year. The OHV Division will be providing all of the test equipment needed to every agency that requests it, and the MIC has updated their technical test data manual, so that all models can be properly and legally tested. Additionally, with law enforcement grants exploding this year, and the new state emphasis on noise enforcement, you can expect rigorous field enforcement this year all over the state.
Due to the new emphasis on law enforcement, and the enhanced communication between all of the various law enforcement agencies dealing with OHV's, the sound level of the aftermarket four-stroke exhaust systems has been recently circulated throughout that community, and anyone with an aftermarket exhaust on a four-stroke will be automatically suspect, and the officer will have probable cause to do a stop and sound test.
If you have been considering buying an aftermarket exhaust for your four-stroke, you might want to reconsider, especially if you can't get reliable data that it meets current laws. If you'll want to use it for the long term, you'll want to look for pipes at or below 96 db, since it is almost a certainty that the noise limit will be lowered. The only debate will be about just how much it will be lowered. If you already have an aftermarket system that is over the legal or AMA limit, I would urge you to demand a refund, since it is not even legal for AMA-sanctioned, amateur closed-course racing.
More important than being technically legal, if we really love to ride and want to protect our sport, we need to do everything we can to reduce noise well below the legal limits. We need to make friends, not enemies, and all we really get from noise are more enemies -- except for a few companies making significant money selling socially irresponsible products for big bucks. Can anybody give me a believable reason why a four-stroke exhaust system, with a simple head pipe and a simple can muffler, costs twice as much or more, than a two-stroke system?
Let's bring back the programs that brought the noise levels down before. TEAM STEALTH. Less Sound = More Ground. We need to reward companies that make quiet yet more powerful and lighter pipes. We need to make quiet COOL, instead of nerdy, like the undertone in the enthusiast press does today. We need to harass our fellow riders using obnoxious pipes, until they do something about it. Because, if we don't, all we are doing is digging our own grave.
Posted February 13, 2002 - 12:07 PM
BUT, if areas are going to be shut down because of some noisy bikes, then how about the equally loud stock car races down the road that scream untill the a.m. on saturday night? Or the tractor pulls at the fairgrounds that you can hear for several miles away?
Isnt this the same thing?
Posted February 13, 2002 - 01:07 PM
I went to FMFs site to look up the new Q pipe. They advertise that it is much more quieter but they don't post the dB rating anywhere on the site. Hmmm. I also looked at their dyno charts for many different bikes and the HP gain was minimmal.
Now I have the PC IV on my 99. It is loud and annoying. But I really think it is just as loud as the stock muffler with the baffle out. And I am not going to ride with the stocker with the baffle in.
What I will do though is purchase a new muffler that will meet the 96 dB level. If one ever comes out of course. Maybe it is the new FMF Q. I have yet to see them post any dB rating though. Anyone know this information?
I do not want my Rampart riding privilages taken away. I fear that they will close some of the mountain areas soon. Loosing Rampart would really suck. I'd sell the bike. I have never seen a sound check out there in all the years I have ridden. But the article seems to think everywhere will be more stingent this coming year.
Man, you would think the aftermarket companies would make it priority one to develop a quiet powerful muffler. If places close up, people will not ride or sell their bikes. Peopel won't be buying their stuff. Makes sense to kick up the R and D.
Posted February 13, 2002 - 02:24 PM
Have a Nice Day!
Oh Yeah....Additionally....And with the growing Federal budget defecit, announced cuts in issues that really matter, You think that the sound of my bike is going to matter more than any other program being reviewed....NOT! The likelyhood of a full 50 state frontal assult for atleast the next three to five years is zilch, notta, nothing. The department of the interior and the department of natural resources are being sliced and diced just like everyone else. The guy's in California have it tougher than anyone else on this continent, and unfortunitly that is most likely where it will begin, if it does at all. Articles like this one are meant to cause fear and intimidation. Just sounds like a toothless, clawless bear story without the bucks to back it up.
[ February 13, 2002: Message edited by: YAMAKAZE ]
Posted February 13, 2002 - 02:58 PM
Posted February 13, 2002 - 03:27 PM
We had this discussion maybe a year ago and didn't seem to settle much as I recall.
For what it's worth, they are threatening to begin enforcing noise regulations next year in Calif. They have served notice this year through the BLM Rangers verbally stating that they can write a citation, but are in a "study mode". Maybe they will, maybe they won't.
IMHO, just another form of over-regulation by our beloved Feds, and another tool used by enviros. And the letter is an attempt at getting us all to just go along with the new regulations that AMA has rolled over and allowed envirofeds to force down our throats. It will make the AMA's job easier when they try to sell us on the concept that they are actually doing something for us.
That said, I will be soon sporting a new Q series FMF, which has been measured at 93dBA. I understand the annoyance, it sometimes annoys me as well. However, my riding is done far from anywhere/anyone that cares. Unless envirofeds are actively looking for a fight, they won't run into me. Nor will they hear me after my Q is installed. OK, off the soapbox.
Posted February 13, 2002 - 03:34 PM
Although I am getting tired of hearing this crap and will comply of course so that I don't get a ticket = more money to the state. What a bunch of B.S.
Quiet pipes, I just hope it bleeds over to the HARLEY crowd and they have to quiet their bikes down like that is ever going to happen! When pigs fly!!!
How come they are closing our trails because of noise yet a Harley rider can ride right down my street and rev his POS to the moon and everyone looks the other way. Don't tell me its because of background noise either &%$#@!
I better stop now and cool off this subject really torques me outa gear, huge
Posted February 13, 2002 - 03:45 PM
Here's a fact....make it two..
1. It's number one on the greenie list
2. We will never be able to band together as an off road society, making our bikes "more ear friendly" for the future preservation of our beloved sport.
A little outside the facts......
Wether it be money or horsepower, many riders aren't willing to sacrafice either of the two. It can also be argued that even if, BIG IF, we met such a monumental goal of quieting all our bikes there would be another greenie issue.
When does it end?
what do you do?
Answer bother those question and you have solved the problem.
Posted February 13, 2002 - 03:57 PM
Posted February 13, 2002 - 03:59 PM
Huge - I'm not sure what your point is about the KTMs being louder w/aftermarket exhaust. Stock they are darn quiet have respectable power.
Check www.dirtrider.net for similar discussion in the thumper forum.
[ February 13, 2002: Message edited by: NVR FNSH ]
Posted February 13, 2002 - 04:34 PM
You'll never convince a greenie that a quiet bike is O.K. -but It's easy for greenie to convince Joe Q. that obnoxiously loud bikes should be banned.
My WR400 stock pipe, when uncorked, falls into that category. Even to my non-critical ears.
We followed Taffy's jetting threads, and heard his descriptions of power/throttle response. What pipe did he run? How loud is that?
I'm convinced there is more to be gained by sharp jetting than by loud pipes and headers on these bikes. On top of it all, what's the cost of a handful of jets compared to 1 pipe????
I get so sick of hearing that bikes are bad.
Offensive machines and attitudes will only make it worse.
Posted February 13, 2002 - 05:05 PM
Posted February 13, 2002 - 05:21 PM
Regarding the Harley's, this will really turn your crank. My nephew got an excessive noise ticket for his jacked up, glass packed 4WD truck. Since there was an error on the ticket, he and his dad went to the police station to clear it up. During the conversation with an officer, the dad asked why they never saw any of the Harleys that leave the bar down the street pulled over because of their straight pipes. The officer actually said, "Half of those guys have outstanding warrants, they're bad dudes. We don't want to mess with them!"
Posted February 13, 2002 - 07:36 PM
Originally posted by Tree hugger:
. There seems to be no regulations on how loud they are.
Bull****. There are regulations/laws regarding the noise of streetbikes and automobiles - they just don't get enforced nearly as often. We are an easy target because we are the loudest thing around in the forest (at least where/when I ride). There is logging going on in Mendocino NF but I've never seen it in process when I've been riding.
Noise in urban areas isn't an issue? Bull**** again. Look at John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SoCal) - MAJOR restrictions on what can fly in/out, when they can & how they have to approach/depart. LAX spent a bunch of money a few years ago to provide sound proofing for local residents homes when they increased their operations.
Noise IS NOT a 'greenie' issue only directed at dirt bikes & 4wds. It's John Q. Publics perception/reaction to noise and how it impacts his life - be that at home or in the woods/desert.
Posted February 13, 2002 - 07:55 PM
Posted February 13, 2002 - 08:12 PM
Posted February 14, 2002 - 07:08 AM
Originally posted by kev426:
what about those damm harley's? they buzz up and down the streets and those things are way louder than my 426. i hate those damm things.
So the way I see it, its ok to ride on the street through residentail neighborhoods rattleing pictures off peoples walls, but its not ok to do it out in the woods where its mostly secluded.
You have to look at what this issue is mostly about. Its not about the noise as much as it is people just dont want dirt bikes around. They know they probably are not going to get rid of dirt bikes so the people that dont like them are hitting it from a different angle.
[ February 14, 2002: Message edited by: MOmilkman ]