Motorcycle Mufflers

MotorcycleI've been looking forward to eating a meal on our back deck and enjoying the warm sunshine outdoors for a while now. Last evening was the first comfortable opportunity so my wife and I took advantage of it. The breeze was rustling the branches, the birds were chirping, the frogs were peeping and the motorcycles were rumbling.

Why don't the police charge drivers of motorcycles with no or ineffective mufflers? I'm a bit surprised that these seasonal complaints haven't started showing up in the DriveSmartBC inbox yet.

For enforcement personnel, the situation of no muffler at all is probably the easiest to deal with. A quick examination of the pipe will reveal no obstruction and a ticket can be issued. The explanation in court is a simple one and the traffic court justice is assured of the situation making a conviction more easily obtained.

Having an inadequate muffler is where the difficulty lies at roadside. While the Regulations are clear that the opinion of the inspector is sufficient, the traffic court justice is not so easily assured and without an independent witness or a measurement with a decibel meter a conviction is not nearly as easily obtained.

The next problem is that decibel levels are specified for an inspection facility, not the side of the highway where the police operate. The levels would serve as a guideline but are not definitive.

Tickets issued under the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (MVAR) for exhaust system violations specifically are few and far between. That said, about 3,600 tickets are issued under section 219(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), the "catch all" section for vehicle defects each year.

Some municipalities have incorporated noise rules into their traffic bylaws that may be used instead of the MVA and MVAR.

Instead of issuing a violation ticket, police may choose to issue an inspection order instead. Here's what the inspection manual that guides a Designated Inspection Facility says about motorcycle noise emissions:

The opinion of an inspector as to whether the engine and exhaust noise emission is greater than that made by other vehicles in good condition of comparable size, horsepower, piston displacement or compression ratio shall determine whether exhaust gases are expelled with excessive noise.

Must be comparable to OEM and confirmed with decibel meter.

  • equipped with any noise-enhancing device
  • confirm noise emission level with decibel meter for any vehicle with non-OEM, modified or altered exhaust system

ICBC does not publish data on vehicle inspection orders #1 and #2 issued by police, so there is no indication of how often this tool is used to try and solve the problem.

Having a loud exhaust to some riders is either a safety or a lifestyle issue. "Loud pipes save lives" is a common justification but according to the Canada MotoGuide, they do not. The majority of collisions are frontal look but didn't see incidents.

Regardless of the action that the police might take, sometimes the exhaust is not going to be repaired, or will be repaired long enough to pass inspection and then put back the way it was in the first instance.

Oh, and for the record, the police DO deal with motorcycles that have loud exhaust systems.



I always laugh at their feeble "loud pipes save lives" line.  I ask them why they don't have a bright pink bike and reflective vest for maximum visibility.

"Justice" Problem

We too used to (30 years ago) enjoy an afternoon on the deck, living above Pipers Lagoon Park.

Now, when the parties are over, the motorcycle packs race out and up a short hill on Hammond Bay Rd. reving as high as they can. Even at 200 feet away, the noise is too painful to sit there.

If this was a business problem, a businessman would solve it very quickly. Because it is a "Justice" dept problem, it will be endlessly shuffled.

Catalytic Convertors

I ride a motorcycle. A late model. Although I have an aftermarket exhaust pipe on , it’s essentially a factory endorsed upgrade and available as an option. It’s no louder than the stock pipe but has a more pleasing tone and is lighter being made of Titanium and carbon fibre. Where the law is useful at getting fines in the hands of motorcyclists with loud pipes does it require a decibel meter. It simply requires motorcycle knowledge to be able assess whether the pipe is modified from stock and has the catalytic converter removed.

The absence of a catalytic converter is the primary cause of excessive noise. It is illegal to remove the catalytic converter. See a straight pipe coming out of that twin? No need to pull out a decibel meter to issue the ticket. Instead write them for failing to have stock catalytic converter.

Electric Motorcycles

Can't wait for electric bikes to become the mainstream.

However, wanted to pick up on the note about loud pipes not saving lives. Completely agree, but the justification can't reasonably be found in the old myth about the majority of collisions being frontal SMIDSY type. This is only a small percentage of the overall total of motorcycle-involved collision types, albeit a large subset of the multi-vehicle motorcycle-involved crashes.

The majority of motorcycle collisions, looked from a causation perspective, are rider-error crashes, insofar as they are the sum of single-vehicle loss of control crashes and of multi-vehicle crashes in which the rider (not the other driver) was primarily or fully at fault.

On this basis, we can more clearly understand that loud pipes were merely the symphonic accompaniment to the overall poor judgement and performance of the crashed rider. They certainly offer no protection from the myriad classic throttle and brake errors that actually underpin so many of the crashes, up to and including many that are determined to have been primarily "other driver" caused.

The long black skid on the pavement that terminates at the point of impact with another vehicle tells an equally long sad tale of rider error that began with the selection of a non-ABS bike, and the subsequent failure to learn and practice effective braking with the antidiluvian artifacts on that bike. It tells us also of a fundamental failure of the rider to adequately scan their environment for what is universally acknowledged to be a major life-threatening hazard, and to take proper steps proactively to avoid being affected by that blindingly obvious hazard.

Not a popular view, admittedly, but one based in science and not the typical received wisdom of the ages.

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