Have you ever been riding along a quiet road, enjoying the drive and your surroundings while humming along to the latest hits on the radio? Then you may have come across a couple of instances when this peace of yours was broken by the deafening rumble of a motorbike whizzing past you.
Motorcycles are not allowed to be loud on Streets and Roads, but because of the changes made by the owner of the motorcycle like an after-market full system exhaust cause lots of noise, which is not legal at all, but they still prefer paying the fine and using it. Different states have different laws about how loud your vehicle can be, and you can find out the decibel levels from their official websites.
This situation can be a regular occurrence in traffic too, which makes it very annoying after a stressful day. More often than not, this may lead you to wonder why motorbikes are legally allowed to be so loud.
Motorbikes are light motorized vehicles designed for easy commuting, especially in extreme traffic conditions. As a result, they sacrifice noise muffling materials around the engine. They are small and compact, which leaves a much smaller space for efficient exhaust systems.
Loud motorcycles alert other drivers in the surroundings of their presence, which increases safety. Older bikes adhered to noise regulations which were not too stringent back in the day. The loudness of motorbikes is also directly associated with an increased thrill while riding, especially amongst younger riders.
We have broadly stated the reasons to help answer your doubts about why are motorcycles allowed to be so loud? If you seek to have a more comprehensive understanding of why motorbikes are so loud, read on as we explain the reasons individually.
Engines are Not Covered
Internal combustion engines operate by moving pistons through a series of controlled explosions. These explosions are very loud and can result in quite the noise disturbance to the surroundings. The movement of the mechanical parts within the engine like the piston and crankshaft are quite audible to the human ear too.
Motorbikes lack the covering and muffling that are found in cars and other modes of transport. Motorbikes are designed to be lightweight and efficient, with single passenger commuting being a primary focus while designing. As a result, the engines are low powered and much smaller. Many motorbikes do not have the advanced cooling systems present in cars, which means the engine must be air-cooled.
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As a result, the engine must be exposed while in operation, as flowing air is the primary source of cooling for the engine to function properly. As a result, it is not possible to add the muffling and sound damping covers around the engine to reduce the noise. As motorbike engines are more powerful, the noise produced is more pronounced and loud, thus becoming a nuisance in urban traffic conditions.
Exhaust Systems are Smaller
Motorbikes are two-wheelers designed to facilitate easy movement, especially in urban areas. They are especially useful in urban areas to navigate tight turns, narrow streets, and standstill traffic. As a result, they are designed to be compact and nimble.
This means the bike cannot be too heavy or long, as it will result in instability and difficulty in handling. This means the exhaust systems fitted on your motorbike are extremely short compared to the systems found in cars.
Exhaust vents have a length of 3ft from the start of the engine exhaust vent to the end of the exhaust pipe. Cars have at least 15-17ft for the same system. As a result, the air coming out of the engine does not have enough time to reside within the exhaust system, preventing it from interacting with the walls of the exhaust and shedding its energy and velocity in the process.
As a result, the air exiting the exhaust system has very high energy, which is converted partially in the form of sound. An increase in the capacity of an engine means more air has to exit through the exhaust, producing a lot more noise that can be a disturbance to public peace.
We have made a detailed article about What makes Motorcycle Pipes So LOUD? You can read that article to know why motorcycle pipes are so loud, and why cars make less noise than motorcycles.
Alerting other Vehicles on the Road
Motorbikes are amongst the most unnoticed modes of transport, especially during night conditions. Drivers are often surprised by a motorbike, especially while driving during the night. Despite massive advancements in technology, which includes high visibility riding jackets and helmets, LED lights for the tail lamp and headlight, accidents due to an unsighted motorbiker are quite high.
This is a grave safety risk for riders as they do not have a metal shell to protect them or absorb the impact, and are pretty much at the mercy of the gods if and when an accident occurs.
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As a result, riders with regular rider experience, especially in nighttime conditions, prefer having their motorcycles being as loud as possible. This alerts oncoming and surrounding traffic to their presence.
This is especially critical for drivers at night, as fatigue and drowsiness can reduce their road alertness, especially on highways. The additional stimulation of the auditory senses can prove critical in the situation where a split-second decision can be the difference between life and death.
Older Bikes designed to Older Noise Regulations
Older bikes were designed to meet regulations from a different era. The problem of noisy bikes was not so rampant back then due to much lower levels of traffic, and motorbikes being a luxury more than a necessity for the common man.
As a result, regulations with respect to motorbikes were not too stringent, with manufacturers having the liberty to sacrifice noise muffling for improved efficiency and performance. The most noticeable aspect of this was the shortened muffler, which made the bike look much more stylish, but resulted in the exhaust gases from the engine being a painfully loud disturbance to the surroundings.
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With the growing economy and a boom in the motorcycle market, the noise pollution caused by motorbikes became a rampant issue. Despite government regulations becoming more stringent, these regulations could not be strictly enforced beyond a point. Modern technology has helped improve the performance of engines and mufflers, which has contributed to much lower noise emissions.
Wear and Tear can make a Motorbike Noisy
As a motorbike becomes older, the parts become more inefficient due to wear and tear because of the enormous mechanical stresses. Despite replacing parts and regular maintenance and service, these bikes can have dropped in performance.
Mufflers can break down and malfunction, leading to a louder than usual noise from the exhaust system. Squeaky brakes can also be quite the annoyance, due to improper functioning of the brake calipers.
The Loudness of a Bike makes it more Thrilling
As mentioned before, older manufacturers had the liberty to make their engines louder. As a result, legacy brands like Harley-Davidson, Royal Enfield, and others have created a loyal customer base thanks to their signature engine sounds.
Many riders purchase motorcycles from these brands just for that specific groan of the engine, which surely attracts the attention of onlookers. The unique engine sound also increases the thrill of riding, especially on long road trips.
There is also a notion that a louder motorbike goes faster. The statement is not necessarily true, as modern bikes can go fast while remaining relatively quiet. This is especially true of the recently introduced electric motorcycles, which are eerily quiet.
— Also read: How Safe is Motorcycling: 4 Points why Motorcycling is Safer
However, bikes of the past were loud due to design concepts that focused on efficiency and increased power outputs. The growth of aftermarket parts that improved performance also resulted in modifications made according to the rider’s requirements.
Aftermarket mufflers and exhaust systems can result in higher noise levels while increasing the style and performance of the motorbike. While this may appeal to young riders looking for a thrilling experience, they may be blissfully aware of the ruckus caused by their motorcycles.