Essay About Motorcycle Noise By Harley President And COO Jim McCaslin

Under the headline “Something we never want to lose”, Jim McCaslin, President and Chief Operating Officer of Harley-Davidson Motor Company, wrote what I think is an interesting piece about motorcycle noise. He calls the issue of excessive motorcycle noise one of the company’s toughest challenges “because of its potential to divide and destroy our sport”. His point of view, of course, is the one of a manufacturer, but that you agree or not with his thoughts, his remarks are well worth reading. “Something We Never Want To Lose”


26 Responses to “Essay About Motorcycle Noise By Harley President And COO Jim McCaslin”

  1. 1 Mike Greenwald Sep 19th, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    It seems that they will no longer be selling the t-shirt that says “Make Some Noise”

  2. 2 Wolfe Sep 19th, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    I’ve always read, “Loud Pipes Save Lives”.

  3. 3 raycwheeler Sep 19th, 2008 at 1:15 pm




    Happy motoring ,

    ray usa

  4. 4 Nicker Sep 20th, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Well, he’s got a point:

    “…consider changing out our thinking. We need to think about the consequences our actions have on others, before others take action against us. As tempting as it is, maybe we resist cranking up the revs at the next stop signal…”

    Off hand, can’t remember getting any pipe tickets… EVER.
    Even though every Bonneville i ever built had TT pipe with minimal glass-sleeve inserts.

    Ya don’t have to be a rocket scientist to soft peddle pipes in town.
    But ya do have to be an “adult.”
    Jocking your throttle at an intersection is just so much juvenile (“Hay! Look at me!) stupidity.

    Loud pipes used to be a “non-issue.”
    But that was before every Tom, Dick, & Murry-moron decided to become “The Wild One.”

    Could it be that, once again, what we have here is just another example of the great unwashed hoards screwing up our perfect little world….????…. 🙁

    Hay, don’t get pissed at me, they’re not my customers…. i’m retired …. 🙂


  5. 5 Clark Sep 20th, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Before I was turned on to the V-Twin (custom world) , I could’ve cared less about a Harley and the
    sound they make. (I guess my point is going to be from a previous outsider, one of “Those” people
    this article is about, who hated the noise.) I started with dirtbikes and loved “Rice-Rockets”.
    At this point in my life, the sound of a “Jackass” on a Harley flying by would bother me. It sort of
    had a Startling/Loud effect on me. I was thinking,” Hay , I’m minding my own buisiness enjoying the
    day and you fly by scaring the crap outta me! What gives you the right?”
    That “was” my point of view before I went to my first rally , loved the V-Twin that could be (if imagination had it’s way), and started immediately to build my first custom. So now I do understand
    the sound and it’s effect on those who ride. It is very much a part of the experience!
    I’ll have to agree whole heartedly with Nicker, the guys who REV the HELL out of there V-Twin trying
    to pre-maturely bust a throttle cable or burn up a clutch have some kind of complex or issue that
    is subsided or fondled durning these “Crys for Help”.
    Ever been in a restaurant that had music playing , a little on the loud side? Notice how everone in the restaurant talks super loud , Over the Music. If they turned the music down then all the customers would talk a little quieter and it wouldn’t be so noisy. I don’t think keeping Harleys on the
    quiet side is going to hurt too much. Harley lovers will bitch and complain eventually getting used to the quieter sound.
    That’s why I’ll stick to my customs, I can do whatever I want with them! Besides isn’t the point to sort of ride that border line of legal/illegal. Makes the experience a bit more exiting.
    So those who like to Hit the Rev limiter every 5.65 seconds at stop lights and while splitting cars,
    “Keep up the Good Work”! Sorry no-one paid attention to you as a child, forcing us to do so now isn’t helping either??
    Guess it depends on your point of view……

  6. 6 Scott Sep 20th, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Well put Nicker. I have always had “loud” bikes. I still run straight pipes on my shovel, I also have never gotten a ticket for loud pipes. More and more towns are passing ordinances against loud bikes due to the very same stupidity you stated. Plain and simple ride like an adult and you will have less trouble.

    I will attest to “LOUD PIPES SAVE LIVES” I have sent a few deer running the other way by a crack of the throttle. In fact a couple of weeks ago I had one getting ready to cross in front of me after dark. I have had a couple try to occupy the same space as my truck, that is one thing. On a bike would be deadly. Come to think of it I used to run around with open headers when I was young…. The neighbors loved it….

  7. 7 Clark Sep 20th, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Never got a ticket for a loud pipe either! Sacramento, California
    Cops usually give me the thumbs up, like”dude that’s sssswwweeeet”!

  8. 8 J Sep 20th, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Yep, exactly correct, Nicker- it’s the idjits that have a true issue with this subject, and one fewer knothead rapping his bike thru the gears up to 6K in my neighborhood won’t break my heart- Dawinism DOES work- lol.

  9. 9 Rodent Sep 20th, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Hey Jim,
    Tell the motor cops in Oakland California who under official orders installed “LOUD PIPES” so they could be hear over the gunfire…

  10. 10 Brett Sep 20th, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I want to know why motorcycles are singled out with this so often????

    I have heard plenty of pick up trucks with exhaust as loud if not louder then my bike has.

    Also, what about all the little Japanese sports cars with their loud high pitched whiney exhaust??? Those bother me way more then a truck or bike ever has.

  11. 11 bcarter Sep 21st, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Good point Brett. Where I live there are probably more diesel dully pickups that have loud exhausts than motorcycles—however the cops here don’t care either way. Honestly, I didn’t read the article yet… perhaps I’ll take the time tomorrow. Ha!

  12. 12 Obie Sep 22nd, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Let’s face it, most like load pipes because they sound cool (provided it’s a great engine). But if one is really concerned about safety they should wear loud colors, and the slogan should read “Loud colors save lives.” If I could only have it one way, I’d rather the cagers SEE me than HEAR me.

  13. 13 Obie Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:40 am

    I meant LOUD, not LOAD, sorry. Anyway, my point is it’s the sound we like, plain and simple. Some wear no helmet or protective clothing, and in some cases no mirrors, an open primary, no front brake, jockey shift, spiked sissy bar, not to mention beer intake (or whatever) on the part of the rider prior to riding. For that person to argue they have loud pipes for safety reasons is just plain silly. I dig all those things I mentioned, but arguing for loud pipes and using the safety factor as reason #1 is weak. I think we’d stand a better chance arguing it’s part of our religion!! Then they couldn’t touch it!!

  14. 14 Johnny Rockets Sep 22nd, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Really, this has more to do with the ever-increasing soccer mom mentality, which leads to liberals wanting to control anything and everything about their world and ours. *They* don’t like it so *they* want it to go away. Nevermind that there is no real damage being done. Unfortunately, in this country, the majority rules and these days that means facism rules. Get used to it, it ain’t goin nowhere anytime soon.

  15. 15 EZ Sep 22nd, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I ride to work almost every day on a bike with a set of Vance & Hines Longshots that CAN GET loud if I rev them. More than once I have had people change lanes on me (mostly while texting or talking on cell phones) and it was the sound of my pipes that made them turn and look at me. I can personally tell you that I am typing this from my desk, instead of a wheel chair or from the grave, because I have loud pipes WHEN I CHOOSE TO MAKE THEM LOUD. This is America people. How many freedoms do you have to give up, before you say, “WAIT A MINUTE!” We that ride have the right to decide, not the soccer moms and corporate pc pod people that seem to think there opinion is the only one that matters. This is an issue brought up by people that have no say on the subject. If you drive in a sound isolated cage, put down the cell phone for a minute and roll up the window. If we hit you, you get to call the insurance company. If you hit us, someone has to call the ambulance or a herse. Am I the only person out there that see how rediculous this argument is?

  16. 16 wyndryder Sep 22nd, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I ride a screaming eagle springer softtail 07. Vance and hines pro-pipe 585 cams and high compressin. This is very loud and fast. However, not in town. After we have been eventually phased out, next will be the loud whinny exhaust little sports cars.And the muscle cars. Next when everything else has been eliminated the must control everyone assholes will start on the soccer moms with the whinny assed little brats.

  17. 17 toph Sep 23rd, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    always a treat to read the sky-is-falling, over-reactionary bloggers here.

    this isn’t about loud pipes and being heard or saving lives. it’s about people, mostly non-riders, being bothered by loud pipes.

    it took h-d almost 100 years to produce 1 million bikes; by the 90’s it took H-D roughly 3 years to make 1 million bikes. the problem isn’t the loud pipes per se, but the exponential increase in the number of H-Ds and the zirconium clones.

    that means more bikes and more noise. coincidentally, and my own anecdotal observation, is that the ‘new’ rider doesn’t have the same level of respect as the more traditional rider. not just pertaining to pipes, but in general.

    you know the types, probably many here: rapping the throttle at the red light, ripping through residential areas. of course wearing the bad-ass uniform.

    it’s possible to run drag pipes and not be a nuisance. it’s not the pipe, it’s the pilot. it’s easy to roll through town at an almost lugging rpm and not piss everyone off. it depends where you live too. i’m in LA and it is a problem for sure.

    i’m embarrassed by many of the riders i hear on a daily basis. they don’t help the cause of motorcyclists getting respect by being loud, rude, and obnoxious.

    so, really, stop blaming the soccer moms, legislators, california, or any other tough guy excuse. it’s you (me) and it’s your (my) buddies that are the problem.

    we are also the solution. don’t encourage them. in fact, make them feel like morons, tell them. really it’s easy to do. easier than blaming someone else for the problem or arguing that it doesn’t exist.

  18. 18 Geronimo Sep 23rd, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Well, I’ve got to hand it to Jim, he really got most of you on your hind legs … me included ofcourse.
    But in fact al he’s trying to say is that each and one of us has to consider for him/herself how we live/deal with this issue.
    Quote : “… But we all must consider changing out our thinking …”.
    Some of you will say : “F**k it, I’m keeping my shotguns !” adjusting your riding style or not, others will change their straight pipes overnight indeed and will finally get that approval smile from the old couple next door.
    Whatever decision you wíll make, I think the most important factor is not to loose our love and dedication for this sport.

    And if you come to a halt next to that juvenile who’s trying to impress who-ever it may be, just smile, he’ll come to his senses as well one day.

    Life to ride, ride to live !

  19. 19 burnout Sep 24th, 2008 at 9:09 am

    I agree with Toph, My quiet bike rattles windows because the cam is so rough but I don’t make any more noise than I have to. It pains me to see these guys pull up to a light and hit the limiter! Also I try to heed my Aunt, who has been telling me for years, DON’T PASS! peace

  20. 20 Harry Sep 24th, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Until they get rid of asshole drivers on the road that sit there and put on makeup or yap on the cell phone while hauling ass down the interstate in their death traps, then bike riders need to be heard as well as seen.

  21. 21 Mike Greenwald Sep 24th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Who is the “they”? How are you getting rid of them?

  22. 22 FUJI Sep 25th, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Just out of the blue one day ; when my mother was ill in bed a loud motorcyle went by .
    She looked at me and said with a smile on her face.; that motorcycle rider doesn’t have any clothes on .
    Bewildered I said how do you know that .
    Reply; Because he is showing his ass.

    I knew what she was saying to me.
    Have some respect and show your I Q .
    Before the week was out I changed the pipes on my bike.
    To ad to it several people told me how nice the bike sounded and even walked around to amire it.
    At that age it was nice to have a compliment.
    I was a rebel and still have those tendensies today . I wear mostly brown leather and a helment.
    I wanted to be respected as others and it took many years to figure out that you have to respect to recieve it.
    Very few things in life are equal but try.

  23. 23 Nicker Sep 26th, 2008 at 2:03 am


    Great read!

    Thanks mich.

  24. 24 machobs Sep 29th, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Funny part is many you macho men with your insainly loud bikes wear earplugs when you ride in packs because your buddies bike it too loud for you to stand. There is no reason for straight pipes, you’re just pissing the rest of the world off.. but then you probably don’t give a sh!t about the rest of the world anyway.

  25. 25 bg Nov 10th, 2008 at 5:14 am

    RE: “Something We Never Want To Lose” By Harley President And COO Jim McCaslin

    Jim states, “In Australia, for example, a permanent label must be affixed and remain on to signify legal pipes.” This is an ignorant statement and a scam on his customers because as all motorcycle company owners know, the US EPA also requires this, something the Harley Company violates. It makes Harleys illegal anywhere this requirement is adopted into any local or state noise regulations and Harley owners must either install a very expensive system or give up their bikes. That is horrible.

  1. 1 Loud Pipes. Open Letter Of Tim Zimberoff To Harley-Davidson at Cyril Huze Blog Pingback on Sep 30th, 2008 at 3:05 pm
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