Bikers grumble over moves to muffle rumble

MILWAUKEE — Cities from New York to Denver are giving motorcyclists the silent treatment.

And that worries riders rights groups, which fear that a wave of ordinances aimed at muffling Harley-Davidsons, hushing Hondas and stifling Suzukis will create a confusing patchwork of laws that motorcyclists won’t be able to navigate.

“From our perspective, this creates enormous problems for us because people notice the one motorcycle that makes a lot of noise,” said Bill Wood, spokesman for the American Motorcyclist Association. “They don’t notice the 50 that pass that don’t. So there’s a perception that motorcycles are noisy.”

Ordinances come in many forms. Some are against certain types of products — such as mufflers that would rattle the apples off of trees — while others are aimed more on the intent of the driver, who may want to turn some heads or rile up the neighbors on a Sunday afternoon.

As of July 1, riders in New York City are subject to a minimum $440 fine for having a muffler or exhaust system that can be heard within 200 feet.

In Lancaster, Pa., starting this month riders — and all motor vehicle drivers — could be ticketed for drawing attention to themselves, whether by creating too much noise by revving their engines or doing hard accelerations. Tickets start at $150.

As of July 1, motorcyclists in Denver could be ticketed $500 for putting mufflers on their bikes made by someone other than the original manufacturer, if the bike is 25 years old or less.

The Motorcycle Industry Council, the industry’s trade group, is working with the American Society of Engineers to establish a sound test that would help equalize enforcement.

All motorcycles sold for road use in the U.S. are subject to federal noise laws keeping them within a certain range of decibels, below 80 decibels from 50 feet away, said Pamela Amette, the council’s vice president.. A good rule of thumb is that your average motorcycle — as approved by government standards — should hum like a sewing machine, she said.

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