Illegal Motorcycle Exhaust Laws: Motorcycle Commentary

Religion and politics are certainly topics that cause contentious debates. However, the latter needs to be discussed as it pertains to motorcycles. This time around, let’s discuss aftermarket exhaust systems and the potential to legislate their removal.

California is definitely a state that is pushing the boundaries when it comes to pollution control and promoting “green” ways of life. While California is certainly a motorcycle friendly state—they have recently passed bill #AB-51 to enable lane splitting—when the California Senate passed bill #435, also known as Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act. With a 21-16 voting majority, this bill that targeted loud motorcycle exhaust went relatively unnoticed.

There were no new noise standards mentioned, but the California bill states that motorcycle exhausts MUST adhere to federal noise emissions standards.

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That bill requires that “all motorcycles manufactured after Jan. 1, 2013 must have a label affixed onto the motorcycle or exhaust emission system indicating that the motorcycle or exhaust emission system meets all federal noise emissions standards.

Illegal Motorcycle Exhaust | Ignorance of the Law Excuses No One
Harley-Davidson Breakout with stock exhaust, which wouldn’t be an issue for bill #435

The bill targets motorcyclists due to many factors, and the blame is spread equally from the riders who put straight pipes on their Harley-Davidsons to the sport bike riders who gut/eliminate their catalytic convertors, remove their Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) exhaust systems and replace them with “off-road” or “competition use” only versions.

With the passing of this illegal motorcycle exhaust law, these modifications will now garner fines anywhere from $50 for a first conviction to a maximum of $250 for a second and subsequent convictions.

Other states look to California for motorcycle precedence, which makes the ramifications far reaching, and the trend to curtail loud pipes is growing. New York has introduced various bills that tried to mandate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stickers on all street legal motorcycle exhaust systems and levy fines and/or imprisonment if not affixed.

Such bills were only defeated after motorcycle community advocates lobbied their law makers. From coast to coast and in between, motorcyclists are squarely in the sights of politicians. Not to mention what’s occurring with off-road usage regarding ATVs and dirt bikes.

The perception (aside from the supporting science of emissions controlled equipment) is that motorcyclists are ones that are above the law and do as they wish. This is an important distinction as in order to effect change, motorcyclists require allies in their respective state governments to block such legislation, or, at the very least, alter its contents to benefit its constituents (i.e. the motorcycle community).

Playing Devil’s advocate for a second, perhaps motorcyclists who have exhaust systems in excess of 100 dba’s deserve to be ticketed and have a fine levied against them? Those who negatively impact the environment should be penalized? Would you want to be awakened at 3 a.m. when your neighbor comes home from a night out on the town with their loud bike spewing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere?

It’s undoubtedly a balancing act regarding the protection of the environment and overarching laws that remove one’s rights. These types of targeted laws that are disturbing as capitulation will enable even further degradation of a community’s freedom. This is precisely why our founding fathers enabled the separation of powers (i.e. executive, legislature and judicial) to ensure democracy.

If you have a passion for motorcycling, I recommend understanding the laws that are being proposed/passed. And if your opinion differs, make your voice heard by speaking to your representative(s).