Views From the Road, Part 3: Loud Pipes Save Lives


One of the things about the beginning of road biking season is that it coincides with the beginning of motorcycle season. On a ride earlier this week I was made very aware of this when a motorcycle pulled next to me at a stop light and nearly deafened me. It seems to me that most motorcyclists and cyclists are seeking the same conditions in which to go out: relatively warm temperatures (although there is great dispute about when it is indeed warm enough to ride), and a lack of hazardous sand and debris on the road. With the love of warm weather, clean roads, and our pastimes both involving two wheels, I think the similarities begin to fade.

After the motorcycle departed from the stop light and the ringing in my ears began to subside, I thought about the difference between bikers and cyclists and more specifically do loud pipes really save lives?  I thought that if the loud pipes were indeed beneficial perhaps I should have something audible on my bike to alert motorists of my presence on the road.  Perhaps I could rig a speaker to my bicycle and make it sound like the cars that frequent my neighborhood (think window rattling music), or just get a tape of a loud motorcycle exhaust.  People would certainly be aware of my bike, but I am afraid that I would receive more negative attention than positive.  The police for one probably wouldn’t appreciate my creativity.  And as for motorists, when on a bike you want to be noticed but not focused on.  When people focus on things while driving they tend to head toward them. 
I found this picture on the internet but I am pretty sure I could have found this guy in my neighborhood if I looked hard enough.
Additionally, am I to believe that half of these motorists even hear the motorcycle or my speakered bicycle driving beside them?  I think the guy in his living room that you just drove by has a better chance of hearing the motorcycle than the soccer mom with three kids screaming in the back of the car, or the guy listening to an iPod on his commute home from work.  Is this noise pollution really beneficial, or are motorcyclists just making a spectacle of themselves because it is “cool”?   Furthermore, if motorcyclists are so concerned about being noticed by cars, why not follow some of the steps that the lowly cyclist has adopted?   
If bikers are so concerned about being noticed by motorists why do they drape themesleves in predominately  black wardrobes?  If you ask me, there is no better way to blend into your surroundings than wearing all black.  Let’s face it: on a black top road dominated by black automobiles, dressing like Darth Vader may not be the wisest choice.  Admittedly cyclists dress pretty (okay, very) dorky, but the advantage to the crazy jerseys and reflective wear is that they draw attention to the road.  Instead of the usual black leather jacket and jeans, incorporating some color into the biker might be advantageous.  I am sure Eddie Murphy’s red leather ensemble from Delirious would get a biker noticed.  
This outfit deserves to be brought back
The real reason for the loud pipes is to convey an image.  Loud pipes tell everyone “look at me and how bad ass I think I am.”  If you ask me, there is nothing more bad ass than walking around in a skin tight bike kit.  You don’t want to mess with someone geared up for cycling because to wear those clothes you need to be crazy.  To pull off the full bike kit you need to either be wildly confident or just not care.  
Bikers take note: lighten up a little bit, have some fun, try a color (sorry, black is not a color).  Take a cue from your non-motorized bretheren and take some reflective wear if you want to be noticed.  I imagine a tight-fitting cyclist’s kit would help you gain an advantage in the miles per gallon department.  Because loud pipes don’t save lives, they just irratate everyone but you.   
Maybe if we could get a few more of these on the road we could start breaking some barriers