Allow me to set the scene: a picturesque coastal Maine town, late summer. The cool air is a bit nippy, but the sunshine is warm to the skin. Seagulls and rolling waves harmonize in the background while your eyes can trace stacks of lobster traps, discarded buoys, buckets and tarps, all signs of a working pier with just enough debris to be convincing.
Brick facades of storefronts and restaurants set off al fresco diners enjoying the finest coastal New England offerings made better by company and conversation. There are the ear-splitting explosions of fuel and air responding to the fisted throttle of adolescents on motorcycles.
Except these aren’t kids at all, and the surprising thing is, no one is surprised — just annoyed.
So went a recent Saturday that my wife and I, for the most part, enjoyed.
I may not win a legion of motorcycle fans with this column, which is too bad, since I’ve been riding motorcycles of all ilk longer than I’ve been operating any other kind of motorized conveyance.
I rode for transportation and because I enjoyed it, not to fit in, not to make a statement, not to be rebellious. And this trend of loud vehicles transcends the two-wheel variety, as there’s no shortage of cars and trucks that qualify as obnoxiously deafening.
To be sure, I like the sound of a finely tuned engine, but I could do without the racket of extreme motorized cacophony. Maybe I just don’t understand it or maybe I don’t embrace nerve deafness. It does seem that enough people like the straight-piped, back-firing bedlam generated by an angry engine that this movement of extreme vehicle noise is overlooked by most of the rest.
I’ve heard the arguments that loud pipes save lives, but you know what else saves lives? Responsible riding. Side-by-side down a secondary winding road with a left foot and hand hanging over the center line is a suicidal riding style, yet I see it more often than not.
Want to be noticed? How about throwing on some bright colors that are easily seen? But few outside of Euro style riders bother to don them.
And those loud pipes produce the majority of their noise from the rear, hardly the place where most riders' lives are lost to collisions.
Maybe someone could explain the rationale behind the constant need to push the trivial, if not offensive, envelope. One headlight is good, three are better, and three extraordinarily bright headlights will get you seen, true, but they will also blind oncoming drivers.
Perhaps there’s a limit to hedging a safe bet through extreme measures. Can we at least admit the safety argument is disingenuous?
If you want to make noise for attention, say so. It’s not going to endear you to the average peace-and-quiet-loving person, but at least it’s honest.
I should interject that this column isn’t aimed at all motorcyclists or performance vehicle owners or enthusiasts, just the ones who feel the need to impose their cacophony on the general public.
There are plenty of places to go for the noise-loving crowd, including racetracks and vehicle events that encourage revving your engine and burning out tires.
Maybe that’s not rebellious or showy enough to an expectant crowd. Maybe the attention sought by operators of abhorrently raucous vehicles can only be lavished upon them by strangers who don’t care to participate in their clamor.
For those who pretend that mind-numbing dissonance translates into performance, I question your mechanical prowess.
Some back pressure, such as an effective exhaust, aids in power production of an internal combustion engine, and the engine is certainly happier and requires less constant throttle to keep it running. Yes, a high-flow exhaust might help but an absent exhaust is extreme and ineffective. Further, professional engineers with computerized models tune exhaust systems for optimum efficiency under a variety of common driving circumstances, it’s doubtful that Junior with a Sawzall, straight pipe and clamps can improve upon the original.
We live here in the beauty of the valley, surrounded by the majesty of nature, nighttime darkness and silence unimaginable to city dwellers. The wee hours of a summer morning are some of my favorite times to reflect and prepare for the day. If I oversleep, the 5:30 AM motorcycle commuter will be sure to awaken me and there’s no better snooze setting than a roaring 4x4 with deep-lug tires slapping the pavement as it rumbles past the house heading south.
Eric and Michelle Meltzer own and operate Fryeburg Motors, a licensed, full-service automotive sales and service facility at 299 Main St. in Fryeburg, Maine. More than a business, cars are a passion, and they appreciate anything that drives, rides, floats or flies.