I recently attended the ABATE (area1H, Washington County) meeting when the Sheriff of Washington County, Dale Schmidt, was a guest speaker. It was a monthly meeting that also was to focus on the “Enhanced Enforcement” on motorcycles by his department. Apparently the folks living or working along well traveled routes don’t like those sweet sounding bikes interrupting the droning noise from their lawn mowers, weed whackers or farm equipment (or the 20 other common things I found easily emit louder continuous noise than bikes). There are LOTS of rumors swirling about what you’re getting pulled over for, who got pulled over, how often and where. As a preface, here is information from an article by John Reblin (ABATE Area Director),with the applicable sections of WI law:
(1) No person shall operate on a highway any motor vehicle subject to registration unless such motor vehicle is equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise or annoying smoke. This subsection also applies to motor bicycles.
(3) No person may operate a motorcycle without a functioning muffler
(3) In this section, “muffler” means a device consisting of a series of chambers of baffle plates or other mechanical design for receiving exhaust gases from an internal combustion engine and which is effective in reducing noise.
(2) No muffler or exhaust system on any vehicle mentioned in sub.(1) shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass or similar device nor shall there be installed in the exhaust system of any such vehicle any device to ignite exhaust gases so as to produce flame within or without the exhaust system. No person shall modify the exhaust system of any such motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle, and such original muffler shall comply with all the requirements of this section.
These are WI Transportation sections that also apply.
(1) Every motorcycle shall be equipped with a functioning exhaust system that is maintained in proper working condition so as to reduce engine noise. The exhaust system shall be maintained in conformity with this section and section 347.39 WI statutes.
(2) Every exhaust system shall be maintained free of leaks from the engine exhaust ports through the piping and muffler to the end of the exhaust system. A protective shield or insulated section shall be provided for any portion of the exhaust system that extends above and to the rear of the foot pegs or rests.
(end of material)
OK. I get it. They will be looking for bikes with loud exhausts (or complaints about bikes with loud exhausts). No “off road use” aftermarket pipes (like the H-D Screaming Eagles). No “swiss cheese” rusted through exhaust for you rat bike guys. Also straight or open ended (non-baffled) pipes are illegal as well. Fair enough. Those are just loud to be loud and actually reduce the performance of the machine except on a stroked motor on a drag strip.
An ABATE committee has confirmed and reviewed the number of citations and warning issued last year and it seemed to be in acceptable and appropriate limits. Contrary to popular belief, the Sheriff was not setting up roadblocks checking each bike with a sound meter and pimp slapping violators.
That’s all fine and dandy, but when I take a closer look at what is being enforced, I have huge concerns about this section of the statute: “No person shall modify the exhaust system of any such motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle, and such original muffler shall comply with all the requirements of this section.”
Now that is a dilemma. Sheriff Schmidt told us that his deputies would NOT be doing sound measurement testing with their little meters. Turned out they could not use predetermined dB (power) levels to set a limit on what is loud for each manufacturer/model in a real world environment. Stock bikes (Foreign and Domestic) failed when trying to specify various top limits. Let’s hope they stick to that thinking, as the Sheriff pointed out that a ticket would probably get tossed in court. So how do they then determine what a “muffler originally installed on the vehicle” sounds/looks like? Unless the deputy has a VERY keen ear for exhaust notes and knows each year and make, as well as optional FACTORY exhausts that were available, it would not be possible to write a ticket for section 347.39 on a baffled exhaust system. I wonder if Vance and Hines, Hard Krome, Cobra, Samson, Jardine.Bub and a plethora of other motorcycle exhaust manufacturers know that their street cruiser products that produce rumbling and distinct sounding exhausts are ILLEGAL in WI (even while be marked 49 state legal,except CA). I plan on carrying a printout of the manufacturers WEBSITE of my bike with the FACTORY STREET LEGAL 2 into 1 Pro-pipe exhaust and one of my wife’s baffled FACTORY STREET LEGAL straight pipes. I suggest you do the same (except you HD guys with Screaming Eagles…your screwed. HD calls them “Off road use only” pipes. Sorry.). Of course if you own a Big Bear, Bourget or Big Dog with factory straights you SHOULD be legal as well, shouldn’t you? Factory IS factory.
Based on what the Sheriff stated, he and his crew start by looking for the “Obnoxious Biker” that revs it up EXCESSIVELY at stop lights or as he peels away from a business. They are looking for safety violations and “state law” violating pipes as the stop continues, but they can also stop you if they see “something” with your exhaust (Note: Faux Straights with internal Baffles like the Cobra 2-1-2 crossover straights will probably get you stopped because they are visually straight looking). That’s it. He also invited anyone that gets a ticket that they feel does not meet those parameters to contact him directly. Keep that in mind. State your case to the deputy and take it up the chain. If they won’t tear up the ticket, I would like to know why.
Three final points. First (I asked this at the meeting) , how come dealerships and aftermarket shops (or mail order companies) are allowed to sell and INSTALL “illegal” exhaust systems in Wisconsin? Sure, they make you sign a waiver, install the pipes, then they let you scoot on down the road. How the hell does that make sense? The speed limit laws apply ALL OF THE TIME TO EVERYONE operating a vehicle, as do most other traffic statutes. So does this biker targeted law. If this is a law for the good of the people it has to be enforced. This includes the taxpayers sucking up the cost and expense involved for all law enforcement units to police dealerships, service shops and individuals that want to sneak after-market exhausts “ which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle” onto their bikes AND notifying manufacturing companies that want to sell them into Wisconsin that they are breaking the law. They should also be checking for violations at the border 24 hours a day. If it’s THAT important to be written into a statute, it should be rigorously enforced.
Or are these such generalized, feel good,”look like we are doing something about noise” mamby-pamby “out of touch” statutes that they are really only used as a whipping stick to profile and easily target one segment of the driving public? This “I’ll turn a blind eye until I feel like writing you a ticket” is bullshit. Address the root of the “Problem”, which according to this law is aftermarket/modified exhausts. Get rid of those and we will all be riding silently and acceptably within polite society. Do that or admit its all crap, its not worth enforcing and remove the statute. NOTE: I am not advocating actually enforcing the statute by any stretch of the imagination. I am pointing out its absurdity if they actually applied the law correctly.
I feel bad for the guy buying a bike in a private sale. He MAY have illegal pipes and not even know it. It’s an added expense to change them back. So how about we really enforce the law and make sure that bikes for sale/resell cannot be sold EXCEPT with stock manufacturer pipes? If it’s that important a law, it has to be enforced. Or take the stupid overreaching non-concise piece of crap off the books for good. It really does need to just go away..
Secondly, anyone who has ridden in the state of Wisconsin knows that soccer moms and old people do not give a royal rat’s ass that you are on the road with them. They are oblivious. Minding the kids, texting on cell phones, putting make-up on in the visor mirror and looking for the lighter to spark another cigarette are much more important than the conscious effort required to be aware of bikers. Add to that our state justice system’s propensity to let multiple offense drunk drivers back on the road and you might as well lace up ID tags in your biker boots so they can easily identify the body. The truth of the matter is that LOUD PIPES DO SAVE LIVES!!. I can prove it. If you have ridden more than 10 miles, you have passed a car in this state. How far up the length of the car did you have to be before you got an acknowledging look from the driver? How about seeing their eyes in the mirror…actual eye contact? 1 in10? 1 in 20? I would say 25% of the time or more I get the “Oh shit, what’s that noise” quick look of surprise as I come up on their rear quarter-panel. That look quickly becomes the “annoyed at the loud biker noise” look…..but you know what? At least it’s a look. They turned and saw me BECAUSE they heard me FIRST and ended up NOT changing lanes into me. Now, I figure that saved my life 1 in 4 times during daily driving encounters. Care to argue that with me? I tried to present this point at the meeting to no avail (my raised hand apparently became invisible after my 1st question).
Third, you have to decide if a ride to Washington County is worth it. Based on the discussion, the Sheriff will not be going out guns ablazin’ looking for equipment violations , but they will still be out. The determination of what is “disorderly” behavior, as far as motor usage, is subjective as well..There will be no posted signs telling you that you are entering an “Enhanced Enforcement Zone”. If there is even a question about you or someone in your group getting pulled over for equipment violations, I can understand your reluctance to attend events, take weekend rides or patronize businesses in Washington County….and you should probably let those organizers and businesses know about your concerns as well. We have to decide if 20-30 whiney bike haters with quick fingers and the Sheriff on Speed dial negate our thousands of voices saying “LOUD PIPES SAVE LIVES, LET US RIDE!”
A final note: ABATE of WI has been very successful in keeping our legislature moving forward on motorcycle rights issues. I applaud them. They are working on a campaign and with the Sheriff in the hopes that their efforts will reduce the overall problem and therefore his need to enforce vigorously. I hope they are also going to hold the Sheriff accountable to his discussion points when bikers are stopped. That said, I was not feeling the “Brotherhood” at the meeting. The “Brand Bashing/Baiting” by some attendees at the meeting could stand to get knocked down a notch or ten (or non-existent would be better). I get it. Your bike choice was the best and everybody else is just stupid for not agreeing with you and buying the same brand/model of bike. How about we shut up about the bikes and talk about the rights?
I would also say that while I have heard on numerous occasions that the organization has an interest in attracting the “sportbike” crowd into its fold, the “old school” bikers negative outbursts about them (joking or not) may be part of the reason they stay away, IMHO. I also know you can’t control what everybody says (I am a good example).‘Nuff Said.