Do Loud Pipes Really Save Lives ?

Written By: Will Yap
Photography By: The Motorgrapher

We’ve all heard the argument before, loud pipes save lives, they heighten driver awareness, sound great and can serve as a better preventive measure.

To those who’ve settled for the loud pipes camp, many would naturally lament Singapore’s Transport Regulator has very strict regulations on exhaust systems and other add-ons in the name of visibility. So bikers versus LTA’s regulations, which camp carries more weight or which argument presents a better grounded front?

Navigating Singapore’s largely urban infrastructure means that vehicles related to construction activities are constantly abound. These vehicles, especially the mobile cranes and tippers have massive blindspots and within the iron sarcophagus lie paid-per-trip drivers. Naturally under these circumstances, they drive fast and through fatigue. To add on, try sitting in one and you’ll probably realize just how noisy the cabins can be, creating an invisible barrier between the driver and surrounding traffic. In this case, if they can’t see or hear any vehicle, much less a motorcycle, then they probably don’t exist. And then there are the blindspots. Just watch this video to understand how big blindspots can be.

This presents us with the question if a motorcycle’s presence can truly be reinforced by bright lights in the night and perhaps a set of free-breathing pipes to keep drivers aware. While regulations allow for Euro compliant slip-on exhaust systems, these merely increase the decibels for the rider’s experience. Sound presence decreases with a few feet. Not to mention any louder than these and you’ll risk a hefty fine or worse from LTA, who’ve been really active with their roadblocks lately.

On the other end of the spectrum, aside from the nuisance some road users complain of, there is also the riding attitude that loud pipes encourage. Take a look around and you’ll realize a lot of the motorcycles with louder pipes are run by the younger crowd. To some element I’ll go out on a wing here and say the symphony from their pipes encourages a tendency to ride err…daringly… and there lies another problem. Discipline is a very fickle quality to maintain for many motorcyclists. You and I were all young once weren’t we? The reason I’m bringing this up is because the very purpose of louder pipes and brighter lights is to reinforce the presence of a motorcyclist, not use it as an excuse to ride with a little less care since “you heard me coming didn’t you?”. Here’s another video showing just how big the blindspots of a truck can be.

While the notion that loud pipes save lives bears weight, even in my books since it raises awareness on the road, the reasons to justify why regulations are in place against them seem to be lacking or insufficient when all motorcyclists want to do is be noticed. Everytime I review a bone stock dealership machine in the day, near misses are a common affair, compared to significantly less when I was riding with cannons for exhausts on my own machines. Once in awhile, drivers would roll up beside and complement the sound. I’ve changed my motorcycle testing to nights a long time ago, since the sheer reduction of road users presents lesser chances of getting into trouble. Drunk drivers can be easier to avoid and rabid drivers can be spotted a mile away by their headlights darting if you pay attention to your mirrors and check over your shoulders once in awhile. We can’t all be expected to switch the home-work-home commute, deliveries and other activities to night too can we? I’m definitely not a fan of said regulations and in the interest of other road users I’ll bitch about the trucks that still spill sand and other junk on the road as well as diesels that still spew black clouds of cancer in everybody’s faces since these pose a more direct health threat than something on wheels and above average traffic volume.

Ultimately, since regulations don’t change, riding styles will have to. Motorcyclists have to ride defensively, or in other words, anticipate terrible driving from other users, maintain safe distances, especially during the wet seasons and stay visible. Like the first video said, if you can’t see the drivers, they can’t see you.

I know not everybody’s going to agree with me but I’d like to use this to get the ball rolling and see what comes up from the different points of view everybody else has. Drop a line or two in the comments and present your arguments if you please – TGA


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