Rant: Put a Cork In It


As I stare out my motorcoach's tinted windows at the red rock LaSal mountains, not a sound can be heard while I read the online Sunday LA Times' story about how police in scenic Laguna Beach, California are ticketing excessively loud motorcycles. The tranquility of 'getting away from it all,' reminds me that it's about time to fire up my Honda CRF450 and shred some not-so- knobby-anymore tires against said slickrock.

Mentally back to reality and the point at hand: My CRF is box-stock and very quiet, and I like that. Jim loosed one bolt out of the back of my exhaust, popped out the inner core and presto! It's loud: "sounds good, now, huh?" he queries me with that devilish smile of his. 'No,' I think, 'it sounds garishly loud, don't touch my bike!' Count, one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, and...

Ah, the sound of my riding pal Jim Ryan's piped XR650 echoing amongst the canyons is music to his ears -- what's with guys and loud pipes, anyway? By sailing through the air with the quietest of ease...

"Yes, Jim," I reply, suppressing that rude voice constantly in my head, "it sure does, but I like the way my bike runs and don't want to mess with the power delivery at all, please put it back." There, that part is true, an outright lie avoided, all my karma intact. Which is important to me, as I feel that it's rude to pump noise at others -- a sentiment shared by much of the rest of the world. So I put the muffler core back in. The ease with which my exceptionally well-engineered Honda can be "uncorked" stays with me, churning thoughts in the back of my head...

I return to Thailand in 11 days, where there's virtually no traffic laws but you simply don't encounter loud vehicles. Not because it's illegal, but because it's rude, and the Thai people are many things, but overtly rude isn't one of them. Where's the karmic kindness and generosity in being rude unto others? Self-regulation in the populace can work. Really, it can -- I've seen it in action.

...I can thus, ever so politely of course, roost Sean "Dirty" Alexander with no resultant karmic debt. But one of the things that makes America great is our willingness to stand apart from the crowd, to forcefully and vocally buck the social norm. Mass conformity, I'll give you, is just so dreadfully dull. Individually, for me in this instance -- and the reason I'm so on the fence regarding noise regulation -- is simple: Migraines. I get them. The stabbed-in-the-head, vomiting, I've-lost-three-days-in-my-life kind of pain you can't imagine. If you've never had one, and example you can probably relate to: After crushing every bone that connected my right arm unto myself in a bicycle accident -- upper-class-acceptable roadracing bicycles have got to be the most dangerous wheeled sport, and why that genre is acceptable to the patrician class for me, a middle-aged woman, while (especially enduro) motorcycles aren't is another rant for another day -- I had everything set without the morphine. It seemed, comparatively to a crushing migraine, a reasonable amount of pain to endure to ensure that I didn't end up with a sloping right side from improperly reduced bones. One could argue that the greater problem herein isn't loud pipes, it's that those that partake of this illegal liberty take joy from being rude.

But I digress. I enjoy tooling around on motorcycling's land barges with MO's de-facto "cruiser guy", Fonzie. And I think piped Harleys sound kinda cool. But modified, shrieking inline-four sportbikes and especially base-rail-laden SUVs and the lowered micro-Honda cars with rims wider than their tires all seemingly pump noise right into the trigger area that can launch me on a horrid three-day agony cruise. That's right, if you're one of these, your lifestyle choice can put me in the emergency room. Walk a mile in my shoes?

One could argue that the greater problem herein isn't loud pipes, it's that those that partake of this illegal liberty take joy from being rude. Further, that forcefully pressing their choices onto others is "cool" and an acceptable -- even fun -- thing to do. In the rest of the world, this is perceived as the defining attribute of American culture -- and why much of the rest of the globe, even many of our allies, hates America the ideal. That's the downside to our culture. Its reach has great, inadvertent global consequences -- read up on the Khmer Rouge, the genocidal Cambodian regime that was a fallout of our war with Vietnam. If you've ever been to Cambodia and seen the devastation still lingering in some small, lasting way from the Khmer Rouge, it'll haunt you. As it does me. You've probably seen the televised car commercials where a butterfly in Brazil flaps its wing and imparts striking global change -- they're a spoof of the afore-linked Butterfly Effect, Chaos Theory's law of unintended consequences which postulates that your choice of straight pipes could very well avalanche a thundering change. Outlawing motorcycles in private communities could gain momentum, leading to national tiered licensing legislation -- or worse -- as a scheme to exert control of how, when and what you ride. Freedom lost, in short.

The populace -- growing denser all the time -- doesn't want you rattling their windows, and they certainly don't have any desire to hear your 99-percenter weekend rebellion.

My singular point here isn't political -- this is MotoNumm and Date Kluamann with me, outside my city house in Pattaya, Thailand. I really should stop ranting and start writing that definitive guide to life, love and dirtbiking in Thailand... rcycle.Com and we're talking bikes. It's that, for those of you with straight pipes or kitted sportbikes, there are consequences for your actions, and they aren't likely to be good for the motorcycling community as a whole. The populace -- growing denser all the time -- doesn't want you rattling their windows, and they certainly don't have any desire to hear your 99-percenter weekend rebellion.

So, MOFOs, if you're loud and proud, put a cork in it!

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