Threats to OHV in America, Part 2
AMA's Rob Dingman discusses the challenge of
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- For the past 21 months,
American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)
President and CEO Rob Dingman has been leading
the world's largest motorcyclists' rights
organization through a reorganization to
rededicate the AMA to its core mission:
protecting and promoting the future of
motorcycling and the motorcycle lifestyle.
In this interview -- the second of a three-part
series by AmericanMotorcyclist.com -- Dingman
discusses the most contentious issue in
motorcycling today: excessive sound.
AM: Many street riders have a long-held belief
that a loud exhaust system alerts car and truck
drivers to their presence. Yet cities and towns
across America are enacting very strict sound
ordinances that target motorcycles unfairly.
What is the AMA doing about this?
RD: The single greatest threat to motorcycling
in America -- both on- and off-highway,
including ATVs -- is excessive exhaust sound.
Nearly everyone we talk to in the motorcycling
and OHV (off-highway vehicle) community echoes
this concern. For many riders, their machines
are an extension of their personalities, and
this includes the distinctive sound of their
engine's exhaust. I completely understand that.
But as motorcyclists, we have to realize that we
live in a world already filled with unwanted
distractions, and chief among them is sound that
is so excessive that it becomes a nuisance to
the general public. Excessive exhaust sound
plants targets squarely on the backs of all
riders, even those who ride with reasonably
quiet exhaust systems.
It is important to remember that this problem is
not limited to motorcycles and OHVs. Loud cars
and trucks, booming car stereos, poorly
maintained generators, whining leaf blowers --
they are all part of the problem. However, just
because there are other sources of unwanted
noise does not mean that the motorcycling
community can excuse itself. We have to be part
of the solution.
So to answer the question, the AMA and our
sister organization, the ATVA (All-Terrain
Vehicle Association), must simultaneously do two
things. First, we have to get our own house in
order, and by that I mean all riders must take
an active role in the self-regulation of sound.
Second, we have to stand up against government
actions that unfairly single out motorcycles and
OHVs for discriminatory or punitive enforcement.
AM: What role can the AMA and ATVA take in the
self-regulation of excessive sound?
RD: The first thing we have to do -- through
publicity, peer pressure and support of
appropriate sound ordinances -- is tell our
friends and acquaintances who ride loud bikes
and OHVs to tone it down. We need to lead by
example and convey the idea that it is totally
unacceptable to ride an obnoxiously loud
machine. Next, we have to stop installing
unmuffled exhaust systems on our bikes.
Thundering cruisers with straight pipes, howling
sport bikes with competition exhausts, and
barking dirt bikes and OHVs with unpacked
silencers have no place on our public streets
and trails. While I realize this statement may
cost the AMA and ATVA some members, if we
continue to ignore the serious and negative
impact that excessively loud bikes and OHVs are
having in our communities, we are going to see
more draconian measures to restrict sound, more
targeting of riders, and fewer places where we
are allowed to ride. Just one irresponsible
rider can negatively impact the rights of
AM: Have you seen any progress to date?
RD: The AMA and its partners started a public
dialog about excessive sound in the early 2000s,
and the OHV community has embraced the concept
of quieter motorcycles and ATVs in a big way. We
have seen leadership emerge among the sport's
heroes and influencers. For example, at the
invitational Colorado 500, which attracts the
industry's movers and shakers, the organizers
have brought down the sound of their off-road
bikes from well over 100 dB(A) to 96 dB(A) using
the SAE J1287 stationary sound measurement
standard. It's become a matter of pride for
entrants to have the quietest bike. And when
these riders go home, they set the example for
others to follow.
California is another example. AMA districts and
clubs have been at the forefront of the issue,
and were key participants to changes made in the
state law. Today they are actively enforcing 96
dB(A) at their events.
The manufacturers' professional racing teams are
also involved, and this year both AMA Supercross
and Motocross machines must meet the
FIM-developed 94 dB(A) standard. And starting in
2011, AMA Racing will be enforcing similar
standards in amateur racing.
There's more good news: Many more aftermarket
exhaust manufacturers build high-quality exhaust
systems that readily meet these standards with
no degradation in performance.
The AMA supports these grass-roots efforts by
providing sound-testing equipment to our
districts and clubs through a grant program. The
kits help test the sound level of OHVs to help
riders understand how loud -- or quiet -- their
bikes are, and also ensure that competition
machines are in compliance with AMA standards.
AM: What challenges remain?
RD: While we have made headway in the OHV
community, there are still OHV and motocross
riders who run excessively loud exhausts, so we
have more work to do here.
Beyond that, our most pervasive challenge today
is in the streetbike community, where loud bikes
are all-too-common. The same measures that are
working with OHV riders -- peer pressure and
self-regulation -- are what is needed to bring
about tangible change. Fortunately, most riders,
and a number of clubs, have seen the writing on
the wall and are already talking to their
members about quieting down their bikes. The key
is to regulate ourselves before the government
does it for us. We certainly won't like their
AM: If the AMA is in favor of reducing excessive
sound, why does the AMA oppose ordinances and
legislation intended to do just that?
RD: Great question. The AMA opposes measures
that target only motorcycles, and measures that
are unfair. If an ordinance or a bill considers
all noise sources -- not just motorcycles -- and
is reasonable in its solution, then we can
support it. And we have done so.
Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant against
poorly crafted legislation that singles out
motorcycles and OHVs from other vehicles and
offending sound sources. This is currently the
case in New York City, where a proposed sound
ordinance would mandate an EPA-stamped
motorcycle exhaust system, effectively requiring
an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) system
for streetbikes up to 20 years old. So we are
working to oppose badly thought-out initiatives,
while at the same time educating legislators
about fair and reasonable strategies to curb
AM: What can we expect next?
RD: The AMA and ATVA are taking a leadership
position in this effort by saying that
obnoxiously loud bikes and OHVs are not
acceptable, and that we will work with riders to
demonstrate the benefits of quieter exhausts. We
want to positively influence our peers and quiet
excessively loud motorcycles and OHVs to ensure
greater access to public lands and city streets,
plus the continued availability of accessory
exhaust systems. Also, we are looking forward to
seeing an SAE-developed, easy-to-implement
streetbike sound standard and testing method
that will help municipalities enforce reasonable
measures to reduce excessive sound. With these
tools we can demonstrate that the motorcycling
and OHV communities are acting responsibly when
it comes to sound.
I can't stress enough that curbing excessive
sound is the most important issue that we can
address today. We have to do this if we want to
expand opportunities for riders, reduce threats
to riding and usher in a new generation of
riders who are not limited by bike bans, land
closures and unjust regulation. If we do this,
we can get back to what riding motorcycles is
all about -- having fun.
Next installment: Rob Dingman discusses the
AMA's comprehensive approach to rider safety,
helmet laws and rider education.
About the American Motorcyclist
Since 1924, the AMA has promoted and protected
the motorcycling lifestyle. AMA members come
from all walks of life and they navigate many
different routes on their journey to the same
destination: freedom on two wheels. As the
world's largest motorcycle organization with
nearly 300,000 members, the AMA advocates for
motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local,
state and federal government, the committees of
international governing organizations and the
court of public opinion. Through member clubs,
promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more
motorsports competition events than any other
organization in the world. Through its
Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA
preserves the heritage of motorcycling for
future generations. For more information, visit