February 5th, 2014 —
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Sound Management


The line between motorcycle sound and motorcycle noise has always been controversial. Efforts by regulators around the nation to rein in excessive motorcycle sound often miss the mark by singling out motorcyclists with laws that are unfair, impractical and unenforceable.

Since its inception in 1924, the AMA has maintained a position of strong opposition to excessive motorcycle sound. The AMA has funded information and public relations campaigns in support of quieter motorcycle use, and was the world’s first motorsports sanctioning body to regulate and reduce the sound level of racing vehicles.

The AMA believes that few other factors contribute more to misunderstanding and prejudice against the motorcycling community than excessively loud motorcycles. All motorcycles are manufactured to meet federally mandated sound control standards. Unfortunately, a small number of riders who install unmuffled aftermarket exhaust systems perpetuate a public myth that all motorcycles are loud.

To see the AMA’s position on excessive motorcycle sound, click here.

On-Highway Motorcycle Sound

The AMA was aware even in the 1940s that excessive motorcycle sound created problems. The AMA launched the popular “Muffler Mike” campaign for quieter riding in 1948 in an effort to get motorcyclists to respect others.

Since that time, the AMA has always tried to find a middle ground between overly restrictive laws that punish responsible riders and a wide-open, anything-goes attitude that results in a backlash from the general public.

In 2009, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International produced a simple, consistent and economical sound test standard that can be used to determine whether an on-highway motorcycle exhaust system emits excessive sound. The SAE J2825 "Measurement of Exhaust Sound Pressure Levels of Stationary On-Highway Motorcycles" establishes instrumentation, test site, test conditions, procedures, measurements and sound level limits.

Shortly after the SAE released J2825, the AMA developed model legislation for use by cities and states seeking a simple, consistent and economical way to deal with sound complaints related to on-highway motorcycles within the larger context of excessive sound from all sources. The model legislation is based on SAE J2825.

To read the on-highway motorcycle model legislation, click here.

To see how to conduct an SAE J2825 test, click here.

Off-Highway Motorcycle Sound

The streetbike community isn’t alone in feeling the pressure for responsible sound limits. In fact, off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders have taken the sound issue seriously for years, knowing that noisy motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles translate into closed riding areas.

There has existed for many years a simple and economical test for off-highway motorcycle sound emissions: the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International J1287 “Measurement of Exhaust Sound Pressure Levels of Stationary Motorcycles,” which is much like the street version: SAE J2825.

To help jurisdictions avoid approving overly restrictive laws to control excessive off-highway motorcycle sound, the AMA has produced model legislation.

To read the off-highway motorcycle model legislation, click here.

Other Resources

Sound Advice is the product of a two-year effort by the Motorcycle Sound Working Group, which was formed in 2003, and included representatives of the street and off-road riding communities, as well as motorcycle manufacturers, aftermarket companies, event organizers, and representatives from law enforcement, municipal government, research institutions and regulatory agencies.

The document was released following the second National Summit on Motorcycle Sound. To view Sound Advice, click here.

More about Sound Advice:

  1. Appendix B (“SAE J1287 Measurement of Exhaust Sound Levels of Stationary Motorcycles”) doesn’t appear in the electronic version of Sound Advice. To order a copy of SAE J1287, contact the Society of Automotive Engineers at 877-606-7323 or visit www.sae.org.
  2. Appendix C (“AMA Position on Motorcycle Sound”) as of May 14, 2005. Click here for the current AMA position statement on motorcycle sound.

For the latest information on engine test speed data for stationary sound testing, see the Motorcycle Industry Council downloads page.