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World Champion Exhaust

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Do Loud Pipes Save Lives?

This is a question that has plagued motorcyclists since the 80s, when the first fat, bearded bloke sewed a patch on his flared vest stating loud exhaust pipes do just that. It’s a myth worth busting…


There is a vast train-load of reasons for you to buy a top-shelf exhaust system like one of these SC-Project jobbies.

And you know perfectly well what they are, but just in case you’ve stuck your fingers in your ears and are making “LALALALA!” excuse-and-denial noises because you were breast-fed well into your teenage years, let me list some of them for you.

Weight reduction. This is simple science.

Things that weigh less are heaps sexier. It’s why people go on diets and eat horrible stuff like kale.

Things that weigh less go heaps faster. You ever seen a fat cheetah?

Things that weigh less will handle better – and in terms of motorcycles, this is pretty important. Let’s face it, you’re not Marc Marquez and you won’t be saving any of those front-end washouts with your elbow.

Then there’s the durability aspect. SC-Project exhausts are not made by aliens in spaceships orbiting the earth, but they could be, because only the highest-grade materials are used in their construction. And a bit of sorcery.

The carbon-fibre has not been diluted by fibreglass to make production go further. There’s no skimping or cutting corners here. Go pick an SC-Project pipe up and fondle it. It’s 100 per cent pure, like your innermost desires.

The titanium used is the same aeronautical grade titanium employed in the manufacture of fighter jets, and the stainless steel is that high-end AISI 304 stuff which looks to be made from forever.

Then there’s the self-satisfied smirk factor. All the SC-Project road-legal pipes fall well within all the government noise guidelines, but still offer a deeper and more arousing exhaust-note that may well carpet your progression with damp panties, or cause your attractive pillion to bite you on the neck with unbridled lust.

None of this will save your life, will it? Of course not.

“But a loud exhaust pipe will!” I hear you cry, and then I see you buying one of SC-Projects crazy-good race pipes, and turning the full heavy-metal sex-orchestra up to Ten.

Yeah, well that won’t save your life either. It will possibly get you defected off the road, so that may prolong your existence – which will be miserable – but it will not save your life, because loud pipes do not save lives, and never have.

It’s just a lie. And you need to stop believing it.

You riding better and smarter is the only thing that will save your life.

But…but…all those Loud Pipes Save Lives patches and T-shirts…are they wrong?

Yes, they are. This is a lie that has been promulgated since the mid-80s, predominantly by Harley riders. I know this because I was one of those Harley riders, and I was telling everyone who would listen (mainly other Harley riders) that it’s a no-brainer that shatteringly loud pipes are a safety benefit on the road because car drivers will hear them, and thus be aware a bike is approaching, and thus maybe not pull out in front of me.

I had even managed to convince myself this was the case, and I remember having several such impassioned conversations with various Highway Patrol officers who were busily writing me out a defect notice, and smiling while I lectured them on the obvious safety benefits of straight-through shotgun pipes.

My Harley sounded like the Germans shelling Stalingrad. How could car-drivers not hear it and thus be aware of me?

It’s Always Been Bullshit

Simple, really. It was all nonsense. It was, in fact, a myth we Harley riders created to justify our love for the sound of our unmuffled bikes. We loved the raucous hammering cacophony those heavy-flywheeled, push-rod driven V-twins made. It made the pretty girls swoon, it notified publicans of our imminent arrival, and it made us feel like the outlaws we were.

But non-Harley riders were also into this bullshit too.

Any big in-line Jap four back then was sporting a race-can that screamed big-decibel hate and fury at the world, and made the rider feel like there was a podium to stand on at the end of the ride.

Hell, there wasn’t a Ducati on the road in those days that didn’t have pipes that sounded like rapid-fire artillery rounds.

So apart from maybe those weird, silent BMW boxer riders, the rest of the motorcycle fraternity all got on board the loud-pipe thing – and justified it to the world by saying it was really all about safety.

But it had nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with us being red-eyed hooligans who loved loud bikes. The safety crap we pissed on about was a usually pointless attempt by us to not get defected by the cops each time they pulled us over.

So it was a lie back in the 80s, it is an even bigger lie now. And I will tell you why.

Cars have become increasingly more sound-proofed as the years have gone by. It is, in fact, a big selling point of many models, especially the luxury brands who pride themselves on having tomb-silent interiors where the only sound the driver can hear are Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, or his stockbroker’s breathless advice.

It is simply not possible for the driver to hear your loud pipes unless he is sitting directly behind you at a set of lights and you’re revving your bike – in which case, he may choose to ram you precisely because you have loud pipes.

But if he’s sitting at an intersection and you’re hammering your way across his intended turn-path, he is not going to hear you.

Physics has my back on this. Light travels faster than sound, right? So he will, if he looks, see you before he hears you – especially given your pipes are facing away from your direction of travel.

The presumptive safety myth kicks in right here. What if he doesn’t look? Then surely he will hear my glorious thunder from afar and not pull out in front of me, right?

And then he does pull out, and then you hit him, and even though it’s the driver’s fault, you’re the one in the ambulance on your way to meet a bone surgeon.

Why Did the T-shirt Lie?


How did it all go wrong? How could he not have heard you?

The actual question you need to ask yourself, and you will when you’re re-learning to walk, is why did you assume he would hear you?

Oh yeah, that’s right. Because Loud Pipes Save Lives! It said so on that bloke’s T-shirt and his girlfriend’s vest-patch. And T-shirts and patches are never wrong.

Well, they certainly are in this case.

Loud pipes have never saved anyone’s life. They may have made you feel like Thor, caused much tutt-tutting from more conservative members of our society (one of the great benefits of such pipes, I feel), and provided you and your like-minded mates with tonnes of aural pleasure. But they have never contributed a single thing to preserving your life on the road.

What keeps you alive on the road is your skill as a rider. Your hyper-awareness of every situation, your anticipation of what that car might do, or what the road-surface may be like, is what stands between you and the bone-saw. Nothing else.

I remember having a conversation some years ago with a mate who was an ambulance driver. He also rode a bike, and we were both lamenting the obvious blindness and apparent deafness of car drivers who pull out in front of us as we ride along.

It was he who initially shot down the myth of loud pipes saving lives.

“Mate,” he said to me with a grin. “You know that’s just bullshit, don’t you?”

“Oh, come on,” I replied. “Surely a loud exhaust helps the blind bastards to be aware of a motorcycle.”

My mate laughed. “I drive an ambulance,” he said. “With all my lights and sirens on, they still don’t see or hear me and pull out in front of me. I hit one the other day. You know what he said?”


“He said he didn’t hear me or see me. So if he cannot hear my sirens, what chance have we got of him hearing our exhaust notes?”

It’s All on You, Not Your Pipe


I went home that day and thought long and hard on what he’d said, and at the end of it all, I had to admit he was right. Car drivers genuinely do not see or hear us, and there is a mass of science to back that up. Car drivers are not trained to look out for bikes, and so they don’t. We may as well be invisible, and if you’re not riding as if you are invisible, then more fool you.

So if the driver literally cannot see you – and he’s really not looking anyway – then what are the chances he’s going to hear you, associate whatever vague sound might be getting through his sound-proofed, music-filled car interior with an oncoming bike, and not pull out in front of you because of that?

Yep, pretty much zero chance.

So let us put a stake through the heart of this vampire-like myth once and for all.

By all means fit the beautiful, melodic, and even race-loud SC-Project pipes to your bike – and you should and you must because the song of our people is a gorgeous vibe.

And it’s not just the gorgeous aural vibe – because I don’t care how good the pipe sounds if it looks like crap. The SC-Project assault on your senses is multi-faceted – it will not only sound brilliant; it will look the whole sex-cannon, panties-off-ladies business too.

The double-whammy, as it were.

And yes, you’ve reduced weight. And yes, you’re conforming with government noise compliance. And yes, your SC-Project pipe will last longer than your bike.

But no matter how loud it is, it’s not going to save your life. That’s entirely on you. 

Author Boris Mihailovic

Author: Boris Mihailovic

Published in Bike Me!,,, Red Dirt Diaries,, Smiths Lawyers, XbHP (India), Auto Action, Australian Motorcyclist, Heavy Duty, Ozbike, Live to Ride, Australian Motorcycle News, Road Rider, Kiwi Rider, Two Wheels, Just Bikes, Motorcycling NSW, Top Gear, Wheels, Menace 2 Society, Australian Worker, Zoo, Penthouse, The Picture, People, Motorcycle News (England), Ralph, FHM, Street Machine Choppers and Motorcycle Legends.

Podcast: MotoPG – We See Dead People

Books published by Hachette: My Mother Warned Me About Blokes Like Me and At The Altar Of The Road Gods.

Book published by Shock & Awe Publishing: The Wisdom Of The Road Gods.

The Wisdom of the Road Gods