Why are motorcycles so loud? Here’s all you need to know.

Key takeaways

  • Motorcycles are noisy mainly due to the length and size of the exhaust, and the fact that the engine is exposed.

  • The fun of motorcycles is matched by their volume, which can pose health risks and prove disruptive for neighbors.

  • Riding a motorcycle can be a thrilling experience. And while it’s easy to get lost in the magic of the ride, you have to make sure you’re protecting your ears too.

  • Noise-reducing earplugs are ideal for providing protection when you’re riding a motorcycle. They prevent ear damage without blocking out important noise, and fit snugly underneath your helmet.

  • You can take measures to reduce the noise coming from your motorcycle, such as replacing your muffler, wrapping your motorcycle’s pipes, or installing an exhaust silencer.

Any keen motorcyclist will tell you: the feeling of being out for a ride is beyond comparison.

Wind whooshing past your face. Adrenaline flowing. You’re filled with an all-encompassing sense of adventure as you leave the road behind you.

There’s no doubt it’s an exhilarating hobby. But along with the excitement comes an unavoidable fact: Motorcycles are super loud.

And not just for the riders themselves. For some, the unmistakable roar of a passing motorcycle is one big noisy nuisance (especially in quieter, residential areas). In fact, one study found that 50% of participants found motorcycle noise above 45 decibels to be “highly annoying.”

Even organizations such as the European Commission are seeing noise disturbance as a potential health issue. And seeing that some noise can result in sleep deprivation and other health-related problems, it’s no surprise. 

In this article we’re going to take a closer look at motorcycles. 

Exactly why are they so loud? Is it possible to reduce the noise? And what can you do to stay safe when riding

Let’s get started.

How loud is a motorcycle?

The noise of a motorcycle engine can reach up to 116 decibels.

(Which is approximately the same level as someone shouting in your ear).

And when you consider that being exposed to any noise above 85 decibels can cause hearing damage, that’s a pretty scary fact. 

But engine noise isn’t the only culprit. When you’re traveling at fast speeds on a motorbike, the noise levels of the wind can reach over 98 decibels on their own.

If you’re riding along and forgetting to protect your ears, then you’re at risk of developing conditions such as tinnitus, or worse – hearing loss.

Earplugs for Motorcycling

The reasons why motorcycles are so loud

Motorcycles are incredible pieces of machinery.

Their intricate machinery is as sleek as it is thunderous.

So where does that incredible roaring noise come from? 

Here are the reasons why they’re so loud:

  • Their exhaust system is small

The sound from a vehicle’s engine travels down its exhaust system.

And with larger vehicles, there is room to add some noise-reducing kit, such as mufflers, catalytic converters, and exhaust baffles.

But a motorcycle’s exhaust is on the small side, compared to say, a car. So there isn’t always enough room for the extras to fit and get to work damping the sound.

Plus, the air rushing out of a smaller 3 ft-4 ft (91.5cm -122cm)  long exhaust has no time to slow down, and an even shorter time for the noise to be absorbed through the machine.

  • Their mufflers are on the small side too

A muffler is an acoustic device that is specifically designed to dampen engine noise.

And while a muffler works well to reduce the noise to a tolerable level, its size is limited by the vehicle whose noise it muffles. So yes, a muffler may dampen the noise a little, but it only has a limited capacity in terms of how much sound it can actually absorb.

  • The engine is exposed

With a car, the engine is encased in a compartment, which acts as a sound barrier against the noise. But a motorcycle engine is fully exposed to the elements and surrounding atmosphere, which means zero barrier and a very loud sound.

How can I make my motorcycle less noisy?

There are steps you can take to reduce the noise coming from a loud motorcycle.

Here are our tips: 

  • Check for holes in the exhaust

If you find small holes in the exhaust, they have likely been caused by rust. 

These holes can be sealed easily and quickly by covering them with exhaust tape to seal them. If the holes are on the larger side, they’ll need a bit more attention, but can be sealed using a patch and resin. Check out this tutorial on YouTube to find out how to do this.

  • Replace your muffler

Is your motorcycle suddenly sounding louder than usual? 

Your muffler might need replacing. Luckily, mufflers are easy to get hold of and don’t cost too much, so you can replace it with minimal hassle.

Alternatively, you might consider changing the type of muffler you’re using. Most motorcycles come with a standard muffler called a bullet muffler, and they’re well-known for making a motorcycle too noisy.

Resonator mufflers are a great choice for keeping the noise at a low level. These models usually feature fiberglass construction on the interior, making them extra soundproof.

  • Wrap the pipes

You’ll be surprised at the effect of pipe wrapping. 

Not only does it reduce vibrations coming from your exhaust, but it also employs durable materials such as titanium, which means it’ll hold up well against the high temperatures coming from your bike exhaust. It’s also pretty affordable and easy to install yourself, meaning you’ll be wrapping your pipes like a pro.

  • Invest in an exhaust silencer

A typical silencer works by narrowing the hole of the exhaust using fiberglass wraps, therefore providing a good level of soundproofing.

Again, fitting a silencer doesn’t require any special skills. You just need to get it in place, fasten the screws, and you’re done!

  • Switch to new pipes

Sometimes, if there are too many issues, it’s easier to just invest in some new pipes.

If your bike has a dual-exhaust system, it’s a good idea to install crossover pipes. These do an amazing job at suppressing the noise. 

There are also other options to choose from, such as Y-pipe or H-pipe designs. It works by equalizing the flow of exhaust gas coming from the engine, which results in better performance and improved sound quality.

Am I at risk of hearing loss?

Loud motorcycles can be harmful to your ears.

If you’re a regular rider, it’s vital that you look out for any warning signs and get your ears checked regularly.

Your riding may be affecting your hearing if you experience any of the following:

  • A feeling of ‘fullness’ in the ear, or a muffled sound after riding
  • Temporary hearing loss, or finding things like speech or quiet sounds hard to hear
  • Sounds suddenly becoming louder and more of an irritant
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after riding

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor right away. They will advise you on ways that you can protect your hearing and any treatments that may be available to you.

How can I prevent hearing damage?

We want our hearing to last a lifetime. 

But what if your hobbies are having an impact on your hearing? 

It’s true that in recent years motorcycle development has advanced, leading to quieter bikes and radically improved performance. But motorcycles are still likely to cause damage, especially with wind noise to factor into the equation. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to give it up altogether. But you do need to get real about protecting your hearing, no matter your age. 

Here are the steps you can take to minimize the damage when riding a motorcycle:

  • Wear noise-reducing earplugs

You shouldn’t have to give up your hobby, not when you can keep your ears protected.

Modern noise-reducing earplugs are the perfect protection for motorcyclists, as they can reduce noise levels by up to 23 decibels. For example, our Loop Experience Plus (Pro) earplugs come with an acoustic channel and filter. This means you’ll not only protect your ears but you’ll also enhance your riding experience. They’ll help you to stay alert on the road while hearing everything you need to.

And being ultra-comfortable, they won’t bother you when you’re riding and will fit easily underneath your helmet.

  • Avoid riding at high speeds

Of course, at times it’s super tempting to go faster. But reducing your speed will help to keep you safe from the noise created by the wind and the engine. 

A study by ADAC showed that motorcyclists are at risk of permanently damaging their hearing after just 15 minutes of riding at 62 mph (99 km/h), seven minutes at 74 mph (119 km/h), or three minutes at 87 mph (140km/h).

  • Wear noise-canceling headphones

Noise-canceling headphones can be great at blocking out engine and wind noise.

However, there are potential issues. Being larger than earplugs, it’s often not possible to fit them underneath your helmet. 

But they can slip snugly into some and provide a good level of protection to help reduce hearing loss. They are especially good at protecting against wind noise, which as we know, can cause real damage.

  • Get your hearing checked out

It’s important to stay on top of the condition of your hearing. 

By having a good idea of the health of your ears, you’ll be able to see if you’re likely to be at risk of hearing damage, tinnitus, or hearing loss. With that knowledge then you can act accordingly, get some protection, and minimize the risk of further damage. 

  • Always wear a helmet

It’s vital (and often a legal requirement) to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle. Not only will it keep you safe in the event of an accident, but it can also slightly help protect your ears from the noise levels by up to 7dB.

Earplugs for motorcycle riding

So there you have it. Motorcycles are loud.

And when you’re riding your motorcycle it can be easy to forget the damage that’s being done to your ears. But remember, there are many things you can do to continue doing the hobby you love and still look after your hearing in the process.

And don’t forget: there are other people out there who are affected by the noise. So if your bike is emitting more noise than is typical, there are things you can do to reduce it. For yourself, and your community.

Happy riding!

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