Why can motorcycles blast our eardrums but cars get ticketed when they emit that level of noise?


Illustration by Jason Schneider

Motorcycles aren’t supposed to get special treatment, but I, too, have had my face melted by some monster choppers. Cars and cycles are permitted an upper limit of 80 decibels. Jay Leno can rev his 1946 Indian Chief up to 92 because the sound ceiling has been extended for bikes manufactured before 1970. These levels are all subjective, however—it’s not as though the CHP is packing decibel detectors. As long as your ride’s noise registers somewhere between a freight train and a pneumatic jackhammer on the Ask Chris sound scale, you’re probably within the law.