Muffle that bike of yours, okay?

Alternatives to loud motorcycles in national parks

Be cool naturally, man.

The debate of over noise in national parks always seems to center on snowmobiles in Yellowstone. It’s a worthy debate, to be sure. And since you asked, I think the practice should be eradicated. Winter in Yellowstone is an excruciatingly difficult survival scenario for the majority of the animals. With food at a minimum, every expense of energy needs to be spent on locating calories, not running from the buzzing curiosity of tourists on gas-powered sleds.

My greater concern surrounds the remainder of the parks during the travel season, specifically as it relates to the noise produced by motorcycles equipped with after-market mufflers marketed to increase exhaust noise. It became readily apparent to me this summer in Grand Teton and Yellowstone and then downright off-pissing a few weeks ago in the Smokies, in which the thoroughfares of travel are narrow, densely wooded and limited in alternatives. Add to that Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s status as the system’s most visited and you have an issue that I believe needs to be dealt with soon.

I know the Department of the Interior probably wants another National Parks debate like I want syphillis, but here are some suggestions: (If these ideas have been brought up elsewhere, good. Check out this write-up on Big Bend National Park’s official site.)

  • Create specific hours of travel for motorcycles with after market pipes. Specifically, keep them quiet during times when animals frequently travel, like early evening and morning.
  • Limit the areas within parks where they can travel. Perhaps this provides more backing for  the shuttle system argument.
  • Take off the muffler before entering the park. (Many are slip-on and require almost no tools to install.)
  • Allow Rangers the ability to ticket or fine excessively loud motorcycles as a noise disturbance. The subjectivity of this would raise concern, certainly. But I don’t care.
  • Any other ideas?

6 thoughts on “Muffle that bike of yours, okay?

  1. I’m sure this has been brought up somewhere before, but the noise pollution from motor cycles blatantly violates LNT principles. To add a little context, I was camping at Black Balsam two weeks ago when I heard the easily distinguishable sound of a motorcycle making its way up a hill. I could not believe it (to be honest, I thought it was a bear at first). I had hiked a respectable 4 miles to my campsite wanting nothing more than to get away from civilization and have a long conversation with my good friend Mr. Daniels.
    While I understand that everyone needs something to pour their enthusiasm into after a long day filling out TPS reports, one person’s passion should never infringe on others. Surely most motorcyclists do not ride solely for the earsplitting experience that comes with aftermarket fart cans.

  2. I agree Jake. The issue there is that bikes on the road are not really subject to LNT. They are becoming louder and way more obnoxious than before. And I like bikes. But here’s the thing, noise like that disturbs animals, guests and takes away from the wilderness experience, at least within front-country areas. But isn’t that where the most people remain when visiting parks? It’s a tough debate, to be sure.

  3. A very tough debate. But shouldn’t the principles of Leave No Trace encompass the entire national park? A loud bike speeding by on the interstate is one thing, but if I’m standing at one of the many beautiful viewpoints along the Blue Ridge Parkway when a group of crotch rockets roll to a stop and decide to see who’s bike sounds more like a trumpet player with one lip, I will probably get back in my car.
    People visit national parks to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the beautiful tranquility of the wild, whether that means a week-long backpacking trip or a pleasant drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. LNT was established to ensure that people will always have this opportunity and, as such, it must evolve with the times.

  4. I agree completely, but unfortunately, few others do. Look around. LNT was introduced for a reason. However, that reason is not readily understood. Plus, noise is often overlooked as a form of pollution. Most people think, “Hey, I’m not littering, so, it’s cool.” No, it’s not. Here’s a similar debate for you:

    My wife and I were hiking to the river in the Grand Canyon and a group of girls, a hundred or so yards ahead of us for most of the venture down S. Kaibab, were singing. It echoed up the canyon many times. Annoying? Yes. Anti-LNT? Certainly. But how do I say something to a group of teens enjoying themselves on the trail? Tough spot.

    Maybe if signs were posted at trailheads (federal money) that emphasize LNT practices? That could be a start … maybe …

  5. I totally agree that loud motercycles should be banned from national parks. They completely negate the reason the parks were set aside and why taxpayers pay millions of dollars to maintain them – so that people can get away from the rush and noise of everyday life and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of nature. I hiked for 2 hours into the Smokie Mts today and never did get away from the constant sound of motorcycles. It is noise pollution and should not be allowed any more than trash pollution. Not many people have the time or ability to hike and camp 20 miles into the wilderness and that should not be necessary for people to be able to sit and listen to the sounds of nature.

  6. My husband and children and I spend several weeks out of every summer in several of the National Parks in the west, and the noice from loud motorcycles has been getting markedly worse over the past five years. We don’t make the effort to travel to these beautiful places so we can suffer through the bone-rattling noise of aging baby-boomers trying to recapture the Easy Rider days. I wish there was some sort of requirement for the loud bikes to have a temporary muffler which would reduce their obnoxious noise, at least while they’re within park boundaries…Also, don’t these things violate the hell out of city noise ordinances? A car with a muffler like that would eventually get pulled over and ticketed…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>