Aftermarket Exhausts Soon To Be Illegal in Denver

AMA taking action

The American Motorcyclist Association is expressing serious concerns about a new law passed by the Denver City Council essentially requiring all riders in the city to use only stock exhaust systems on their motorcycles.

Aftermarket exhausts like this one could soon be illegal in Denver.

On June 4, Denver officials approved changes to the citys vehicle noise ordinance that allow police to issue tickets to riders if their bikes dont have a federal Environmental Protection Agency sound-certification label on the exhaust systems. The new ordinance, which takes effect July 1, would apply to all motorcycles made since 1982, which was the first year that federal law required motorcycles sold in the U.S. to comply with EPA sound regulations.

In practical terms, that means the bike would have to have the original exhaust system installed by the manufacturer. Violators would have two weeks to prove to a judge that they have fixed the problem or would be forced to pay a $500 fine.

The Denver skyline with the Rocky Mountains behind it.

Previously, the Denver ordinance required all motor vehicles to pass a sound test that set a limit of 80 decibels at 25 feet. That type of performance standard remains in effect for cars and trucks, except that the allowable limits have been raised. Under the new ordinance, vehicles with a gross weight rating under 10,000 pounds couldnt exceed 82 db(A) at 25 feet, and trucks over 10,000 pounds couldnt exceed 90 db(A) at 50 feet. Only motorcycles would be subject to the EPA sound certification labeling requirement.

“We understand the motivation for cities to pass laws controlling sound levels from traffic,” said Ed Moreland, AMA Vice President for Government Relations. “But the approach being taken in Denver creates a special class of enforcement that unfairly targets motorcyclists. Loud trucks and cars are every bit as annoying as loud motorcycles, but only motorcyclists would be subject to this new provision of the labeling law.”

To understand the restrictions being imposed on motorcyclists, Moreland asked car drivers to consider the impact if Denver city officials had instead required stock mufflers on cars, making it illegal for Denver drivers to buy replacement exhaust systems from companies like Midas or Meineke. “That would force everyone who drives a Ford to return to the Ford dealer and get the exact replacement muffler every time their exhaust system wore out,” he noted.

The AMAs position on the new Denver ordinance received support June 7 in an editorial in the Rocky Mountain News stating: “As more than one critic of the ordinance … noted, it just doesnt appear ready for prime time.”

Several years ago, the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, passed a similar certification ordinance affecting motorcyclists there. Motorcyclist groups, included the AMA, worked with city officials for two years before that provision was rescinded and the city went back to a performance-based sound standard.

The AMA has a decades-long history of opposition to excessive motorcycle sound, and has hosted national summits on the subject that have brought together riders, manufacturers, aftermarket companies, law-enforcement officers and government officials. Those summits have resulted in the development of “Sound Advice,” a document that represents the motorcycle communitys response to this contentious issue. Among the groups that have supported that effort is ABATE of Colorado, which has issued a position paper warning riders that they could face this kind of discriminatory enforcement because of growing public complaints about traffic sound levels.

The AMA is contacting Denver City Council members in hopes of opening up a dialogue on this topic before enforcement of the new law begins on July 1. “We look forward to working with the Denver City Council to come up with a more reasonable solution for dealing with excessive sound levels from traffic,” Moreland said. “Our experience has shown that there are a range of approaches cities can take to this issue without imposing restrictive laws on motorcyclists.”

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