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A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

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In a world with increasingly stringent emission and noise standards, vehicle OEMs are continuously tasked with making their automobiles and motorcycles quieter.

Such regulations have brought us some ridiculous creations in the motorcycle realm, especially for the Japanese and European market, but changes are afoot here in the United States as well.

Today, we bring you such news, but it’s probably not the news that you think. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just set a standard that will see electric automobiles getting louder, instead of quieter, in the name of vehicle safety.

But oddly enough, the new rule does not apply to electric motorcycles…for now.

Are you waiting for a 2016 model year motorcycle that hasn’t arrived yet? You might have Volkswagen to blame. Asphalt & Rubber has been contacted by several motorcycle manufacturers who have said that their new-for-2016 models are being held up by mountainous paperwork requests, both from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The paperwork requests seem to be an across the board effort by the EPA and CARB to check for emission irregularities in the filings from automobile OEMs on their new models, an effort which has included motorcycle manufacturers as well. But why the fine-toothed comb? The answer is because of the Volkswagen diesel emissions fiasco from last year, the desire not to have another “Dieselgate” scandal.

Judging by the amount of traffic the story is getting, we imagine the sight of the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale at the EICMA show has ruffled a few feathers.

That’s understandable, since the Euro4 emission standards have forced the Italians to give the Ducati 959 Panigale an exhaust system that we’ve previously only seen on the Japanese-spec model of the Ducati 1199 Superbike.

While the shotgun exhaust isn’t as gawdy as one would think, it’s certainly a stark departure from the underslung units we are used to. We imagine it’s a moot point though, considering how many 959 Panigales will get some sort of slip-on or full-system exhaust from their new owners.

Just the same, the issue seems to be isolated to European soil, as the US-spec version of the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale exhaust is just how we remember it. Check out the photos, after the jump, and compare it to the European-spec model (the first photo in the gallery).

People who ride with me know that I’m obsessive about wearing earplugs, as nothing ruins your hearing better than a motorcycle helmet. If we cut the marketing BS, there is really no such thing as a quiet helmet, just helmets that are quieter than others…until now. Behold, a noise-cancelling helmet is finally available to the masses, with the Sena Noise Control Helmet. It is almost surprising that noise-cancellation technology has taken this long to come to the two-wheeled space, of course any industry veteran can tell you how slow to change the motorcycle industry is, even with established technologies. Noise cancellation technology is so well-known right now, we doubt we even need to breakdown this announcement for you, but we will anyways. Because, Luddites.

If you’re in the market for a Ducati 899 Panigale, and have the misfortune of living in Japan, the above is what you will be forced to buy. You see the Ducati 899 Panigale, like the Ducati 1199 Panigale and MV Agusta F3, is too loud in its stock form for the Japanese market. Compounding the issue, the Island Nation is too small of a market for Ducati to revamp its design to meet homologation in its stock form, so an obvious quick-fix has been implemented instead. It’s a bit of an eyesore on any model; but on the Panigale, the long carbon fiber pipe detracts from the hard work Ducati designers and engineers put into the attractive under-slung unit on the middleweight sport bike. Also of note is the revised big black plastic clutch cover, for added sound dampening.

Remember when the Ducati 1199 Panigale hit the shores of Japan, and the Bologna Bullet got an ugly mid-pipe and exhaust can welded into place, whiled the underslung exhaust cans welded shut? Unlike Santa Claus, the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale is very real Virginia, and it features other changes beyond its monstrous exhaust to help quiet the beast that resides within its fairings. Ducati is not alone in the list of brands that have seen the gorgeous lines of their machines ruined by the strict noise and emission standards of Nippon. Committing yet another crime against motorcycling, we have for your viewing terror official photos of the Japanese edition of the MV Agusta F3 675 — yes, the exhaust can of doom makes a return appearance.

Never underestimate the power of denial. When we first published photos of the Japanese-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale, the immediate reaction from readers was that the machine had to be a hoax. Oh no dear Ducatisti, Japan’s v-twin abomination of Italy’s latest superbike is very real. With Japanese journalists now getting a chance to swing a leg over the machine, we get our first glimpse of the bike in motion. Noticeably quieter than our American-spec version, we still don’t understand the need for such a butchering of Ducati’s design. But then again, we’re bloggers, not engineers.

We have to feel sorry for our Japanese readers today, as a crime against motorcycling has occurred in the Japanese motorcycle market. The bike of 2012, and arguably one of the more beautiful designs to come out of Bologna (don’t worry 916 fans, we still like the Tamburini classic more), it turns out that the Ducati 1199 Panigale was a touch too loud for the Japanese market, and modifications had to be made before it is released to the island nation next month. Some extra baffle, maybe some tuning to the ECU, and no big deal right? Well…no, not quite.

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come. Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.