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Risk Hierarchy: Information - Rider Ed - Driver Ed - Conspicuity - Bike Defect - Ultra-Defensive Riding - Crash Avoidance - Injury Mitigation - Crash Scene
Additional Motorcycle Conspicuity Aids
You can add additional lights on the rear of your bike. Most people agree that a high-mounted brake light, perhaps on a top box or sissy bar, is a benefit in helping prevent rear-end crashes, which often happen when stopped in traffic.
Changing stock bulbs for brighter (and longer-lasting) LED units may also help.
Some bikers swear by small additional marker LEDS, perhaps in an unexpected color like green or blue, often on the license plate.
Other bikers like flashing or sequencing additional brake lights, often around the number plate. They are illegal in some states.
We have also seen riders install double-bulbs on their rear turn signals, and run the tail light hot wire into the second bulb element. This causes the turn signals to act as rear-facing running lights, increasing the number, profile and light output at the rear.
You can also attach reflective tape or decals to the rear or sides of bags, fender or other bike parts. You can now get reflective tape in colors like black to match your bodywork.
Bikers also recommend attacing autoreflective material to the bottom of bags. This might help rescuers find the bike in the event you run off the road in the dark and turn over.
A lot of bikers like to install an extra loud horn. This requires a relay, but many bikes may have an existing relay, check the wiring diagram in your shop manual, or the ever-handy owners' forum. Just find the existing horn wiring and install there.
Your riding buddies and your owners forum will have other suggestions.
A lot of bikers say this, but anyone who has ridden in a group with a straight pipe will confirm that they are only loud from the rear. As most failures to see the bike that cause crashes occur from the front, it seems that any benefit in this regard is probably marginal. Most of the rear bike crashes happen when the bike is stationary at a signal, when the motor is idling and less loud.
There are, however, a lot of biker stories in circulation. Here's an article in the Harley Davidson Examiner , about the Oakland PD motorcycle cops, who have loud pipes and like them.
Here's a piece from Biker News which makes the argument in favor. Here's a thoughtful blog entry from Grants Auto Rants which compares loud pipes with the near silence of a Prius and the problems that is posing for blind folk.
The Maids study found that all types of bikes are equally likely to be in a crash, with the exception of modified bikes, which are more likely to be in a crash.
Hurt found that 27.3% of motorcycles in the population data had modified exhaust systems, versus 30.1% in the crash sample, without specifying the nature of the modifications. Some of the mods might have been for other than loudness reasons, so the data is lumped with other stuff, but as there were slightly more modified mufflers in the crashed bikes, it does not point to additional crash avoidance performance.
On the other hand, if a catalytic converter is removed, and smog levels are raised as a result, the loud pipes are contributing to smog, which kills asthmatics and people with lung diseases. And the peace and quiet of the community is a consideration.
Loud Pipe Save Lives is not proven either way. It doesn't seem like a good idea to rely on them as your only conspicuity measure. But nobody can prove that loud pipes don't save lives. Maybe the OSU study will actually prove that loud pipes do save lives?