by Sabian Warren


June 19, 2014

HOT SPRINGS – A major annual motorcycle rally this weekend in Hot Springs has won a dubious “award” from an anti-noise group.

Noise Free America, which hands out monthly Noisy Dozen awards for what the group considers excessively noisy events, is giving the June award to the Hot Springs Motorcycle Weekend.

The rally at Hot Springs Resort and Spa, sponsored by the Buncombe County chapter of the Concerned Bikers Association of NC/ABATE, is expected to draw up to 3,000 motorcyclists from the mountains and across the U.S., organizers said. The event kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday.

Because the natural beauty of Western North Carolina is a draw for motorcyclists, the mountains have been “plagued with excessive motorcycle noise for years,” Noise Free America director Ted Rueter said.

“A lot of people are out enjoying a hike or bird watching and then hear this thunderous roar,” he said.

The rally featuring mostly Harley-Davidsons was singled out because many motorcyclists alter the exhaust systems to make them louder than stock, Rueter said.

Noise Free America, established in 2001, is headquartered in Chapel Hill and has chapters in 25 states with a mission of public awareness and lobbying state and federal lawmakers to strengthen noise abatement laws. Rueter said the North Carolina group includes members from WNC.

The federal Noise Control Act of 1972 prohibits motorcycle noise above 80 decibels, but most motorcycles exeed this limit, Rueter said. His group cites health problems such as sleep deprivation, hearing loss and even heart disease that can result from excessive noise.

“Loud motorcycles violate federal and state law,” he said. “It’s crazy that these laws are not enforced. Noise is not just an annoyance, it’s a health hazard.”

Officials with Hot Spring Resort and Spa, a private resort inside town limits, could not be reached.

Town officials said the rally, in its 18th year, is welcome in Hot Springs, a scenic town of 650 residents on the banks of the French Broad River.

“Ninety percent of the people here don’t have a problem with it and are happy they’re here,” town clerk Nancy Thomas said. “They bring a lot of revenue to the town. The businesses like it because they spend money while they’re here. It’s a tourist town. You’re going to have some noise.”

Police have had few problems with the bikers in the past, she said.

“We don’t have a lot of issues with the Harley people,” Thomas said. “They’re not rude. They stay at the campground.”

Buncombe County Concerned Bikers Association president James Buckner said he had not heard of the Noise Free America “award,” but noted the rally stays within town rules.

“We abide by the laws of Hot Springs and their noise ordinance,” Buckner said. “It’s quiet time after 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, and we abide by that. We police ourselves. When we leave here, we want to leave everybody happy. We don’t want to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.”

The event, which includes live music, games and a bike show among other activities, is a fundraiser for the bikers’ organization, with an entry fee of $30 per person. Money raised helps the Concerned Bikers Association of NC/ABATE in its efforts to fight unfair legislation and improve the image of motorcyclists, Buckner said.

“The gracious people of Hot Springs have opened their community to us, and we’re grateful for that,” he said.

Past winners of the Noisy Dozen award have included the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.