by Joel Reese

The Chicago Daily Herald

September 1, 2003

To adoring Harley riders, their growling engines sound like they’re rumbling, “potato, potato, potato.”

To irate non-Harley riders who have been woken up at 4 a.m. by a deafening Harley engine, the sound is more like, “outrage, outrage, outrage.”

“I am saddened that the people of Milwaukee are going to have their peace and quiet ruined by motorcyclists who enjoy making noise,” said Ted Rueter, director of Noise Free America in New Orleans, referring to this past week’s 100th anniversary Harley-Davidson celebration in Milwaukee.

Harley riders say they shouldn’t be singled out for derision: “What about people with cars who blast their stereos so loudly that it shakes you?” asks Harley rider William Yates, the vice president of the Des Plaines Board of Commissioners who rode up to Milwaukee for the 100th anniversary party. “Every vehicle makes noise.”

Harley riders also justify their raucous engines with the saying, “Loud pipes save lives” – i.e., because some car drivers don’t always see motorcycles, bikes need to be loud to be noticed.

That doesn’t carry too much weight with Rueter.

“The Harley motto that ‘Loud pipes save lives’ is laughable,” Rueter says. “They don’t have one shred of scientific evidence to support this ridiculous assertion. They just want to be heard.”

Naperville City Councilman Jim Boyajian, an avid Harley rider, admits that he puts after-market pipes on his bike.

“They give you a better compression and a little better power,” he says. But he just likes the noise, too.

“The ‘potato, potato, potato’ sound is like no other in the world,” he says.

“Everyone knows what it is, but people still turn their heads and look as you go by.”