I recently read an article that talked about motorcycle noise regulations.  The article noted that there are noise limits in certain Austrian mountain passes that are lower than the Austrian government-mandated 95dB.  Because of this, in areas of the Austrian Tyrol, even a federally legal stock exhaust can be illegal.

That got me to thinking about how noise limits are handled in the USA and Canada.  Not surprisingly, certain states have no limits, while others have limits much lower than the 95dB mandated in Austria.

So I went to the American Automobile Association (AAA) website and checked for motorcycle noise limits. They have a nice state by state (and Canadian province) breakout of motorcycle noise limits.  Some of the limits may surprise you.

motorcycle noise test

How noise is tested varies by state/province.

So here’s a breakout of the noise limits in each state and province:

USA (sorted alphabetically)

No Motorcycle Noise Limit:

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Puerto Rico

“Adequate” muffler no stated dB limits  or no modification of muffler:

Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

States with individual limits:

States A – F

Arizona – Specific motorcycle noise limits, based on motorcycle model year and rate of speed, are in effect.  (AAA did not specify the individual limits)

California –  A noise limit of 92 decibels applies to any motorcycle manufactured before 1970.

A noise limit of 88 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1969 and before 1973; 86 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1972 and before 1975; 83 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1974 and before 1986; 80 decibels applies to motorcycles manufactured after 1985.

Motorcycles registered in the state that are manufactured on or after 2013 or have an aftermarket exhaust system manufactured on or after 2013 must have the federal EPA noise emission label affixed to it in order to be operated, used, or parked in the state.

Colorado –  Motorcycles manufactured on or after July 1, 1971 and before January 1, 1973 may not exceed a noise level of 88 decibels measured at a distance of 50 feet from the center of the lane of travel.

Motorcycles manufactured on or after January 1, 1973 may not exceed a noise level of 86 decibels measured at a distance of 50 feet from the center of the lane of travel.

Connecticut –  Maximum noise level when vehicle is traveling 35 mph or less in soft site: 78 decibels.

The maximum noise level when vehicle is traveling 35 mph or less in hard site: 80 decibels.

Maximum noise level when vehicle is traveling over 35 mph in soft site: 82 decibels.

Maximum noise level when vehicle is traveling over 35 mph in hard site: 84 decibels.

Soft site means a testing site covered with grass or other ground cover, while a hard site means a test site covered with concrete, asphalt, gravel, or other hard compound.

District of Columbia – he maximum noise level for a motorcycle is 83 decibels.

Florida –  The maximum sound levels permitted are 82dBA (35mph or less) for vehicles manufactured before January 1, 1979; and 78dBA (over 35mph) for vehicles manufactures after January 1, 1979.

States M – Z

States M – Z

Maryland –  Maximum acceptable noise limits for motorcycles:

  • Motorcycles manufactured between July 1, 1975 and January 1, 1988: 83 decibels.
  • Motorcycles manufactured after January 1, 1988: 80 decibels.

Massachusetts –  A motorcycle may not exceed a noise limit of 82 decibels when measured at a speed of 45 mph or less.

A motorcycle may not exceed a noise limit of 86 decibels when measured at a speed of over 45 mph.

Michigan –  At a distance of 50 feet, the noise limit is 86 decibels if the maximum lawful speed on the highway or street is greater than 35 mph and 82 decibels if the maximum lawful speed on the highway or street is not more than 35 mph. There can be no excessive or unusual noise.

Minnesota – It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle in violation of the motor vehicle noise rules adopted by the Pollution Control Agency.

Nevada – Motorcycles traveling 35 mph or less may not be operated at a noise level above 82 decibels, and motorcycles traveling over 35 mph may not be operated at a noise level above 86 decibels.

New Hampshire –  No person shall operate a motorcycle which has a measured noise level of more than the following:

  • For all motorcycles, 92 decibels while the engine is operating at idle speed; or
  • For motorcycles with less than 3 or more than 4 cylinders, 96 decibels while the engine is operating at 2,000 revolutions per minute or 75 percent of maximum engine speed, whichever is less; or
  • For 3 and 4 cylinder motorcycles, 100 decibels while the engine is operating at 5,000 revolutions per minute or 75 percent of maximum engine speed, whichever is less.

New York – The maximum allowable sound level is 82 decibels for any motorcycle traveling at any speed. This is to be measured at a distance of 50 feet from the center of the lane in which the motorcycle is traveling.

Ohio –  When operated at a speed of 35 mph or less, the maximum noise limit is 82 decibels based on a distance of not less than 50 feet from the center of the line of travel.

When operated at a speed of more than 35 mph, the maximum noise limit is 86 decibels.

Oregon – The maximum sound level is 99 dBA for a stationary test at 20 inches. Standards vary further from city to city and county to county.

Canada (sorted alphabetically)

No Motorcycle Noise Limit:

Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec

“Adequate” muffler, with no stated dB limits  or no modification of muffler:

British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Saskatchewan

Operate causing loud, unnecessary, unusual noise, etc, no dB level stated.

Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Yukon

Differences

It’s quite interesting that states/provinces often don’t state how the noise will be measured.  Or, if they do state how it will be measured, they measure at different locations under different conditions.  It’s quite clear that there are no consistent means used to measure noise.  And sometimes, it’s not clear at what level the noise will be ruled illegal.

There are also a couple of things that you should consider.

  1. Noise levels may be determined by the government using different locations near the motorcycle as well as at certain RPM or speeds.
  2. Certain local jurisdictions (cities/towns) may have an ordinance regulating motorcycle noise that may be lower than the state/province require.
  3. Note that these limits may not be up to date as noise regulations constantly change so use the below list as a guide and not the absolute limit.

Takeaway

So what’s the takeaway from all this regulation?  If you live in a state/province/territory that specifies noise limits or unaltered stock exhaust, its best to ensure that your bike does not make any more noise than when it was delivered from the factory.

While the noise regulations are unnecessarily complex and seemingly random, it’s only fair that we allow others their right to quiet enjoyment.  If you don’t modify your motorcycle’s exhaust, you’re likely safe from undue attention from law enforcement.

 

Note:  This article should not be construed as legal advice.  Check your state and local regulations for more detailed information.

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