zero-vs-harley1

Conventional wisdom holds that when it comes to motorcycles ‘loud pipes save lives’. And stereotypes of motorcyclists hold that noise is one of the primary attractions of motorcycling.

Zero Motorcycles, a Santa Cruz, Calif., maker of electric motorcycles, is out to prove conventional wisdom wrong. (In fact, while it’s not been proven one way or the other, the preponderance of evidence seems to suggest that louder pipes either have no impact on safety, or even potentially reduce motorcycle safety.)

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Zero brings a clean and extremely quiet ride that does not sacrifice performance or power.

“Local motorcycle and backyard tracks are being closed because of the noise and pollution made by gasoline engines. I built the Zero X to enjoy off-road riding without the loud engine noise,” Zero founder Neil Saiki notes.

Zero riders like the quiet of their motorcycles because it allows them to better experience what is going on around them, according to Zero representative John Ewert. It also gives them more of an opportunity to communicate with other riders and vehicle drivers, Ewert adds.

In general, says Ewert, the quiet of electric motorcycles makes riders safer than riding a noisy, gas-powered motorcycle.

Cars are being designed to block more and more outside noise and to make the interior quieter. So having louder motorcycles is not necessarily safer when sharing the roads with cars, whose drivers may not be able to hear them anyway, Ewert notes.

Having a quieter motorcycle helps the rider be more in tune with the cars around them — and this enhances rider awareness and defense.
–John Ewert, Zero Motorcycles representative

Furthermore, according to Ewert, having a quieter motorcycle helps the rider be more in tune with the cars around them — and this enhances rider awareness and defense.

The improved safety of quiet motorcycles comes from increased rider awareness, not necessarily from better automobile driver awareness, which has consistently proved to be a problem, he explains.

Though there may have been an aesthetic value in rumbling road motorcycles and noisy dirt bike tracks in the past, the desire for loud pipes is changing, according to Ewert.

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For instance, in most states and cities, there are noise ordinance laws, and gas motorcycle riders are getting cited for violating these with their noisy bikes, Ewert adds.

Zero does not specifically address the issue of the company’s quieter motorcycles on its website. This is because the issue hasn’t seemed to have raised much concern with riders, Ewert says.

In fact, according to Ewert, Zero rarely gets questions regarding the quiet of the motorcycles and safety.

Indeed, SolarChargedDriving.com’s inquiry about how Zero Motorcycles’ comparative quiet might potentially affect sales — and rider safety — was the first this year about the issue.

In the end, according to Ewert, people who are early adapters and who are at the forefront of technology are gravitating toward quiet electric motorcycles.

“I see quieter bikes becoming the norm,” he says.

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