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May 2005 Low Rage 4x4 Trail Noise Pollution

Posted in Project Vehicles on May 1, 2005
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Contributors: Dennis Pierce

It doesn't matter what sort of outdoor activity one is engaged in-the serenity and the natural sounds of nature are some of the compelling reasons we head for the mountains or the deserts. So why then, do we spoil it for others as well as ourselves by running blown-out mufflers and bazillion-watt stereos on our OHVs?

Running a length of rebar through a couple of glasspack mufflers will do nothing to increase horsepower or torque on your SBC. It will, however, go a long way towards annoying your neighbors as well as others on the trail.

Noise pollution has been cited as one of the main reasons (right after creating new trails where none existed before) to restrict or outright ban OHVs on public lands. Snow-machine owners are regularly pilloried by cross-country skiers and snowshoe trekkers over the noise created by sledders. Of course, these back-to-nature granola-crunchers will never admit that a couple of snow machines can create a great cross-country ski track!

There are a lot of purpose-built rockcrawlers in Southwest Colorado designed for competitive events. Now there is a trend to building ersatz rockcrawlers for trail riding. These are trailer queens as they usually can't be registered for street use. Like the real deal, a lot of these wannabes are running open exhaust systems without spark arrestors. That might be fine at Avalanche Ranch, but not in a national forest going into its seventh year of drought.

While loud exhaust systems are most annoying, stereo systems pumping out eardrum-shattering sounds are beyond the pale. I'm surprised that there isn't an MTV award for "most obnoxious trail music" played at maximum volume in an open Jeep. Playing a John Denver classic or Ride of the Valkyries as you descend Black Bear Road is OK. Blasting Fifty Cent or Ludicris is not in keeping with the back-to-nature off-road experience!

Bass speaker units designed to fill the area behind the front seats of a CJ or Wrangler should be restricted to Mall Crawlers that never leave the city limits. Why anyone would install these monstrosities is beyond me. Let's face it, you can't get a cooler filled with adult beverages and a giant bass speaker in the same space! Let's get our priorities in order here.

My hearing is not what it used to be. My wife thinks that it is Selective Hearing Syndrome. In reality, my hearing loss stems from standing at the starting line too many times with no ear protection when AA Fuelers and Funny cars were launching off the line at full throttle. I suspect that more than a few people riding around in Jeeps with massive sound systems and loud exhaust systems today will suffer some hearing loss later in life. Long before MP3s, my boys were toting portable cassette players with headphones. The first time that I could hear the music coming out of the headphones loud enough to identify the artist and noted that the volume knob was cranked over to Max, I started buying stock in hearing-aid companies.

Do yourself and your friends a favor before you hit the trail the next time and drop by your friendly muffler shop to replace those burned-out glasspacks first. Instead of the Best of Heavy Metal (isn't that an oxymoron) CD, try listening to nothing! Or better yet, try the art of conversation.

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