There are few things less interesting to the average motorcyclist than the latest emission regulations, they’re as easy and fun to read as the tax code. But, like taxes, you are directly affected whether you understand the regulations or not.
Motorcyclists who never touch their bikes except to ride or wash them don’t have to think about emissions very often, if the bike doesn’t run right they take it to the shop, the same place they go when they want accessories added but if you’re reading The Kneeslider, chances are pretty good that much of the work on your motorcycle is done by you, and there’s where problems can begin.
As emission regulations move forward and turn internal combustion engines into some form of power producing clean air pump, emission testing will prevent you from changing very many things on your new motorcycle. Whether it’s an exhaust or new intake system, cams or big bore kit, the effect on emissions could be substantial and chances are you’ll run into problems when you need to get that probe up your pipe. Meeting strict standards leaves very little room for tweaking before you’re over the limit and things need to be fixed which could mean undoing whatever it was you did in the first place.
For readers in California, you already know that CARB (the California Air Resources Board) is becoming the de facto emissions regulating body for the rest of the U.S. since the EPA often seems to follow along after a year or two with whatever CARB decides to put in place. Manufacturers don’t seem as willing to sell two different versions of their motorcycles anymore so whether forced to by the EPA or not, they are going to build motorcycles to meet California’s rules to begin with. For those of us living outside California, there isn’t much we can do to affect what CARB does which is more than a little frustrating and CARB is becoming incredibly strict.
Working on engines is one of the most enjoyable parts of the motorcycle hobby and a huge aftermarket is based on supplying whatever we need. Those businesses and shops catering to engine modifications need to look at the future and decide how they are going to deal with the changing landscape, acting like nothing has changed is a recipe for bankruptcy. S&S has developed their X-Wedge engine to meet EPA regulations which means they’re looking ahead but I haven’t heard of very many other companies doing much and that’s a little troubling.
I’ll try to sift and sort through some of these regulations in the near future and make some sense of them, translating government speak into English so you can understand what they mean to you. Does it mean we all buy up the vintage bikes that are not affected by the regulations or do we start looking at battery power? I’m not really sure what the best route will be but understanding what the regulations are is the first step so we’ll try to get a handle on that.