Fort Smith AR (WMC / CNN) - They are events that bikers from all over attend. I know that tons of riders from the Mid-South make trips to Northeast Arkansas for the Steel Horse Rally and Bikes, Blues and Barbeque rallies. Now a former police officer is suing governments in Northwest Arkansas, claiming the events violate noise ordinances. It's part of the ongoing debate between the "loud pipes save lives" crowd and those that think it's all just noise pollution.
Rickey Holtsclaw said he has a clear message, "Enforce the law and stop the noise nonsense." He claims 70 to 80 percent of the motorcycles at the Steel Horse Rally and Bikes, Blues and Barbeque in Northwest Arkansas are illegally equipped. He said the noise is above the legal limit.
"These riders are either drilling holes or cutting the baffling out of those mufflers, or they're taking the muffler, removing it, and purchasing a muffler that is labeled for racing, or closed course only," Holtsclaw said. "They're affixing it to that motorcycle and they break the law when they go out to a public roadway and operate it."
"I hear laughter over the noise of motorcycles," president of the Steel Horse Rally Dennis Snow said. Snow said he was shocked to hear of the lawsuit, adding his event is an exception to the City of Fort Smith's noise ordinance. "If anybody looks at the law, we have a permit and when you have a permit to do an annual event, noise ordinances don't apply so it's totally frivolous."
Bikes, Blues and Bbq spokesman Joe Jiles said he works with police and the mayor and obtains a permit as well, but says it applies more to the music played at the event, and not specifically noise from motorcycles. Jiles said most people attending are following the law when it comes to mufflers. "The vast majority of motorcycles run stop pipes or run after market pipes that are well within the legal limits of what can be. There are those, like in every other facet of the world, who find a way to foul things up, but the most of our attendees are not among that faction."
Holtsclaw, a former Houston police officer of more than 30 years, claims police are not enforcing state and federal muffler laws regardless of what city ordinances may say about noise.
Not all bikers are on the same page with this issue. Although some love the loud throaty growl of a set of Vance and Hines or Rhinehart custom pipes, others fall right in there with non-bikers who say it's just a lot of unnecessary noise.
Be careful out there and please follow me on social media.
Chris Best is the Assistant News Director for WMC Action News 5. He's a husband and father of four, He's also a motorcycle enthusiast.