By Ross Seyfried
At first impression I am sure many of you ask, “What’s the big deal? We like the sound of our ATVs!”
Go with me for a moment. I, a full-time user of ATVs, am sitting on the shore of a pristine lake, way out in the wilderness of Canada. It is autumn, the sun is shining and the world is punctuated by silence. The call of the eagles, the breeze in the tall cedars and the gentle splashing of waves on the beach are about all of the sounds on Earth. Then it began, a light droning, ending in what seemed a vile screech as three ATVs roared by, quads intentionally made louder with after market pipes. I groaned and shuddered, wishing ill upon those riders. So imagine the reaction from a person who did not like ATVs! Folks like that vote—and they probably vote and lobby in much larger numbers than we possess. Our privilege to ride on most public ground is influenced by the majority, and our privilege to ride on private property is controlled, often, by one single mind. To me, it makes sense to offend as few people as possible, pure and simple.
Then there are the other citizens to consider, the wild ones. My world is dominated by elk, often by a thousand or more at a time. While they will almost ignore the rumbling of a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer or other heavy machinery and are very tolerant of the V-10 gasoline motor in my pickup, they have a pure terror of the sound of an ATV engine. The simple noise coming from a gently ridden quad often sends them fleeing at a distance of a mile or more. I feel, by the way, the reason for this is abuse from criminals who actually chase them with ATVs and snow machines. While this is not our fault, it does accentuate our responsibility to be as kind and gentle as possible.
What is to be done? Actually, there are two things: ride gently and buy another muffler, even to assist Honda’s well-done efforts to make quiet machines. The first is quite self-explanatory; when and where we might offend, back off the throttle! The other, the mechanical assistant, is almost unknown.
Once upon a time I took delivery of a brand-new Land Cruiser at the port of Dar Es Salaam. My African tracker pronounced it “a very fine vehicle.” I asked him why he liked it so? He replied, “Bwana, it has a very small voice.” So it is to this day I covet vehicles—especially ones that carry me into the wild world—that have very small voices.
To my knowledge there are two after market “stealth kits” for ATVs. One is called ATV-Stealth, the other is the Benz Silent Rider. Both are variations on the same theme. They are small mufflers that easily attach to the exhaust end of the existing muffler. In essence we end up with a machine that has two mufflers.
The end results are interesting. To my ears the exhaust noise falls off remarkably. According to the folks at ATV-Stealth, the sound level on various machines is reduced by about six to eight decibels at 2000 rpm.The Benz Silent Rider makes my Rubicon so quiet that at 20 mph you can clearly hear the tires crunching on the gravel. Over the four years that I have used the combination, I have idled past many herds of elk that continued to graze, where they would have fled from a louder machine. As far as power and performance are concerned, I tested the add-on mufflers with my unscientific “dyno.” I have a straight gravel road that goes uphill, rather steeply, for a half mile. To test power, I simply rode up the hill, with and without the extra muffler. Top speed was about the same with both mufflers in place as it was without the additional muffler.
For the kind of riding I do, the quieter machine means more access with less disturbance to the wildlife where I live and ride. Silence is indeed golden.
Ross Seyfried has been an editorial contributor to Petersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo, American Rifleman, American Hunter, Rifle, Handloader, Successful Hunter, Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Cigar Aficionado, The Double Gun Journal, Under Wild Skies, Sporting Classics and Vapen Tidningen (Sweden). He served as a licensed professional hunter in Zambia and Tanzania and is now a licensed guide and outfitter in Oregon.
Originally published in Honda Riders Club of America.