Bike modifications that lead to increased emissions ‘likely to be outlawed’

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The Department for Transport (DfT) has clarified its position on the anti tampering proposals it revealed recently in a meeting with the National Motorcyclists Council (NMC).

The wording of the original document made it seem that any modification from a motorbike’s OEM parts would become illegal, sparking uproar in the biking community. And while the DfT has now made it clear that this is not the case for all parts of your bike, exhaust systems remain firmly in the crosshairs.

The proposals are aimed at ensuring the motorcycles can no longer be legally modified to generate more pollution, which would rule out many performance exhaust systems and power commanders. The proposals have also been designed to stamp out the practice of modifying electric bicycles and e-scooters to make them faster and more powerful.

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"Although we are pleased to learn that riders will not be banned from modifying their bikes if this does not reduce environmental performance or increase speeds beyond a particular motorcycle’s design specification, this leaves several areas where legitimate reasons to modify could still be denied," said Craig Carey-Clinch from the NMC. "There is also a large question mark about how the proposals will affect older motorcycles.

"We welcome the DfT’s willingness to discuss these matters in more detail and to include the NMC and its members in work to design regulations that are proportionate, but we remain strongly concerned that the proposals have been inspired by issues that do not apply to the majority of motorcycling, but to a much narrower range of mainly electric products.

"Engine modifications often improve how a bike runs and the freedom to be able to make these changes must remain. But it does seem clear that in the drive to reduce vehicle emissions and to decarbonise all vehicle types, it seems that at the very least, modifications that lead to increased emissions from petrol motorcycles and cars are likely to be outlawed."

Modifying your bike could be made illegal: New plans that could make fitting non-OEM parts a crime

First published on 20 October 2021 by Jordan Gibbons

Changing a motorcycle exhaust end can

The Motorcycle Action Group is encouraging motorcyclists to respond to proposals from the Department for Transport (DfT) that would restrict owners from modifying their bikes.

The proposals are part of the DfT’s ‘Future of Transport’ review and are lumped in with lots of other vehicle standards that the department is looking to modernise.

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Under the proposed changes it would be a crime to ‘tamper’ with ‘a system, part or component of a vehicle intended or adapted to be used on a road’. MAG were in attendance at the webinar where the proposals were first made.

"I was expecting the lack of motorcycle focus in policies for the charging infrastructure, but the anti-tampering proposals came as a real sucker punch," says Colin Brown, MAG’s Director of Campaigns and Political Engagement.

"As the owner of a motorcycle with less OEM parts than aftermarket ones you can imagine my reaction. This renewed attack on the right to do what you wish with your own property is not something that I can see many motorcyclists welcoming."

Aftermarket parts like this could become illegal

The reasons for the proposed changes are twofold: ensuring emissions standards after manufacture and for autonomous vehicles.

Currently there is no test for a bike’s emissions once it leaves the factory, which presents a headache for schemes such as the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London, which is based entirely on which Euro rating the vehicle met at manufacture.

Clearly if a bike is nominally Euro 4 but had had the catalytic converter removed, charcoal canister binned and a full remap, its emissions will greatly exceed the emissions limits even if on paper it complies. The other issue is with autonomous vehicles.

The safety of autonomous vehicles is entirely reliant on the system doing as expected, especially when it’s interacting with other self-driving vehicles. If someone was to modify the hardware or software, the vehicle could behave unexpectedly and disaster could ensue.

The Government is keen to get ahead of this and making modifications illegal is seen as an important step on the route to self-driving cars.

Modern exhausts are packed with sensors and catalysts to aid clean running

This isn’t the first time anti-tampering laws have been proposed. They were originally put forward by the EU in 2012 to be part of Euro4 from 2016 onwards.

Euro4 brought with it considerably stricter emissions levels and the EU wanted to make changing air filters, exhausts, catalytic converters and engine maps a crime. However the legislation was strongly opposed and never became law.

"Clearly the Government has some good intentions with these proposals and we wouldn’t want to oppose those," adds Brown. "However it’s clear that the knock on effect of what they’re suggesting would be ruinous for the motorcycle industry. It would be some of the most draconian rules around vehicle modification we’ve ever heard of."

MAG is opening direct talks with the DfT but says that bikers need to make it clear how unimpressed they are with these suggestions so that DfT engages seriously. The consultation is only short too, just eight weeks rather than the usual 12, so quick action is imperative. You can respond directly to the survey here

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Ben Clarke

By Ben Clarke

Assistant Editor (Motorcycling), hick for life, two cylinders max