From next October, motorcycles over 175cc will have to reduce their noise level from 82 to 80 decibels. Manufacturers who have already muffled the exhaust systems of their air- cooled models say the only way to cut noise levels further is to use liquid-cooled engines.
Some - including Harley-Davidson - believe the addition of a radiator and cooling pipes will tarnish the image of their machines, and are threatening to withdraw from the European market. Martin Ginns, technical representative of Harley-Davidson UK, said: 'We would need to produce such a hideous exhaust system that would destroy the bike's image - it would be a disaster.'
The threat comes as Harley-Davidsons are enjoying a boom in Britain. UK sales have risen from about 50 a year in the early 1980s to 2,000 last year. For yuppie riders, known in the United States as RUBs - rich urban bikers - the appeal of nostalgia and style is a powerful attraction. Famous owners willing to pay up to pounds 12,000 for a bike include Peter de Savary, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Micky Rourke, and until recently Viscount Linley.
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