Nuts About Bikes

Outta my way, pencil neck!
Air horn gets you noticed

MAN, that sucker's loud.

There's no shortage of air horns for your motorcycle. Most of them will set you back $1 million or so. (OK, we exaggerate, but you get the point.)

Since I am one thrifty SOB, the Stebel Nautilus Air Horn got my attention when I heard it promised an eardrum-splitting 139 dB in sound for a mere $36US - or $40 to 50 for the all-chrome model. The same horn goes by a few different names, including the Wolo Bad Boy. A bunch of retailers carry them.

My kind of accessory.

Stebel NautilusThey weren't kidding. As one user put it - don't blow this thing in the garage. You'll regret it. I think he was right. It's one of the loudest horns I've heard on any wheeled vehicle. And the nice thing is that it does not require an external compressor to work. The call it "Nautilus" on account of the odd seashell shape: it's a small, self-contained air horn with an integrated compressor driven by one honkin' (no pun) mother of a 12V motor.

It ain't exactly pretty, but it is one serious horn.

Let's put it in perspective. We have to assume that the manufacturer's 139dB claim is accurate since I have no way to test the horn. But even if it's a high estimate by a dB or two, look at where 139 falls on this handy sound chart. That's louder than the Space Shuttle from the closest observation point - and significantly louder than a jackhammer. They say the threshhold of pain is at 130. Grin.

The nice thing about the Stebel, besides the price and the crazy-loud, is the fact that it comes with a nifty little bike-friendly relay that takes up virtually no space on your frame.

Tech note: the relay is essentially a remote switch. It delivers the greatest amount of available power directly from the battery to the horn while keeping the amount of current whizzing through the little horn button at a safe and non-flammable level.

Unless you spring for the optional “Plug-n-Play” wiring kit (Around $20-$30US) you'll need to hit the store for some wire and common connectors. I'd put the difficulty level at a four on scale of 10. If you've never wired any gizmos to your bike, this one might be outside your ability - and you might want to locate a wrench who can help you. But if you are comfortable tracing circuits, stripping wires and routing primary wire through your machine, you won't have any trouble.

It took me a good afternoon to get it buttoned up. The trickiest part was finding a spot to put it. On my Kawi, I was able to adapt the stock horn bracket to accept the Stebel in the original horn location. With the motor and all, the horn is considerably heavier than any stock horn - so mounting will be an exercise in nuance.

This horn saved my bacon within days of installing. Typical situation - cager, ready to pull out and cut off my path. I hit 'em with the Nautilus, and, boy, did he wake up in a hurry. You should have seen the look on his face.

On another occasion, a cute little Shetland collie was running loose on the yellow line. I slowed way down, not knowing where he was headed. Of course, he didn't know, either, so I helped him make up his mind with a blast of the Nautilus. Off he went, like a shot.

Coincidentally, my wing man had the dealer install Harley Davidson's air horn right around the same time as I did mine. I like the HD air horn a lot - in terms of sound. Just as loud as my Stebel, but on a deeper note. It looks a lot nicer and it's way more expensive - but it gets the job done, when it works. He's been back to the dealer twice to get it fixed and refixed.

No complaints from me. The Nautilus isn't attractive but I'd rather be safe than stylin’. A worthwhile investment to keep the cagers on their toes.

-Sal, Editor
Updated July 2008

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