Everything You Need To Know About Performance Exhausts for Your Harley.
Motorcycles are fitted with exhausts for a several reasons:
- They route harmful combustion gases away from the rider and passenger. You wouldn’t want to breathe in a carbon monoxide cocktail or burn your boots on a hot pipe, right? Exhaust pipes move exhaust away from the rider and passenger.
- They affect the noise coming out of the back of your bike. Putting an exhaust on an engine is a wonderful way to make get the sound you want out of your bike. Whether you want a face-melting sound or a subtle rumble, an exhaust is a great way to get the sound you desire.
- They improve engine performance. Doing something as simple as adding a high-performance exhaust system can actually improve your engine’s performance.
So why replace my factory exhaust system?
Your bike came with a factory exhaust system installed, and you might think that it comes from the factory it must be the be-all-end-all. The reality is that putting on a quality performance exhaust system can improve the overall quality of your Harley Davidson Motorcycle. There are many reasons why upgrading your exhaust is beneficial:
- Ride Faster! Your factory exhaust is, for lack of better words, generic. It is a cost-effective solution for the manufacturer that conforms to governmental standards. Beyond that, the manufacturer can’t possibly know that you want a road-screaming ride that moves like a scalded cat. The fact is that a performance exhaust system can and does make your Harley move faster!
- Lighten the load! Factory pipes are often big and bulky. In many cases replacing your exhaust with a high-performance exhaust system can shed some pounds off of your ride improving performance, speed and horsepower.
- Cost Savings! The biggest impact you can have on the look, sound, and performance of your bike is by replacing your exhaust system. Sure there is an upfront cost associated, but aftermarket pipes generally cost less than factory pipes and better performance and fuel efficiency equates to savings in the long run. It also improves the resale value of your bike.
- Make her scream! To get the most radical change in your Harley Davidson, changing to a high-performance aftermarket exhaust system is the preferred way to get the sound you want. Your choice of the exhaust can mean the difference between your bike sounding like a lawn mower to sounding like a monster. Most Harley owners agree that changing their exhaust was the single most value-add to their bikes.
How does aftermarket performance exhausts actually improve my bike’s overall performance?
Improving your exhaust causes the air to flow better and reduces the amount of work that your engine has to do. An exhaust that flows better more effectively expels exhaust gasses. When combined with a good intake system you can throw a few additional ponies into the mix.
What type of aftermarket exhaust should I get?
This is where it gets exciting! Depending on the type of rider you are and the kind of sound that you want to get out of your bike the options are endless. What it really boils down to is two different kinds of motorcycle exhaust systems:
- Mufflers only (also called slip-on or bolt-on systems). This kind of exhaust system retains the factory headpipe(s) replacing only the muffler
- Full Header. This type of exhaust replaces everything from the head(s) to the back of the bike.
Many slip-on systems are typically fabricated to be the only thing that gets changed on your bike. The performance boost is nowhere near the benefits you get from a full system, but the initial cost is easier on the wallet and can give you a small boost in sound and performance.
When doing a full header exhaust systme there is not only the change that comes with the full system from the headers to the muffler, but a considerable amount of fuel management must be considered. Usually, this involves a jet kit, or fuel controllers. These kinds of installs are typically more complex but the end result is a greater power, better performance, and ohhh that sound!
When choosing an aftermarket exhaust system you have to keep the end-game in mind. If you want to simply change the sound and give your bike a little more rumble when you cruise, an inexpensive slip-on might just do the trick. If, on the other hand, you plan on doing headwork, camshaft changes, etc.., then a full system might be the better route to go.
What style of aftermarket performance exhaust should I buy?
There are a vast variety of choices to choose from for Harley Davidson motorcycles, but here are a few things you might consider when making those decisions:
- Exhaust Configuration: Many of your factory configurations are called four/two exhausts, that is, they come out of four headers (for four-cylinder engines) and taper down to two mufflers. Other system configurations will four/one configuration where the exhaust tapers to one muffler. Deciding which configuration you need is your first step.
- Material Used: While titanium and carbon fiber exhaust systems are becoming a high-demand solution due to their low weight, their cost can be prohibitive for many people. Aluminum solutions offer the benefits of weight loss while providing the added benefit lower cost. Others prefer stainless steel which is quite popular due to cost and durability of the materials. And then there is the chrome steel material which is often prized for its dazzling beauty and longevity. For many, it comes down to the look and feel of the exhaust along with the maintenance required to keep it clean.
- The Tail End: Perhaps you like that big carbon fiber look, or maybe you are more into a sleeker look like turnouts or fishtails. Whatever your preference these tips can be interchanged to give you the look you desire.
Should I ever run with drag pipes or an open exhaust?
If you are into competitive racing then that may be the best route to go. But unless you plan on trailering your bike, for the most part, it is probably not the best option. This kind of configuration is not ideal for most people who enjoy simply riding. It is also very difficult to tune bikes with drag pipes and in some cases, this kind of configuration can actually decrease your performance. Truth be told, the average rider is not full-throttling it down the highway at all times.
Will my Harley pass an inspection with a performance aftermarket exhaust system?
Great question. It really depends on where you live as state regulations vary from state to state. The best advice we could give is to check with your local and state municipalities when making that decision.
How loud will my Harley be?
Typically, adding a performance aftermarket exhaust system will vastly increase the volume of your bike. You can, depending on the type of baffles in your exhaust, get louder or quieter sounds from your exhaust system.