Upgrade Your Bike: Part 1 – Exhaust Selection

At some point in time, almost every motorcyclist comes to the realization that their stock bike is just not enough. Often, the decision to customize boils down to one thing: We all want more power!

When it comes to generating more power, one of the hardest decision to make is where to start and then when to stop. In this series of blog posts, I’m going to review exhaust, cams, and other bolt-on performance upgrades, all of which will help you make a more informed decision surrounding how to get more from your existing bike. Here, I will review the differences in exhaust based on riding style, performance, and cost.  At the end of the series (there will be three parts, by the way), you’ll be in a much better position to upgrade your bike.

Without going specifically into branding of parts, I’ll stick with just the basics. In addition to explaining some of the parts myself, I will be sharing opinions from our tech contributors, Scott Holton and Bud Milza, asking them what they prefer regarding the topics at-hand and why.

Today’s post we will focus specifically on exhaust selection. To get us started, I first want to identify the different exhausts available. Here, to categorize exhaust systems in relation to costs and what type of riders typically purchase these exhaust and why.

MufflersMufflers typically bolt or slip on to existing head pipes, and are usually the most cost-effective exhaustSlip On Mufflers upgrade available. Mufflers give you a minor increase in sound and performance, and for the general rider who just wants to be heard and does not look for performance, slip on mufflers will do the trick. Additional information about mufflers can be found in chart below:

Cost Usually the least expensive of all options.
Riding Style Leisure riders who spend most of their time enjoying the new added sound and minimal performance gains go this route. Riders who plan on stopping at just the added sound and adding no other performance upgrades typically select mufflers.
Performance As you’ll see below, mufflers are the least performing out of the bunch, provide minimal horsepower and torque gains compared to the other options, but are a definite improvement over stock.

Full Systems: Full systems include the complete exhaust system (i.e., head pipes and mufflers). Full systems are broken into two categories. Performance Full and Style:

  • Performance / Full Systems: These are usually categorized as a 2 into 1, or a true dual system. Most of these systems have equal length head pipes for increased performance, and usually have a stepped head pipe design. These systems primarily focus on increasing horsepower and overall torque. Additional information about these systems can be found in chart below:
Cost Performance systems typically are in the middle of the road, but can sometimes be the more expensive depending on the engineering involved and materials used by the manufacturer.
Riding Style Usually best for the touring rider or racers. The engineering behind these exhausts allows for added torque and horsepower; both of which touring riders and racers appreciate when they grab a hand full of throttle!
Performance Best performing out of the bunch, these exhausts were designed to make your motorcycle go fast and create more horsepower. Performance / Full systems sometimes have minimal heat shields options to increase overall weight savings.

  • Styling / Full Systems: Styling / Full systems typically take all exhaust performance characteristics and throw them out the door, and focus instead on style. Styling systems usually have full coverage heat shields, which are sometimes offered in different finishes. The styling lines of the motorcycle are a big factor with these exhausts. Additional information about styling full systems can be found in chart below:
Cost Because of their complex heat shields, styling system exhausts can be the most expensive on the market. Their complex heat shield design and manufacturing process sometimes can add to the increase in price.
Riding Style These exhausts allow most riders the option to express their styling personalities, so riding style typically doesn’t come into play with this type of system. Most riders who purchase styling exhausts are only concerned about how they will look and not necessarily how they perform.
Performance Styling exhausts can be in the middle of the road regarding performance. The complex bends and lack of performance characteristics make these exhausts perform better than mufflers but not as well as a performance exhaust. Intricate heat shields on these exhausts can sometimes become heavier than most other exhausts, resulting in additional weight over a performance system.

At the outset of today’s post, I mentioned that I’d share tech experts prefer when it comes to the exhaust for their own motorcycles.  Here, in their own words, are what they have to say about the type of exhaust they run on their own bikes and why:

Scott Holton, who runs a performance exhaust on his bike:

On my 2003 Indian Power-Plus 100 engine, I run a full system Hooker Header 2 into 1. The advantage of this tuned exhaust is the 2 into 1 design that has the exhaust of one cylinder assists the scavenging of the other cylinder. The effect is present in both cylinders. By using these pipes, I get a “free” increase in power. The reason to call this a tuned system is that as I made my cam choice to run, I selected the exhaust closing time to work with the best effect at the RPM I intended to run. I’m very, very, pleased with the sound and performance this system provides. My Indian is very smooth, throaty and powerful.”

Bud Milza, who also chooses to run a performance exhaust on his bike:

I run a 2-into-1 Thunder Header on my 07 FLHP.  This pipe performs well throughout the power band but the main reason I run it is for the torque it delivers in the low-to-mid range.  That’s where I spend most of my time on the street and it complements my aggressive riding style nicely.  This pipe in combination with a high flow air cleaner is an exceptional way to kick off Stage 1 of your upgrade project.”

J&P Cycles recommends that you modify the fuel delivery to your motorcycle any time you change the exhaust. This can be done with a Jet kit for Carbureted motorcycles, or a Fuel Processor for Fuel injected bikes.

Check back next time when I talk about cam selection based on your riding style. As always, if you have questions or need assistance picking out the upgrade kit to suit your needs, don’t hesitate to chat with a J&P technician via Live Chat, or call J&P’s technical support staff (1.800.397.4844).

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