Tech Tuesday: Exhausts

NEWS December 6, 2011

Tech Tuesday: Exhausts

Photo by Brian J. Nelson

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Exhausts are the topic of this week’s edition of Tech Tuesday. Choosing the correct exhaust for your application can be a daunting task, due to the many brands and types on the market. Here are four characterstics to consider: Aesthetics, weight reduction, noise quality and handling.

The look of an exhaust system plays a very large part in a rider's motivation to pay hundreds of dollars for the upgrade. On top of comparing the various exhaust designs for a motorcycle, it’s important to weigh the cost of one material over another. Depending on your personal preference, a titanium muffler may look better than a carbon fiber model, while a stainless steel muffler might better fit your budget while giving you the sound and look you want. Most companies offer choices on what type of system to install on a model. If you are looking to simply shed some weight and add some sound to your engine, a slip-on is a more cost-friendly approach.

If you’re looking to take the performance of your motorcycle to the next level, a full-system will take you there. Comparing full-systems to slip-on systems, full-systems are known to eliminate more exhaust restriction, thereby increasing horsepower when properly tuned.

"The days of bolting on an aftermarket exhaust and getting massive horsepower gains are long gone," said Al Ludington, AMA Pro Racing's Technical Director.

Manufacturers are able to build exhaust systems on their motorcycles so well, that adding an aftermarket slip-on exhaust does not simply add large quantities of horsepower. Any true gains in performance can be found in other ways, like a fuel programmer in combination with a full-system, for example.

For off-road and race track applications, riders may want to swap out their stock exhaust for a lighter option. Many motorcycles come with mufflers that have catalytic converters attached, which is great for emissions, but does little when unleashing the true sound of what a motorcycle is capable of. In addition to restricting sound, catalytic converters and additional emissions equipment add weight to the motorcycle. By swapping the stock exhaust system for either a slip-on or full-system, weight savings can be found with the benefit of a deeper and/or louder exhaust note. It’s important to note that removing the catalytic converter for motorcycles used on the road is illegal and you may be fined, even if your state does not require regular emissions testing.

Recently, the state of California passed the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act (SB 435) that aims to increase enforcement of current anti-tampering and noise-level statutes for motorcycles. It requires that motorcycles maintain their federally-required emissions levels (on both original, and aftermarket exhaust systems) and also display a readily-visible EPA stamp certifying compliance. These regulations now give law enforcement the ability to issue violations under the CA Vehicle Code.

Noise Quality:
Many riders swap out their stock exhaust for the purpose of getting a deeper exhaust note. Motorcycles come from the factory with exhaust systems required to meet certain EPA noise limits. Keep in mind, many aftermarket exhausts are sold with sound inserts, or "DB Killers" on both slip-on and full-systems. If you prefer to avoid attracting unwanted attention while on the street, you should look into these when considering your options. In response to increasing federal exhaust decibel-level requirements, companies like Yoshimura offer EPA-compliant exhaust systems for certain late-model motorcycles. These exhaust systems are capable of producing less emissions than stock exhaust systems while still increasing horsepower and providing a great exhaust note.

If you think exhaust systems have little to do with the handling of a motorcycle, you’re in for a surprise. It’s not out of the norm for some AMA Pro Racing teams to use combinations of different metal exhaust components to reach optimal handling on their racebike. For example, they would pair steel headers with a titanium mid-pipe and muffler to maximize the lower center of gravity on the motorcycle by alleviating weight up top. If you’re serious about maximizing your performance and handling, take this configuration into consideration.

In all, when making a decision to purchase an exhaust system for your motorcycle, make sure to consider every option from multiple exhaust manufacturers. Regardless of what your end goal is, you should examine exhaust websites, videos on youtube and your buddy’s bike to assist you with your decision. If none of these ideas help you, check out what pipe is on the bike of the rider who’s winning all the races.

While one exhaust may be cheap, it may lack quality features that are essential to gaining horsepower, and not losing it. Reputable exhaust companies that provide products to AMA Pro Road Racing riders are Akrapovic, Brocks Performance, Corsa, Double Dog Moto, FMF Racing, Graves, Hindle, Honda, LeoVince, M4, Sato, Vance & Hines and Yoshimura.

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