The 110 year old Debate

Do you ever wonder why no two motorcycles sound the same? Why don’t those two 2012 Black Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic Limited’s with the 103” motor and 6-speed transmission sound the same? Why don’t those two 2012 Red Honda Goldwing 1800’s sound the same? It may seem odd that 2 seemingly identical bikes wouldn’t sound the same, but the most common reason is the factory exhaust has been changed out in order to gain performance and offer a better sound. Today’s motorcyclist has literally hundreds of options of exhaust available to them.

Let’s begin with the V-Twin market (Harley, Victory, or even any of the custom bikes that utilize a v-twin motor) and explore the options available.

  •  Slip Ons or aftermarket mufflers are the simplest and usually the easiest exhaust change, especially on fuel injected motorcycles. They offer improved levels of sound from mild to obnoxious, and have slight performance increases without requiring any air/fuel system modifications, especially on models equipped with oxygen sensors. Slip-Ons are generally offered in a chrome and black version to give you the look you want for your bike. They also offer many different can designs such as OEM style mufflers, interchangeable end caps, oversized cans, and even Fishtail mufflers. Slip-Ons are available for most touring models, soft tails, sport cruisers, and more with a design that is sure to meet your needs.
  • Next up, we turn to Full Systems which will have quite a few sub-classes. A full system is a complete replacement for the stock exhaust system and will require carburetor re-jetting or fuel injection remapping. We’ll discuss that later along with hi-flow air filters.
  • Full Length Exhaust will typically run low on the right side of the bike and end at the rear axle or at the rear fender. They are usually 1 pipe per cylinder, having no separate muffler, keeping a uniform diameter front to rear.  One classic combination often seen is Vance and Hines “Long Shots” or “Big Shots Long” on the Harley-Davidson FL Softtail line (Heritage Softtail Classic, Fatboy, or Softtail Deluxe models) along with good looks they deliver a healthy, traditional sound, and an impressive performance gain.
  • Staggered Exhaust resembles stock systems the most by retaining the staggered or offset look. With staggered systems, some are offered in a 1 piece design while others a 2 piece head pipe/ muffler design.  One example is the Sampson “Tapered Performance Staggered Duals”, still leans towards the traditional sound, but frees up a few ponies. The staggered exhaust is the last of the line up that keeps you in the “Traditional Sound” category.
  • Shorty’s are best known for their chopped look and crazy sound. As the name implies these pipes are cut as short as possible while leaving just enough of a tail. They will generally go no further than the rider controls. They do offer increased sound verging on wicked and contribute more power (augh ough augh augh ough!).
  • Now comes the retail custom often given the name ”Ground Pounders” or “Street Sweepers”, these pipes are slightly swept and point toward the ground. Martin Brothers “Curb Feelers” are a great example of the extreme bends of this style of pipe. Most notably is of course it’s radical design, followed by the obscene sound produced by these pipes. Power? Well let’s just say you won’t believe the difference.
  • Drag Pipes or Straight Pipes are often seen on carbureted bikes for people that just seem to want as much sound as possible. These pipes tend to be slightly smaller in diameter, and do not have baffles in them. You can usually spot drag pipes because they often turn the chrome blue. Don’t plan on having a conversation around these because they are LOUD!

  • Let’s calm it down a bit, and switch gears to True Duals. Believe it or not, this style is not reserved just for touring bikes. True Duals are literally just that, each cylinder has its own exhaust pipe with no crossover or equalizer chamber. The options for dressers seem to cover as many choices as there are minutes in the day. Changeable tips, oversized cans, low rumbley tones to glass pack cackles. These are very popular on dressers, but a few companies offer them for softtails too. Some of the designs can get pretty crazy too, with Fishtails hangin out back pretty far. This creates a radical “Old School “custom look.  Once again, increased power and increased sound are results of this type of installation.

  • Not to be left out is the performance enhancing 2 into 1 system. These systems are employed when the rider wants the most return out of their motor. When a bike has engine modifications that increase the performance, a “Pro Pipe” as they are often called, is the best way to harness the newly acquired power. A lot of people tend to steer clear of 2 into 1 set ups because they aren’t visually appealing to the masses, even though they typically deliver the most bang for the buck.

NOW, if I have done my job correctly, I have given you just the right amount of information to confuse you even more. Just kidding, I hope I have helped you understand more and make the decision process easier. K and G Cycles ( offers exhaust from the top brands at competitive pricing so check us out and we’ll help you get what you are looking for.