There is perhaps no subject that polarizes the motorcycle community quite like exhaust systems. It is not just the type of exhaust that is divisive, sound and noise are also factors when it comes to discussing exhaust systems.
Lately there has been a lot more negative press surrounding the use of after-market exhaust systems. Residents and other drivers are complaining of the noise pollution that accompanies many of the systems.
The complaints are most often the result of a biker installing an exhaust system without the necessary sound dampeners making their bike extremely loud. I have been on rides with bikers whose exhaust systems are so loud that they set off automobile alarms just from starting the bikes.
We all love a deep throaty sound that the Harley-Davidson Twin engine makes but bikes need to be aware of how loud their bikes have become otherwise we are destined to have legislature introduced that will limit the products that can be used on the street.
The stock exhaust system on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle has been designed as a compromise between performance and sound. When I first bought my Night Train I was surprised to hear how quiet the stock pipes were. Most of the bikes I had been around before had modified exhaust systems.
For the first three years I rode with stock pipes on my Night Train and was under the impression that they were adequate for the type of riding I was doing and I was conscious of the noise implications and did not want to be identified as part of the problem.
The funny thing was that during those years I had several close calls with motorists who pulled in front of me or changed lanes as if I did not exist. I am a very defensive rider so I was able to steer clear of a potential accident but the trend was making me very nervous.
After my wife witnessed one of these close calls she made the comment that somehow the drivers of cars need to be more aware of cyclists. About this time I decided that I really wanted to change exhaust systems to something a little more open.
I selected the Vance & Hines staggered Big Shots exhaust system. I liked the look of the Vance & Hines pipes and was impressed with their reputation.
I was a little concerned about the noise level; I wanted something a little louder than stock but not over bearing. With the new exhaust system in place I started the bike up. I immediately knew the difference between this exhaust system and the stock system.
They are indeed louder than the stock pipes but are still within a reasonable sound range. Talking to my neighbors they admitted the bike was now louder but none of them would classify the bike as being obnoxious or overly loud.
With the new exhaust system I quickly noticed a difference. With a less restrictive flow than the stock exhaust there was an increase in acceleration. Besides the new pipes I also installed a change to the bikes jet system to make sure it was receiving the proper mixture of fuel.
I’ve been quite happy with the Vance & Hines exhaust system. Whether directly attributed to the bikes or some other factor I have not had the close calls I did before on the road. I believe the slightly louder pipes have resulted in drivers being more aware of my bike and therefore are less apt to change lanes or pull in front of me.
The quality of the exhaust system is first rate. The stainless steel pips with built in heat shields remain perfectly polished and lend a more street savvy look to the bike. The bright chrome pipes are a distinct contrast against the blacked out look of the Harley-Davidson Night Train making it all the more impressive.
While I do not condone extreme exhaust modification and believe we are all responsible for maintaining a level of peace by minimizing noise pollution I do think that a little more noise than the stock pipes are warranted to make sure the other drivers notice us. It’s a change I would definitely make again if given the opportunity. This bike upgrade may just have saved my life.