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     Motorcycle engines use the power generated by combustion for a number of purposes. Three key areas of power usage are:
  1. Turning the rear wheel
  2. Drawing air into the engine
  3. Forcing exhaust gases out

To get the most performance out of a motorcycle engine, it is important to focus as much of the engine’s output on turning the wheel as possible. One popular modification to help in this pursuit is replacing the restrictive stock exhaust with a free flowing aftermarket exhaust. Some people think that the main objective in picking an exhaust is to find one that sounds the best. Realistically, if you pick an exhaust that matches up well with the performance level of your motorcycle the killer sound will almost always take care of itself. When selecting an exhaust, there are two main categories to consider, full system and slip on. Both increase the motorcycle’s power by reducing the amount of resistance in the exhaust system, allowing the engine to devote more power to moving your bike and less energy on expelling exhaust gas.

Stock Exhaust on a Kawasaki KLR650

Full system exhausts connect directly to the engine’s head, replacing the OEM muffler and pipes. This style of exhaust requires a more involved installation process but results in increased high-end power. High-end power is important when the motorcycle is often used at full throttle, for example, long trips at highway speeds. This exhaust will have the greatest effect on increasing the motorcycle’s maximum speed.
     Slip-on exhaust systems are easy to install since the headers and pipes closest to the engine remain in place. Slip-on exhausts increase a motorcycle’s low rpm power. This gives the bike more pick-up for quick acceleration. For most riders, it is more practical to increase the motorcycle’s low-end power, as it is more useful in daily driving. Many riders never see their motorcycle top speed and are not particularly concerned with increasing it. If you are more concerned with the ability to take off from stoplights, a slip-on exhaust might be right for you.
     Installing either type of motorcycle exhaust is relatively easy since the pipes simply bolt together and most bikes offer decent access to the bolts. When installing an aftermarket exhaust, it is always a good idea to install new gaskets. They are cheap and easy to throw in place and making sure the exhaust seals well will prevent problems down the line. Since the new motorcycle exhaust is changing the airflow through the engine, it is a good idea to install a new air filter and adjust the carburetor. This will help maintain the best air-fuel mixture for the best motorcycle performance.
     Most quality aftermarket motorcycle exhausts come with removable baffles. You can add or remove baffles to tune the level of backpressure in the motorcycle’s exhaust system. Too little backpressure can allow raw gas and fresh air to be expelled prematurely, reducing the amount of air and fuel in the combustion chamber. Too much backpressure can rob your engine of horsepower since it has to work harder to expel the exhaust (it also affects the engine’s ability to draw in fresh air). By adding or removing motorcycle exhaust baffles; you can tune the bike to peak performance.

Baffles from a SuperTrapp Slip-on Exhaust

     Some motorcycle exhausts have mufflers are packed with sound deadening material, usually a fiberglass. Overtime this material will wear out and the exhaust will have to be repacked to keep it sounding right and tuned properly.


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