Motorcycle Exhausts 101: Unleash the Roar

January 2, 2024
By Michael Padway
motorcycle exhausts

Motorcycle exhaust systems do more than make your bike sound a whole lot better than the stock pipes that came with it from the dealer. Their functional purpose is to provide a way out for gases produced in an internal combustion engine.

A motorcycle exhaust lets the engine perform properly by allowing gases to escape into the atmosphere. The gases produced during the combustion process harm your lungs and the atmosphere, so components within the exhaust make them less harmful before releasing them.

The ugliest exhaust system will function just fine, but a shiny new exhaust system makes a motorcycle look and sound better. If you’re in the market for a new motorcycle exhaust system, this article gives an overview of how a motorcycle exhaust works, explains the different types, and includes tips for maintaining a motorcycle exhaust once you install it on your bike.

What is a motorcycle exhaust?

The primary function of the exhaust system on a motorcycle is to expel gases produced during the combustion process. It sounds simple enough, but there’s more to it.

Primary purpose of a motorcycle exhaust system

The gases from the standard motorcycle engine include hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and a variety of other substances that the earth’s atmosphere and your lungs can do without. Components within a properly working exhaust system convert harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide (CO), into less harmful ones, carbon dioxide (CO2).

Gases building up within a motorcycle engine reduce performance and fuel efficiency. Expelling the gases lets your engine run better, and converting what is expelled into less harmful exhaust is good for the atmosphere. A properly functioning exhaust ensures that your motorcycle complies with federal emissions standards. 

The stock exhaust system on a motorcycle expels gases and limits harmful emissions, but it’s the sound and style of a custom exhaust that usually makes an owner invest in a new system. A  custom exhaust system gives a motorcycle a unique and original sound and look. 

Parts of a motorcycle exhaust system

The following are the key components of a typical exhaust system:

  • Header or Collectors: These are pipes that remove gases from the engine, and carry them 
  • Collectors: The headers carry the engine gases to the collectors to convert them into less harmful gases begins.
  • Catalytic converter: Located inside a collector, the catalytic converter or catalyzer has chambers within it containing rare metals that convert the molecules of harmful gases into less harmful gases.
  • Oxygen sensor: Motorcycle engines perform best when there is the right combination of air and fuel. An oxygen sensor in the exhaust system monitors the oxygen levels of the gases passing through a motorcycle exhaust pipe to enable the engine to adjust the fuel-air balance.
  • DB killer and Silencer: The function of these components is noise reduction as the engine gases release into the atmosphere. You may be more familiar with silencers by their common name, mufflers. The DB killer is located at the manifold outlet of the exhaust. 

The components of an exhaust system function together to improve engine performance and reduce harmful emissions from the motorcycle exhaust pipe.

Motorcycle Parts for All Makes and Models

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Types of Motorcycle Exhaust

If you’ve shopped for an aftermarket motorcycle exhaust to install on your bike, you know the variety of custom motorcycle exhaust pipes available. Chrome-plated motorcycle exhausts are popular, but you also have titanium, carbon fiber, and other materials from which to choose. 

There are three types of motorcycle exhaust systems available that you can choose from for use on your bike.

Mufflers-only exhaust systems

  • You may see or hear muffler-only systems called bolt-on or slip-on systems. 
  • The only component removed is the motorcycle muffler. The head pipes, catalytic converter, and other parts of the stock exhaust system remain in place.
  • A slip-on motorcycle exhaust containing a silencer slips over the existing pipes or is bolted in place to the frame.
  • The purpose of this type of modification is to change the sound and appearance of your motorcycle. It generally has little impact on performance.

Our Picks

Akrapovic GP Slip-On Exhaust Yamaha R6 2017-2020


  • MotoGP derived muffler design
  • Anodized exhaust bracket
  • Attractive design decorated you bike into good looking
  • Combination of machine and hand welds
  • Maximize lean angle
  • Air-tight quality controlled production
  • High-grade stainless steel exhaust clamps

Buy Now >>> ($819.88)

JFG RACING Dirt Bike Slip On Exhaust


  • FITMENT — Dirt Bike Exhaust Fits for CRF150F CRF230F 2003-2017/ TAO TAO TBR7/ HAWK 250.
  • Pipe is made of 304 stainless steel, muffler is made of 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Attractive design decorated you bike into good looking

Buy Now >>> ($96.99)

JFG RACING Dirt Bike Slip On Exhaust
Exhaust Muffler Carbon Fiber 1.5-2″Inlet with Removable DB Killer


  • Hexagonal silencer, reducing most of the sound
  • Carbon fiber style makes your motorcycle more ornamental
  • Aluminum alloy connection part, high quality material,the strong vibration will not damage it
  • Fits 38 and 51mm diameter Exhaust Muffler

Buy Now >>> ($36.99)

Exhaust Muffler Carbon Fiber 1.5-2"Inlet with Removable DB Killer
YOSAYUSA Motorcycle Full Exhaust System


  • Allows for large displacement motorcycle exhaust smoother
  • Fit for Kawasaki Ninja Z250 250R 2008-2018 and Ninja 300 2008-2017
  • Aluminum alloy connection part, high quality material,the strong vibration will not damage it
  • Made of high quality stainless steel, corrosion resistance and rustproof

Buy Now >>> ($106.89)

YOSAYUSA Motorcycle Full Exhaust System
Carbon Fiber Universal Exhaust Slip


  • Reduces Overall Weight For Top Performance To Obtain Max Output
  • Works with various bike including dirt bikes, street bikes, scooters, ATVs, quad and other bike with pipe diameter 38 mm to 51 mm
  • Great sounds with a removable DB killer for changing sound
  • Overall Length: 365mm | Connection: 51mm slip-on type

Buy Now >>> ($36.97)

Carbon Fiber Universal Exhaust Slip

Full Exhaust Systems

  • As its name implies, a full exhaust system replaces the entire exhaust system with customized headers, converters, exhaust pipes for motorcycles, and muffler.
  • A custom exhaust motorcycle lets you choose products that produce the sound and enhanced engine performance you want. 
  • Custom exhaust pipes for motorcycles cost more and usually require engine modifications by re-jetting the carburetor or, on motorcycles with fuel injection, making changes to the engine control unit.

Our Picks

Akrapovic Racing Exhaust Systems Triumph Trident 660 2021-2023


  • Black-coated, high-grade titanium muffler outer sleeve
  • A combination of beautiful machine and hand welds
  • CNC machined muffler inlet cap
  • Optimized to maximize lean angle
  • All carbon fiber parts are produced in-house
  • Air-tight quality controlled production means your exhaust will be perfect
  • High-quality, silicon-shielded stainless steel exhaust springs

Buy Now >>> ($1,398.60)

Akrapovic Racing Exhaust Systems Triumph Trident 660 2021-2023
Graves Octagonal Full Exhaust System Honda CRF300L


  • Aluminum muffler with stainless steel endcap and carbon fiber endcap cover
  • Stainless steel header
  • Unique blue finish
  • Precision welds for weight saving and heat reduction
  • Integrated mounting tab for clean strapless design
  • Forestry approved spark arrestor / dB reducer
  • 15% power gain without tuning

Buy Now >>> ($1,098.00)

Graves Octagonal Full Exhaust System Honda CRF300L
Akrapovic Racing GP Exhaust System


  • High quality stainless steel headers and mid-pipes
  • No fuel remapping required
  • A combination of beautiful machine and hand welds
  • Integrated lightweight muffler hanger
  • Optimized to maximize lean angle
  • Air-tight quality controlled production means your exhaust will be perfect
  • High-quality, silicon-shielded stainless steel exhaust springs

Buy Now >>> ($668.65 – 2,012.36)

Akrapovic Racing GP Exhaust System
Big Gun EVO S Full System Exhaust Honda Ruckus


  • High-temp black thermal coated aluminum muffler
  • Black powder coated stainless steel end tip
  • 304 Stainless steel mid pipe / head pipe
  • TIG welded reinforced muffler bracket
  • Lighter than OEM exhaust
  • Massive horsepower and torque gains
  • Sleek muffler design for maximum clearance

Buy Now >>> ($252.44)

Big Gun EVO S Full System Exhaust Honda Ruckus
&S Cycle Diamondback 2-1 Race Only


  • Full stainless system with heat shields
  • Oversize header primary tubes for optimum flow and performance
  • Just enough length to make big power
  • Four bungs for easy O2 sensor installation and air/fuel monitoring
  • Computer aided design & precision bending for improved ground clearance
  • 50 State legal system available

Buy Now >>> ($926.96)

&S Cycle Diamondback 2-1 Race Only

When choosing from the various motorcycle exhaust brands, you may see mention of something called a “homologated exhaust.” Homologated is a term that means the exhaust system complies with state and federal emissions standards and state and local noise laws. If you intend to ride on the streets, the exhaust pipes for motorcycles you install must be part of a homologated exhaust system that complies with the law.

Default exhaust systems

  • A default exhaust system is what the manufacturer of your motorcycle installed on it. It’s also called a factory-installed exhaust or a stock exhaust. 
  • The advantage of a stock exhaust system is that it meets all noise and emissions standards. Another advantage is that it was designed specifically for the engine installed on your motorcycle to achieve the best overall performance from the engine.
  • The disadvantage of stock exhausts is they give a motorcycle the same look and sound as others produced by the manufacturer, which is why riders choose to customize their exhaust systems.

Tips to Maintain Your Motorcycle Exhaust 

Motorcycle exhaust systems generate extreme heat and pollutants that affect their appearance and performance over time. The blue discoloration you may have noticed on chrome motorcycle exhaust pipes is an example of what can happen. Applying polish to the chrome or stainless steel surfaces after they cool down can keep the discoloration in check. 

Other tips to add to your maintenance checklist  to keep your motorcycle muffler and exhaust in top condition include the following:

  • Use mild soap with water and a nonabrasive cloth or sponge to clean the surfaces of the motorcycle exhaust pipe and other components.
  • Wipe surfaces dry after riding in the rain or on wet roads. Drops of water left to dry on metal surfaces leave spots, but you can avoid spotting by drying the surface using a microfiber or other nonabrasive cloth.
  • Dents and scratches can lead to rust, so apply a polish to protect metal surfaces from rust after wiping the motorcycle exhaust pipe and muffler clean using soap and water.
  • Periodically check and tighten screws and other fasteners holding the motorcycle muffler and pipes in place that may have become loose while riding.
  • If the heat from your motorcycle exhaust pipe is affecting your bike’s frame or other parts, you may wish to install a heat shield to protect them.

Before doing any type of maintenance to your motorcycle exhaust system or getting it ready for the winter, get a copy of the maintenance recommendations from the motorcycle manufacturer or the exhaust system and follow them.


The components of a motorcycle exhaust system perform a vital role in the performance of your bike’s engine by removing gases and expelling them. Customizing the exhaust system lets you alter the sound and look of your motorcycle, but you need to be mindful of legal standards for exhaust emissions and noise limits to ride on the streets. 

If you decide to change the motorcycle muffler or other components of your bike’s exhaust system, use our recommended picks as a guide. Just remember to stay in compliance with the law.

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Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a broad spectrum of clients dealing with life-changing and permanent injuries for the first time. His offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.

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