Need some advise on Harley-Davidson exhaust system

It feels like I am the only Harley rider in the whole UK who still has his stock exhaust fixed to his bike. The do not look nice, rain waters forms visible puddles in them and quickly rust, the only positive thing you can say about them is that their sound seems legal with a huge safety margin.


I am impressed by the explanations of MacDuff in his Blog on the subject, but at the end I am still a bit confused. “2 in 1″, “2 in 1 in 2″, “2in2″, I understand the mechanical differences, but how important is it really, what are the PRO’s and CONS’s. The stock exhaust is a “2 in 1 in 2″, but do all such crossovers have a exhaust actuator valve? And does this actuator valve just serve to castrate the bike in certain conditions to meet noise regulations? And is it true this valve is only on international models?

You see, I am really confused, and that needs clarification before I am willing to throw real money at the problem.

Within a tolerable budget, 3 factors play a primary role: looks, performance and sound. This is in alphabetical order.

I will put sound as the No1. priority, as it is something that will always be there, even when performance doesn’t play any role as you are stuck in traffic. Sound is also the hardest to get right for all parties concerned, like my own taste, my wife’s taste, my neighbours tolerance and the sense of humour of the police officer in England, or worse, Germany.

Vance and Hines Dresser Duals, a 2 in 2 (~440 US$)

And I am not looking for extremely loud pipes, the best deep bass in my world is the one you feel with your chest, not some screaming rice cooker blowing like the whistle of a derailing steam engine. A chest thumping bass, with unlimited torque at low revs, that puts a smile on my face.

And with mentioning torque we are at priority No2: performance, or better: performance at the low end of the rev scale. The only thing better then torque is more torque, and a high displacement engine like the 96cu.i. is a good start, but 103 is of course better. See my article on the 2011 Road King Classic here.

Vance and Hines Power Duals, a 2 in 1 in2 (~520 US$)

Finally on the priority No.3: looks, I am happy to compromise, but only if it makes real sense. The WOW factor could until now only be achieved by the Turndown Slip-on mufflers by Vance & Hines.

The problem with buying a new exhaust is simple: you can not try them out like a new pair of shoes or some thermal gloves, it is a serious investment, and you will have to listen and live with for some long and lonely time. On YouTube, they all sound different and at the same time the same, due to poor recording quality and background noises. And as you do not have you own bike’s sound as benchmark, it is very difficult to compare and judge.

Vance and Hines Monster Ovals Slip-ons (~780 US$)

So please, I am happy to listen to your advise, here are some choices I came up with, all Vance and Hines:

Head Pipes: Dresser Duals or Power Duals. I understand that the (important?) crossover is lost with the dresser duals, also called true duals, and each cylinder gets its own piping and muffler. But what are the consequences of this with respect to sound and performance?

Vance and Hines Turndown Slip-ons (~500 US$)

The next choice is for the mufflers: the expensive Monster Ovals or the (for my taste) beautiful Turndown Slip-ons. Again, what are the implications with respect to sound and performance? And what is the better mix? Also, with the Turndown, will you need the optional Quiet Baffles?

My feeling right now would be for the following setup: Dresser Duals, with Turndown Slip-ons and maybe Quiet Baffles, Fuelpack and Air intake. But this may be utter nonsense and a big  mistake.

Please help with any comment and advise you may have…

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12 Responses to “Need some advise on Harley-Davidson exhaust system”

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  5. Gary France Says:

    I went through the same sort of issues as you when choosing my non-standard pipes. I can’t add to what has already been said about crossovers etc, but what I did was go along to Warrs and ask what they recommended (H-D dealers do after all have more experience than most) and then I went on a weekend ride out and listened to as many different combinations as possible and asked their owners what they thought. Then just took the plunge!

  6. having ridden an ultra with true duals and power the noise is a lot sharper with more bark and to me would be tiresome after 400miles, also IMO a touring bike should be heard but not 3miles away.
    The 2-2 system as stated will make you louder and give you more of the HD sound, the power dual on the other hand will give you the sound and the performance to boot.
    i dont remember which year your RK is but you may find the CAT’s in the mufflers not the header like the new ones, what some are doing is using 2009 pipes as they dont have a Cat – i know my 2009 head pipes dont as i can stick a broom handle in there and wiggle it around – mail me as i have done this mod to way to many bikes to count and to a 2009 Ultra 96″ and a 2009 CVO

  7. Ah yes, the never ending quest for the perfect sound. I’m still running stock on my Dyna, but only because I’m tired of buying exhaust components only to find they don’t do what I want and then having to sell them at a loss on eBay.
    One other point worth noting is that the “same” exhaust system will sound quite different on different bikes. I really like the sound of the aftermarket system on my brother’s ’09 Road King, so I got the same system for my ’07 Dyna – and hated it. So unless you can hear the system you want on the exact same make and model of bike, you really don’t know what you’re going to get.
    So, good luck. And keep us posted.

  8. Hallo!

    You absolutely must eliminate any crossover. Your stock pipes (being non-USA) are plagued by the catalytic converter that all 2010 USA bikes (and 2009 California) suffer from – getting a “power duals” setup from V&H will give you a free-flow system plus a crossover. This will hurt your sound, but up your performance. Get the regular 2-into-2, the true duals, and your ears will thank you. The timing of a 45-degree V-twin is meant to find expression in two individual pipes which are tuned to work together, not forced together – think Forrest Gump with and then without leg braces.

    As for the slip-ons, they are truly more cosmetic than anything else, especially since you can swap out the baffles as you’re aware. I would recommend getting the mufflers you like best – slip ons with turn-down endcaps are great – and enjoy! The sound may be a bit much, and you could order or modify your baffles (pack them with fiberglass, maybe $20USD and an hour’s work) to adjust down. Performance will be better or equal (depending on where you put your baffles on the sound/perf. scale) than your existing setup, and will more than likely be the same. That is, you will not really notice any difference beyond the sound.

    As for the tuner, if you go V&H with everything, the V&H fuelpak is not a bad choice. Note, however, that powercommanderV comes with wonderful support, and with that tuner you can just email the company with your setup and ask for tweaks which they’ll do and email right back to you. You could also skip this expense entirely and just get your harley tuner (stock) upgraded with a new map that your dealer will have. That’s probably ~$150US (so like twelve EU? :P) and not worth that by any stretch, but it allows you to save on the expense and if you aren’t toying with the exhaust or timing again, it’s the most economical thing to do. You might also consider upgrading to the race tuner IF that’s the requirement harley places on this system upgrade (some are mandatory from the manufacturer, some are BS from the dealer – call the manf. and learn the difference [i’ve forgotten!]).

    Best of luck! Let us get some video of your setup!

  9. Rob, thanks you very much for these insights, your comment “.. not tiring on long journeys unlike some pipes” addresses one of my major concerns.

  10. If your going full stg 1, then go for the se tuner, contary to belief it’s a good tuner and works, I have used it on all my big twins over – the fuelpak and power commander, the base maps are more or less spot on will cover most riding.
    I’m not a fan of the fuel pak having had them fail, and the maps are a closely guarded secret that V&H rightly keep to themselves, doesn’t help when trying to tune out a decel pop/bang and the support is not that good :(
    1 other note on monster ovals they are not tiring on long journeys unlike some pipes

  11. I have monster ovals on my glide and would not have any other pipe, I matched them to the power dual header, noticeable increase over stock system, the volume of the pipes is great at legal speeds you can hear the CD player clearly, they have deep sound so much so those following can feel the exhaust pulse, on the wick they open up with a real bark.
    They will work well with, 96/103/110 I have them on the 110″ :)
    Feel free to mail me and I’ll get you a sound bite

    • Rick Bruce Says:

      HI. Ride a 2013 Road King and am looking for an exhaust system to drown out the clackity clack of the motor. If you can send me the sound bite, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

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