When it comes to exhaust, the typical Harley owner is interested in sound, followed by looks, with performance being the third criteria. But the XR1200 is anything but a typical Harley and neither are the owners. XR owners seem most concerned with performance, which makes sense since the bike is an all around performance oriented bike, and while sound is important the XR owner seems to be more focused on quality of sound. Additionally there are concerns that you don't normally hear from Harley owners like weight and lean angle. A quick look on XR1200Ownersgroup.com uncovered pictures of stock head pipes that have been scraping the ground and discussions of weight versus power.
Patriot Top Fueler
We decided to round up as many complete exhaust systems that we could find and put together a comparison. Unlike most comparisons this is not just a power shootout as we also intend to address the factors discussed above. In our quest for XR systems we found that many manufacturers of sport bike exhaust systems that aren't known for Harley pipes have entered the market, names that aren't familiar to most Harley riders like Termignoni, Tsukigi, and Remus. We ended up with those three brands plus SuperTrapp, D&D, Vance & Hines, and BUB/Storz.
The stock Harley pipes come in at a heavy 36 pounds and the lightest in the test weighed in at just under 12 pounds, a substantial drop. Don't forget weight wastes power. We also measured lean angle to look for cornering improvements and measured the sound output with our decibel meter at both idle and 4,000 rpm. Lastly we looked at the fit and finish as well as the subjective appearance of the pipes on the bike.
PiperCross Air Filter
To prepare our test bike and make sure we were getting optimum performance we added a couple of other items to the bike that we believe the average XR owner will do as well. As with most new bikes, the XR comes fairly lean from the factory and a more efficient exhaust will only add to that problem. To address that our fuel injection system needed an upgrade that would allow us to adjust the air/fuel mixture appropriately. There are many different "fuelers" on the market and they range from around $200 to over $1,000. Both Vance & Hines and Remus market fuel injection modules that are designed to work with their pipes but we selected the Patriot Top Fueler from PerTronix Performance to make a level playing field. PerTronix has been in the Electronic Ignition and Performance Exhaust business for over 40 years and their Top Fueler is a plug and play type unit that takes readings from the O2 sensors and the load on the injectors to modify the fuel curve. What we liked about this unit was ease of installation and the ability to adjust it without having to be connected to a computer like many other brands. It is very user friendly and made our job of testing so many different pipes a breeze. The Top Fueler is available in a California legal version to keep your bike emissions compliant or in a race only unit. We also decided to add a little more airflow in the form of an air filter upgrade. The standard Harley filter is a paper unit that does an OK job of filtering but does not flow all that well and must be replaced when it gets dirty. Pipercross is another sport bike company that has entered the XR market with their twin foam element for the XR. Calsportbike is the US importer and they supplied us with a direct fit element that went in just like stock. These filters carry a lifetime warranty and are easily cleaned and reused.
In a marathon session, we installed seven different pipes with 11 different configurations and strapped the XR to the Super Flow CycleDyn at Dyno Dave's in Orange, California, and ran back-to-back tests making a minimum of two runs per exhaust system. The Super Flow Dyno is considered by many to be state of the art with its Eddy Current Absorber module that offers the most reliable power measurements. We also tested the decibel readings with a decibel tester. The dB ratings we took were done at 2 feet from the exhaust tip using the 'C' scale inside the shop which pushed the numbers higher than had we tested outside. Finally, we checked the lean angle after each exhaust system was installed by marking the centerline of where the tires meet the road and then measuring up to the lowest portion of each pipe in inches from the ground, which was then converted to degrees with CAD program software. But before we installed any of the aftermarket pipes, we baselined the XR in its stock configuration.
Remus Sportexhaust is an Austrian company that has been making performance exhaust systems for cars and motorcycles since 1990. For the XR they offer a 2-into-1 complete system they call the Power Cone that consists of stainless steel headpipes and your choice of an all stainless, black and stainless, or titanium finish muffler, we chose the black and stainless version. The Remus weighed 14 pounds and eliminates the stock rear muffler bracket for an additional 1pound savings. The Remus also came with a unique dB killer insert that is a small piece of pipe that slips in the rear of the muffler and is held in place with a large snap ring. It reduces the sound output to the strict Euro levels while still maintaining a pleasant tone that was an improvement over the stock mufflers. It takes only seconds to install or remove the insert so you can have your cake and eat it too. There was a slight decrease in power with the insert in versus removed, although hardly noticeable. The fit and finish are very good on this pipe and it tucks up tight to the motor offering improved ground clearance and it keeps the heat away from your legs, which is good since there are no heat shields. We felt that the Remus was the classiest looking of all the pipes tested and installation was very simple, although if they had moved the front O2 sensor bung slightly it would have been easier to access one of the flange nuts. The Remus was also the quietest of this test with a great sound.
Tsukigi Racing is a Japanese company that is little heard of in the US. That should be changing as they are now distributed here through Tsukigi USA. Started as a racing team in 1972 and expanded to a manufacturer of performance parts in 1981, Tsukigi's products have been available in the US since 2000. The XR system is styled similar to the original but is made of beautifully polished Stainless Steel. The finish of this system was the best of all systems tested, the welds were beautiful and it featured a unique mounting system with an aluminum flange and a stub pipe. The system then slipped over the stubs and was held in place with springs. The tapered cone shape was both unique and good-looking. The mounts were a little more involved than some of the others adding a little time to the installation. Weight was a reasonable 18 pounds. The low-end torque was very strong but horsepower suffered, as an alternative Tsukigi does offer a "Race" baffle that is a little bit louder with more horsepower.
Vance and Hines
Terry Vance and Byron Hines are two legendary racers that teamed up to form Vance & Hines Racing and have been offering performance products to the motorcycle market since 1979. No strangers to the Harley market, V&H came up with their own style with the Widow XR 2-into-1-into-2 Power Chamber system, which is very similar to the collector in a 2-into-1. They offer this system in black coated mild steel as we tested and also in stainless steel. The Widow XR system was the heaviest at 29 pounds (part of which was attributed to the beefy rear mounting plate), although the stainless version is reported to be lighter, 15 1/2 pounds according to V&H. Like the Remus, V&H could have moved the front O2 bung slightly to ease installation. The Vance & Hines turned out to be the best value in the bunch, offering good power increases with one of the best overall power curves at a very modest price, the lowest tested.
SuperTrapp pipes are made in Cleveland, Ohio, and have offered a unique, patented tunable disc system since 1971. Well-known in both automotive and motorcycle circles the tunable disc system allows the tuner to add or subtract discs to tune the powerband and sound of the bike in just a few minutes with basic hand tools. The SuperTrapp system is also made of stainless steel and is a 2-into-2 style that mimics some of the low swept type flat track systems that we have seen on the track lately. Considering that this is a 2-into-2 system that is fairly large overall we were surprised at it being a bit of a featherweight as well coming in at only 14 pounds and eliminated the front OE mounting bracket for an additional 2 1/2 pound savings. We went with SuperTrapp's recommendation of 18 discs for the best all around power and due to the unique design you can add or subtract to move the horsepower and torque curves to suit your riding style and sound requirements. The SuperTrapp did increase ground clearance in the front on the lower pipe but interestingly lost a little under the footpeg area. We aren't sure if this is really a cause for concern but we have heard some riders say they have touched this section on the pavement. The SuperTrapp turned out to make the highest horsepower rating, but did suffer from a torque loss down low.
Termignoni is an Italian company that is known for its sport bike racing exhausts since 1969. World Moto GP Champions like Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner have relied on Termignoni exhaust on the their championship winning bikes. Termignoni is the exhaust of choice for the Italian and Spanish XR1200 racing series. The US distributor for Termi sent us the 2-into-1 system and since the 2-into-1-into-2 uses the same headpipes; we were able to borrow the two-muffler system from Kevin at Advanced Kawasaki in Garden Grove, California. The headpipes are quite interesting as they use a tapered Stainless tubing to increase the pipe diameter, vs. the step design that some US manufacturers use. The 2-into-1 was the lightest by far at just under 12 pounds plus it eliminates both the rear bracket and the one under engine for a total savings of a whopping 27 pounds! The dual muffler version weighed 6 pounds more, still lighter than most! The muffler is carbon fiber as are the small heat shields. All in all pretty trick and exotic stuff, but it does come at the highest price of this group. Like the Remus the sound was more Ducati like than traditional Harley.
D&D Exhaust is based in Ft. Worth, Texas, and has been churning out pipes since the '70s. The D&D 2-into-1 Bob Cat system uses their new Concentric Flow Baffle system that was designed in conjunction with the Engineering Dept. at the University of Texas, Arlington. Said to improve tone, reduce bark, and increase power the D&D does have a unique sound. The system is black coated with an option of a black, aluminum or carbon fiber sleeve on the muffler. With full heat shields, something fairly rare in this test, the D&D weighed 24 pounds and lean angle was compromised a little. Honestly this pipe surprised us a bit, there was nothing extraordinary about the look or design that indicated that it would make the best all around power of the bunch, but that's exactly what it did! The head pipes on the Bob Cat system are a true step header design and that probably accounted for its strong showing. The D&D was also the second lowest price in this test.
BUB Enterprises of Grass Valley, California, was founded by Denis Manning in 1976. The mildly eccentric Denis is well-known and respected in the land speed racing world, currently holding the land speed record at 367.382 mph. The BUB XR system was developed in conjunction with Storz Performance and is the only system that really pays homage to the XR's roots of Dirt Track racing with XR750 styling. Storz Performance specializes in making Sportster's into Street Tracker type bikes. The only downside to the BUB/Storz system is that it requires moving the rear brake master cylinder using a Storz relocation kit, an additional $349. The pipes also eliminate the passenger pegs and do not allow use of the Harley Saddlebag kit. The BUB pipe is a step header design for increased power and is available in either chrome or black ceramic as we used. With full heatshields this largest system of the bunch weighed 25 pounds but does eliminate the OE lower mount, rear mount, and rear footpegs making it 17.5 pounds lighter than stock. The BUB's were definitely more involved to install and with the required purchase of the master cylinder relocation kit got a little pricey as well. With the high pipe design, lean angle is no longer compromised by the exhaust and these were by far the loudest, sounding like an XR750 ready to hit the track.
|3,000-5,000 HP Avg
|3,000-5,000 TQ Avg
|4,000 RPM dB
|Style (1-10 scale)
|Sound (1-10 scale)
|Lean Angle Degrees
||$649.95 Black,$1,029 Stainless
||$965 Chrome,$1,045 Black
Remus with Insert
Vance and Hines
Termignoni Single Muffler
Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson
So after all the testing and analyzing, what did we learn? First and foremost it was nice to see such a wide variety of exhaust styles available for this unique bike. The Dyno figures are for comparison to each other, every Dyno will read a bit different so you can't compare to what others claim, especially since we did this on a very hot day, which will produce lower numbers. Additionally, all the systems could benefit from more tuning time with the Fueler to dial it in perfect for each pipe, but we believe this is an accurate picture of what the XR owner can expect to gain.
The Vance & Hines has to be the Best Value by far. The horsepower and torque were very good, the looks were great and the price is unbeatable. For pure horsepower the D&D, BUB, and SuperTrapp certainly come out on top with the SuperTrapp getting the nod for tunability while the D&D and BUB had better torque curves. Speaking of torque, if low end pulling power is what you favor the Tsukigi, Termignoni, and Remus were strong right off idle and are really fun on the street with all that grunt. Aesthetics is certainly subjective but we loved the BUB for the Flat Track racing heritage while the finish work of the Remus and Tsukigi were above the rest. The Termignoni had a no-nonsense "race" look to it. You really can't go wrong with any of these systems. Once you figure out your priorities, we're sure that one of these exhaust systems will more than suit your needs.