In this comparison, we pit short motorcycle exhausts against long motorcycle exhausts.
The design of a motorcycle exhaust contributes to more than just its looks and aesthetics. In fact, the length of an exhaust can determine the rate of exhaust flow, its performance, its sound, and even how much power it adds to your bike!
With so many different aspects depending on the length of an exhaust, it is necessary to make the right decision when buying aftermarket exhausts for your motorcycle.
We’ve been working with motorcycles and motorcycle parts for over a decade, so you can rest assured that we know a thing or two about them. We can help you better understand the inner workings of exhausts and how they are affected by the length.
Keep reading for a more in-depth look at the differences between short and long motorcycle exhausts.
At a Glance
If you were looking for a quick recommendation regarding the length of aftermarket motorcycle exhausts, you’ll be disappointed. This matchup doesn’t have a clear winner, mainly because each style of exhaust has its own pros and cons.
However, generally speaking, if you value performance and loud sound over everything else, shorter exhausts should give you what you’re looking for. Longer exhausts will deliver less volume if you want a quieter motorcycle.
Exhaust gas flow
The most important distinction between short and long exhausts is the difference in the exhaust flow. Specifically, short exhausts tend to have freer-flowing designs than long ones. That means that short exhausts can facilitate the removal of more exhaust gasses at a faster rate than long exhausts.
This one feature actually influences all the other features of an exhaust, as we’ll discuss below.
Personally, we think this is the most critical aspect of any motorcycle exhaust. And as expected, you will notice some major differences between short and long motorcycle exhausts. These will include the volume, depth, and overall sound character of the bike.
As a rule of thumb, shorter exhausts and mufflers will have a louder, fuller exhaust note. Longer exhausts will still be plenty loud and rowdy but somewhat subdued compared to their shorter counterparts.
This difference is readily apparent with stock exhausts on most modern bikes, which tend to be longer and quieter.
Besides increased volume, shorter exhausts also give you a deeper, more beefy sound. This is perfect for the motorcycle rider who wants to really hear their bike, be it idle or redline.
The reason behind this difference is that shorter exhausts get rid of gasses in higher volume and at a faster rate. The result is a louder, more pronounced exhaust note.
While it might seem like an easy win for short exhausts, some people prefer the quieter, more relaxed acoustics of longer exhausts. After all, a high-pitched whine is fantastic for showing off at bike meets but gets real old fast after a couple hundred miles on the highway.
When it comes to performance, short exhausts have a clear advantage over long exhausts. Generally, the shorter the exhaust, the more power you can expect to gain from your motorcycle.
That isn’t to say that long exhausts are down on power. There are plenty of high-performance exhausts that stretch the entire length of the bike. However, if you want to extract every single HP from your engine, short exhausts can’t be beaten.
Here again, the free-flowing design of short exhausts gives them a leg up. By removing exhaust gasses faster, they allow the whole system to be more efficient, thus boosting power.
You don’t need a Ph.D. in Physics to understand this one. A shorter exhaust equals less weight, longer exhaust equals more weight. Pretty straightforward.
So if you want to take your supersport to the track and need to cut every single gram of extra weight, shorter exhausts are the go-to. Still, many longer exhaust options nowadays have lightweight builds, using low-density materials. And for everyday riding, even longer exhausts are plenty light and manageable.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nowhere is that more accurate than with aftermarket motorcycle exhausts.
An awkward-looking aftermarket pipe can make or break the look of your motorcycle. And the length of an exhaust is the first thing the eye is drawn to.
For our money, few things are as effortlessly cool as a ‘shorty’ exhaust on a motorcycle. The smaller footprint just gives the bike a minimalist, stripped-down and functional aesthetic that is hard to match.
That being said, which type of exhaust fits on your bike will depend on the bike itself. Specifically, some motorcycles can pull off short exhausts, while others are just made for a longer pipe.
As an example, think of a Yamaha R1 literbike. The design of that bike comprises angular lines, aggressive cuts, and a track-ready aesthetic. Then you see the large stock exhaust spanning almost the entire length of the bike’s tail. It is just asking to be swapped out with a shorter, lightweight exhaust.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the Harley Davidson Fat Boy. With that motorcycle’s curvy, bulky design, you want an exhaust that is just as robust. Exhausts with longer, thicker pipes are more appropriate.
But hey, who are we to judge what you do to your motorcycle? You bought the dang thing, so feel free to install any size or length of the exhaust, as long as you think it looks cool.
Short vs Long Motorcycle Exhausts: The Winner
So that’s short vs long exhausts in a nutshell. As we said at the outset, there’s no one answer to the question of ‘How long should my motorcycle’s exhausts be?’
It really depends on your specific requirements for performance, aesthetics, sound, and a host of other factors. Personally, we’ll still opt for the short and sweet motorcycle exhausts for our bikes, but you do you!