T Nation

What`s the deal with Harley mufflers?

Hi! Could someone tell me what the trip behind the I-can-be-heard-a-mile-away-mufflers-on-my-Harley-Davidson motorcycle?

Mating call for biker chicks? Give so much vibration to the owner that he gets numb all over?

I have a real hard time figuring how this adds to the experience on a long-trip.

In short, other than the flash value, what`s it for? (OK. I like the sound of high-performance bikes. So shoot me. LOL. Still very curious though to understand the other cultures and groups in the bike world.)

You do know that a few years ago HArley Davidson tried to trademark the frequency their engines sound off at.

The lost

[no, I haven’t checked this on snopes]

It’s better than the BOOM BOOM of some kids stereo system.

Thats a good question Dan C. Notice Harley’s makes the loud aggressive noise while the jap bikes make the high pitch noise both are loud. I guess it has something to do with performance but what?

It’s a HARLEY. If it doesn’t rumble loud enough to keep your chick on the back seat happy…it needs to be tuned up :wink:

I was told that aside from sounding big, and mean, and cool, and stuff… People in cars are more likely to know you are there and not make lane changes into you, so it has some safety value. You see all of those “Start seeing motorcycles” bumper stickers, well some bikers thought it would help if you could hear them too, I guess.

Forrester’s got the idea, there is safety value in having loud pipes on your bike. I know when I roll up on somebody on my duc (with Hindle pipes) they not only hear, but feel the pipes rumbling. It’s also a pretty effective marketing tool for HD. I know it works on me. When a dude fires up a loud harley it immediately catches my attention and makes me wish I was the one on the bike. That marketing mojo apparently works on thousands of others as well, as HD sales are at an all time high.

Dude… because it’s totally badass, that’s why. Seriously. :slight_smile:

Originally it was a 4 cylinder engine that was cut in half and put on the bike. When it went through it’s stroke you got Blata Blata (pause) Blata Blata.
The Pause was where the other two cylinders were supposed to be. Thus the unique sound of a Harley.

DAVE: Deep, Man, Deeeeeep! ;0)

Maybe a safety advantage…
Maybe a marketing tool…
Maybe vintage value…

A diversity of answers are taking form. Good! Thanks! Keep them coming!

Maybe to compensate for lack of performance…

Maybe some people NEED it and the feedback that goes along with it. I would not be afraid to lose a bet if my premise was that a very big majority of owners are extroverts.

I sincerely hope it is not limited to ‘I like it that way’ - which can never be debated, because it is shielded by the impenetrable wall of self-interest, against which no logic ever works.

Almost a Caramilk-class mystery! Maybe we’ll solve the boom-dance-boom-boom-dance-boom-cars psychology at the same time! ;0)

they dont come that way from the factory, they sound like air conditioners. People put the loud pipes on em. I would not owe my Harley without it being loud. Loud Pipes Save Lives.


My roomate has a '78 shovelhead (with apehangers) and that thing will wake the dead. When it’s started inside the garage it shakes the windows in the house.

Weather it’s for safety or for nostalgic coolpoints, the classic Harley “potato potato” rumble is pure wholesome boisterous Americana.


It’s apparent you don’t understand, and, to be quite frank, since you expressed your preference for the “high performance” motorcycle exhaust sound, you never will.

The Harley-Davidson remains the quintessial American cruiser.

SHAF: FYI, I am talking about the sound at “city speeds”, and/or idle. Not the high buzzing shriek you hear on highways.


This is a goddam harley, not a minivan.

Alright, Alright, maybe there have been some studies or something that have shown loud mufflers to be an asset in this way, but I sincerely doubt anyone, anywhere, at any time ever bought a harley and proceeded to put some badass pipes on it because they thought it “wasn’t safe enough.”

My personal preference is toward the japanese bikes(and Italian, Magnus), but I think the answer to this question lies in those bumper stickers that read “If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.”

Phatman, I’ve never heard that it was originally a four, but that is interesting.

It wouldn’t make a difference in the way the bike sounded, though; it’s just the nature of the engine.

You see, in a four stroke engine, the same cylinder will fire every 720 degrees of crankshaft rotation. Since the harley only has two cylinders, and they are separated 90 degrees from each other, they cannot fire in an even manner. After one cylinder fires, the crankshaft will turn 270 degrees (3/4 of a rotation, or 360-90) before the other one fires. After the second one fires, it will be 450 degrees (1 1/4 rotations, or 360+90)before you get back to the first one.

SHAF: Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s that simple. Feelings being unquestionable, nobody can be right or wrong in how they feel. They just feel that way. And some express it more than others. Maybe it’s like artforms : an outer expression of oneself or what someone values.