A lot of motorcycle owners may fall in love with the sound their motorcycle makes after removing its baffles. And say what you will, but the sound of a motorcycle is like music to the ears of any rider. Those deep rumbling noises can be very meditative.
So it is not a big surprise that oftentimes people will consider removing the baffles on their motorcycle. But is it a good idea?
Is it bad to remove baffles on a motorcycle? Removing the baffles on a motorcycle can cause it to run lean, which can be bad as it can result in higher engine temperatures. Motorcycles with removed baffles will also lose low-end power and will be a lot louder, which can be bad for your hearing.
With that being said, below, I go into more detail about how baffles work and what will be the consequences of removing them.
What is the purpose of motorcycle baffles?
In order to understand what happens if we remove the baffles on a motorcycle, we need to go over the fundamentals first.
A motorcycle baffle is a tube that is inserted inside the exhaust pipe and attached to it. The sides are usually perforated which cuts up the sound waves
Although motorcycle baffles come in many different sizes, shapes, and materials, they are used for two main reasons. First, they reduce noise emissions, and second, they create some back pressure.
There are a lot of different designs and models of motorcycle baffles. Some will focus on providing back pressure but not affecting the noise, while others will try to provide the best noise suppression possible.
There are different noise ordinances depending on where you live; however, in the U.S., the noise limits are usually set somewhere within the 72 to 100 dB range.
How much noise reduction baffles will provide will vary on their design. Some baffles may also be wrapped with fiberglass for an added sound dampening while other models may have a few more chambers within their body. Longer baffles will provide better noise suppression than shorter ones.
They will not make a motorcycle completely silent; however, they can reduce the noise by 3 to 7 dB.
A good baffle can really suppress those higher-pitched notes and leave you with a satisfying deep rumble. (And, of course, happier neighbors.)
Provide back pressure
Although back pressure has been thoroughly discussed and often considered not to have as big of an effect on motorcycle engines as many would expect it to have, it is still an important part of a healthy running engine.
A change in the back pressure can, after all, affect the air-to-fuel mixture.
Motorcycle baffles create a little bit of back pressure.
It really depends on how the motorcycle has been tuned and what baffles it uses. But baffles can improve the performance of your motorcycle engine ever so slightly and also prolong its life.
Many baffles will be straight pipes; however, some will have an end cap. This end cap will stop the sound waves and fumes as they travel down the exhaust pipe. This type of baffle will usually generate the biggest back pressure.
What will happen if you remove the baffles on a motorcycle?
There are a few things that can happen after removing the baffles on your motorcycle.
Of course, today, things are very different from what they were 50 or even 20 years ago. Not all motorcycles are the same, and not all motorcycles will be affected in the same way.
However, those are the things that you are most likely to experience after removing the baffles on your motorcycle.
Removing the baffles on a motorcycle will make it louder by at least 3 to 7 dB. Depending on where you live, and the motorcycle you ride, this can mean you are breaking the noise limit.
If you are interested in making your motorcycle louder, make sure to check on your noise ordinances regarding motor vehicles. You want to make sure you stay within the legal limits. Next, you should measure your motorcycle’s dB while idle and running. Luckily for us, this can also be done, somewhat reliably, with a smartphone using a sound metering app.
Not only may you be breaking your local laws at this point, but you can also damage your hearing.
Motorcycles are very loud by default—they can range between 80 dB to more than 110 dB. Listening to anything above 70 dB for a prolonged period of time may damage your hearing, and noises above 120 dB may cause immediate damage to your hearing.
Removing the baffles on your motorcycle, in this case, may not be bad for the motorcycle per se, but you may run into problems with the authorities, as the police will be more interested in following and stopping you, and you can end up seriously damaging your hearing.
And once your hearing goes, it will not come back.
Lowered back pressure
You will potentially lose a little low to midrange power and gain some power at the high end.
Usually, removing the baffles on a motorcycle can lean out the air-to-fuel mixtures, so you will have to tune up your engine. A leaner mixture burns hotter and can lead to increased engine temperatures.
That being said, the majority of motorcycles with EFI will usually be able to account for those slight changes in back pressure and adjust accordingly.
Not every rider will be able to notice those changes, though, depending on how they ride.
Cold air suction
One of the nasty problems running a straight pipe on your motorcycle is the possibility that it may suck cold air when you let off the throttle. The sudden change in pressure from the hot gasses being pushed down the exhaust may cause cold air to be pushed in which can damage the exhaust valves in the long run.
The end result? A pricey repairs bill.
When it comes to the different types of engines, both four-stroke and two-stroke motorcycles need some back pressure to keep the engine running well. A straight pipe can damage both two-stroke and four-stroke motorcycle engines, so there really is no benefit to removing the baffles on two-stroke motorcycles, either.
That being said, modern motorcycles are less prone to valve problems.
Should you remove the baffles on a motorcycle?
It is not recommended to remove the baffles on a motorcycle—especially if it has come with the baffles installed when new.
The baffles have been installed there for a purpose and will help to make the motorcycle run smoother and be within the law regulations.
Motorcycle baffles should be removed only for maintenance purposes or if they need to be fully replaced.
Can you reinstall a motorcycle baffle after it has been removed?
After hearing about the cons, the majority of people will see that the cons will usually outweigh the pros. After all, a louder motorcycle does not mean a more powerful motorcycle.
The good news is that motorcycle baffles are a very simple pipe that can easily be removed or reinstalled. The baffle is inserted inside the exhaust pipe and is usually secured with a bolt.
After reinstalling your baffle, your motorcycle should be able to return to its normal working condition.
If you had to cut the baffle out, because it has been spot-welded, you might have to purchase a new baffle and exhaust pipe, depending on how bad the damage has been.
Is it legal to remove the baffles on a motorcycle?
The majority of the motorcycles will usually come with baffles installed in them. Of course, there may be some exceptions, which brings us to the next point, namely, is it legal to ride your motorcycle with the baffles off?
As noted a few times in this article, this will be very place-dependent. In some areas, you may be able to get away with it while in others, you will be walking away with a hefty fine. Some areas will not allow for any exhaust modifications, which include removing parts of the exhaust system.
Oftentimes it will be up to the tester’s ears. But usually, if the vehicle has been delivered new with a baffle, then it should be used with the baffle on.
Not everybody will know whether your motorcycle is near or above the dB limits, however, some will care enough to stop you and check if you are following the rules.
In certain areas riding a motorcycle without baffles is going to be straight-up illegal. Some baffles will be welded to the exhaust pipes for that reason.
Check your local laws and regulations.
Often those rules and laws may not be aggressively enforced. But if you do not want to be pulled for breaking the law, then do not break it.