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Are big, ugly mufflers here to stay?

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Tough new Euro 4 emissions laws are resulting in some very big and ugly motorcycle mufflers and it looks like the unfashionable trend may be here to stay.

A host of new and updated motorcycles were revealed at the INTERMOT show in Cologne this week and several feature bigger and uglier mufflers.

The worst offenders are the Suzuki GSX-R1000, Honda Fireblade SP and Kawasaki H2 (although it’s not new).

2017 Honda Fireblade SP2
2017 Honda Fireblade SP2

The restrictive mufflers are the motorcycle manufacturers’ cheap and easy answer to the emissions targets.

Others added bigger catalytic convertors which can sometimes be difficult to conceal and add to the ugly exhaust syndrome.

However, there are more ways to reduce emissions. They include twin sparks, upgraded ECUs and higher quality engine components that reduce friction and power losses.

But these are more expensive than just throwing on a bigger muffler.

Thankfully, some manufacturers do the right thing. The new Triumph Street Cup and updated Yamaha MT-09 have quite elegant shorty mufflers, while the bigger cat on the Moto Guzzi Audace Carbon is well concealed.

Taking a gamble

The motorcycle companies roll the dice on this one.

They know they are making their bikes ugly, but they gamble on the fact that many riders swap the standard exhaust for a smaller aftermarket unit and bear the legal risks.

It’s nothing new. They have been doing it for years.

But some of those big exhausts have, at least, been stylish like the massive twin exhausts on the Triumph Bonneville Scrambler.

Interestingly, most manufacturers either have their own aftermarket exhaust solutions or have a cosy business arrangement with a specific aftermarket company.

It’s not that big exhausts have to be ugly. There have been many bikes over the years with big, multiple, yet attractive exhausts such as the original three-pot Kawasaki H2.

Kawasaki H2 750 mufflers
Kawasaki H2 750

But it looks like the era of the big and ugly muffler is upon us.