Can you ride a motorcycle without an exhaust?

A few years back, I decided to buy an aftermarket exhaust for my Duke 390 on eBay.

Before making the purchase, I made sure to check everything thoroughly to ensure that all the mounts would line up with the bolts on my engine block.

motorbike with no exhaust

A close friend of mine (Jesse) worked at a local garage at the time, and because they had all the tools and then some, I thought it would be a great place to fit the exhaust too.

Well, that was the plan at least, until I quickly found that the thing didn’t even fit the bike (not the first time this has happened with eBay).

The worst part of the story was the fact that I asked my Mrs to take the old one home in the car so I didn’t have to drag it back on the back of the bike. Anyway, because of this, I was left having to either leave the bike outside the garage with no locks or risk riding it home.

Now whilst I could bore you with what happened after, how about I instead explain everything in a way that will both finish the story and teach you a thing or two about riding with no exhaust at the same time.

OK, here we go!

What's In This Guide?

      Can You Ride A Motorcycle Without Exhaust?

      The simple answer is YES (it’s possible but it’s not always legal). The most noticeable thing about getting rid of your stock muffler is the resultant loud and annoying noise. To be safe, ensure that the noise you create does not exceed the EU regulations of about 97 decibels. UK is still under the European Union, which means if you don’t want an encounter with a stringent cop, or the experience of a rigorous MOT station, you should ride below the threshold blast. Basically, so long as your noise is anywhere below 97Db, you’re safe.

      Will you damage the engine on the motorbike by not using an exhaust?

      Manufacturers invest huge sums of money in research and development of such things as automobiles. It goes without question that an exhaust pipe isn’t an exception. Taking off your bike’s exhaust system comes with considerable risks.

      The engine exhaust valves suffer the most damage due to reduced backpressure. Backfiring is another phenomenon you’re likely to experience, as a result of cold air reversion. Backfiring means some of the fuel is escaping with hot flue gases. Expect your bike’s consumption to increase slightly.

      Best ways to fix a broken exhaust

      An exhaust pipe can break due to a number of reasons. This, after all, might be one of the reasons you want to take it off. In some cases, the exhaust may need a complete replacement depending on the extent of the damage.

      In case yours is not extensively damaged, you can do a few things to restore its functionality. For minor leaks, you can wrap around with exhaust tape or repair epoxy. Notice that some exhaust tapes require to be wrapped around warm surfaces so you’d need to run your bike’s engine for a few minutes.

      Depending on availability and the nature of the leak, you might find it more suitable to use epoxy (Link to Amazon). It’s usually composed of two substances stored separately. You should mix the two substances on an unreactive surface, and then apply on the leak (the area around the leak should then be scrubbed and wiped clean).

      Fleck the mixture on the leak and then spread gently around it so that it forms a relatively thick film over the leak.

      In case you’re repairing a small hole, you will need a small piece of mesh (which must be wider than the hole). Place the mesh over the hole and apply a cold-weld compound on it. After the compound has dried, test if the hole is completely sealed by running the engine and checking the area you just sealed.

      An exhaust pipe might have been severely damaged such that a cold weld is not suitable. In this case, you can perform the first aid on your bike before seeking a professional solution. What you need is just a sheet of metal, large enough to cover the big hole.

      You’ll also need muffler clamps. Start by placing the sheet over the hole, and then fasten it tightly using the muffler clamps. Be careful not to apply excessive tension as this might cause more damage to the pipe.

      At this point, you should be done, which means leaving it all down to dry according to the instructions on the back of your epoxy.

      fixing a broken exhaust system on an aircraft

      What will the engine sound like without the exhaust?

      There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this whole idea of taking off your exhaust pipe. Some people argue that you’ll get that masculine roar on your bike. The truth is, the sound is not pleasant at all, not unless you fancy earplugs!

      Some bikes will catch the attention of someone as far as four miles away, on a quiet day while others will sound alarming’ and scary. Just don’t go around bursting people’s eardrums- it’s not cool.

      Diagnosing a leaky exhaust system

      It goes without saying that the sound of your bike’s exhaust can tell you a few things about the bike. One of these things is if the exhaust pipe leaks.

      Any out of the ordinary popping sound should be a cause for alarm. If you notice this sound immediately after turning on the bike, and then it dies down as the engine warms up, get ready to deal with a leak.

      A strong exhaust smell can also indicate a leak somewhere along the pipe. To be sure, hold out a light piece of paper and hover it around the exhaust system to see if it flaps. However, be careful as you do this test because the exhaust gas out of a would-be leak can be very hot.

      Does running straight pipes damage the engine?

      As fancy as they may look, straight pipes aren’t that good for your bike. With a straight pipe, after releasing the throttle, the partial vacuum created by the cutting off of hot exhaust gas causes cold air from outside to be sucked in.

      This cold air as it forces in can result in a sucked, bent, cracked, or even a broken valve. The cost of replacing the valve will certainly dig deep into your pockets. Besides, straight pipes aren’t that legal and might land you on the wrong side of the law.

      Are aftermarket exhausts legal to use in the UK?

      Aftermarket exhausts are a thing of the modern-day biker. From their striking looks to the satisfying sounds they come with. Some of the exhausts can be extreme in terms of noise mainly, and that defines the boundary. Some aftermarket exhausts are legal, while some are not.

      Legal exhausts must be stamped with the British Standard reference for road use. However, you should be careful from whom you buy these parts. There are some unscrupulous manufacturers around who import components and do the final assembly in the UK.

      This makes the exhaust a made in the UK,’ but some of the components used could be substandard and others not legal. Before you buy that exhaust stamped as legal, do some background research.

      How short or long can an exhaust be?

      Some of us overlook the impact of the exhaust system on the overall performance of an automobile. As a biker, don’t fall for the looks. Most riders will go for a throaty-sounding exhaust since it’s more conspicuous.

      When it comes to buying an aftermarket exhaust, one can easily get confused due to the numerous designs as well as variance in design and performance. Looking at performance, exhausts will vary in several parameters. These are pipe length, the diameter of the pipe, internal design as well as bends.

      Your bike’s exhaust pipe length is designed with respect to the engine’s rpm range and application. Since an exhaust system can be optimized over a narrow rpm range (about 1500-2000 rpm), your pipe length (and also diameter) should be optimized to your engine’s rpm band.

      Generally, a large pipe diameter with a short length tends to improve performance at high RPMs, while narrower and longer pipes favour low RPMs, which is the most common use.

      A list of loudest aftermarket exhaust (manufacturers) that are still legal

      There are loud aftermarket exhausts that are legal in the UK. Check the list below;

      Loudest AfterMarket but LEGAL exhaust manufacturers
      Vance & Hines


      What are the slip-on exhaust systems?

      A slip-on exhaust system is just an improved alternative to the stock system. It comes with additional features such as unique sound and appearance. A slip-on is very cheap since it doesn’t require a fuel controller to be installed.

      What is a full aftermarket exhaust?

      A full aftermarket exhaust consists of a header, mid-pipe, and the muffler. It can give your bike a performance boost, but it’s expensive and complex to install.

      Which has a better sound: a slip-on or full exhaust?

      Both slip-on and full exhaust systems are loud, but their main difference is performance. A full exhaust can adjust your bike’s performance, whereas the slip-on system will only manipulate the sound.

      Will my fuel efficiency change?

      Again, slip-on systems will not alter fuel efficiency. It is only the full exhaust system that can improve your bikes fuel efficiency, but if installed properly.

      Will I need to remap?

      Should you go for a slip-on system, you will not need to remap your fuel injectors. For a full exhaust replacement, you might need a remap, subject to the differences between your stock exhaust and the aftermarket exhaust.


      Modern technology has reduced the world to a global village. It’s now possible to be on three different continents in one day. Travelling comes with diverse experiences. As you travel, you’ll get exposed to new worlds with different rules from home.

      As a biker, you’ll find that biking is more common in some countries than in others. Also, the rules are varying. In some countries, it might feel so good due to the few rules surrounding it, ranging from modifications to restrictions, whilst in others, you may just want to hop back into a car.

      Once you come back home, however, do not forget the rules in the UK. Always remember that your bike’s manufacturer had reasons for the design of every component, so do your research before thinking of after-stock enhancements.

      Leon Angus

      Leon Angus

      I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and ride bikes for funsies! This website is my path back into the motor industry where I can share helpful advice for bikers along the way. Learn More about my mission here

      Leave a Comment

      Leon Angus

      Leon Angus

      I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and ride bikes for funsies! This website is my path back into the motor industry where I can share helpful advice for bikers along the way. Learn More about my mission here

      About Motorbike Tribe

      Welcome to Motorbike Tribe, a place where bikers (just like you) can find tips, recommended gear and tools for maintaining the health of your bike.

      Recently Published Guides