Home Feb 2010 Vol 10 - No 2
Feb 2010 Vol 10 - No 2 - THE PERFECT (PURRFECT) SOUND by Alex Ford PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 04 March 2010 19:19
Article Index
Feb 2010 Vol 10 - No 2
Group Riding Formations- Cluster or Solo? By Ben Harper
The Valve Stem by Alex Ford
Fuel Pump Gravity Feed by Dave Wolf
Rear Brake Switch by Dave Wolf
All Pages



For almost as long as I have been riding motorcycles, the sound they make has been the subject of almost as much discussion that I have heard as any other aspect of the experience.

For the Home Owners Association or one’s neighbors, it is about the amount of sound that crosses the line from irritating to obnoxious that makes up the discussion. For the EPA, it is about an amount of sound that does not cross over certain limits to become a sort of noise pollution.

For the owner and rider of motorcycles, sound becomes an almost undefined “holy grail,” of motorcycling. The pursuit of sound may be for some the sound coming from the most powerful possible torque and horsepower combination their motorcycle can be made to produce. For another, an incredible pursuit of, “raspy,” may be the goal, emulating as closely as possible the sound of a nitrous-charged import tuner.

Custom Harley-Davidson probably sports the oldest and loudest and lowest of the sounds on the total number of machines produced since 1948, an arbitrary year to be sure, but an important year in V-Twin development from frames and suspensions to engine types leading to today’s modern cruiser, whether it be from the Motor Company or from now prominent and accepted icon, Star Motorcycles - as well as other V-twin configuration bikes.

Quickly catching not only on, but up to the sound variety and hence the pipe variety of the soul of H-D, the sound has been the V-configurations bikes which prominently include the Star cycles. My personal experience has been short lived and started with my V-Star 1100, a pearl-white 2005, California Cast wheel edition, Classic.

For nearly four years, I left this bike’s motor pretty much stock. The first time that I changed my own oil, however, I had to remove the pipes. Two mental notes were made to self at that point. The first was to sell this machine. The second was to find if anything could be done about this most ridiculous design flaw in what otherwise appeared to me to be a great motorcycle. It wasn’t long before I ran into a fellow who had a Jardine oil relocation kit. I immediately made a decision that I had to have one of these things in an attempt to find out whether or not I could then ‘keep my motorcycle.’ (After all, time is money, goes the old adage and the new one for me is time - is down time or riding time) For a time, money was an important object, but eventually, even though I did not have the disposable income, I bought one of those relocation kits of which now there are plenty, and I’ve never been happier with a decision in my V-Star life.

Most importantly, during my first oil change, I lifted the stock pipes. I decided that there must be catalytic converters in those huge pipes. I immediately checked the Shop manual in my computer where it resides, the result of a couple of acquisitions, so that I would know how to maintain my beast. I discovered that I had the “California model.” This meant that I was not supposed to ‘slip on’ any after-market pipes. Further, certain designs with regard to engine studs made the front head-pipe area nearly inadequate to easily bolt-on after-market pipes. I also had motorcycles in the past wherein I had removed baffles or otherwise modified my pipes to a less-than-satisfying experience for yours truly.

I went on line with key words around ‘pipes’ and ‘v-star’ and ‘motorcycle pipes’ etc., including looking at what Yamaha offered and others.

Determining what is best forms one’s own idea of good looks and reading about results and research and development, in order to purchase after market pipes is a sketchy business at best. After all, I had seen only a few after-market pipes on V-Stars and did not like any of them because of looks, sound or heat coming up to my legs during riding.

Nonetheless, I looked over the net for information.  I also wanted to avoid, if possible, pipes that would discolor. I also decided to listen to as many pipes as possible on Road Stars and V-Star 1100's to see if I could discern from the sound which pipes sounded to me like they were the best at being ‘properly tuned,’ whatever that meant.

Little did I know that pipes and sound and tuning all go hand in hand. Toward the end of my involvement in the pipes process, I discovered that there was more to that sound than just the pipes. There are the intake and carburetor or injection systems and there is also the baffle or lack- thereof systems that go into the pipes. In fact, I initially thought that the best pipe and baffle systems came from the manufacturers of each pipe set, because the producer of the pipes R&D their own pipes for best performance and sound. In my opinion, I was wrong about that assumption.

After initial research on the net and my ‘seat of the pants’ ear tests of pipes in person and on the net - - and after looking at the pipes offered with their alleged advantages and disadvantages and their looks, I decided that I wanted pipes with parallel lines that did not show bulges of mufflers. The pipe set that appeared to have some R&D done as to power and had the look I wanted, for me, came from, “Cobra.”

The next item on my agenda was pipe length. I knew I did not like the real short pipes. My 1100 had become a ‘bagger’ after about 21 months of ownership because I’m one of those guys who likes to take things with me, but doesn’t want a back pack to lug around and wants some degree of security for my stuff. That equaled for me, locking genuine Yamaha hard bags painted to match my pearl white bike.
With the bags, which I do not like to be without, I decided that the longest of the pipes was too long for me. Sound, I decided, had nothing to do with this decision. This was a difficult decision for me because I actually like the various longer pipe designs. Finally I settled on something in-between long and short known as Cobra’s Speedster Slashdown pipes for my bike. Initially, I observed these on the net on a V-Star 950 on YouTube, meaning that I had waited from 2005 until the advent of the 950 to do something about my pipes.

I mounted those pipes. At first, I was not sure I liked them, because many 1100 enthusiasts have noted in forums, I liked the look of the stock pipes. Eventually though, after a lot of compliments from friends and acquaintances regarding the Speedster Slashdowns, I decided that I would work with those pipes. Since my purchase, to be totally honest, I’ve seen at least three or four pipe combinations that I like the looks of at least as much as my own pipes.

After a short time frame with the new Cobra pipes on my 1100 Classic, I decided to add a K&N air filter. I did so and the sound changed slightly.

It was after the initial mounting of the Cobra pipes, however and one or two rides on my mount that I noticed that I was going deaf with the stock baffle that was provided by Cobra. My pocket book was running on empty and a check of the cost of quieter baffles showed that Cobra offered two more baffles for the pipe that were quieter. I was still hearing ringing in my ears and decided to order their quietest baffle the, ‘Quiet Baffle.’ I obtained this baffle at a slight discount over the net. I looked at it but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how either sound or exhaust got through the pipe with the baffle in place, but I tried it. Finally! I thought, sound my ears could live with.

The next thing that happened was that I convinced myself that I like the sound coming out of the Cobra pipe. I was lying to myself.  I didn’t like it. However, I also kept burning my leg during summer riding months when I violated motorcycle common sense and rode with shorts on (still wearing a half-helmet, mind you.). This fact, along with a couple of healing burn marks on my leg, led me to my next effort with the pipes. I removed them and put the stock pipes back on. I then went to LaBree Motorsports. This is a professional automotive custom pipe builder for stock and race cars in the San Fernando Valley near the Los Angeles area. This guy has been racing and working with pipes for more than 45 years. I asked him if jet-hot coating the pipes would transmit less heat than the chrome that was on them at present. He assured me that the coating would in fact reduce the exit temperature from around the outside of the pipes and keep them relatively ‘cooler to the touch.”

I gave the pipes to Brent LaBree and about 10 days later got a call that the pipes were coated and ready. I went to pick them up. I had another surprise in store for me.

Brent asked me to look at the pipes to see if I noticed anything. I mentioned the obvious. They had silver jet-hot coating on them (lightening my wallet more than I liked, but looking good.). Brent asked, “Notice anything else?” I shook my head, “No.” He motioned towards the flange and asked me to check out the front cylinder fastener-connector. I did. At first I didn’t notice anything. Then I noticed it. The interior of the flange had an angled cut on the inside diameter of the ring, instead of the stock 90-degree angle from the factory. Brent said, “I think you’ll be able to mount those pipes a lot easier now.”

I paid up with cash and took those pipes home. The first thing I wanted to do was to get the stock pipes off the V-Star and put the freshly coated pipes on. I did it more quickly than ever. Practice helps. I didn’t even put the chrome Cobra covers on at first and just mounted the pipes and started her up. “Better,” I thought, once they warmed to the max. Instead of putting the pipes covers on, I pulled the Cobras back off. “The baffle,” I thought. Something’s got to be done about the sound. Then I started back at the Internet again.

Having already spent money on the K&N air filter, I decided to research sound and air kits on the forums and the net. The result: Several of the testimonials on something known as the Maxaire Predator Pro Air Kit claimed that the sound of their V-Star 1100's had improved by being “lowered.” That sounded intriguing to me. I called Maxaire and spoke to the owner. Then I did more computer research. When I talked to people who put kits on locally, I couldn’t find anyone with a “Maxaire.” They all had various other air kits and intakes from PCS and Kuryakyn. What is the owner of a little 1063 cc bike owner to do? Money kept being wasted in a trial-and-error method with futility edging success in a shadow or the gay area of sound and power.

Having read a ton of ‘success’ stories/testimonials on the Maxaire site and a number of opposite type comments on several forums about the Maxaire kit I was confused but still curious if the kit could do what it claimed. That motorcycle sound still was something I didn’t like and the power and gas mileage I was now getting was just a bit up and down on both. If you quizzed me, one moment I was happy and another moment I was not.

I again made up my mind: get the Maxaire Pro Predator Kit and take a chance.
Long story short, I followed the directions pretty close to the vest. I also made sure that I synched the carbs, after the installation. I also tried various settings with the air/fuel mixture screws (the name of which I’m told is a misnomer for what they actually are). On my V-Star 1100 I discovered settings of 3 turns out from lightly-seat, to 3 1/4 turns out from lightly seated were very good settings, the former for power and the latter for somewhat better gas mileage.

The sound? What had happened? Well, there is one more thing that I was doing at the same time, in the interim of getting the Maxaire Predator Pro Kit tuned. I was researching baffles “on line.”

I found three different companies online that appeared to have a lot more R&D in their after-market baffles than any of the other companies. I sent e-mail to all of them and talked to the designers when I could.

Two companies’ baffles appeared to me to have a lot more in them than any other baffles on the market today: Big City Thunder Baffles; and, PowerBraids.

Without further testing of my earlier two configurations of Cobra Baffles, nor my new Predator Pro Kit, I decided that I had to make up my mind about which baffle I wanted to buy and test. After going around in my head a number of times, I decided that the only genuinely different baffle from all the others was the PowerBraids baffle. The baffle was made of 304 Stainless Steel mesh and had a special shape to it, not unlike some of the shaping of the Big City Thunder baffles. The latter used solid steel construction and was somewhat more expensive.

In search of the, ‘purfect sound’, I wanted a baffle that would make my pipes, purr like a kitten and also roar like a tiger. Beyond that, though, I wanted their overall sound to be, ‘low.’

Having sent the requisite 99 bucks to PowerBraidz, I waited about 5 days and lo and behold they arrived in their box. I pulled them out and discovered the unique part of them to be the 304 Stainless steel mesh. They had retention rings on each end and on the inside and outside of the ends of the baffles. I had already pulled the Quiet baffles out of my Cobras. I attempted to install my new PowerBraidz baffles. No go.

I looked at them and knew right away, that even though I’d measured my Cobras and supplied the PowerBraidz owner the inside diameter, that such was only approximate. Undaunted, I looked over at the bench and the small Craftsman grinder I bought on sale a couple of years earlier and saw that this was my only solution. A bit more work on my own. I set to grinding. Slowly I might add, doing both ends of the outside diameter of the PowerBraidz retention rings, grinding down their outside diameters. I paused to check a lot of times to make sure that I didn’t overdo it. I could always take some more off, but I couldn’t put any back on. Hmmmmm.

After a day of grinding and several trials (I’m obviously too conservative) I got the PowerBraidz to fit properly. I then took the stock screw with me to the hardware store and obtained a tap of the same diameter and thread pitch, along with a matching drill bit with anti-walking start end. I returned home and placed the PowerBraidz units in-between wooden clad vice-holds. I drilled. I used tapping oil and tapped. I tested the screws in and out a few times. All good.

In went the PowerBraidz baffles. The stock Cobra Screws were no problem. Took a little tugging and turning and some silicon lubricant, but I got both baffles lined-up in each pipe.

What had finally gone into this set-up for the V-Star? The Predator Pro Maxaire Kit; a set of jet-hot-coated, Cobra Speedster Slashdown pipes; a set of PowerBraidz baffles. I had removed the AIS system. Used new gaskets; adjusted the valves properly for once; and I incapacitated the rev-limiter with a Maxaire kit for that as well. Finally, I added a set of new iridium spark plugs for a hot spark.

The overall results were very impressive. Huge power everywhere in the power band. Gas mileage that really wasn’t too bad, getting as many as 123 miles to the reserve setting on a tank of gas.

But, the elusive sound that I was searching for had finally been achieved. This was my sound and my combination of components and I was happy with it. What clinched it for me, though, is that anyone who commented upon the sound like it.

V-Star 1100 owners have since then been asking me how I get the sound “so low,” both at idle and when I whack the throttle anywhere from 1/8 open to WOT. I just tell them: PowerBraidz and some other components carefully assembled along with new gaskets and washers where needed.

One more item: I also purchased a used gooseneck for the rear Cylinder exhaust. I personally polished both the inside and the outside of the gooseneck elbow. I deburred as much as I could on the inside. I then had the unit Jet-Hot coated. Since I put the reworked unit on the bike, it has not come back off.

These days I can crank it up to 70 mph in second gear. The only backfiring I ever get is occasionally at start up when the motor is cold. There is a somewhat longer warm up period. I feel the pulses of the V-Twin engine, just like a modified Harley-Davidson, maybe even better.

The sound?  It is the perfect, purrfect sound. No lie.

Happy motoring to all ISRA and V-Star 1100 owners/members.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 March 2010 12:54
Copyright © 2018 I.S.R.A. Star Cruiser E-Zine. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.