Motorcycle Exhaust Materials
With aftermarket exhaust systems, there are four materials we care about. In order of increasing price:
- Least expensive and heaviest of the “big four” exhaust materials.
- Very durable when cast thick.
- Usable in every part of the exhaust system: muffler, midpipe and header.
- The polished finish is quite shiny, especially if there’s a lot of chromium in the alloy.
- Popular with cruisers – if the weight doesn't matter as much, stainless steel can’t be beat.
- Less expensive than carbon fibre and titanium.
- Lighter than steel.
- Usable only on the can’s exterior. Aluminum’s lack of durability makes it unsuitable for exhaust internals, midpipes and headers.
- Because of the above, aluminum mufflers are normally combined with steel or titanium midpipes and headers.
- Second most expensive material.
- The strength-to-weight ratio is superb – rivalled only by carbon fibre.
- Often has a unique matte color.
- Resists rust.
- Usable in every part of the exhaust system: muffler, midpipe and headers.
- Since it can be used everywhere, full Ti exhausts demand top-end prices.
- Most expensive of the “big four” exhaust materials.
- Achieves the best strength-to-weight ratio.
- Unique appearance, with an instantly recognizable weave pattern.
- Due to brittleness, it has a tendency to break rather than dent during a crash. For this reason, carbon fiber is also susceptible to vibration damage. Owners must be vigilant in keeping the bolts and clamps tight.
- Due to brittleness, it is usable only on the can’s exterior; carbon fibre is unsuitable for exhaust internals, midpipes and headers.
- Because of the above, carbon fibre mufflers are normally combined with steel or titanium midpipes and headers.
If you’re looking to save weight, pay close attention to where the high-end materials are used. Plenty of manufacturers will provide fancy muffler externals, which is fine for style purposes. But if the header, midpipe and internals are made of steel, you aren't going to save much weight.
A set of titanium pipes – with an aluminum, carbon fibre or titanium muffler – will have the best weight-saving potential.