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V&H 2 into 1 Article


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Here is a recent article I had published in a local HOG newsletter. Thought you might find it useful.

Vance & Hines 2 into 1 Exhaust
By Rod Stallings
There are a wide array of exhaust choices for any Harley. I have run a set of Vance & Hines slip on’s on my 2005 Road King Custom since I bought the bike. Along with the Harley Stage 1 setup these have been adequate performers for my relatively stock 88. I stayed with the stock head pipes for a couple of reasons. First they are well made and based upon my past experience with performance exhaust systems, a crossover pipe of some fashion needs to be in place to balance the cylinders and increase performance in most applications. In automotive applications a crossover pipe has major effects on performance. It is hard for me to believe that this would not be true on a motorcycle motor as well.

This said, I know there are a lot of people and places that tout the performance gains of dual head pipes. On high end performance motors this may be marginally true, and many believe their bikes to be faster with true duals. Dyno results are the only actual way to validate these claims in my opinion. However, to each their own and I have to admit I love how true dual head pipes clean up the look coming off of the engine. The other factor you have to consider, which does not seem to happen as much on factory head pipes is that true dual head pipes tend to crack. My (unfounded) concept as to why this happens is the fact that the way these are designed and mounted you end up with side to side crossover stress to the head pipe due to mounting requirements. With a motor like a Harley big twin that has a lot of vibration motion something has to give. If you have put a substantial amount of long road miles on your bike you have probably run into some form of stress fracture in mounting hardware or other components. It is the nature of our beast.

Anyhow, I have had some level of interest in two into one exhaust for some time. I have read numerous articles about the performance advantages of a two into one and from my experience it makes sense. On a bagger, like mine, I am not as keen on the look of this type of exhaust. However, after a recent ride on a used bike (yea, I am always trolling for what might be out there) that had a two into one system on it I decided to give it a try.

There are various two into one systems offered at the dealership, but the V&H system was the least expensive of the ones they had there and after some debate it was decided that it would probably work best on my slightly modified 88. So I picked up the exhaust and a new set of head gaskets. Make sure you do if you do this project at home. If you use old ones they will leak, I guarantee it.

This project is actually a pretty easy one. Truthfully, the hardest part of the job is getting the multitude (and I mean multitude) of stock parts off. You need to start by removing all of the stock heat shields. I actually had to cut some of mine off with a set of metal shears. Then removal of the stock pipes is just starting at the rear of the bike and move forward loosening bolts. Once done, you will have to work the pipes back and forth, and spin them some to get them to disengage. If your bike is older and has rust or heat expansion, expect this to be a bit more difficult. But, it really is a pretty simple job. Follow the V&H instruction sheet about which nuts and such to keep. You will have to retain the stock head rings to put on the new pipes. Ok, the one relatively hard part is getting the stock transmission bracket off and the new one installed. Mainly because the front side bolt is almost directly behind the clutch cable (thanks Harley!). I was able to loosen the clutch cable housing connector and move it just enough to get my socket in place to remove that bolt. Then you just put the new bracket in place and bolt everything back up. Since I did not have to crack the seal, everything held just fine and I have had no leaks or clutch cable issues, so it is possible to do without removing everything.

Once the old stuff was off, I sat in my living room with the new pipes and watched a movie while I put the heat shields on the new pipes. Take your time and follow the instructions. Leave all bolts firm but not tight. You may have to move the shields around a bit after everything is bolted up.

When I got back in the garage to install the new pipes there was not adequate clearance to put them in place with the floor board in place. I removed it and loosened the rear mount so I could twist it out of the way. At this point you just have to finesse the front and rear head pipes into place. There is no way for me to explain this better, you just have to wiggle stuff around until you get both pipes to clear the head fins and slide into place. Then you can push the head rings into place over the bolts and secure. Again only put them on firm so you can move the pipes around while you get the mount n place and install the muffler. I say firm, and most instructions say loose. I have found that loose causes too much movement when putting other components in place. You have to play with this and some bolts may need to be looser than others.

I like to use a copper anti-seize on the head bolts. They take a beating from both heat and rust. Once you get everything lined up and installed, just go back through and tighten everything down. As a follow on note, go back after you run the pipes up to operating temp and they cool off and retighten everything. Heat has a funny way of loosening bolts.

I immediately liked the exhaust note with the new pipe. It has, what I can only describe as a street rod sound to it. Not overly loud until you get into it or are north of 80 MPH (not that I do that, it’s against the law……). At first I thought I was fooling myself due to the new sound that I had noticed a major jump in performance. The bike felt much torque’er up through 4th. In 5th I seemed to notice a little drop off in top end performance. Both would be expected outcomes from this type of setup. However, after about a month of riding I believe the seat of my pants were right. The bike seems much quicker on the bottom end and pulls stronger. Generally, I am still getting used to the appearance, although I immediately loved the way the simple design cleaned up both sides of the bike. I pulled my rear passenger pegs off (since I only run a solo seat anyhow, and the rear pegs were there just as a comfort for me on long trips –which I can add back in if I want), and the entire side of the bike looks much cleaner.

Overall, I am very happy with the results. The only thing that I did not catch when I bought the pipes that in looking at other designs I believe V&H could have done better on is to make them equal length header pipes. If you look at the D&D’s or Reinhearts both have the rear header pipe turned back toward the front of the bike before coming together with the front pipe making them equal length. In a true performance setup (103-110) I would definitely go with the other pipes for this feature alone.

Till next time, don’t keep ‘em stock!