It’s a problem aftermarket exhaust manufacturers have wrestled with for years: how to make a complete performance exhaust system that still allows the bike in question to pass emissions laws?
Today’s motorcycles are pretty stifled when they come from the manufacturer. Harley-Davidsons, in particular, have plenty of scope for extra power and torque gains just by fitting a freer breathing exhaust, but replacing the standard system often means the catalytic converter is also thrown into the trash. In an instant, your bike’s emissions levels are now above that allowed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB, in California), and you could get nailed with some pretty serious fines.
But it’s not just California that has such strict emissions levels.
Other states are looking to adopt the Golden State’s mantra of reducing the damaging effects of exhaust gasses as much as possible, so Vance and Hines have developed a complete exhaust system in the CTR Performance KIT that allows for more power, more torque, better looks and emissions levels that make your Hog 50 state emissions compliant.
Ceramic Thermal Reduction—CTR
The CTR Kit is claimed to reduce the outgoing heat off the exhaust headers by as much as 100°F, while allowing for a huge jump in performance with better emissions than standard when coupled with the Vance and Hines FPC fueling device and Air Intake with the catalytic converters now placed in the headers, rather than the mid-pipe like standard.
“The FPC stick is pre-programmed with the map for the Vance & Hines slip-ons you run with the kit,” says Vance and Hines VP of Sales and Marketing, John Potts. “We do that because we have nine different kit combinations for the Touring Harley’s in the air cooled and twin cooled range. On top of that, there are multiple different software levels within the ECM for both air cooled and twin cooled. The little stick with blinking lights doesn’t look like it’s doing much, but it’s got a lot of brains behind it. It’s got to look at the VIN. It’s got to look at the actual ECM and figure out which map it’s going to flash on your bike to make sure you have the right compliances.”
The benefit of the Vance and Hines system is it allows you to choose from nine combinations of kits with different slip-on mufflers to get the right look and sound while still enjoying the benefits of the FPC system.
“At any time you can change your mufflers, although you do have to get a new FPC stick,” says Potts. “The FPC stick is designed for that specific muffler, so that’s the only downside to it. The FPC stick can send the bike back to stock mapping as well. It’s not a one-time flash and go. It will bounce back and forth between stock and the tuning map for the particular riding situation you’re in. If you start out with Eliminators and you’re like, ‘those aren’t really my style – I want to go to a Monster Round’, you buy a set of Monster Rounds and a new FPC stick, reset the bike back to stock with the original FPC stick, and then put the new Monster Rounds on with the new stick and away you go.”
There’s nothing terribly fancy about a set of aftermarket pipes but to get them certified by CARB takes more effort than you’d think. The team at V&H went through 10,000 miles of real-world testing with the CTR pipes, six days a week. During this endurance run of mileage accumulation, several emissions ‘bag tests’ are performed to quantify the output of pollutants at certain intervals.
“A Bag Test is similar to a smog test, but a little more complex,” says Potts. “It’s a multi-gas analyzer where they put a set of tubes on the exhaust and run it through a 40-minute drive cycle from a cold start up to 50 miles an hour at different points. So, that way it gets what CARB says is a full drive cycle. During that time, they’re basically analyzing the emissions and we needed to be at the set parameters from the stock bike given to us by CARB. We were able to meet the emissions standards of the standard bike, so the project was a big success.”
On The Road
We had the chance to test a bog standard 2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide around the V&H streets on the outskirts of Los Angeles and later fitted the same bike up with a set of the company’s Eliminator mufflers matched to the CTR Headers, FPC fueling module, and the VO2 Naked Air Intake with a Grenade accessory cover.
Out of the box, the stock Harley Road Glide has a respectable amount of power but you can’t get away from the fact it feels very neutered. The throttle response feels like I’m getting about half of what I ask for at the twist grip to what arrives at the rear wheel. Cracking the throttle from fully closed to wide open gives sluggish performance, but I will admit the power does come in quite smoothly, if not as quickly as I’d have liked. And it’s also very quiet.
Switching over to the CTR system, the bike feels totally transformed. The first thing you notice is the obviously increased volume. The Road Glide has nearly twice the bark it hard before, with a nice, deep burbling exhaust note compared to the asphyxiated sound it comes with as standard. I wouldn’t want the system any louder, though, especially as the reverb on deceleration starts to rattle my chest cavity. “Some customers have this noise level as their minimum,” laughs Potts.
The second—and most important—factor I notice when riding the CTR-equipped Road Glide is the throttle response. There’s now that instant 1:1 right hand/rear wheel throttle connection on hand and the H-D now leaps out of corners at low rpm. The bike feels transformed compared to standard, with the performance the standard system can only dream of.
All up, it’s a pretty impressive difference for just on $1500. On the sportbike side, you’d have to spend far more than that to see the kind of gains the CTR system makes for the Harley Road Glide.