Muffle Your Vance & Hines Baggers

I've heard it said (by my sons I'm pretty sure) "Dad, if it's too loud you're too old". Now, there's no getting around it, I'm beginning to add on some years but I really don't think it has all that much to do with my opinion that Vance & Hines Baggers are just too loud for a touring bike like the Nomad. After a couple of hundred miles you'll be able to trace your headache and general fatigue directly to the pipes.

On this page you'll find three ways to quiet the V&H baggers. If you want to skip the preamble, sound comparisons and explanations go directly to the 'baffle extension fix' or to 'Wompus' baffle mod' or to the super simple 'no welding slip on' just click the links.

By Gadget, based on an original mod by Slim and Another Way To Go from Wompus, creator of the Wompus Rack. Then a Variation On That Theme From Scott Lidstone & at the bottom, the simple slip on solution.


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What you see above are waveforms recorded digitally on a Sony Minidisk recorder/player with the microphone 25 feetaway from the bike, a standard distance used by the DOT and many police agencies to determine whether you're exceeding the 85 decibel noise limit. On the same tripod with the microphone was a Radio Shack decibel meter set to the "A" scale (most akin to what the human ear hears). Scientific? Not by a long stretch but it 'is' a direct comparison between straight pipes and baffles modified in various ways. In all cases the baffle has been stretched seven inches from the one supplied with baggers so you can safely assume the numbers shown are quieter than V&H baggers out of the box.

Click the waveforms below to hear each track. Everything was recorded at exactly the same level. As you'll hear in the sound sample and contrary to what the numbers show, the "Silent Sport" packing is quite a bit quieter to the ear at highway speeds (under load) but seems to have a bit more bark when rolling on the throttle than the standard packing material.

vh_shh_stock_mufflers.jpg (8248 bytes)
Nomad Exhaust Completely Stock
It's unlikely the sound from your speakers will sound exactly like the real bike but you can use these sound files for comparison purposes vh_shh_debaffled_stock_mufflers.jpg (8181 bytes)
Gutted Stock Nomad Mufflers

vh_shh_waveform_nobaffle.jpg (8939 bytes)No baffle at all, straight pipe
78 db idle 91 db 3000 rpm

vh_shh_waveform_baffleonly.jpg (7718 bytes)Baffle only, no packing
64 db idle 84 db 3000 rpm

vh_shh_waveform_stockpacking.jpg (7024 bytes)Stock Vance & Hines packing w stretched baffle (mellower)
61 db idle 79 db 3000 rpm

vh_shh_waveform_quietpacking.jpg (6803 bytes)Stretched baffle with Silent Sport Packing
61 db idle 79 db 3000 rpm



vh_shh_waveform_stockbaffle.jpg (5686 bytes)

To hear V&H Baggers as they come out of the box (stock baffles)
This audio was recorded with microphone 6 feet from rear fender pointed directly at rear of the bike so really can't be compared directly to other samples

vh_shh_waveform_stretchedbaffle.jpg (6003 bytes)

To hear V&H Baggers modified with longer baffles and fiberglass packing. As sample at left this audio was recorded differently than those showing waveforms and can't be compared to them.



Here's a scale of sorts so you can judge the actual sound levels;

140 db = firearms, air raid siren, jet engine (considered painful)
130 db = jackhammer
120 db = jet plane take off (considered deafening)
110 db = model airplane (close) (considered extremely loud)
106 db = timpani and bass drum rolls
100 db = snowmobile, chain saw, pneumatic drill
90 db = lawnmower, shop tools, truck traffic
80 db = alarm clock, busy street (considered very loud)
70 db = busy traffic, vacuum cleaner
60 db = normal conversation
50 db = moderate rainfall
40 db = quiet room

Sounds above 80 decibels are considered potentially hazardous depending on length of exposure

As it came from the factory the Nomad is a very quiet bike, some say it sounds a little like a vacuum cleaner going down the road (I'll try to get a DB reading of a stock Nomad and add it to the page).

At nearly zero miles I removed the goat belly (catalytic converter) in favor of a which is, unfortunately, no longer available. It was a pass through pipe that completely replaced the goat belly. It added a bit of rumble without adding much (if any) volume. It was a great setup for more than 50,000 miles. The intake was also almost totally stock (except for a K&N stock replacement air filter) for most of that time. Then I switched out the stock intake for a Caddman Mod then swapped that out after a few thousand miles for a Thunder intake and finally, what the heck, out with the stock mufflers and on with a set of Vance & Hines Baggers found for a bargain on E-Bay. I mention the mods only because each of them increased the bike's noise level a little.

I mounted the Baggers up in an afternoon, fired up the bike and thought to myself...."self, that is really loud". My thoughts were echoed almost immediately by the bride of 30+ years who wandered into the garage long enough to remark "wow, that is really loud". Message received, loud and clear. Still, I rode with the baggers stock for a couple of weeks to see if I'd get used to them. I didn't and it was mod time.

So, if you have baggers on your Nomad and that odd resonance at around 3000 rpm ( 70 mph ) bothers you or you feel self conscious while riding in traffic read on. If not...well more power to you. You just aren't as old as me. <grins>

What You'll Need to quiet the beast a little with an extension

  • vh_shhh_parts.jpg (47691 bytes)
    1-Set of stock V&H Baggers on your Nomad or Classic (yes, if you make your own brackets or buy some from Roadhouse youcan mount baggers on a Classic 1500/1600).
  • 2-Vance & Hines Baffles part # V21269 (I believe they're replacement parts for V&H Longshots or somesuch) retail $24.55 each or go dumpster diving at your local Harley/Victory dealer looking for a similar baffle set in an old dinged up set of mufflers.
  • Muffler packing as shown above (but I've discovered will burn out in short order or get some "Silent Sport" high performance muffler packing which has a much higher heat resistance rating (up to 1300 degrees F) and will last much longer. The SS packing is the quiet packing referred to in the decibel readings above..
  • 1- Package of fiberglass cloth if you're using the inexpensive packing as shown in the photo above left(any auto parts store in the body repair section) $5
  • Hacksaw or (preferred) bandsaw
  • Scrap piece of angle iron
  • Welding equipment (or a friend/neighbor who has it) Last resort you can take all the above to a muffler shop and have them do the cutting and welding.


How To Do It

If you've ever removed your V&H Bagger baffles you've noticed they're only about 12 inches long. You have about 7.5 inches of empty muffler canister in front of that baffle that can be filled and that's what we're going to do here. If you or a neighbor has a bandsaw that can cut metal I strongly strongly strongly suggest you take advantage of it even if it costs you a bottle of the neighbors favorite adult beverage and some time cleaning up the small mess you'll make in his workshop. If no bandsaw is available then you, like me, are reduced to using a good old hacksaw and a file to undo the crooked cut you're going to make. As mentioned in the 'things you'll need' section, you can also take the pieces to a muffler or machine shop and have them make the cuts and do the welding for you.

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  1. With the V&H baffles and the replacement baffles in front of you take a close look at both.You're going to be cutting roughly an inch from the end of the replacement baffle with the bolt hole in it and then again 7 inches from that cut back into the baffle area. You're going to cut the Bagger baffles just to the rear of the perforated portion before it steps up in size. Once cut (and, if you used a hacksaw the cuts have been filed straight) you're going to weld the new 7" length of replacement baffle in between the two parts of the original bagger baffle.
  2. vh_shhh_comparison.jpg (33907 bytes)
    To keep the baffle straight, use a piece of angle iron (just a foot will do) and a C-clamp to cradle and hold the baffle parts as  you weld them together. Make sure the perforations are aimed the same direction (toward the rear of the baffle or where the bolt tabs are) and preferably continue their revolving angled march around the circumference of the tube. Once welded measure your new baffle and cut a piece of the fiberglass cloth to cover the perforated portion of the baffle and just a little more. Place that on top of your new muffler packing and loosely wrap the two around your new (longer) baffle. See the difference between stock and stretched?
  3. Use three or four lengths of utility wire to keep the packing from unwrapping and re-install the baffle. Again, you don't want the packing too tight or it'll act like a solid lining against the baffle and won't absorb much exhaust noise.

Go ride! You'll discover your baggers are not suddenly quiet by any stretch of the imagination but almost all of the off throttle 'blat' and strange vibrations at cruising speeds are gone. Heck, you can darn near hear your MP3 player now! And if it's still too loud? Well, maybe----you're too old <grins>


Wompus' Exhaust Re-Direct Method

Gadget Note: Wompus' method is actually simpler and all you'll need is a hacksaw and some fender washers. Sound good? read on.

Wompus says:

Last month I went to Gadgets page to find some help in making my Dual Baggers more quiet on my Nomad. I did the 6 inch extension on the baffle, added new fiberglass packing,, 2 layers,, and for some reason they didn’t sound as quiet as before.

After doing the mod I was at a motorcycle gathering, my Nomad parked next to another with V&H baggers, both idling and mine was louder!! Seems the new double layer of packing was too tight and the fiberglass wouldn’t absorb any noise inside the muffler.

I was reminded of an old trick Street Rodders used to do to quiet down the straight pipes on their cars.Change the airflow coming through the pipes!I remember doing that to my own car many years ago so I decided to try it on the Baggers. 

Wompusmufflerfix7.jpg (28282 bytes)
This diagram (A) shows the V&H exhaust flow through the standard baffle (even the stretched one above) The drawing (Cool shows the flow after you've added your "baffle baffles".

Please note for the photos a plain piece of pipe has been used to show how it was done. You'll be doing the same but to your V&H baffles. Ready? Let's do this!


What You'll Need

  • 1- Cutting tool to cut slots in your baffles
  • 4- Fender Washers (2 for each muffler) to insert and weld into the slots
  • Welding unit or torch (friend or shop if you don't have one) to tack the washers in place so they don't rattle


How To Do It


  1. Take the baffle out of the pipe and remove the fiberglass packing.
    Wompusmufflerfix1.jpg (28026 bytes)
    With a hacksaw, ziz wheel, or chop saw cut 4 slices not quite half waythrough the baffle.
    Wompusmufflerfix2.jpg (46920 bytes)
    Find a couple fender washers that are the same diameter as the baffle pipe. I didn’t cut them in half but left a bit in the middle of the washer.
  4. Wompusmufflerfix3.jpg (55592 bytes)
    This is what I used to put into the baffle.
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    Here you see one washer in the pipe.
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    Here are two washers.. and so on.
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    I split the pipe in half so you can see how the split washers will look inside the pipe. Weld them into place and if you feel like it grind off any burrs that are left, although it’s not necessary. Repack the fiberglass or if it’s bad then replace the packing. Reinstall the baffles and fire it up!


The sound is much more lower then the Baggers yet still enough of a rumble to sound great!

Expanding On The Theme

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Scott Lidstone did something similar to the Wompus method above except he cut the slots and welded hisdeflectors into a scrap piece of exhaust pipe.

He used 2 pieces of 7" x 3 1/4' exhaust stock pipe (thanks available in any exhaust shop dumpster) and some 1 1/2" wide x 1/8" stock from Home Depot for the louvers (similar to the washers used above).

Scott cut the half circles using the pipe for a template with a jigsaw and cut slots in the pipe to receive them.. (make sure you use a metal cutting jig saw blade or it will be a very, very long day..)

When finished you just weld the new extensions to the existing baffles.. When they're welded just slide them in and start your scooter.. You might want to start with two louvers and if the exhaust is still a little loud add another. Scott did exactly that end ended up using four to find the clean deep bottom end and quieter exhaust at cruise speeds he was looking for.


Rope Wrap from Slim (Jim)

This may be the easiest packing method of all. You just need a few feet of "stove rope" available anyplace wood burning stoves are sold or serviced. 

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As shown in the photo (left) start by clamping the rope to the end of the baffle using stainless steel utility wire. Wrap the rope
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tightly around the baffle then secure the other end with wire.

When finished you'll have something that looks like the picture at right.

Slim says he's been running this way more than a year with absolutely no deterioration in the rope and...he says it sounds great!


The Super Simple Slip On Method

You've probably heard Harley touring bikes rolling down the road with stock mufflers (yes, there are a few) and enjoyed the muted rumble. Maybe you've even wished your Nomad could sound just like that. Well, it can and it's simple. Since you have V&H headers on your Vulcan already you can just slip on a set of HD mufflers. You can pick up a set for around $20 off E-Bay.


What You'll Need

  • 1- Set of Harley mufflers of your choice (there are straight cuts and slash cuts) just be sure the 'inlet' end of the muffler is 1.75 inches which is the majority of HD mufflers.
  • 1- Home made bracket to support the rear of the muffler made from a strip of stainless steel flat stock
  • 4- Stainless steel bolts (just because rusty bolts are ugly) to attach the brackets you'll make to the HD mufflers. If possible use a button head bolt. If not you'll be slicing part of the hex head off a standard bolt (see below)


How To Do It

Here's the good news. There's no welding required. In fact a hacksaw and electric drill is all you need.

  1. Slip off your V&H mufflers, leaving the header pipes in place
  2. This will be a test fit. Slip your new HD muffler onto the V&H header pipe. If it's tight you might want to file or ream out the inside of the muffler inlet just a bit. Using a little anti seize on the inlet will help lubricate the joint too. Don't bother with the muffler clamp just yet. Support the rear of the muffler with anything you have in the garage, can of paint, a couple of pieces of wood. It could just hang there but as all jocks know, there's nothing like a little support to prevent serious hurt when the unexpected happens.
  3. With the HD muffler in place Use a strip of paper or cardboard (or if you're really brave grab your strip of flat stock)
    hd_mufflers_bracket_template.jpg (20112 bytes)
    and mark it for drilling holes. There will be two holes where your stock and V&H mufflers were bolted to the saddlebag frame and two holes for the HD mufflers.
    hd_mufflers_bracket_boltlocation.jpg (53802 bytes)
    If you used paper as a template transfer the marks to your stainless strip. If you're lucky you'll be able to use the same template for both sides. I found the left side was just slightly different than the right so couldn't make a matched set of brackets.
  4. Drill your new bracket(s). Accuracy is good with your drilling but if you're off just a little bit don't worry too much, you can elongate the holes in your bracket if necessary. Once drilled test fit the bracket. If any of the bolts don't go right through the hole elongate it a bit rather than struggling.
  5. hd_mufflers_bracket_side.jpg (61518 bytes)
    Once you're sure all bolts will go where they should remove the HD muffler and slip on the V&H clamp. The clamp will go (very tightly) under the rear heat shield. If it's too tight you might have to loosen the shield clamp just a bit but it 'will' fit. Re-install the muffler and clamp but don't tighten the clamp yet.
  6. hd mufflers bracket boltflat
    hd_mufflers_bracket_bolt.jpg (51175 bytes)
    Bolt on your new brackets leaving things a little loose. Once the brackets are in place tighten everythingup from front to back, muffler clamps first. Note: If you can find them at a local hardware store use button head bolts as shown at right. If you use a regular hex head bolt you'll have to slice off a portion of the bolt head (see photo left) to provide clearance for the saddlebag bracket cross brace.

Fire it up and go for a ride! You'll appreciate the rumble but lack of roar from the stock HD pipes especially if you pull a trailer. You still have your V&H mufflers you can easily slip back on for those times you really want to be 'noticed'.



Bonus Item For Those Who've Read This Far

(shhh, don't tell anyone this tip is's a prize just for you)

If you tow a trailer you know the sound of the exhaust tends to bounce back forward to the bike, and after a few hundred miles will drive you bonkers!!

Wompus went to the local AutoZone and bought a couple of 2 ¼ diameter chrome turn downs and after cutting a couple inches, and the screw tabs off inserted them into the tail pipes. They'll slip in beautifully (like the proverbial glove). Turn them outwards or down if you like stirring up dust as you roll down the road and weld them into place. Either way you'll now have the exhaust sound traveling outwards instead of back to the trailer. 

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Pic from Top Pic from Rear

Tag: exhaust

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