What Sound Does a Motorcycle Make? [The Best Exhaust Sounds]


There is no question that the most commonly used word for a motorcycle’s sound is “Vroom.” However, from the metallic “Braaap” of 2-stroke dirt bikes to the unmistakable “potato-potato-potato” sound produced by Harleys, motorcycle exhaust sounds vary widely. The sound that a bike makes primarily depends on its engine layout and displacement, but many other factors also play a role. Therefore, it’s difficult to find two identical sounds among motorcycles on the market!

If you would like to compare the sounds of different motorcycle engines, you are in the right place.

We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled the best motorcycle exhaust sounds under one roof!

What Sound Does a Motorcycle Make?

Factors That Affect a Motorcycle’s Sound

When it comes to motorcycle sounds, there is a lot of confusion out there. This is because, contrary to popular belief, the sound that a motorcycle makes doesn’t only depend on the engine layout. Instead, there are a lot of major factors that influence it, such as:

  • Engine stroke (2T/4T)
  • Displacement
  • HP and RPM
  • Engine layout
  • Number and shape of the cylinders (bore and stroke)
  • Compression ratio
  • Type of clutch (dry/wet)
  • Design of the exhaust system
  • Other factors (like number of valves, cooling system, etc.)

It’s safe to say that one of the biggest factors that affect the sound of a motorcycle is the size of its engine.

The general rule is the bigger the cylinders on a motorcycle the deeper and louder the sound generated. Two-stroke engines are also much noisier compared to four-strokes. Besides the capacity of the engine, its material and design also have a major impact.

Let’s drill into the details and check the best motorcycle exhaust sounds by the different engine types!

Single-Cylinder Engine Sound

Simply put, single-cylinder motorcycles sound like a huge lawnmower. These engines run at lower RPMs and deliver plenty of torque. The sound of these engines is easily recognizable, as at idle you can virtually hear the engine cycle (each explosion).

Compared to street bikes, the sound of single-cylinder dirt bikes is quite different (especially 2-strokes), as these machines sound like a swarm of bees. So, if you hear a very noisy “braaap-braap” sound you can be sure that it’s a 2-stroke dirt bike!

Inline-Two and Triple Sounds

As their name suggests, inline-two (known as Parallel-twin) and inline-triple engines feature two or three cylinders that sit in one row. Although these motorcycles produce a nice musical sound, it’s not as easily recognizable as the sound V-twin or single-cylinder machines produce.

The Sound of Inline-Four Motorcycle Engines

The screaming sound of inline-four motorcycle engines is music to the ears of many performance-minded riders. Thank to their “over square” design (wide pistons, short stroke), these engines run at very high RPMs. As a result, these motorcycle engines are significantly louder and crank out up to 180-230 HP.

If you are looking for something really loud, then you should take a look that this category!

Inline-Six Motorcycle Engine Sounds

If its throttle is hammered, an inline-six motorcycle engine sounds like a Formula One car. It produces smooth and very loud head-turning music!

But it also has to be mentioned that inline-six is a pretty rare motorcycle engine layout. You can find this engine in some iconic vintage bikes like the Honda CBX1100, Benelli Sei, or the Kawasaki Z1300. Regarding new bikes, some touring BMW models are also powered with these power sources.

V-Twin Motorcycle Engine Sounds

It’s safe to say that the most popular motorcycle engine layout in the United States is the V-twin, and with good reason. They not only fit perfectly into the frame, but V-twin motorcycle engines also produce a unique and unbeatable sound. You can see many variations within this category, from narrow V-twins to Moto Guzzi’s transverse layout. But no two V-twin engines sound the same!

Many riders agree that iconic Harley-Davidsons offer the best V-twin motorcycle engine sound, which is why these bikes are so popular.

What sound does a Harley make? Simply put, Harley-Davidsons generate an unmistakable “pop pop pausepop pop pause” sound, which is often described as “potato-potato-potato.”

According to the manufacturer, this custom sound stems from the engine’s unique design. Harley engines feature a “narrow-angle” V-twin layout while the pistons are held by a single crankshaft pin. In addition, the spark plugs in these engines fire at uneven intervals, which also contributes to the amazing exhaust music.

Why does a Ducati sound different?

Compared to other V-twin motorcycles, Ducati motorcycles sound quite different. This is because these Italian bikes are powered with 90-degree L-twin engines, which are also known as angled V-twins (one cylinder is vertical, one is horizontal). This engine configuration, along with Ducati’s dry clutch, produces the harsh mechanical sound of these bikes. So, it is no surprise that so many people have fallen in love with this amazing engine sound. (And not just Ducati fans!)

Boxer Motorcycle Engine Sound

Four and six-cylinder boxer motorcycle engines typically have a very smooth sound. These layouts are also known as flat-four and flat-six, referring to the horizontal position of the cylinders. On the other hand, they are not very quiet!

You can only find these engines in a few factory bikes like the legendary Honda Gold Wing (flat-six) or in some touring BMW bikes.

Besides these big boys, you can also find some flat-two engines on the market, which unfortunately don’t run as smoothly as their multi-cylinder counterparts.

What Sound Does a Motorcycle Make in Words?

The most commonly used word for describing a motorcycle’s sound is “Vroom.” This term also refers to the act of riding a motorcycle fast when the bike produces loud exhaust sounds. (Commonly used by smaller children.) Some other well-known words for motorcycle sounds are as follows:

  • “Braaap” (2-stroke, especially dirt bikes)
  • “Ring-ding” (2-stroke)
  • “Potato-potato-potato” (or “pop-pop-pause” on Harley V-twins)

And did you know that many motorcycle brand names sound like the engine on their bikes? If you have doubts, don’t miss this funny video. (Oldie but goldie!)

What Sound Does a 2-Stroke Motorcycle Make?

2-stroke motorcycles make the easily recognizable “braaap” engine sound. Besides this term, “ring-ding” is another common two-stroke engine sound. According to Cycle World, this metallic sound is caused by the exhaust valve, which opens much faster on 2-stroke engines.

Which Bike Has the Best Exhaust Sound?

It’s hard to tell which bike has the best exhaust sound as it always depends on personal taste. Since the V-twin is the most popular engine layout in the United States, it seems that the majority of riders prefer the deep and powerful sounds of these machines.

However, there are some unique bikes that feature a special engine design that stands out in a crowd. Are you wondering which bikes these are?

For your convenience, we’ve compiled some of these iconic models and their engine layouts under one roof!

  • Honda RC166 250 (inline-six)
  • Triumph Bonneville (parallel-twin)
  • Honda CBX1100 (inline-six)
  • Ducati Panigale V4R (V4)
  • Kawasaki H2 Ninja (supercharged, inline-four)

Why Are Motorcycle Sounds So Important?

Are you wondering why there is so much emphasis on the sounds of motorcycles? This is because (unless it is used for commuting) riding a motorcycle is a hobby, which means purchasing one is a purely emotional decision. And just like the performance, body, and the machine’s brand, its exhaust sound is also an important factor for many riders.

Motorcycle manufacturers have noticed the importance, which is why they place a great deal of emphasis on this. Most companies have their own department responsible for designing the exhaust and matching it with the engine, in order to get the best sound possible.

What’s more, a nice smooth sound is always a clue that a motorcycle’s engine is in good condition!

Why Does Your Motorcycle Sound Different?

If your motorcycle sounds different it often means that it has some malfunctions or it just needs a tune-up. The situation can be even worse if it’s accompanied by a vibration or other symptoms. Therefore, if you hear strange noises coming from the engine or it just sounds different, you should immediately get your motorcycle inspected.

FAQs About Motorcycle Sounds

Why do V-Twins sound so good?

V-twin engines have really good sound thanks to a different engine design and two huge pistons. Unlike inline engines, V-twins run at much lower RPMs, which means they can’t provide a smooth engine sound. Instead, you can virtually hear the engine cycles, especially at lower RPMs, which sound really good!

How can I make my motorcycle sound like a sports bike?

Sadly, there is no way to fundamentally change a sound of a motorcycle. This means you can’t make your bike sound like a sportbike by installing aftermarket modifications. This is because the sound primarily depends on the engine displacement and layout. Consequently, if you have a smaller bike, your only option is to invest in a bigger, four-cylinder sportbike. As they say, “There is no replacement for displacement!”

How can I make my motorcycle exhaust sound deeper?

The best way to make the sound of your motorcycle deeper by installing an aftermarket exhaust that fits on your bike. Keep in mind that tinkering on the stock exhaust is not recommended, as it can negatively affect the performance or cause other malfunctions. What’s more, if you make your exhaust louder, it may cause legal issues!

Which is the best sounding Harley exhaust?

It’s hard to tell which is the best sounding Harley exhaust on the market, as it really boils down to personal taste. But it’s safe to say that many riders prefer the sounds of MGS, CFR, and Rinehart exhausts. If you are considering investing in an aftermarket Harley muffler, keep in mind that many are very loud and expensive!

Conclusion

Conventional wisdom says that the sound that motorcycles make can be described by the word “Vroom.” Besides this, there are many other commonly used sounds to mimic a motorcycle’s exhaust sound, like “Braaap” (2T dirt bikes), or “potato-potato-potato” (Harley’s V-twin).

There are many factors that affect this music from the displacement to the engine layout.

Many riders agree that V-twin engines offer the best exhaust sounds, which is why this is the most popular motorcycle engine in the United States!

References:

https://www.motorcyclistonline.com/story/news/science-of-motorcycle-sound

https://www.carthrottle.com/post/5-of-the-best-motorbike-sounds-youll-ever-hear/

https://www.cycleworld.com/how-do-motorcycle-engines-affect-sound/

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