Best Exhausts for the Harley Davidson Forty-Eight Motorcycles

This review focuses on the best exhausts for the Harley Davidson Forty-Eight. 

If you ask us, an aftermarket exhaust is a must-have for any Harley Davidson Forty-Eight. The two just go together. That is why we tested over 20 different aftermarket exhausts before narrowing down the 3 best Harley Davidson Forty-Eight pipes. 

In our reviews, we go over the design of each exhaust, how it sounds, how it performs, and any special features it offers. However, the ultimate deciding factor is the real world performance of the Harley exhaust. 

The best and most crisp-sounding exhaust we tested was the Vance and Hines Shortshots Staggered Exhaust for the Forty-Eight. This sleek yet rowdy exhaust sounds like a jet engine and delivers a nice power boost. 

In our decade of experience working on bikes, we have tested some really loud and awesome-sounding exhausts for Harleys. Now, we want to share our findings and help you make the best purchase decision. 

Keep reading for more of our thoughts on the best exhausts for the Harley Davidson Forty-Eight.

Overall Best

Vance & Hines Shortshots Staggered Exhaust

Vance and Hines’ Shortshots is the default aftermarket exhaust for the Forty-Eight. These pipes pack one hell of a punch with beefy acoustics, free-flow architecture, and ear-splitting sound. 

Let’s start off with the design of these aftermarket exhausts. We are huge fans of the minimalist look that fits in well with the Forty-Eight. 

You are treated to staggered style exhaust pipes, which become wider at the muffler. The narrow header pipes help create backpressure, while the wider muffler accentuates the exhaust note. 

Another feature of this exhaust that is both functional and aesthetic is the integrated 220-degree heat shield. It keeps exhaust heat off the rider’s legs and gives the pipes a meaner look, especially if you go for the blacked-out version. Or you could go for the classic chrome design. Whatever floats your boat. 

Moving on to the most important bit, the sound. If you want volume, these Harley Davidson Forty-Eight exhausts turn it up to 11! They are louder and more full, both at idle and at redline. 

V&H focused on extracting as much sound out of these pipes as possible and gave special attention to the lower frequencies. This makes the exhaust note deeper and more pleasing. 

One small detail that we absolutely adore about these exhausts is their sound on cold starts. We can best describe it as a ‘reverse popping’ sound. It is from air rushing into the engine when you first start up the bike and sounds phenomenal. 

The free-flowing design of these pipes means they bring a decent power up to your Forty-Eight’s engine. We noticed that power delivery is smoother and more refined with these loud pipes installed on our Harley. Throttle response is improved, and you will have an easier time getting off the line. 

But these Harley exhausts might be a bit too loud for some. That is why we appreciate the inclusion of baffles that can be used to quiet the exhaust down. Still, these are some of the loudest Harley Davidson Forty-Eight exhausts we’ve tested, so be warned!

  • Clean and simple design
  • Black and chrome options are available
  • Narrower header pipes and wider mufflers
  • Exhaust sound is amplified
  • Exhaust gasses can flow more freely
  • Louder, more bass-heavy exhaust note
  • Really cool air intake sound on cold starts
  • Integrated 220-degree heat shields
  • Keeps heat off rider’s legs
  • Better throttle response
  • Reasonably priced
  • Baffles can be installed to make the exhaust quieter
  • Ideal for longer journeys
  • Tuning/ECU remap may be required to get the best results

Best Budget 

Bassani Radial Sweepers Exhaust for Harley Davidson Forty-Eight

The first of two Bassani pipes on this list, the Radial Sweepers demand your attention. They are shorter than most other aftermarket exhausts, which makes them louder. They also grant access to a bit of hidden power in your Harley’s engine. 

The first thing we need to address is the unique styling of these pipes. They are made of 16-gauge double-wall steel and sport a slash-cut design that looks really slick and modern. The pipes themselves are much shorter than your average aftermarket exhaust for the Harley Davidson Forty-Eight. 

The shorter design has a couple different benefits. For one, the shorter pipes stay mounted higher on the bike, so you don’t scrape them on any bumps. Less metal means lower weight. 

Another plus point is that these pipes add a bit more power than longer exhausts. And, of course, the shorter length makes them a lot louder. 

Speaking of loud, we absolutely adore the menacing sound of these Harley Davidson pipes. Not only is it louder, but it is also rowdier. If we had to sum up the Bassani Radial Sweepers in one word, it would be ‘angry’ because this exhaust just wants to melt your face off!

One thing it won’t be melting, thankfully, is your legs. That is thanks to the integrated heat shields, which keep heat off the rider. However, because of their unique shape and style, expect to get a bit more heat than with other aftermarket exhausts.  

We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the awesome torque upgrade you get with these exhausts. We noticed that these pipes can give you a massive torque upgrade with the correct tune and ECU wizardry. 

Day to day, the bike felt more responsive and eager to get going. Off the line, we saw an improvement in acceleration. Merging on the highway has never been as easy (or as fun) as with these exhausts. 

Finally, we are happy to report that installing these exhausts is easier than most others we’ve tested. All of the mounting hardware is provided in the box, and the instructions are pretty intuitive. Also, the whole setup is designed and built in the USA, if that matters to you.

  • 16-gauge double-wall steel
  • Backswept design
  • Better ground clearance
  • Shorter exhaust pipes
  • Not as heavy as other exhausts
  • Significantly louder than stock
  • Mean, grunty exhaust note
  • Noticeable upgrade in torque
  • The bike is faster off the line
  • Merging on the highway is easier
  • Integrated heat shields
  • Easy to install
  • Comes with all mounting hardware in the box
  • The unique shape does throw a bit more heat on the rider’s legs, despite the heat shield

Best Premium

Bassani Road Rage 2-Into-1 Exhaust

Bassani’s Road Rage 2-into-1 style exhausts for the Harley Davidson Forty-Eight are a treat for the senses. They look and sound like a million bucks, unlock tons of hidden power, and make your eyeballs shake in their sockets!

The entire construction of this aftermarket Forty-Eight exhaust uses high-quality 304 stainless steel. They may not look like it, but the pipes are relatively light and don’t contribute much to your bike’s wet weight. And if you’re riding a Harley, you want to shed every gram you possibly can. 

The 2-into-1 styling may not be to everyone’s taste, but we liked it. It gives your bike that classic bobber look that is really hot right now. Combine that with the beautiful TIG welds, and you’ve got an absolute showstopper on your hands. 

Not to mention, the TIG welds will be significantly stronger and be able to withstand higher pressure. These pipes are also mounted higher than stock, so you can expect better cornering ability on your Harley. 

But look at us rambling about the exhaust’s design. Let’s move on to the important stuff. 

If you want a thunderous Harley exhaust, get this one. We can attest to an almost 25% louder exhaust note that is deeper and more robust than stock. If loud pipes save lives, you’re gonna be a local hero! 

But loud exhausts are a dime a dozen. It is the higher quality of the exhaust that we fell in love with. The acoustics are perfectly calibrated, so the exhaust sounds simultaneously mean and refined! 

Lastly, you do get a nice power up with this exhaust. Expect about 3 more horsepower over the stock exhaust and a little more down-low torque. Paired with the weight savings, this will give you an easier time maneuvering the bike in tight spots and burning rubber on the highway. 

As for special features, you get all the necessary O2 sensors and adapters in the box, a partial heat shield keeps exhaust temps down, and the whole package is manufactured in the USA. 

One slight drawback of these otherwise awesome exhausts is the fact that they only fit Forty-Eight models up to 2013, so keep that in mind.

  • 304 stainless steel design
  • Lightweight build
  • Easier to maneuver the bike
  • TIG welds are stronger and can withstand higher pressure
  • Pipes are mounted higher
  • Lean angle can be a bit more aggressive
  • Rounded, megaphone muffler design
  • 2-into-1 styling
  • Higher volume
  • The exhaust note is deeper and more robust
  • Higher exhaust flow
  • Adds a bit of power
  • Throttle response is improved
  • Integrated partial heat shield
  • Comes with O2 sensors and adapters in the box
  • Easy install
  • Made in the USA
  • Only fits Harley Davidson Forty-Eight models up to 2013

Hugo Alais

Hi, I'm Hugo, I'm a motorcycle enthusiast who’s been riding for the last 10 years. I'm passionate about all things motorcycles and started Bikes Future to help other riders make the right motorcycle moves. I ride a white Kawasaki Ninja 400.