If you are undecided about which plugs to use, Rider Warehouse a.k.a Aerostich offers two sample packs. 12 different disposables or 10 reusables (pairs...sorry) so you can find your favorites. Go to aerostich.com. You will have to do it manually I don't know how to do that link thingie.
New HDs are going for less than MSRP down here. Don't know which models specifically, but the Dealership in Ft Walton has an ad in todays paper for $2K off new bikes. Here is a link to their inventory. http://www.heritagecycles.com/motorcycles.html. Assuming they are still there this time next week.
My first bike was an '88 FXRS LowRider. Loved it, got the 7-1/2 year itch and sold it, then got the Sprint.
When you ride your bike for the first time while wearing earplugs, don't be too alarmed by all the strange noises your bike is making. It's probably been doing that along; you just couldn't hear it above the ambient noise.
If you're wearing a helmet and plugged in, you should be able to hear the stereo just fine through earplugs that let enough sound through to be safe...turn it up a little. The system actually sounds better with more audio and less wind rush. I have no problem hearing through mine, and they're custom fit (very narrow ear canals). If you're not in a suit and brain bucket, then it doesn't much matter if you protect the hearing or not...
Being a new MOron, I just couldn't believe that you can get hearing damage riding with a full face helmet and stock exhaust. I found some research in UK where sound level was recorded and measured at the ear canal with the helmet on. No significant difference between types of helmets (3/4 vs. full) or whether bike was faired or naked.
35 mph is 90 db
70 mph is 110 db
Unless you're riding real slow all the time or riding for a very short time, at these noise levels you'd be required to have hearing protection on the job per OSHA requirements.
I'm convinced - guess I was being thick between the ears!
I started out with ear problems and use permanent, custom plugs. They're expensive (around $85 from your local audiologist) but they fit perfectly, are easy to get in and out, and the noise reduction is great. You can get custom plugs for way less at the yearly Cycle World motorcycle show. There's always a long line but hey, they come in all kinds of colors. They can even be made to fit with earphones for music or communications systems.
The exhaust isn't as much a problem for the rider as the people behind the bike. The real bad actor is the wind noise. Motorcycle Consumer News did an article on this a while back. Riding at 60-65 mph for any significant length of time, and wind noise will permenantly damage your ears. Permenantly!
Like the originator of this post, I was into audio and could hear an 18,000 hertz tone. Now, all is gone after 10,000. And, I have a ringing in the ears (tinnitis). It's all due to noise I was exposed to in my youth. I don't want to lose any more hearing, so I wear ear plugs when riding.
Not wearing ear-plugs is bad if you have good hearing and worse if you already have bad hearing. I lost a lot of mine, courtesy of Uncle Sam (if you think that Harley with straigt pipes is loud you should try sticking your head out of a loader's hatch on an M-60 tank while the tank commander fires the .50 caliber about 3 feet from your ear!) and I can't afford to lose more. Furthermore, if I take a long ride without ear-plugs (yeah, I've lost them on trips before, now I take multiple sets with me) my ears ring so much for so long that it can even affect my sleep. And yes I wear a full face helmet all the time.
Another good source for cheap ear plugs is the shooting industry. Midway and Natchez often have great deals (I buy boxes of a thousand sets - lasts a long time!)
I second the custom plug motion. I had my first pair fitted about 5 years ago at the annual motorcycle show in Dallas (cycleworld show?) They lasted 4 years of daily use before they started to degrade. About $25 per pair. They clean up nicely with soap and water.
This past year there were two seperate booths set up doing custom ear plugs. Bang for the buck, comfort, effectiveness, ease of use, any metric you want and these come out the best option for protecting your hearing.