Rich could mean too much fuel, or too little air. Lean is the opposite.
Usually the phrase "new exhaust" means an aftermarket muffler or complete system which allows more flow than the stock unit, thus making the mixture leaner unless the carbs or injection have been recalibrated to compensate.
So it sounds to me like the bike is running poorly and the owner is just taking an uneducated guess as to what the problem is. Or just plain BS'ing you.
Yea i think he means running lean. If you hear backfiring from a high engine deceleration (in gear), that means the bike is running lean (too little fuel in the mixture). If the backfiring is real bad, you/he risks doing engine damage from the engine internals overheating. Most times a bike can take just a exhaust can without a re-jetting/ecu remap. If it's a full system and he didn't re jet/map the fuel system i would stay away.
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