A motorcycle exhaust header provides better efficiency and performance for your ride when compared to a simple manifold like you can find on most vehicles. The unit might be made from a single tube of high-temperature steel if you have an older ride, but modern bikes come with multi-walled construction to ensure the heat stays confined to the inner layer of the design.
The exhaust header eliminates the backpressure that happens when the engine of the motorcycle pushes out combustion gases. This process improves the overall performance of the bike, which you can improve even more by including a wrap.
A motorcycle header wrap is optional. It may not even be necessary if you run a multi-walled design that stays relatively cool when riding. If this area gets hot to the touch or you see lapses in performance or power, then you might consider this technique to correct the situation.
Several pros and cons of a motorcycle header wrap must be taken into consideration before taking this step.
List of the Pros of a Motorcycle Header Wrap
1. It causes heat to go further through the exhaust system.
When you wrap your header, then you’re forcing the heat that would normally dissipate next to your engine block to travel further down the system. This process creates a cooler temperature for the engine bay, which means you get a better air intake from the colder climate. It can help you to maximize the horsepower and throttle you can achieve during a ride without creating a burn risk like you would have in that area otherwise.
2. You can protect your legs and feet from the heat.
If you have an older bike that still uses the single tube configuration, then a header wrap for your motorcycle can give you an extra layer of protection against high-temperature exposure. It will still get hot in that area, but you can protect yourself with jeans, chaps, and boots without any extra dangers.
When you place a header wrap on a modern bike, you might notice that your motorcycle exhaust runs a little hotter in the pipe than normal. Depending on the results you achieve, it may be necessary to change your gear accordingly to receive the other benefits.
3. Wrapping can change the sound profile of your engine.
A motorcycle exhaust wrap can dampen bothersome sounds that happen during your ride. Some owners say that their engine creates something like a rattle or click, reminiscent of what a sewing machine sounds like at full speed. If you hear that over the wind and your radio, then it can get pretty annoying when you measure time over hundreds of miles. Applying an appropriate header wrap will reduce or eliminate the bothersome audio so that you can enjoy your time in the saddle more.
4. It might improve the visual aesthetics of your bike.
The single-tube look of older bikes might be considered “vintage” or “classic” today, but it takes a lot of work to keep it clean. Excessive heat can colorize the metal, even if you’re using high-grade steel that can handle those temperatures. When you wrap the area, then you can cover up this inconsistency without going through an entire coating process. You’ll still have smoke and an odor for a while after you’re finished, but the job goes faster and it’s a lot cheaper to complete.
You can purchase a couple of rolls of wrap for your header for less than $50 in most places. If you need an entire kit with stainless steel zip ties and other accessories, it’s less than $100. Then the work should only take you about an hour, so your maximum expense is about $200 for this improvement.
5. Almost anyone can install a motorcycle header wrap.
If you are somewhat familiar with your ride and know what your header requires, then you can finish the work of wrapping without extra help. You don’t really need a bunch of extra tools to get the job done. As long as you are comfortable with the instructions in your kit, then you can finish the work by yourself.
You will want to make sure that your motorcycle’s manufacturer doesn’t have any specific tips or warnings to consider before beginning the header wrapping process.
6. You have the option to paint the wrap if you prefer.
Some people don’t like the look of an exposed header wrap on a bike. If you have resale concerns about tackling this job, then you do have the option to paint the final product once it cures. You’ll still need to use a high-heat spray to ensure that your work can withstand standard riding conditions, but this advantage gives you some color options beyond the standard black or tan.
There will be some extra smoke if you decide to paint your motorcycle header wrap while everything cures and firms up. It should clear up after the first 100 miles of consistent riding or so.
7. You get to choose the extent of the work.
If you want to wrap your motorcycle header, then you can do so with this product. You also have the opportunity to wrap the entire exhaust system or parts of your pipe if you prefer. The cost of taking this customized approach is a lot better than putting a ceramic layer over the needed areas, and you can typically ride your bike the same day that you do the work. Because you have this extra layer of flexibility, it tends to be a popular approach when improvements become necessary.
List of the Cons of a Motorcycle Header Wrap
1. A header wrap will capture moisture if you don’t ride often.
If you decide to proceed with a header wrap for your motorcycle, then you are also committing to a riding schedule throughout the year. When you park your bike for a significant time, then moisture can collect under the wrap, accelerating corrosion that can damage your ride. Traveling at city speeds is enough to push that moisture away, so plan on riding at least a couple of times per month to avoid this disadvantage.
Some enthusiasts say that you can spray a layer of silicone onto the header before applying the wrap to avoid this disadvantage. Others say that taking such an action doesn’t provide a noticeable result. You’ll need to decide if it is worth the investment.
2. It can create a fire hazard on some motorcycles.
If you have an older bike with a single tube, then a header wrap can give you some extra protection against the heat. Some products allow you to do the entire system so that you can force the higher temperatures out at the back. The only problem with this approach is that the product you put on your bike can collect oil, grime, and fuel along the way. If it gets too hot for any reason, then you’ll have a fire hazard in place whenever a spill occurs.
You must remain proactive with your cleaning efforts on all motorcycles to ensure that an unexpected surprise doesn’t occur in the middle of your ride.
3. The header wrap can place more pressure on the catalytic converter.
The catalytic converter works to reduce the emissions that your motorcycle produces while operating. When you force more heat into this unit, then you change the molecular profile of what it can do. This process can decrease its overall lifespan to the point where some part manufacturers will void your warranty if you proceed with a header wrap. Your configuration matters here, so think about how the exhaust system sets up on your ride to determine if this disadvantage is something to take under consideration.
4. You might encounter clearance problems on your motorcycle.
When you place a wrap on your header, then it causes an additional area to be taken up around the diameter of your tubes. Depending on the make and model of your motorcycle, this issue could create some clearance problems with your steering shaft. That’s why a ceramic coating is sometimes recommended more than a wrap because it won’t affect tight areas in the same way.
5. The work must be done perfectly for it to look great.
Most people will admit, often begrudgingly, that a perfect header wrap does a lot of good for the visual appearance of a motorcycle. The primary reason why so many riders hate this idea is that an imperfect job will create terrible results. It only takes one error during the application process to make your ride look like trash. If you do the work by yourself and get it wrong, then the cost of fixing the issue could be much higher than paying someone to put it on correctly in the first place.
6. There is no coming back from the decision to wrap your header.
Once you decide that a header wrap is the best option for your motorcycle, then there is no coming back from that choice. Once the product cures, you’ll see fibers in place from the fiberglass wrap that are there permanently. Spraying a layer of silicone before applying the wrap might help you to get it off in the future, but that’s maybe a 50/50 shot at best. If you’re uncertain about proceeding with this project, then hold off until you know for sure that it is what you want to have on your bike.
7. A header wrap comes with a terrible smell.
Once you have the header wrap correctly installed on your motorcycle, you’ll smell the curing process happening every time you run your engine. This odor will eventually go away once there’s a tight seal in place, but that can take several hours of riding time. It’s not like the new car smell of plastics and upholstery that people love. You will not appreciate what your nose picks up with this work. The best advice is to open up the throttle on an open stretch of road so that the wind clears the air for you.
8. Header wrap doesn’t age very well on most motorcycles.
Even if you clean your wrap regularly, the various spills and road grime that can find their way to this product will eventually cause it to age faster than the rest of your motorcycle. The heat from your engine and sunlight contribute to this process. If you match the wrap to the color of your engine, then you’ll see fading start to happen in 1-2 years. The best way to avoid this issue is to use a titanium wrap whenever possible.
9. It can impact your ability to sell the motorcycle.
If you want to sell your motorcycle in the future, then a header wrap might need to be put off. You’ll limit the number of available buyers for your bike if you use this product. It’s not just the visuals that are bothersome. The wrap can also cause the engine to stay colder for a longer time, which can be problematic in northerly climates.
The pros and cons of a motorcycle header wrap often rely on personal preferences to determine the final value of this project. Some people love the appearance of this work and enjoy the benefits of its presence. Others prefer a ceramic coating or no additions instead. The final decision to wrap or not to wrap is ultimately yours to make.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.