2003 Suzuki Hayabusa: Our bikes

Date 02.12.2014

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader


2003 Suzuki Hayabusa

Some of you may be familiar with this experience: you stroll calmly into the shed to tackle what should be a simple and easy job, and end up – a week later – traumatised and willing to give everything you own to anyone who will finish the job for you.

I won’t say sealing up a noisy header on Hannibal the Hayabusa was quite that bad, but it was close.

First, a little background. Hannibal has been in the shed for a decade now and has generally been trouble-free. That’s despite running a fairly exotic Phil Tainton-built engine putting out around the 220 horsepower mark at the crank.

The one niggle it’s had over time is occasionally it develops a leaky header. It’s probably not doing any great harm, but the rattle at low revs just gets on my nerves. In previous years, I’ve generally thrown the job to the poor buggers at Stafford Motorcycles and never really understood why they looked a little traumatised each time the task landed in their collective lap. Now I get it.


Looking at the bike, you could come up with a plausible theory that Suzuki got a set of headers and built a motorcycle around it. Not only do you have to remove the lower fairing, but the radiator has to be shifted as well.

In this case we’re talking about a set of paper-thin titanium tubes, as the exhaust is an Over Racing system, with titanium plumbing all the way back to the carbon-fibre muffler. So it’s not something you want to accidently smack with a wrench – it needs to be treated with care.

This turned out to be one of those occasions when I was really pleased to have a hoist. This one came from Radum and, generally, you can get something decent for well under $1000. It’s money well spent. You’re not crawling around on the floor and you actually get to see what you’re doing.

Hurdle number one was removing the fairing lowers. Would you believe this involves somewhere in the vicinity of 30 fasteners?

The same task on my 916 Ducati involves eight. However, as Spannerman rightly pointed out, the ’Busa is a heavyweight missile capable of over 300km/h, so you could hardly criticise Suzuki for making sure the damned thing was screwed down properly.

One labour-saving feature is the fact the fuel tank is held down by just two bolts at the front, and then hinges up out of the way for servicing access. Very civilised.

Once you’re in, you have to gently dismount the radiator, plus the oil cooler and swing them forward for access to the header area. The inner bolts are buggers to get at and, typically, you’re at times faced with the choice of either seeing the bolt, or turning it, but not both at the same time. It does make you wonder whether mechanics are all frustrated contortionists.

A set of fresh header seals was fitted, along with a generous layer of silastic. While the goo will inevitably burn off, I was hopeful it might leave a carbon residue that would help with the sealing.

It’s a great example of patience having its own reward. An unhurried and methodical approach was critical and paid off at the other end of the job, when it was being reassembled. While it took a little while, everything went back together as it should. Even better, there were (for once) no left-over bolts or missing tools!

I did take the opportunity to replace some tired and damaged fasteners – cheap enough to do and it’s surprising just how much little things like that can lift the appearance of a machine.

The acid test was, of course, starting it up. Sure enough, the leak was gone. However, the lower noise levels meant I could now hear more of the internal thrashings of the engine. That, of course, raised the paranoia levels until Spannerbloke applied his shell-like and reassured muggins that all was well. At risk of tempting fate, the seals seem to be lasting, so I may have accidently done a good job!