Next time you’re down at the motorcycle salvage yard, keep your eyes peeled for bargains – and we’re not even talking about functioning parts or running machines here! With the right eye and a bit of skill you can turn parts from rusting salvage motorcycles into something worth its weight in gold. And while scouring motorcycle salvage yards isn’t a bad way to spend the day, you can probably save time and money and go straight to your garage instead, because if your garage is anything like mine, then it should be full of neglected motorcycles just waiting to be brought back to life.
That’s the problem with motorcycle salvage – you can buy a bike with every intention of doing it up and restoring it, but the reality is that most of us don’t have the time, money, patience, or skill to really revive these old wrecks and a lot of them are left to rust. Or if they’re not left to rust, they’re generally butchered for parts and thrown out for scrap once all of their useful portions have been transplanted into more deserving projects. It’s sad to see many of these old wrecks get hauled off for scrap – but there is another way. In an ideal world we’d like to see all of our motorcycles live forever, but that’s not exactly realistic. Luckily, the world is very much into a thing called upcycling at the moment.
What Is Upcycling?
So what’s upcycling? It’s a lot like recycling, but instead of returning a product back to its original properties to be broken down to base materials, upcycling focuses on creative re-use, transforming an already existing but useless product into something practical, beautiful, and useful. By jumping on the upcycling bandwagon, we can all turn our old motorcycle salvage into truly useful things that will give your old bikes and parts new leases of life.
All you really need to get started are some tools, a bit of motorcycle salvage, and a bit of inspiration. So, you see those old front forks? Why not take one of the fork legs and bolt it to a sturdy base plate and attach a saddle to the top? You got yourself a unique bar stool right there. That Harley Davidson side cover? Let’s reinvent it as a fruit bowl. How about those old bike chains? Give them a clean up, weld each link together in the shape of a hook and you’ve got a new helmet hook for your garage wall. There are literally hundreds of things that you can do with motorcycle salvage, and all you need is a bit of imagination and a few tools. A MIG welder is pretty handy, but it’s not always necessary. The only thing you really must have is some inspiration, and in that respect we’ve got you covered: here are the top 12 things we’ve seen built from motorcycle salvage!
12 Crazy Contraptions Upcycled From Motorcycle Salvage!
#12. The Disc Brake Knife
Let’s start with a nice and relatively easy project: the disc brake knife. We saw this one on YouTube a while back and we were so impressed that we built one of our own. Brake discs are easily procured and so many are tossed aside for scrap…which is crazy when you consider their carbon content. The metal used in brake discs is of a pretty high quality and has already been conditioned – so it’s easy to turn this into a knife, which makes it a great project for those who don’t have access to any heat treating tooling. Simply cut to shape, add a bevel, make a handle, and sharpen. Obviously, there are more intricacies to the art but if you’ve wanted an easy entry level project to get into the world of knife making, then this might be for you. Making a practical tool out of a discarded part is the absolute definition of motorcycle salvage upcycling. Start an eBay store, sell ’em to your friends – make a bit of cash. People will buy these!
#11. The Rear Shock Table By Classified Moto
When they’re not building apocalypse busting customs or constructing works of art on two wheels for the TV screen, the good folk at Classified Moto turn to their box of spares and discards and create some of the most decorative furniture ever built from motorcycle salvage. Classified Moto do a mean lamp or two but our personal favorite is their table made from rear shock absorbers. We don’t recommend that you out and out copy this idea because that would be no fun, but take inspiration from the use of shock absorbers, because they can literally be worked into a ton of things. In fact, when it comes to re-purposing old springs, then the older they are, the better. There’s something about old school rear suspension from the Japanese that you just can’t find on new motorcycle models these days. Naturally, you’re going to have to do a fair amount of sanding and cleaning to get them back to shiny…but it will pay off in the end.
#10. The Bonneville Bowl
While we would heartily advise against any type of Triumph Bonneville butchery, we do recommend mimicking this idea with cheaper and less sought after alternatives. Literally any old spoked wheels from your local motorcycle salvage yard will do fine. This stunning bowl is one of two constructed by Taiwanese designer Wa Ya-Lin. Using the bike’s spokes, Ya-Lin was able weave together an intricate frame work that works as a fully functioning bowl. The spokes are all laced to a small hub that acts as the bowl’s base, which has been covered with a clear Perspex protection plate, etched with the Triumph logo. Now, if you feel like taking a wire brush to those old Kawasaki KZ wheels that are rusting in the corner, then visualize these as you painstakingly knock the rust of them, because it will make the effort worth it in the end.
#09. “Scales” Instrument Cluster
Check this one out – it’s called “Scales” – obviously – and it comes from the mind of British designer John Doherty. This is a great example of motorcycle salvage upcycling but it does have a major problem. While it really does make excellent use of the old motorcycle instrument cluster to form the centerpiece of this fully operation set of scales, it seems like Mr.Doherty had to purchase the working parts of the scale…and if you’ve got to buy a functional product to then break it and reassemble in something else, it kind of defeats the object. However, we’ve only assumed that. If you happen to have a busted instrument cluster AND a broken set of scales, then by all means build one of these beauties. This masterpiece is truly fully functional: with the dials accurately displaying pounds and kilograms. It’s incredible craftsmanship. And every home should have one.
#08. The Mirrored Hat Stand
This one might not seem as advanced as the kitchen scales or as intricate as the spoke-bowl, but this one is probably a lot more practical and almost certainly a lot easier to build. This useful hat stand came from the mind of Romanian designer Elena Matyas and it features some easily procurable motorcycle parts. Head down to you nearest motorcycle salvage yard with these items on your shopping list: a front wheel hub and as many mirrors as you see fit. Source a bit of pipe and something heavy to mount it all too, and you’ve got all the cycle salvage ingredients you need. Simply bolt into place, and you’ll be the proud owner of one of the most original looking hat stands in town. Although it’s probably the only hat stand in town in this day and age…if you happen to be the owner of a hat shop though, this hat and incorporated mirror arrangement is a must have for your shop floor, surely?
#07. Motorcycle Lever Cutlery
This one is a little more advanced. This beautifully crafted dining cutlery set comes from a designer by the name of I-Chen Yang and it features front brake and clutch levers as handles for your usual knife, fork, and spoon arrangement. If you’ve got the know-how and think you could successfully graft a blade to the end of a brake lever without it snapping under stress, then get to the workshop right away and build these magnificent items – then sell them on a site like Etsy for a million dollars a pop. People will buy them. The downside to this is that while levers are easily procurable down at the motorcycle salvage yard, you probably won’t be seeing many just laying around in your garage. If your levers are anything like mine, the ends are the first things to snap off…and that’s the most recognizably motorcycle part about them.
#06. The Wheel Coffee Table
Next up we’ve got another coffee table. Rather than using rear shock absorbers this one is built around a motorcycle wheel and tire. Chinese designer Zhan Cheng came up with this awesome piece which is essentially a completely deconstructed wheel. The bottom half focuses on the hub, spokes and rim, with it all topped with glass to make a practical shelf. The top portion of the table is essentially a flat table top that sits on top of the remaining tire. It’s all brought together with a few steel rods artfully bent into shape – but apart from the design is very straightforward, simple, and effective. It’s a piece that would be pretty easy to replicate or adapt, and you can source these parts pretty much anywhere, and you probably can forgo a trip to your local motorcycle salvage yard. If it were up to us though, we’d employ a used tire rather than the expensive looking new one seen in the picture. Either way, it’s the perfect furnishing for a motorcycle enthusiast’s home.
#05. The “Omni-Bang” Tail Light Speakers
If you’ve got ready access to either a pair of vintage bullet tail lights or torpedo headlights and you’re no stranger to a little bit of electric wiring then this project could be right up your street. If you dig through your basement, attic, or garage you can probably source an old pair of speakers somewhere – and they probably work just fine but you discarded them because they’re not as cool looking as you once though, or they’re not compact enough for your minimalist interior décor. Well fear not, you can bring them back to life by transplanting their innards into something a little cooler: like old headlights or tail lights for example. That being said, good looking torpedo shaped accessories are often high demand and most of the good condition examples you might find at motorcycle salvage yards are snapped up pretty quick. But if you happen to have something laying around…then do what Taiwan’s Chang Sung-Ching did and build yourself some compact but high-performance speakers.
#04. The Fender Desk Lamp
Simplicity is often the key when it comes to upcycling motorcycle salvage and we think this stunning little lamp from Savvas Panagiotou is the perfect balance of “interesting motorcycle part” and “subtle execution.” There’s not much to say about it because it is exactly what it is: a front fender used as a shade that projects the light of a bulb in a downward direction. Motorcycle fenders are a dime a dozen, and your garage is probably filled with them in various materials, shapes, and states of decay. They often get replaced when a bit of grit dings the paintwork or when the chrome starts to flake off. So instead of throwing it in the corner to rust, how about stripping it back, painting it up real nice, fabricating a little stand for it and wire it up with a bulb and switch? For a little effort, you get a really cool and unique objet d’art.
#03. The Garage 54 “Premix” Exhaust Lamp
If you like a lamp but like your lighting to have a little more character than a front fender can provide, then you can always try and build something like Garage 54 has done. Dubbed “Premix” this awesome lamp arrangement takes its inspiration directly from a two-stroke KTM exhaust pipe. In fact, it takes more than inspiration – because it is a KTM exhaust pipe. Built on top of a reclaimed bearing, and supported by a large sprocket and a bicycle cassette, the Premix is essentially a gorgeous KTM pipe with that fat expansion chamber mated to some collars and a big light bulb. The idea might be simple, but the execution is far from it. There’s a lot of man-hours gone into it, but don’t be disheartened. Instead, take inspiration from this crazy lighting rig and see what’s achievable with the parts you’ve already got laying around. Old, blown exhausts are easy finds at motorcycle salvage yards, just pop a bulb in the end of one, mount it on something, shine it up real good and sell it to some wealthy city type for a trillion dollars. Job done.
#02. The Throttle Cork Screw
This is one is just the best use of a motorcycle part outside of being a working motorcycle that we’ve seen. British designer Nick Orme has managed to transform the right hand controls of a motorcycle into a must have accessory for anyone fanatical about motorcycles and fine wines. It’s a cork screw, and it really works. The twist grip of the throttle utilizes a ratchet system that helps propel the screw into the cork, and the brake lever in turn levers the cork out of the bottle neck. Absolutely genius.
Is it something you could build at home out of old motorcycle salvage? If you’ve got a mind for engineering then why not? It’s easily one of the most advanced things on our list here, but as far as inspiration fuel goes then this is chock full of the good stuff. In reality, it’s probably not the best thing to replicate as a Sunday project but it was too damn cool not to mention.
#01. The Vintage Motorcycle Rocking Horse
The cork screw is cool, but we like this one better. What better way to revive an old motorcycle than to give it a new lease of life as a child’s plaything? If you can find a bargain at the motorcycle salvage yard, a bike that’s functional days are long gone, then don’t pass it over immediately.
Instead, you could do what Felix Götze did, and turn it into a unique rocking horse to help inspire a new generation to get on two wheels? Built from old German motorcycle salvage, this rocker is essentially a frame that has been adjusted to rock on the floor, mated to a sprung saddle, some faux-handlebars, a beautiful headlight, and an old two-stroke engine to provide some ballast. This awesome little rocker comes complete with vintage German motorcycle colors for added authenticity too. While it’s not the most complex project on the list, we think it’s the best – and we urge you to go out and turn all of your old motorcycle salvage into replicas of this bad boy. Because every child needs one of these growing up, surely?