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! We’re talking about ways to upcycle motorcycle parts. With a sharp eye and a bit of skill, you can put old motorcycle bits that you’ve salvaged to good use.
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, it might be full of neglected motorcycles and parts just waiting to be brought back to life.
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 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 on life. All you really need are some tools, some salvaged motorcycle parts, and a bit of inspiration.
12 Crazy Contraptions Made From Upcycled Motorcycle Parts
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? That’s a unique bar stool right there. How about 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 with the help of your imagination and a few tools. A MIG welder is pretty handy, though not 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 coolest things we’ve seen built from motorcycle salvage!
Disc Brake Knife
Let’s start with a relatively easy project: the disc brake knife. We saw this one on YouTube a while back and were so impressed that we built one of our own. Brake discs are easily procured and many are tossed aside for scrap … which is crazy when you consider their carbon content.
The metal used in brake discs is pretty high quality and has already been conditioned – so it’s easy to turn this into a knife. This is a great upcycling 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 of crafting your disc brake knife, but if you want an 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.
Rear Shock Table by Classified Moto
When they’re not building apocalypse busting customs or constructing two-wheel works of art for the TV screen, the good folk at Classified Moto turn to their box of spares and create decorative furniture from their motorcycle salvage. Classified Moto makes a mean lamp or two, but our personal favorite is their table made from rear shock absorbers.
Now, we don’t recommend that you out-and-out copy this idea because what would be the fun in that? But take inspiration from the use of shock absorbers, because they can be incorporated into a lot of designs.
When it comes to re-purposing old springs, the older they are the better. The older springs will lend a unique personality to your design that you just can’t get from modern springs. 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.
While we 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 just fine.
This stunning bowl is one of two constructed by Taiwanese designer Wa Ya-Lin as part of a design challenge for MA Product Design students of Birmingham City University’s Institute of Art & Design. Using the bike’s spokes, Ya-Lin was able to weave together an intricate framework to create 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 rusting in the corner, then visualize this stunning end goal as you painstakingly knock the rust of them, because it will make the effort worth it in the end.
“Scales” Instrument Cluster
Cleverly, these “Scales” come from the mind of British designer John Doherty, also as part of the Birmingham City University’s Institute of Art & Design contest. This masterpiece is fully functional with the dials accurately displaying pounds and kilograms.
This is a great example of motorcycle salvage upcycling but it does have a major problem. While the design does make excellent use of the old motorcycle instrument cluster, it seems that Mr.Doherty might have purchased 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 of upcycling. 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. We think every home should have one.
Motorcycle Parts Clock
Though not as advanced as the kitchen scales or as intricate as the spoke-bowl, this upcycled design is probably a lot more practical. If you don’t mind taking a little bit of time to clean up some of your old parts, with a little elbow grease and some shining, you can turn some of your motorcycle parts into a cool and functional clock!
Once you have the parts, you’ll probably want to spend a few days de-greasing and polishing them. With a little shining up, the piece will be transformed from a greasy old cog or sprocket into a working piece of wall art. If you want the clock to tell time, you will need to source some battery-powered clock hands. With a little drilling and fabricating, your new clock will come together in no time flat!
Motorcycle Lever Cutlery
This beautifully crafted dining cutlery set comes from a designer I-Chen Yang. The set 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 so the rest of us can 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-like part about them.
Wheel Coffee Table
This clever coffee table 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 tabletop 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 that, the design is very straightforward.
This design would likely be pretty easy to replicate or adapt, and you can source these parts pretty much anywhere. If it were up to us, we’d employ a used tire rather than the expensive-looking new one seen in the picture. Either way, you can bet this upcycled table is the perfect furnishing for a motorcycle enthusiast’s home.
“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 alley.
If you dig through your basement, attic, or garage you can probably source an old pair of speakers somewhere. They probably work just fine, and maybe you discarded them because they were not as cool looking as you once thought or not compact enough for your minimalist interior décor. Well, fear not, now you can bring them back to life by transplanting their innards into something a little cooler: old headlights or taillights for example.
That being said, good-looking torpedo-shaped accessories are often in 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, high-performance speakers.
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 too 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 down. 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.
Now instead of throwing your old fender in the corner to rust, how about stripping it back, painting it up real nice, fabricating a little stand for it, and wiring it up with a bulb and switch? For a little effort, you get a really cool and unique objet d’art.
Garage 54 “Premix” Exhaust Lamp
If you’d like a lamp but want your light fixtures to have a little more character than a front fender can provide, then you can always try to build something like Garage 54 has done.
Dubbed “Premix” this awesome light fixture 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 lightbulb.
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, and shine it up real good for your own take on this cool design.
Throttle Cork Screw
This upcycle idea is just about the best use of a motorcycle part outside of being a working motorcycle that we’ve seen yet. 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. Orme’s design won first prize at the Birmingham City University’s Institute of Art & Design contest in 2010.
That’s right, it’s a corkscrew, 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 bottleneck. 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 goes, consider this fuel for the fire. In reality, it’s probably not the best thing to replicate as a Sunday afternoon project but it was too damn cool not to mention.
Vintage Motorcycle Rocking Horse
The corkscrew is cool, but we like this one better. What better way to revive an old motorcycle than to give it a new lease on life as your child’s new favorite toy? If you can find a bargain at the motorcycle salvage yard on 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 may be the best — because every child needs one of these growing up.
If You Can Dream It, You Can Upcycle It
The world of upcycling can turn old motorcycle salvage into useful (and cool!) things. We hope this list inspired you to think twice about the spare parts you’ve got lying around your garage. With a little elbow grease and some inspiration, who knows what creative thing you can create next.