A Motorcycle Junk Yard Ponder…

Story by Stu Seaton// Photos by Stu Seaton
January 1 2008

Thomas Edison, a genius inventor and the world record holder of one thousand and ninety three patents, was once quoted as saying, “To invent something, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” To that end I’m a sucker for a good junkyard, cars, old farm equipment and, especially, motorcycle salvage yards.

Junk yards have grown up over the last few years and by that I don’t mean they just got bigger, no, they’ve matured into poster children for the three R’s, reduce, re-use and recycle. No longer do discarded vehicles immediately get squashed into an unrecognizable cube containing some Mafia bad guy. Now the good stuff is removed, catalogued and stocked for resale; fluids are recaptured in an environmentally safe manner to be recycled. Then it gets squished up with a Mafia bad guy inside. Best of all, at most yards there’s a “U-Pull It” compound. That’s where scroungers, like yours truly, find piggy heaven.

There are a few motorcycle salvage yards around southern Ontario and I recently took a stroll through Peterborough Cycle Salvage, mainly because it’s close by and has a strong magnetic attraction on guys like me. I walked through the well-stocked and busy showroom, looked at some of the new Ural weapons of war and then wandered out to the U-Pull-It yard. Ya, now we’re talkin’. Row upon row of memories lay ready for launch, wow, a 500 Kawi Triple! I had one just like it, lost the tranny plug out of it while slightly above the posted speed limit. Woo, never forgot that feeling… On the end of a row sits a Honda Gold Wing, all stripped down; so that’s what they look like when they’re naked…Cool, always wondered about that. A couple of lads are busy tugging a master cylinder off a Suzuki of unknown vintage with one wrench and a pair of vice grips. They were oblivious to me standing there; I got the feeling that this was a mission for them. Other folks were on a wander with a shopping list in one hand and a toolbox in the other. I stood back watching and wondering how many classics should thank their resurrected soul for yards like this where you can still get a chrome toaster tank panel for a 305 Honda Dream and cylinders for a water buffalo.

Every junkyard also has its morbid alley and it’s impossible not to have a peek at bikes that were subjected to a ‘one–off’ test of mass, velocity and opposite forces. Twisted up hulks that make you shiver and silently quote some dopey saying like ‘There but for the grace of God go I’. Hmm, goose bumps. I just hope the riders were absent when whatever happened, happened. The U-Pull-It guy leans back, scrubs out a butt and says: “Yessir, all those bikes were simultaneously hit while parked on Smith St. by a deranged dump truck driver. Nobody got a scratch, funny how there were bikes from the seventies right through to this year, must have been an interesting party.”

I was also impressed by the amount of plastic fairing panels that were available; they were hanging all over the place like brightly coloured wind chimes. I couldn’t help but connect the dots between all this plastic and a bit of YouTube I recently watched as to why some sport bike riders must be forever replacing bits of plastic, wearing scads of Band-Aids and sending their insurance rates through the roof. Just as an aside; and I hope someone can set me straight on this, why do some sport bike riders do really daft stunts dressed in baggy jeans, running shoes and a tee shirt? Sorry, I don’t get it. Going to ground at any speed really, really hurts. Honest, I’ve tried. That being said, and in a junk yard context, meathead #1 wrecks the right side of a bike, then meathead #2 gets to buy the remaining left side at bargain basement prices from a motorcycle salvage yard. Hey, it’s a never-ending supply and demand situation, a marketer’s dream come true. The formula goes something like this: 1 meathead + 1 powerful bike + 2 parts of non-existent, but perceived talent = 1 available wreck at yer local junkyard. Okay, for all the Professional Engineers out there, the 2 parts of non-existent but perceived talent may vary, so don’t quote me.

The other neat thing about motorcycle salvage yards is that if they don’t have it in their U-Pull-It yard, or in salvage stock, some yards can probably come up with it through their salvage e-network. Simply state what it is you need and hang tight, the answer isn’t far off, unless it’s for a 78 Moto Guzzi, then the wait may be substantial. Go figure.

The next time you pass a motorcycle salvage yard, hit the brakes, pull a U-ee and go in for a wander of your own. They are wonderful places to ponder late motorcycle history and revive a few memories of your own. It may also be the place that spurs you into building your own classic or substantially increasing your very own pile of ‘gotta-have’ junk. Follow old Tom’s advice, get the junk and then imagine. Who knows what you’ll end up with, heck, it might even work! <


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