The economy and salvage yards

thum_933495725b6bf0a9As you’ve read before, I’m starting work on a Cafe Racer project based on a 1971 Honda SL350. It’s going to be a very cool bike when it’s done but it’s going to need some surgery and odd parts. Off to the boneyard I go. I know the owner pretty well and I know he keeps odd hours, like you never know what days he is going to be open and for how long that day. Oh well. Knowing this, I decide to call first before making a fifty mile trip to find closed doors. No answer, call a couple of hours later, no answer, call the next day, you guessed it, no answer. So I call a friend who lives close by to see if there is a sign or anything that says when the place is open.  My friend calls back with some bad news. There is no sign about hours and it looks like a lot of the old bikes and stuff that you can see from the street are gone.  This is very distressing, time to open a beer.thum_933495725efe0a2b

When gas prices were at their peak earlier this year friends at motorcycle shops were telling me guys pulling old bikes out of the garage and and starting to ride again. Parts sales were pretty good, accessory sales were up and so were cheap used bikes. Not so with new bikes though.  With a lot of these old bikes being drug back out into the light of day you would think that the salvage yards might be doing a pretty brisk business, I mean a good part from a salvage yard is usually less than half the cost of new.

As gas prices started coming down and the weather stated getting a little cooler, the old bikes were relegated to the corner again. Even scooter sales that were doing so well started slowing. Motorcycles here in the U.S are looked at more as toys instead of transportation. Everywhere else in the world, small size motorbikes are a major part of the traffic scene. And with gas prices as high as they are in Europe and other areas of the world you can understand it. But, wait I’m getting off topic here, let’s get back to the boneyard.

Digging around some of the lists and forums I’m on, I’m finding that salvage yards are going the way of the DO-DO bird. They are disappearing.  Riders that work on their own motorcycles seem to be going away as well. Younger riders on newer bikes aren’t interested in crud covered old bikes and unless you have all kinds of computer stuff you can’t work on a new one.  So again, back to the salvage yard. With a bit more research and calling a couple of other salvage yards around the Southern California area, I learn that the value of all those parts is greater as scrap metal than parts. And with business slowing it’s better to send it to the smelter than to someones garage. A pretty hefty number of the motorcycle salvage yards in Southern California have closed over the past couple of years. Those of us that dabble with vintage motorcycles are find it increasingly difficult to find parts.

The econmy is hitting motorcycling in all ways, from the lowly salvage yard all the way to MotoGP. Just this morning, sources inside the Kawasaki MotoGP team leaked it that Kawasaki was pulling out of the 2009 MotoGP season. This is sending some shockwaves through the motorcycle racing world. American Honda pulled out of roadracing here in America citing economic woes. With two major players out of the game, I wonder who’s next.

Well, I think now I’ll go outside get on my trusty little Honda 350 and see if the salvage yard is open. If Greg isn’t there oh well, it’s nice day for a fifty mile ride.

1 thought on “The economy and salvage yards

  1. ChaiG

    Motorcycle salvage is a weird world. When I need a part for the old pick-up truck I can count on being able to go down to the Junk-Yard and finding the right part (most of the time) and it will end up costing me a fraction of what a NOS or aftermarket part would cost me new (as it should be).

    The motorcycle junk yard is a different animal all together. First off, I find that I usually have a about a 1 in 10 chance of finding the part (that’s if I travel to the 3 moto salvage yards within a days drive of my house). Secondly, for some reason, these guys think they’re selling parts made of gold or something. I kid-you-not, I went into a salvage yard this summer looking for some dirtbike rims for a wheel-barrow project. I picked up a pair of hubless, brakeless, dirtbike rims (probably off an 80cc bike). These things were in BAD shape, covered in rust and useless to anyone but me. I asked how much and the owner said, with a straight face no-less, $120 EACH!

    Now I could buy a used, running 80cc dirt bike of similar vintage for probably less than $400 but this guy wants $240 for some crappy rusted out rims??

    When you’re dealing with motos, you’re just better off buying a “parts bike” for whatever you’re restoring and when you’re done, try to hock what’s left on e-bay. I’m telling you these guys are on drugs!


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