Magnetic Motorcycle Sign




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When taking long motorbike rides you sometimes need to share information with other riders or motorists while en route, depending on your riding pals and the destination the information may change but usually involves a simple set of basic thoughts which you need to communicate.

Imagine you're on a long ride with your buddies and need to top up with some gas, want to take a picture of some scenery nearby or maybe use the rest stop. Or maybe you're riding along with a caravan of cars and you need to let them know something about you and the rest of the riders. There must be a better way to communicate with other motorists other than confusing hand gestures.
Make a magnetic motorcycle sign and easily share your thoughts!

This magnetic sign sticks to your tank to stay out of your way while riding and all the magnetic game pieces are interchangeable, giving you loads of options for messages possible with this concept.

Check out a video of the magnetic motorcycle sign in action!

Riding with one hand is really cool dangerous, be safe!

Haters: make sure you sound-off in the comments below, and while you're at it check out my other dangerous motorcycle Instructable.

Enough talk, let's make!

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Step 1: Tools + Materials


  • drill with metal bit
  • sharp fine-top hobby knife
  • hot glue
  • sketchbook
  • pencil
  • scissors


  • craft sheet foam (black + white)
  • magnetic sheet (bonus: one adhesive side)
  • large magnets
  • spackle knife (putty knife)
  • filing cabinet drawer separator (or other sheet metal)
  • post-it notes
  • scrap felt (or other fabric)
  • nuts and bolts

Step 2: Sketch Out Some Ideas

Brainstorm some common things that you would communicate when you're riding, then sketch out some simple icons.
Here's some I came up with:
  • food
  • restroom
  • scenery stop
  • take a picture
  • gas
  • rest
  • engine trouble
  • zombie attack
Search the internet for images of icons that you think might be helpful, then use image editing software to combine the icons onto one sheet and print. If you're lazy, or don't have a photo editing software, and just want the images here's some prototype icons I already put into a printer-friendly format (link and link)

If you can't find the image you're looking for you can always make your own. I sketched out some ideas onto 7.5cmx7.5cm (3"x3") post-it notes, these post-it notes are the right size for the icons to be seen a distance.

These paper sketches will be used as a template to make the foam icons.

Step 3: Cut Out Foam and Stick on Magnets

Place post-it with icon sketch over foam black foam and trace the image outline and all internal areas with a sharp hobby knife, then change over to white foam and cut out any internal areas again. Remove all shapes from foam, place the white foam cut outs in the corresponding openings on the black foam cut out.

Transfer the combined foam cut-out on the adhesive side of sheet magnet. If your magnetic sheet doesn't have an adhesive backing then use any kind of adhesive.
Trim excess magnetic sheet from foam icon.

Repeat for every icon you want. Simplicity works best when selecting your images, the more complex the shape the more difficult the cut.

Step 4: Drill Handle

Using a metal drill bit drill corresponding openings in spackle knife handle and a corner of the sheet metal. Mechanically fasten the spackle knife to the sheet metal with at least 3 nuts.

I mounted my knife on an angle to give a more ergonomic posture when holding the sign.

Step 5: Wrap Magnets in Felt

To prevent the magnets from damaging my tank I wrapped each in scrap felt and used hot glue to hold down the edges.

Arrange magnets onto back side of the sign and then place sheet onto gas tank of motorbike.

Step 6: Tell 'em What You Think!

With your sign stuck to your tank you're ready to ride!
Take a bunch of magnetic icons with you the next time you plan on taking a long trip and you can share your thoughts en route. Not sure which game pieces you're going to need? Bring them all! The extra game pieces can be stuck to the underside of the sign.

Did you make your own version of magnetic motorcycle sign? Place a picture of your version of this project in the comments below.

Be safe, always ride within your experience and have fun!

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    21 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I need one of these to let cagers know why I'm beeping at them... Its so frustrating sometimes when they cut you off without even realizing it.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    quite positive that they manufacture communication devices that allow one motorcyclist to communicate with another. Granted they are more expensive then this. What my friends and i do is "follow the leader" if someone behind the "leader" needs to fill up or use the bathroom, eat etc. They will just take over as the leader. We seem to do fine without signs or magnets or even com devices.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    What about a blinkey LED, an LCD screen, a half dozen pushbuttons and a Bluetooth network. Push the appropriate button and everybody's LED blinks while the LCD displays the message and who sent it.

    Obviously more involved than the sign, and maybe not as fun.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like your idea but i can see some problems with it...
    like having to use a hand to move the shapes and also show the board. It could be more of a risk than a help, but good base concept though :-D


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting concept. I do like that you allude to it's danger.

    @johnp9, we motorcyclist actually have a set hand signals developed by the MSF to convey most of the pertinent information. Unfortunately we're at a loss when it comes to zombies.

    Now, for general zombie/traffic/pedestrian disbursement I recommend a drum fed semiautomatic shotgun using a mechanical actuator wired to the horn.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The zombie signal could be raising a hand in a claw and move it aimlessly for a while :P


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work. Great video, too. What images did you consider using on the board but ultimately decide against? Zombies and ?! made the cut, but what about a sign for impending rain? Or your phone number should you happen to ride past a pretty lady? What ideas didn't make it into the final product? Give us some insight into your process.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea of giving my phone number to pretty ladies, and it puts her in danger too as she's trying to drive and write it down! Danger+pretty ladies=Fits my MO perfectly!

    The other icons that I considered were
    • Godzilla
    • air strike
    • engine trouble
    • racing flags
    • guy reclining
    These didn't make it into the final cut as I thought they were either too difficult to cut out or self-evident (Godzilla's spikes would have been a nightmare and engine trouble usually means your bike would just stop, so no sign required).

    Your suggestion of impending rain is a good one, and something that I had not considered. I think after I made the first few practical ones (gas, ?! and speedometer) I wanted to take it to the next level and be able to whip out a few crazy ones to really confuse my riding buddies (zombies). Sometimes my brain skips the logical steps and goes right for the obscure.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I was thinking you gun it, and then let go.  I was thinking that you should be safe and I'm glad you wore a helmet for the videos.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Cool idea Mike! Is wind an issue? Do you risk losing this at full speed, or is the spackle knife a sturdy enough gripping point that you don't have to worry about it?

    1 reply

    Thanks Ian!
    The spakle knife is a inherently flimsy, but the metal sheet is located low enough on the handle so it's pretty sturdy. Also, the sign is held in the direction of the wind, so it cuts into it rather than catching it (though when it does catch it really catches). So using this at high speeds isn't advised.
    You'd probably loose the icon magnets before anything else!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice documentation! I'm wondering if you could use a ciricuit board in lieu of the sheet metal, since then you could wire up some kind of handheld turn signal.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Not a bad idea. You could also use the military aviator hand signals. HEFOE is the acronym they use. Hydraulic, Electrical, Fuel, Oxygen, Engine. Traditionally, tap the top of your helmet twice with your hand and then hold up the number of fingers relating to the acronym letter. One finger for Hydraulic, etc. You can be creative with the interpretation. One finger Hydraulic could mean pit stop. Four fingers could mean you need a smoke, etc.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    As a non-motorcycle rider, I have to wonder if that board would still be in your hands at 55+ mph. The wind resistance on it would probably be huge. A better idea might be to make a set of LED lights on a board that attached to the side of the gas tank, or near the back fender. Maybe set it up so you just push a button and the corresponding icon would flash. Still, your idea is decent and practical.

    3 replies

    Yup, that's definitely a "debris hazard" on the road. What I usually just do is flip open my visor, ride up right next to my buddy, and yell it directly to him. For the most part it works. I'll add a few hand gestures in there too (i.e. point to the gas tank for gas, 5-0 hand gesture for cops, or use the universal motorcycle hand gestures.)

    I do think it would be a cool thing to try out the LED sign. I could also tell car drivers on the ride what I think of them when they piss me off this their oblivious driver skills. A tiny honk from motorcycles just doesn't do the trick...

    Yeah, I've seen your instructable before. But if it comes to having make a mount to carry something to tell them to drive correct, it won't be a "bonK', it'll be a baseball bat.
    If it comes to getting their attention hitting their car with something, it better make a definitive statement.