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Retro Rockers and their bikes that spring from the imagination


The steam punk-meets Mad Max-style of motorcycles which come out of retired mechanical engineer Brent Gatfield's Wellington garage owe a little bit to Triumph, but much more to his own creative flair.

Gatfield, aka Gat, is a member of the Retro Rockers Nostalgic Chopper Group, which is dedicated to custom motorcycles from the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

The club was founded by New Plymouth man Jake Williams who jokingly refers to the ageing motorcyclists as the Sons of Arthritis, after the television series Sons of Anarchy about a California motorcycle gang.

The club's 20 active members from around the North Island create choppers and bobbers out of old Triumph and HarleyDavidson motorcycles.

Gatfield used to restore old motorcycles till a friend told him "restoring is boring" and started him on the track of creating bobbers - pared down motorcycles with cut off mudguards and lowered forks.

He has "two and a half" bobbers in his garage, two in running order and a third he is part way through building.

He starts with the bare bones, buying a collection of spare parts, often taking over someone else's failed project.

"(Sometimes) it's just a pile of junk. Most of it I throw away because it is just rubbish and no amount of polishing is going to fix it."

A black World War II style bobber he's built is a mash up of Triumph and Harley-Davidson parts. Asked what year it is, he says, "what part are we talking about?"

"I started off with a frame. The mudguard is from America, the exhaust is from America. The fat front wheel is a Harley part."

He doesn't often buy in repro parts, preferring to make his own, often using brass and stainless steel to add style.

"I don't want the world's best, I want something that shows me - what I can do, rather than what other people can do."

The black bobber shares space in the garage with a gold Triumph 650cc Speed Twin motorcycle, its frame dating from 1948, just a year younger than Gatfield himself. It still hops along, despite its age, he says.

It used to take him about a year to build a bobber but he's slowed down a bit now he's retired.

"People say to me, 'when will it be ready?' I say, 'it will be ready when it's ready'.

"I don't get prodded along. I want to do it once and get on it and ride it and I don't want the thing to break down. Other people break down. Not me, because I pride myself on my mechanical ability."

The retro rockers help the others out on their projects, each contributing their own area of expertise, Gatfield says.

"We all help one another. Stuart Campbell is the painter, so I leave the painting to him. Daniel Turner can weld a lot better than I can so he does most of the welding. I do engines and gear boxes."

The Retro Rockers hold two club rides a year, an Easter trip, which this year will be based around Marton, and a summer ride from New Plymouth to Tapu in the Coromandel.

The Wellington members trailer their bikes to New Plymouth each year so they can ride in convoy to Tapu. It's a long distance for the old motorcycles, not all of them as reliable as Gatfield's bobbers.

"Every time we go away there is a string of broken motorcycles that need to be fixed on the side of the road in the rain. We have a trailer that we put all the broken bikes on the back of."

At Tapu the motorcycles are parked in the motor camp garage, which is just as well, Gatfield says, as most of them need some sort of repair by then.

"All the bikes we ride are old, like the people on them."

The members of the club all have numbers, with founder Jake Williams number one and Gatfield number 25 because of his affiliation with the 1960s Wellington motorcycle group, the 25 Club.

The retro rockers dress up in 1960s motorcycling gear for club runs, with Gatfield donning an old motorcycle jacket bedecked with badges and insignia.

"Whatever you do, it has got to be cool."

- Dominion Post

Original Article here.