Babes Ride Out

East Coast Raffle Contributor | Meet Cal Piorkowski from Retrofit

PeopleAnya Violet

Cal Piorkowski
Instagram: @captcalsretrofit

Where do you live?
Just outside Newton, which is a semi-rural town in Northwestern NJ. It’s surrounded by farm land, state parks, and some of the best riding roads in the state. It’s about a half hour from the PA/NY borders which gives easy access for riding up upstate in the Catskills or the mountains of PA.

Where are you from?
I’m originally from North Haledon, NJ a suburb near Paterson. Fun fact; I grew up in the house my great grandfather built.

What do you do and how long have you done it?
I’m a 3D animator and graphic artist by day, and I run a small motorcycle fabrication and repair shop by night with longtime friend, Ben Thollot. Our shop is overseen with a discerning eye by our in-house chopper historian, my ol’ man Joe Piorkowski.

My dad taught me how to draw and how to weld at a very young age. I¹ve been wrenching on motorcycles since I was 13. It was around that time I met Ben via my dad at the steel yard where they work. When I started working there too in my late teens, Ben and I became good friends. We shared a common interest in motorcycles and we started helping each other out with each other’s projects. As more side work streamed in, we continued to work together building bikes. Ben is like a brother to me and he's an integral part of RetroFit. I couldn¹t do half what I do without him.

How did RetroFit originally get started? What was your inspiration?
RetroFit started as a blog in 2009 as a place to post my ol’ man's huge collection of old photos and stories from back in the day. I remember as a kid flipping through his old photo albums, drooling over the old bikes he had. I didn¹t know it then, but it was definitely a seed planted for my future. On the blog I was also posting photos of the projects and different jobs Ben and I were working on. Things really started to take off after building the giveaway bikes for Strange Days 3 and 4. More and more work started coming my way through word of mouth, and it evolved into a side business for Ben and me.

Do you guys have anything in the works?
Always! We recently finished an ‘80s Kawasaki scrambler build. The finished product looked like a late ‘60s Kawasaki factory scrambler. For personal projects, I’m currently rebuilding my ol’ man’s CB750 Sidecar he’s had since the ‘70s. It sports a Harley front end, Volkswagen wheels, tires, and disc brakes and pulls a Steib sidecar. After 30 years of hard use it needs a lot of TLC. Later this year I hope to start on a top secret Ironhead project that’s been rolling around my head for a while.

What has been the hardest or best (or both) parts of your job?
The best part about running RetroFit is helping see a customer’s idea come to fruition. The look on their face when they hear their bike fire up for the first time. When they see the custom part you made for them and they say “that’s exactly what I had envisioned.” It’s so satisfying. I love working on motorcycles and I love even more helping someone get their project on the road. Being a desk pilot is not for me, the ultimate goal is to be running RetroFit full time.

Tell us about your life in motorcycling. How long have you been riding / favorite bike / what are you currently riding, etc.:
I’ve been around motorcycles all my life. I believe I was about a year old when I got my first ride on my dad’s ’78 shovelhead. He’s been the biggest inspiration and support for my irrational decisions in my motorcycle life. I’ve been riding for almost 12 years. Favorite bike? Man that’s tough. They’re all my favorites, that’s why I have them all. haha. If I had to choose it would be my 1979 XS650, my first bike, and first bike I built. It was given to me in pieces from a good friend, and I learned a lot on that bike.

Tell us about your best moto trip:
Probably the most memorable trip, for unexpected reasons, was the 2014 Brooklyn Invitational trip I took with good friends Jay, Virginia, Chris, Samantha and Ben. We were all packed with tents and sleeping bags like we were headed for the mountains but instead we were heading into NYC. Some of the looks we got were priceless. We had rooftop camping in Greenpoint thanks to Rachael at Heavy Leather. There were numerous breakdowns the entire weekend. Virginia had a headlight fall off crossing the Manhattan Bridge, and Chris road up along side and caught it before it smashed on the pavement, I snapped a throttle cable and had to work the cable wrapped around my hand while navigating city traffic. To top it off, around 4am a cop was playing leapfrog with us on Park Ave under the BQE. We all could have gotten tickets because at this point all of our shit is busted in one form or another. We stopped at a light and they pulled up next to us and they started blasting “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” out of their PA system. The cops were dancing in their car with their hands up and laughing. We then burst out laughing. The light turned green and we split. We breathed a collective sigh of relief. It turned out to be quite the epic weekend.

How did you hear about Babes Ride Out?
From Virginia Hall and Samantha Hoy when they went out to the Babes Ride Out 2 in Joshua Tree.

What did you first think about Babes Ride Out?
I thought it was a killer idea. Men mostly dominate the scene so it’s fresh to see a new grass roots event that’s for women, by women.

What makes you interested in supporting Babes Ride Out?
Not that I can attend haha, but I was really stoked to hear that there was going to be an “East Coast” version of Babes Ride Out. And even more stoked to hear that Virginia would be managing it. You couldn’t have picked a better person to manage an all-girl East Coast riding event. The ride in and camp out concept is what I support because that’s what it’s all about, right? Ride the shit out of your bike with good friends, camp out, make new friends, break down and make even more friends. Bike shows are great, you can witness some amazing work by some select talented people. However, everyone can participate in an event like Babes Ride Out. The ones who show up are the event.

Can you tell us a little about what you're building for BRO?
We’re making a custom “Babes Ride Out" polished stainless sissy bar for a swing arm evo Sportster. Stainless steel sissybars are kind of our specialty and we love the opportunity to build one to give away. It’s simple, functional, and supports the idea of riding in and camping out, bringing groceries home, or strapping a 30 pack to your bike.

Anything we left out?
Retrofit is a collaborative effort. We’re a garage-based shop for garage-based people. Custom motorcycles are very personal experience and we like to include the customer in all steps of the process, so they get to learn along the way as well. We can do all types of custom fab work, light machine work, custom wiring, and repairs. If you think of it, we’ll find a way to do it.