Dave Kafton has a thing for motorcycles — not your average motorcycle, but cycles built prior to 1935.
Better yet, 1916 models and older.
Kafton’s collection of antique motorcycles dates back to 1911. A sign hanging on his wall says it all: “This area under quarantine due to motorcycle fever.”
Kafton, 57, has a passion for antique motorcycles, but he’s concerned about security issues. He doesn’t want the community to know where he lives or how many motorcycles he has.
He can collect the insurance money if his motorcycles are stolen, but how do you replace a 1911 classic? The simple answer is, you can’t.
So Kafton, a lifelong Lodi-area resident, remains busy maintaining them his and his friends’ motorcycles, serves as president of a regional antique motorcycle club and participates in races.
“Everyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with motorcycles,” he said. “I don’t know what goes on in my own weird head.”
Kafton will soon fly to Davenport, Iowa, known as the antique motorcycle city of the world, for a race on his 1920 “Iron Dinosaur” that can go 100 mph. He’s made a number of trips to Iowa.
Last year, he rode a portion of a 3,380-mile trip from Kitty Hawk, N.C., to Santa Monica on his gray 1912 Harley, called “Silent Gray Fellow” because it has a muffler.
“There were still horses on the road when it was built,” Kafton said.
In the second decade of the 20th century, riders would use the muffler whenever they went through a town or to avoid scaring horses, he said.
Kafton didn’t make it all the way to Santa Monica on his “Silent Gray Fellow,” riding only half the time because he broke nine spokes. It took him six hours to replace each broken spoke, which put him way behind other riders in the race.
Born in a house in rural Lodi that burned down when Kafton was 4, his mom bought a house on Crescent Street across from Lodi Memorial Hospital in 1958. The house was to be demolished to make room for retirement homes, but his mother bought the house for $200 and spent another $2,000 to have it towed to its present location adjacent to the old house.
Growing up in the 1960s, Kafton said he really enjoyed outlaw bikers, as exemplified in the movie “Easy Rider.” He led tours of Yosemite National Park by horseback when he was 12 and 13 years old. Two years later, he took the money he made at Yosemite and bought his first motorcycle, a 1966 model, without his parents’ knowledge.
“It’s like any other hobby; it’s just an obsession,” Kafton said matter-of-factly.
Kafton bought his first actual antique — a 1946 Harley — in 1973, when he was 19. But it wasn’t until later that he really got the bug. While he bought his first antique in 1973, the 1935 vintage he bought in 1980 at a garage sale in Lockeford made him a fanatic. What was different about this one was the bike had its original parts.
Kafton’s garage is loaded with motorcycle parts, photos, memorabilia, some of which he purchased and some that friends gave him, thinking they fit his quirky personality. He has a 1911 Pope motorcycle that’s completely rusted.
“It’s 100 years old and never been repainted,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it.”
What’a also unusual about the 1911 model is the stuffed Alf doll that sits along the handlebars.
It also seems out of place that he has a brand new flat-screen TV with all his old motorcycles and memorabilia. He noted he was watching an old TV show “Gunsmoke.”
Kafton says he also has a reputation for fixing other people’s antique motorcycles, which comes in handy because he works out of his house. His wife, Debbie, is disabled with a back injury, and he needs to be home to take care of her. She joins her husband in his garage and makes beads and bracelets when she isn’t in pain.
“It’s fun to watch (Dave Kafton), but he’s kind of obsessive,” Debbie Kafton said. “I think every man should have a hobby. It’s good for a marriage.”
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.