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Remembering John Parham, 1954-2017

John Parham with a Harley-Davidson

John and Jill ParhamJohn Parham dedicated most of his life to motorcycling and to his wife, Jill. With passion and perseverance, through tough times and success, together they created J&P Cycles in 1979 and helped motorcyclists worldwide enjoy two-wheel adventures. Later, John devoted his time and resources to amassing one of the world's largest and most comprehensive personal collections of motorcycles, in excess of 300 machines, and found a home for many of them when he moved the National Motorcycle Museum to his hometown of Anamosa, Iowa. Then he again invested his time and talent to make this a great place to preserve and present American motorcycling history. He worked tirelessly until his long battle with pulmonary fibrosis consumed him, and now he's at rest with the Lord. John's battle ended peacefully with Jill and son Zach at his side.

5-year-old John Parham

John at age 5.

John's parents were the late John William Parham and wife, Anna. He had two siblings, both younger, Luann and Mark, and the family originally lived in Shelby, Iowa, both parents involved in education.

The National Motorycle Museum

Inside the National Motorcycle Museum.

John would remind us that a lung transplant in 2010 gave him almost seven more years to enjoy his grandchildren, Kaiden and Kinlee, wife Jill, son Zach and his wife Bree, and all his motorcycling friends, and to see the new Museum to its finish and current state of success. John has been so appreciative of the organ donation program, his doctors and the person who lost their life, but in the end helped John live on for so long.

John Parham with the American Pickers

John and the American Pickers.

If a man is to be measured by the size of his circle of friends and, in this case, those who admired his work building J&P Cycles and the Museum, the list would be very long, perhaps as long as any in motorcycling. Those experts who helped John locate and restore many motorcycles, locate fine memorabilia, John would credit in his success as well.

The members of the industry he asked for counsel and ideas, John was careful to remember and give credit as well. Though J&P Cycles is now in the capable hands of their son Zach Parham, those same confident customers follow and support the Museum as well. Unmatched drive helped John perfect product development, point of purchase and direct marketing through catalogs of up to 1,100 pages earning industry awards for the sheer volume of retail sales; John turned his motorcycling passion into successful retailing. Detail oriented, always evolving the product line at J&P Cycles, and creating new Museum exhibits, John loved to see fellow riders taking in whatever the show or event might be, enjoying their part of motorcycling. DealerNews magazine named J&P Cycles the "World's Largest Aftermarket Retailer" and the company has been a Top 100 Dealer many times. With over 300 local employees, the success of J&P Cycles also strengthened the Anamosa, Iowa, Jones County community. In whatever way they chose, John wanted people to enjoy motorcycling, was very conscious of customer service, always working for happy customers and, if asked, sharing what he'd learned in his broad personal motorcycling experience.

Enjoying motorcycles in action John created events like swap meets, bike shows, drag races, even first organized vintage motorcycle dirt track racing at the BlackHawk Antique Motorcycle Club swap meet at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa. Taking the store to the customer, John set up massive displays at events like Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and March and October Bike Weeks in Daytona Beach, Florida later building an impressive 40,000-square-foot store at Destination Daytona.

John Parham at the AMA Hall of Fame ceremony

Along the way, in 2015, John was elected into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, a grand reward for his decades of work in the motorcycle industry and motorcycle museum world.

Painting of John Parham by David Uhl

Painting of John done by David Uhl.

John Parham on a motorcycle

Photo used for the J&P Cycles 2015 Vintage Catalog.

The motorcycling community has lost one of its most passionate, considerate, entrepreneurial and successful people and he will be greatly missed. Anticipating what would be John's choice, friends are encouraged to sign up for and support the organ donation program in their community and continue their support of the National Motorcycle Museum where a special Exhibition Development Fund will be created.

Whisperlite Universal Stove by Aerostich


Eating well

If you’re really into touring — especially offroad adventure touring — a good camp stove is a necessity. But with storage space typically at a premium, what’s the best stove to pack? Touring specialist Aerostich recommends the Whisperlite Universal Stove. The hybrid-fuel stove burns canister fuel or switches to burn white gas, kerosene or unleaded gas, letting you use your bike as a mobile fuel supply. Light, stable and easy to use, it’s the perfect stove for motorcyclists. $129. MC

3rd Invitational Why We Ride to The Quail Raising Funds for Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation

Participants pose for a group shot

The "Why We Ride" film, released in 2013 has become the #1 motorcycle movie in America because it is a story about who we are. It told the stories of individuals with a desire to dream, to discover and to explore. The movie hit an emotional nerve with riders and it has spawned an entire social movement within the industry. Director, Producer Bryan H. Carroll and Producer James Walker decided they needed to do something with this passion group of fans and out of that brainstorm came  Why We Ride MOTOvational Events. The 3rd Invitational Why We Ride to the Quail is the largest annual charity event and will take place May 4, 5 and 6. The ride begins in Moorpark and heads to picturesque Pismo Beach, California, moves up into the wooded hillsides and gorgeous valleys of Paso Robles wine country, following the Carmel River along the most seductive canyon road in California, and arriving at the beaches of Monterey in time for The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. All proceeds go to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

“Three years ago we thought we would attract only 'motorcycle people’ on the ride,” says Bryan Carroll, producer of Why We Ride Films, organizers of the event. “Quickly we realized that like the movie, our audience was really people who ride motorcycles, which is a very different approach and made a huge difference. That approach expanded our sponsor base, and is responsible for an bigger ride this year — and being able to contribute more to our charity. I’m proud of our team for seeing our potential for good, and pushing harder every year.”

That huge difference is resulting in people of all stripes with a common love of motorcycle riding coming together and taking part. Of course, everyone loves a good cause, but the diversity of sponsors and participants really illustrates how the Hollywood and motorcycling communities have united to benefit those in need, namely children with serious medical issues. A combination of top motorcycle and riding accessories manufacturers have joined with the biggest and best equipment makers and creative service providers in Hollywood, and the unique nature of the 3-day ride (the only one of its kind) allows companies to demo products along the way.

Motorcycles on a highway

“One of the reasons we have multiple OEMs sponsoring us is because this is about why we ride not what we ride,” says Carroll. “I wanted to bring my two passions to this ride, which is making movies and anything with an engine in it, and this year’s sponsors have captured that.”

Participants in the charity ride enjoy a bevy of perks (in addition to the awesome ride), including cocktails and vittles at the WWR Riders Dinner, gift bags, special guest speakers and VIP access to The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, including private ride to the event, exclusive parking and private lounge access.

Sponsors for The 3rd Invitational Why We Ride to The Quail include: Company 3, Refuse Specialists, Indian Motorcycle, Nuviz, Newbox Solutions, Kawasaki Motorcycles, Macro Space, Aerial Vuz, Gnarlynow Entertainment, Lightning Entertainment, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Klock Werks, D73, Motorcycle Mover LA, 805bling, Doffo Winery, LA Motorcyclist, FastHouse, Formosa Group, Fotokem, Lucky Fools, Harvest Construction, Egrafz, Alpinestars, EPS-Cineworks, AMA, idPlatforms, Bill Bavelas Family and Tim Mitchel Family.

About Why We Ride Films: Why We Ride Films is the production team behind Why We Ride, a feature length documentary film. Since its December 2013 release, it has quickly become the most critically acclaimed motorcycle movie of all time. Independently distributed by producer/director Bryan H. Carroll and producer James Walker — recipients of American Motorcyclist Magazine’s 2014 Motorcyclists of the Year award — Why We Ride’s aim is to use the power of cinema not only to entertain but also educate, inspire and celebrate the world of motorcycling with audiences worldwide. To learn more about Why We Ride, visit

Motorcycle Maps by Butler Motorcycle Maps


Motorcycle maps

GPS makes plotting a route easier, but what if you’re not sure which route to take? Butler Motorcycle Maps has that covered with maps plotted and ridden by its own team of riders. Routes on the waterproof maps are rated and include detailed descriptions to ensure your ride, paved or offroad, is the adventure you’re looking for. Separate maps and bundled maps of scenic rides complete with route DVDs are available. The ultimate motorcyclist’s map resource. Single maps $14.95. Bundles $24.95 and up. MC

The Motorcycle as Art: ‘Classic Motorcycles: The Art of Speed’


Classic Motorcycles: The Art of Speed. Cover courtesy Motorbooks

Visually, there has never been another book like Classic Motorcycles: The Art of Speed. An examination of 50 classic motorcycles written by motorcycle author Patrick Hahn with photography by Tom Loeser, it is without question the most arresting and innovative presentation of classic motorcycles ever produced.

The motorcycle as art has a fairly short history, its path often tracked as starting with the Guggenheim Museum’s 1998 Art of the Motorcycle installation, an exhibit viewed by more than 300,000 people, the largest in the history of the museum. The exhibit’s success rested on the careful and insightful selection of machines and their display, providing an opportunity for the public at large to examine and appreciate the motorcycle for its historical, industrial and cultural impact — and as art.

Using a technique called light painting, Loeser photographed 50 vintage motorcycles from the collection of the internationally renowned Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum in Solvang, California. The motorcycles, ranging from a 1903 Mitchell to a 1994 Britten V1000, are all historically and culturally important, whether because of innovations of style or mechanical capacity. And while Hahn’s authoritative narratives provide essential background on each motorcycle chosen, it is Loeser’s photographs that draw the reader in.

In a conventional photographic session, particularly in a studio setting, a photographer uses light boxes and reflectors to get the desired lighting effect. There are limitations to this, particularly in terms of achieving even, uniform illumination and color rendering of the subject. For his light paintings, Loeser placed each bike in a pitch-dark room. He then illuminated the subject bikes using hand-held, battery-powered lamps employing remote phosphor technology, which provides cleaner, more color-correct illumination than LED or incandescent light. Loeser set the camera on a tripod, taking a series of eight to 15 second exposures, making multiple passes with the light across the bike to literally “paint” the bike with light. These brush strokes were repeated as necessary to capture every feature of each bike, with as many as 30 passes or strokes sometimes made. The process is time-consuming and exacting: Loeser says it took 10 to 11 hours to photograph two bikes, and that was before applying himself to the task of digitally stitching the completed images together. Given the arduous process involved in making the finished images, the book’s sub-title, The Art of Speed, seems somehow ironic.

The results of Loeser’s efforts are stunning. While the images at first appear “doctored” to some viewers, they’re not. The effect we see, the motorcycles uniformly illuminated in a way that almost lifts them off the page, is a result of the process of light painting, which enhances and broadcasts details with a clarity that’s almost eerie. One of the greatest books featuring the motorcycle as art of all time. Motorbooks; 224 pages, $50. To order a copy, visit our store. — Richard Backus

Motorcycle Leather Dressing by Pecard

Pecard's Motorcycle Leather Dressing. Photo by Landon Hall

Pecard leather dressing

The mark of a favorite piece of gear around here is when it gets used year after year, even with newer options around. I’ve had this Joe Rocket Sonic 2.0 perforated leather jacket since August 2006, and it immediately turned into a favorite, becoming my go-to jacket anytime temperatures were above 65 F or so, which means I’ve been wearing it for the bulk of my yearly riding.

I haven’t given this jacket much care: It’s been wiped down with a wet cloth five or six times in its life, but that’s it. The Sonic 2.0 is made from drum-dyed cowhide, and while the finish on the leather held up and looked sharp for five years or so, after 11 years it was beyond due for some attention.

My jacket had some wear spots on the leather, a brown shade showing underneath. To restore it, I started with Pecard’s Motorcycle Black Weatherproof Dressing, which, they say, “contains a small amount of black tint” to cover up abrasions. After lightly cleaning the leather with a damp cloth, I applied the dressing using a soft, dry cloth, working it into the leather. The dressing did wonders. Not only did it re-dye the rough edges and worn cuffs, it restored the sun-faded jacket to an even coloring again. As a further bonus, it also moisturized the leather, making it softer and suppler.

After letting the jacket “dry,” the dressing soaked in nicely. I figured it could use one more coat, so for round two I used Pecard’s standard Motorcycle Leather Dressing, applying it outside and in the sun on a 65 F day, letting the leather warm up and really soak in the dressing. I put on a heavy coating, and then hung it inside to soak in for a few more days. As the photos show, the difference between “before” and “after” is night and day, with my favorite jacket returned to its former glory — only better. $7 each (4 oz). — Landon Hall

Before photo of Editor Hall's jacket. Photo by Landon Hall


After photo of Editor Hall's jacket. Photo by Landon Hall


Brake Arcing Service by Race Tech

Race Tech’s proprietary tool in place to machine the 1973 BMW R75/5 front drum. Photo courtesy Race Tech

Race Tech brake arcing service

After reading my vent a few issues back about the poor front brake performance on my 1973 BMW R75/5, vintage suspension specialist Matt Wiley at Race Tech contacted me, asking if I knew about Race Tech’s brake arcing service for drum brakes. Briefly, brake arcing  involves machining the brake drum so that it’s perfectly round, then matching the brake shoes to the drum for optimum contact. Back when drum brakes were the norm, brake arcing was common, but with the advent of disc brakes it’s become an increasingly rare and specialized service. After talking with Matt, I decided to test the concept.

Before sending my wheel off for service, I checked it against Race Tech’s requirements. First up was inspecting for any loose spokes; they must be properly tensioned and the wheel must run straight and true. Re-tensioning the wheel after machining runs the risk of pulling the drum out of shape, negating any improvements. Next was thoroughly cleaning the brake backing plate before installing new shoes (you can use your old ones if they’re good, but why would you?) and making sure the brake cams were properly lubed. Following that I inspected both wheel bearings (if they’re old or suspect, replace them), then I confirmed the wheel axle was straight before shipping the wheel — complete with brake backing plate and axle — to Race Tech in Corona, California.

Black lines act as cutting guide; when they’re gone, the drum’s done. Photo courtesy Race Tech

Getting true

At Race Tech, the wheel is set in a work stand supported by its axle. The inside face of the drum is then marked with black squiggly lines. Next, a specially made cutting tool designed by Race Tech founder Paul Thede is centered on the wheel axle. An air-powered rotary cutting head attached to the tool is adjusted to just touch the drum face. As the cutting head spins, the tool slowly revolves around the drum, the cutter removing metal as it does. The black squiggles act as a guide, showing high spots as material is removed; wherever black still shows, the drum hasn’t been cut. This is done in multiple passes, the cutter removing as little material as possible with each pass until a clean surface remains.

The shoes are cut next. In this step, the shoes — complete with backing plate — are held in place while another rotary cutter, set up to exactly duplicate the arc and diameter of the cut on the drum, matches the cut to the shoes, ensuring the shoes are exactly concentric to the drum. Simple in concept, it takes the right tools and skill to do it correctly.

Ten days after sending it out, my wheel was back and ready for installation, but not before draining the forks and refilling them with fresh 15 weight fork oil. Finally, I slipped new fork gaiters in place before reinstalling the forks and bolting the wheel back up.

I knew when I started that the original brake cable was stretched almost to the limit, so I turned to Barnett Clutches & Cables for a replacement. Barnett can custom make cables for just about any application, and less than a week after relaying the necessary specs to Ivan at Barnett a new cable showed up in the mail.

With the new cable installed, it was time to adjust the brakes. A twin-leading-shoe design, the BMW setup needs to be properly adjusted to work well. First, the brake arms need to be correctly oriented: If you remove them, mark them first to make sure they go back in their original position. Next, tension the brake cable until the rear shoe just touches the drum. Pull the brake lever; the rear shoe should touch the drum first, followed almost immediately by the front. The front shoe is adjusted with the brake shoe stop, located just behind the forward brake arm on the brake backing plate. To adjust tighter, hold the brake stop with a 5mm Allen wrench and loosen the 13mm lock nut. Pull lightly on the brake lever and turn the stop with the Allen wrench until you can feel it hitting against the brake inside the backing plate. Turn it back slightly, lock it in place, then check the pull of both arms when squeezing the lever. It takes a bit of fiddling, moving the stop in and out, but what you’re looking for is an even pull between the front and rear arms, with the rear making initial contact, followed immediately by the front.

Brake backing plate with shoes jigged up on Race Tech’s brake arcing tool to cut and match the profile of the shoes to the drum. Photo courtesy Race Tech

Brakes away

With everything back together I made several runs up and down a low-traffic road, running up to speed before hitting the brakes hard to heat them up, followed by a rest to let them cool, repeating this several times to bed the new brake shoes to the freshly machined drum. The result? Wow. The new cable and proper adjustment were a big help, no question, but the front brakes, previously feeble at best, now bite with authority, pulling the BMW down from speed with confidence. The pull on the lever is firm, and the small amount of “chatter” I used to get with a really firm tug on the lever is completely gone.

So what price performance? Race Tech charges $200-$225 for the service, with shipping extra. New Ferodo shoes set me back $77. Add $34.60 for the cable and the total was around $335. Given the return — properly working brakes I can count on — if you’re actually riding your classic, I’d call this one of the smartest performance upgrades you can make. — Richard Backus