Dennis Zickrick, Honda CB750 Authority
By Eric Melvin
Dennis Zickrick and Eric Melvin stand with Eric's 1981 Honda CB750K.
“Eric, my name is Dennis. I’m an authority on the Honda CB750 and I heard you have a problem. If you still have a problem I can help. If you need parts I can help. Call me if you need to”. That was the voicemail I received amongst several emails after I posted on Craigslist for technical advice for an issue I was having with my 1981 Honda CB750K. Several people emailed with advice however I got my problem solved a couple days later with the help of some friends. The pulse generator was out of specification which through the timing off. We reset it and I was back to riding.
I emailed or called everyone back that offered advice although I was most curious about the guy who had left me the message saying he was an authority on Honda CB750. When I called the number left in my voicemail it rang four times before it picked up. Cutting through loud background noises a voice said “Hello, this is Dennis.” I responded, “Dennis this is Eric from Craigslist with the CB750. You left me a message last week. I’m calling to thank you for offering your help. I got the problem solved and I’m back on the road.” I began to ask him about his experience with CB750’s when he explained that he was out of state and then was not a great time to talk. He asked if we could talk the following week when he was back in town. I agreed and we hung up.
The following week I got a call from Dennis. He said that he’d like to meet me and see my bike. He gave me directions and a time to visit. I went to meet him a few days later and it was a short jaunt only 7 blocks from where I lived. I rode through the alley to the garage door. When I turned the corner and up to the parking spot the overhead door was open. I saw many familiar bikes inside and out that grabbed my attention including a Honda 650 Nighthawk, VF1000F interceptor, a 1984 GPZ 900R Ninja and a 1979 KZ1000. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s helped me have a deep appreciation for bikes from those years. I knew I was in an interesting place.
I waited outside for a few minutes when a man with a silver goatee walked towards me. “I’m Dennis,” he said. We stood there for almost an hour talking about my bike as well as the others in his shop which belonged to friends or customers. During our talk Dennis’s phone rang several times and we ended our talk. We shook hands and I accepted his offer to come back another time. A second conversation with Dennis ended without asking him about his claim of being a CB 750 authority. I had no idea who he was or about the fate, treasure and surprise that I had found that day.
Born to ride a Honda
I’ve been around motorcycles most of my life and they’ve had a profound impact on me, especially Honda. I started riding during a snowy month of March 1979 on a Honda Z50R. I grew up in Silverthorne, Colorado and Summit Honda was only two miles away from our house. My older brother Jim started working there at 13 and stayed 7 years. His first job there was to keep the foundation cement wet to prevent it from cracking in the summer sun. Jim worked for two different owners while there. He saw many changes to Honda motorcycles including the DOHC CB 750, V4 engines and mono shock suspension. Summit Honda had sent Jim to Honda tech school in California for training on the V4’s. I used to love to go see Jim at the shop and look at the bikes. Jim started racing enduros then went to motocross in 1983. He raced Hondas from 1981 to 1986 and finished on Yamaha in 1990. I was the pit guy, bike cleaner and beverage distributor during his motocross days on the SRAC (Sport Riders Association of Colorado) race circuit. We drove lots of miles with bikes in the back of Chevy El Caminos and various pickup trucks. I started racing motocross in 1984 and had a mid-air double jump collision with another rider. I ended up in the hospital after the crash. I had started and retired from racing the same day. The next summer I got a nice treat when I got to meet and get autographs from some of my boyhood Honda motocross heroes including Bob Hannah, Johnny O’Mara, Ron Lechien, David Bailey and Rick Johnson at a national race held at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, CO. Later on I would meet other Honda greats such as Jeremy McGrath.
During high school and first two years of college I rode Honda XL’s with my first being a 1974 XL 175. It was my main form of transportation for two years. My senior year in high school I upgraded to a 1982 XL500R which I rode for three years. When I was 21 I sold my 1983 XL600R to get a truck. When I was 23 I bought my first street bike. It was a red (go figure) 1992 Yamaha XJ600 Seca II. It was my main form of transportation for four years. That was a fun inline four and I enjoyed each of the 17,000 miles I put on it. I sold the Seca to get a car. I was without a bike for almost three years and I was aching to ride again. I started the search for my next bike. I knew I wanted a Honda and had my mind set on a VFR or CB750. Being a Honda fan I knew the legend of their 750’s and what it did for motorcycling. I looked at several bikes and rode a few including a trashed 1980 CB750F with a flat tire, a steady oil leak, taped on turn signals and a missing side cover.
The 1981 Honda CB750K
I settled on a 1981 Honda CB750K that what was behind my dad’s place in Dotsero, Colorado. The bike belonged to a guy he worked with. He stored it there and never came back. It was left to die with only 3,263 miles on it. It had a partially melted instrument cluster, full-size fairing, backrest / lunchbox rack and crash bars. Every time I was at my dad’s I went around back to see it. Every time I saw the 750 I had a vision of how I wanted it to look and sound if it was mine. After two years my dad got a hold of the owner and told him I wanted it. He met with my dad to give him the title and bill of sale and to collect the $600 he was asking for it. The first day of my life with a CB750 started in April 1999.
The day I picked up my 750 I replaced the plugs, wires, battery, oil and filters. I lubed the chain, drained the old gas and put two fresh gallons in. I also spent much time cleaning mouse nests, cobwebs, dust and grime. After cranking for several minutes it coughed and sputtered but finally started. It ran rough but I managed a quick ride down a short dirt road on the weathered tires I had filled with a bicycle pump. It was running on two cylinders and the carburetors needed cleaning which Jim helped me do the next day. The 750 had finally come to life at the end of April 1999. I put over 5,000 miles on it the first year. I had no idea how special this bike was and how it would change my life. In January of 2000 it was stripped to the frame to begin the resto / mod project. The rusted and faded frame went for powder coating and the tank and side covers were painted gloss black. I also added European superbike bars, new grips and GP sport mirrors at that time. The rest of the bike was bone stock. The CB750 was starting to get an attitude and some personality and that’s when “Ace” was born.
At the end of February 2000 Ace was all back together. I rode that version of it until 2004 when round two of the modifications began: powder coated cases and fork lowers a viper fairing and a 43 tooth rear sprocket. Ever since bringing Ace back to life I have had an unbelievable amount of looks, compliments and comments. I have heard everything from “cool bike”, “wow is that a CB750?”, “what year is your 750?” “that is sharp”, “that is sick,” “I had one of those growing up,”“that is bad ass” and one of my favorites,“my dad had one of those when I was young.” I knew I had made an out of the ordinary choice with the CB750. In 1999 I was a 28 year old riding an 18 year old, 500 plus pound, air cooled bike with spoke wheels when everyone else my age was riding crotch rockets. Then and now I love telling the younger riders that the CBR series bikes evolved from the air cooled CB750s.
Meet Dennis Zickrick
After my first meeting with Dennis I spent some time gathering pieces of my past with motorcycles for our next meeting. I found lots of great memories with Honda including photos of me and my brothers with our bikes and some from Jim’s time racing. I also brought the signed racing photos of the famous Honda motocross racers as well as a signed full size poster of the late great Doug “the Wheelie King” Domokos on his Honda CR. I was looking forward to seeing Dennis again to show him my memorabilia, swap stories and most importantly to learn about his guru with CB750.
The next week I returned to see Dennis. We entered from the office and after going in I waited a moment while Dennis took a phone call. After he hung up we made our way back to the shop. We went through a connecting room from the office to the shop. There I noticed cool things including a rolling Honda CBX chassis with the engine on a stand next to it, a set of vintage Kawasaki racing leathers on the wall and stacks of dusty, vintage road racing pictures as well as a weathered CB750 tribute poster hung in a decrepit frame with no glass. Going through the door to the shop was a Freddie Spencer V45 race poster tacked up by the light switch. As we passed into the shop I began seeing things on the walls and around the perimeter of the place that you wouldn’t see in just any motorcycle shop. I felt like I was in a Holy Grail motorcycle museum with lots of Honda items everywhere.
Strapped to a stand was a rolling chassis of one of Freddie Spencer’s 1980 CB750F superbikes. In one corner was a custom Moriwaki styled CB750F. Up high on another wall was an unused race fairing designed for Freddie Spencer’s Honda Moriwaki race bike. In the opposite corner up high hung several original number plates from the original Honda superbike racers including Steve McLaughlin, Steve Wise, Mike Baldwin, Roberto Pietri, Ron Pierce and fast Freddie Spencer. On another shelf was a CB750F gas tank from another original 750 superbike. Countless Honda and bike manufacturer and product stickers resembled wall paper as they were plastered over well used tool boxes and cabinets. One red tool box adorned a small plate with Dennis’s name. I spent two hours with Dennis that day swapping stories, showing him my scrapbook and asking questions. That day Dennis explained that he was one of the original American Honda RSC road race technicians with a stint lasting from November 1979 to October 1982.
That day I met an iconic road racing technician with a resume in the motorcycle business that most people couldn’t dream of. I met Dennis Zickrick, one of the original Honda CB750F superbike racing technicians. In addition to a historic stint with Honda, Dennis also has an impressive personal race resume. He earned the MRA (Colorado road racing) number one plate in 1979 (the same year I started riding), he won the 1974 Pikes Peak Hill Climb on a Honda Elsinore!). He has also worked with other local and national AMA superbike racers such as Doug Polen, Fast By Ferracci and Ricky Orlando. When I met Dennis he was in his last season with the AMA superbike Team Hammer Suzuki. The first day I spoke to Dennis he was at the AMA superbike races in Atlanta with the team. In 2009 Dennis was hired to be the lead technician for the Rossmeyer Geico Buell AMA superbike race team. In their first and only full race year the Buell 1125CR ridden by Danny Eslick completed the season with the AMA Daytona superbike championship. After Harley Davidson and Buell parted ways Dennis was hired by Erik Buell himself to lead the technical team for the post championship year race bikes in 2010.
Friends through Honda
Since meeting Dennis he and I have developed camaraderie. We’ve worked on bike projects together and I have also made a connection with Dennis’s wife Sandy who shows dogs, another interest of mine. I have spent a lot of time with and learning from Dennis. He has countless great racing stories, knows numerous amounts of people and has probably forgotten more about motorcycles and racing than most people will ever know. Since 2008 I have been helping Dennis archive and document his racing career, images, photos and collections. Dennis has helped me with the finishing touch upgrades to my CB750 including CB900F cams, 4-1 exhaust, modern front brakes, and custom LED rear lighting among other things. Needless to say I was thrilled to have fast Freddie’s mechanic as mine now.
Dennis Zickrick is a motorcycle legend but most people would not know that. He is a lifetime member of the AMA. His stories, collections and memories are iconic and unforgettable. His shop is a remarkable tribute to a storied racing career as well as a friendly place where friends can gather for a beer. There is a very small chance I would have ever met someone like Dennis and shared things in common if it weren’t for our connection to Honda CB750. Since knowing Dennis he and I have met and inspired other riders interested in the history and legend of the 1979-1983 CB 750/900/1100 DOHC, 16 valve bikes. Dennis generously shares his CB750 history and knowledge with those who reach out to him. Over 30 years later Dennis still loves being around and working on these special bikes. Out of all the things Dennis has accomplished in his motorcycle career he is probably still most recognized for his history and efforts with the first American Honda superbike program.
My life has been changed forever because of motorcycles. Knowing Dennis Zickrick, his legend and career with motorcycles is like a lifetime achievement award and a surreal experience for me. There would be no “Fast Freddie” and the other legendary Honda racers after him if it weren’t for guys like Dennis Zickrick and the other technicians who made their bikes incredible for the world to see. If it weren’t for Dennis and the Honda CB750 superbike program I would not fully appreciate what I ride today. Having Dennis to remind us and share the history is priceless.
It is true: Dennis Zickrick really is an authority on the Honda CB750. If not for my CB750 I may have never met Dennis even though his shop was only seven blocks from where I used to live. It is true: everything that goes around comes around. Good things can stay good and get better with age. Motorcycles bring people together. If someone you’ve never heard of tells you they’re an authority on something pay attention, ask questions and listen. You may be surprised what you learn and how it could change your life.