More About AHRMA Racer Dennis Parrish

Here are a few fun facts reported by Dennis about himself and his love affair with motorcycles.

 Dennis Parrish at speed

My first bike was a Ducati! However, it wasn’t a Ducati you would naturally picture in your head. This was 1968 and it was a 50cc two-stroke with a hand-shifter left grip like an old bicycle. Other than that, it was just like a “real” bike with clutch, brakes and throttle. You pull the clutch in, rotate the left grip to 1st, 2nd or 3rd (it was only a 3 speed) and go! The shifter cable broke soon after I got it so my dad put an “L” piece of angle iron where the cable used to go on the engine. You’d shift using your foot to slide the “L” up and down the side of the engine case for each gear. The bad part was I could only manage to shift into 1st or 3rd, and if you went into 3rd from 1st gear the bike would slow down because it didn’t have enough power to maintain it’s speed.

My first street bike was a 1968 Honda CB350 K0 with a broken cam chain that my dad and I repaired. I rode the bejeezus out of that bike, to high school, around town and on short trips through the twisties when it wasn’t raining (I grew up in Washington state). I even took it trail riding. I sold that and bought a new 1972 Yamaha R5C 350 twin two-stroke street bike. It was mostly better than the old 350 Honda and was fast and light. The only thing I didn’t like was when I tried to trail ride it one time the low pipes bottomed out on the sides of the ruts I was trying to ride through and I had to pick the bike up out of them repeatedly. It was exhausting! I moved on to several other bikes, including Honda XL-250s (they were a lot better off-road!), a couple of Honda CB-400Fs, a ’75 Kawasaki S3A 400 triple two stroke, a ’75 Kawasaki Z1 (which I still own and is one of my current race Z1s) a ’78 CB-750F SOHC, a ’79 CBX and several others

One of my CBX memories has to do with dirt biking. In 1983 I was out dirt biking on a CR125 and lost the front end at maybe 8mph while slowing to turn. I caught my leg under the bike’s tank, dislocating my left knee, tearing all the ligaments, damaging a lot of the soft tissue plus breaking my femur and tibia. The fix was a lot of surgery and some screws to hold the parts together along with a groin to ankle hinged fiberglass cast I got to wear for a little over three months. What does this have to do with a CBX memory? I found that the only bike I could ride with my cast was my CBX! Shifting required me to get all the way back on the seat and stretch my arms to the bars. I could just catch the shifter with my heel to upshift and downshift. Since the CBX motor was wider than the gas tank, I could rest my casted leg on the cam cover on the left side and ride around with my foot sticking out in front by the headlight. After a while, the cast would get hot and I’d have to move it around a bit to let cool my leg off. I didn’t ride much as it turned out to be a lot less fun than I expected, and I had to always make sure that it was my good right leg I put down when I stopped.

Mostly I own middle ’70s to middle ’80s Hondas and Kawasakis, totaling around 30 bikes. On the Honda front, I have two ’79 CBXs. One I bought new from the dealer I worked at. It’s not garaged though – it sits inside my house as “art” with 26K miles on it, but still licensed, insured and ready to go. The second CBX I bought a few years ago from a guy who saw my first CBX sitting in front of my house and said he had one. He’d always wanted to restore it, but said it was messed up and needed a little work. I bought it from him for $150! It did need a little work though, starting with a frame and pretty much everything else. The motor was pristine, never having been apart but the rest of the bike was “awful”.

I have around seven or eight Kawasaki Z1 / KZ / 900 / 1000 bikes. One of them I bought new from the Kawasaki dealer I worked at in 1975. I still own that bike and it’s one of my race bikes. I bought more big Kawasakis when I became aware of some good deals. I bought a ’76 KZ900 for $500, a 1975 Z1 for $300, and my current imitation ’75 Kawasaki streetbike is a 1977 KZ1000 I found for $800. The other Z1s and KZs I own just kind of appeared… I have almost the same number of DOHC four-cylinder Hondas. Two of them are CB900Fs that I bought for $800, one is my current Wasco-framed CB750F based racebike that was run in the AMA superbike class as a privateer entry from the Seattle area ‘back in the day’ and the only other one I remember paying for was a 1979 CB750F that I traded a case of beer for. The rest of the Hondas just seemed to follow me home somehow like lost dogs.

Other Hondas I own include a 1998 ST1100, 1985 XL350R, 1983 XL600R, 1983 Honda VF750F Interceptor, the two 1979 CBXs, a 1973 XL250 I used to flat track, a 1972 XR75 K0, and some parts bikes including more DOHC Hondas, some first generation Interceptors, and who knows what else. I have some Kawasakis, including a 2001 ZRX1200R, 1991 KX500, 1983 GPz550 and parts bikes including more Z1s and GPz550s. I have a lone Suzuki, an RM400 of indeterminate age that might turn into a vintage motocross bike if I feel the urge. Sadly, no Yamahas are currently gracing my garage. I’d love to have some 350 or (and!) 400 two strokes, and I’ve always liked the old 650 twins too.

Dennis Parrish

 

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