A Good Man’s Mark

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

Ever been to the National Motorcycle Museum or buy parts from J&P Cycles?

What is your measure of a good man? There is a real difference between someone who is good and being a good man. No matter how you look at it, my close friend John Parham was both.

After years of battling pulmonary fibrosis and other medical issues, John Parham quietly slipped away from his family and friends on April 20, 2017. He left this world a better place—especially the world of motorcycles, a deep passion of his.

If you have ever been to the National Motorcycle Museum or bought motorcycle parts from J&P Cycles, you should thank John and his wife, Jill. They created both the museum and the business in and around Anamosa, Iowa. The two met when John asked Jill to dance and some boys from Jill’s nearby high school threatened to beat him up, like a scene from West Side Story. In an interesting twist of fate, several of these young men later worked for John at J&P Cycles. But I am jumping ahead.

John worked days in a local factory, then spent his evenings and weekends at his small chopper shop. In typical John Parham style, he went from swap meet vendor to promoter. In 1979 John created J&P Cycles, a humble catalog operation to sell motorcycle parts for American motorcycles.

In spite of many setbacks, including a fire that burned the shop, John’s favorite Panhead, and all his inventory, John and Jill never let up. J&P Cycles never stopped expanding. They had a publishing operation (motorcycle event guides and a motorcycle newspaper), an event management crew for swap meets, bike shows, motorcycle drag and dirt track races, and more. And when opportunities arose, John added to his collection of old motorcycles.

In all my years of dealing with John, professionally or socially, I was always impressed with this quiet man from the heartland. He was a tough negotiator but a fair one. He was always polite, never wanted to be in the spotlight, and always gave credit when others might not have. He was always humble and willing to listen to people, no matter who they were. But after so much hard work and success, his life story took a bad turn.

Several years ago John and Jill sold J&P Cycles but stayed involved in the motorcycle industry and continued to be classic bike enthusiasts. I wasn’t aware of John’s health issues until days before the grand opening of his brand-new J&P Cycles store next to Destination Daytona. As we climbed to the top of the stairs he looked pale and could barely breathe. He confided that he was suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, there being no known cure. Out of breath, he explained that if he did not get a lung transplant his days on this earth were limited.

In 2010, John got his lung transplant and the hope of more years of life. In typical John fashion he wanted to make the most of his time. He pushed long and hard to improve his impressive National Motorcycle Museum near J&P headquarters in Iowa.

In 2015 John was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame, a well-earned accomplishment for all he has done for the motorcycle sport, hobby, and industry. John was always friendly, humble, generous, and respectful of others. He was deeply appreciative of an industry that gave him an amazing life. And he deeply loved his wife, their son Zach, his daughter-in-law, Bree, and his grandkids Kaiden and Kinlee.

As I stated at the beginning of this column, my close friend John Parham was a good man. I will miss him and so will so many others. RIP, John. Ride in peace.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.


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