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Mike Parti Rides On Forever

By February 15, 2016General Posts


INDUCTED into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame: 2001
Successful sidecar racer in scrambles and Bonneville speed trials. Today, he is one of the most respected restorers of antique motorcycles.

Parti was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on June 23, 1935. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1945. The neighborhood that Parti grew up in was, in his own words, “very motorized,” so by the time he was teenager he was already getting his hands greasy in old motors.

At 15, Parti bought an old Ford jalopy. When his mother saw the car, she threatened to chain the tires together until Parti turned 16 and got his drivers license. Early on, he bought an old Indian Scout for $15, which Parti pointed out was the going rate for a bike that didn’t run in those days.

Mike with Don Whalen and an Orient single.
Mike with Don Whalen and an Orient single.

As he became an adult, Parti had a group of buddies who shared in his enthusiasm for cars and motorcycles and they all followed each other in one another’s interests. If one got into desert racing, they’d all get into it; if one got into scrambles, they’d all follow along. And, as Parti remembered, if one decided to hang out at a beer joint they all joined in.

A local Harley-Davidson mechanic, Harry Sorensen, who’d befriended Parti, was instrumental in getting him more involved in bikes.

“One day I was taking a radiator in to be fixed for the umpteenth time,” remembers Parti. “Harry told me that motorcycles didn’t have radiators and you didn’t have to crawl underneath to work on them and the girls were prettier. I became a motorcyclist on the spot.”

By the mid-1950s, Parti began racing scrambles on old Indians and Harleys. He finally tired of competing on old, worn-out bikes and broke down and bought a new bike – a Triumph Cub – and started racing the 200cc class. At one point, famous Speedway racer turned motorcycle dealer Wilbur Lamoreaux was a sponsor.

In the early 1960s, Parti became a sidecar enthusiast. He remembers riding his wife and baby daughter around in the sidecar.

“Ladies would pull up to the light and smile, thinking the sidecar was cute, and then they would turn to a look of horror after seeing the baby in my wife’s arms.”

Parti took to racing the sidecar rigs and found that his former sprint car racing experience translated well to the sidecars. During the mid 1960s, Parti held the AMA’s District 37 number one plate for sidecars for three straight years, earned in all forms of off-road racing – scrambles, enduro and desert racing. He rode the famous Greenhorn Enduro 11 times at the controls of a sidecar rig.

He passed yesterday in a Southern California hospital of naturals causes. He was one of the masters.

–Don Whalen and AMA