Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


What did Robert Pirsig Ride?

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This question comes up regularly and is thrashed about until someone finally digs up the actual interview with Pirsig, wherein he himself makes an explicit reference to the motorcycle, which, at that point, is still in his garage.

As it turns out, Robert Pirsig rode a 1964 Honda SuperHawk - a CB77, although there is no explicit mention of the bike's make and model in the book. His friend, John, rode a BMW R60.

The interview (perhaps a letter from Pirsig - I don't recall exactly), whence the identification of the bike comes, allegedly takes place around early to mid-seventies. Here is a quote from another interview with Pirsig - "Why, in the Far East," [Pirsig] said with a smile, "the [Zen] master is considered a living Buddha, but, in Minneapolis, they wonder why he doesn't have a job."

As far as explicit motorcycle content in the book, this is an area of some confusion. It never ceases to amaze me how furious some people get when they realize that they have been "tricked" into reading a book that deals with the issues of philosophical introspection. A VJMC mailing list member, Ray Meyers, posted a wonderfully succinct statement on this topic. I am posting it unedited as it is, in my opinion, a well formulated and definitive statement on this topic.

If that wasn't enough, perhaps it might bring you joy in knowing that, Mr. Soichiro Honda's own views on philosophy, as expressed in his essay on Design, give Pirsig's method of transportation a marked dimension of an unavoidable coincidence.

CB77: Pirsig with son Chris

Here is a picture of Pirsig on his bike (Type II handlebars?) with, presumably, his son - Chris. The picture has an interesting history. I am tempted to say that this picture was taken in 1968, during the actual trip which inspired the book. This picture certainly does lend itself to such an assumption, however, I have no hard evidence to support it.

Honda CB77

Follow the link (to the right) to see a nice picture of a beautifully restored Honda Superhawk, CB77. This bike (Type I handlebars) is from the early to mid-sixties, but I don't know the exact year of production.

1964 Honda CP77

My own SuperHawk is a verified 1964. But the model is a CP77. What is a CP77? It's a long story, but it looks the same as Pirsig's bike (if you disregard the factory turn signals and the Type III? handlebars).




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