One of the world’s most famous motorcycles has finally surfaced after decades of mystery, and if you’re in Washington DC, you can go see it for free (maybe).
We’re talking about the Honda ridden in the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. When Robert Pirsig wrote the book (based around a motorcycle trip in 1968, and first published in 1974), he never went into much detail about the actual model of motorcycle he used for his trip. Fans figured out it was a 1966 Super Hawk (aka CB77) from photos. And, the fate of Pirsig’s bike was relatively unknown. After writing Zen, his second book was based around a boat, and it never reached the popularity of his first book, which was certainly a case of being the right thing at the right time. It is said to be the best-selling philosophy book in history.
Well, now we know where the Honda ended up: In Pirsig’s garage. Pirsig died in 2017, and his widow has donated some of his possessions to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in Washington, DC. The biggest news is that the motorcycle itself from the trip has gone to the Smithsonian, when the general motorcycling public had long wondered its fate. According to the Smithsonian’s press release, the bike has recently been “mechanically restored.” As well as the bike, Pirsig’s widow also gave the Smithsonian “Pirsig’s leather jacket, maps, shop manual and other gear from the 1968 ride, together with a manuscript copy and signed first edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig’s favorite toolboxes, with tools for maintaining his bike and other vehicles as well as tools he made himself, are also part of the donation.”
The Smithsonian says the bike will now be part of its museum collection (free admission!), although that’s no guarantee you’ll be able to see it on display any old time you want. Check to make sure it’s on display before you go.