Minneapolis Author of Famous Zen Motorcycle Book Never Gave Up

The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a rite of passage for motorcyclists across the country. But if you’re from Minnesota, you’ll especially want to dive into this author’s masterpiece of a motorcycle story. 

Robert M. Pirsig, author of the acclaimed 1970s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, had an IQ of 170. He was born in Minneapolis and spent his formative years in the city. The Minneapolis origin of the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance makes sense, as the story also begins in Minnesota. 

This book recounts a 17-day motorcycle journey Pirsig and his son, Chris, took from Minnesota to Northern California in 1968. While this journey is partially autobiographical, Pirsig does not name the narrator. 

Though Pirsig passed away in 2017, his legacy lives on through his best-selling book and the motorcyclists (and philosophers) who still read it today. 

Robert M. Pirsig: Minneapolis Native

Robert M. Pirsig was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1928. His family quickly recognized his above-average intelligence, and Pirsig skipped several grades in primary school. His IQ of 170 helped him achieve a high school diploma at age 14 in 1943. 

Pirsig enjoyed many careers throughout his lifetime. He was especially interested in science and studied biochemistry at the University of Minnesota. He achieved subsequent degrees in philosophy and journalism over the next few decades. 

Pirsig began teaching creative writing at Montana State University in 1958, which gave him time to hone his writing talent. He published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in 1974. His other notable work, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, came out in 1991. 

Inspiration for Zen came from Pirsig’s passion for motorcycles. From age four until he died at age 88, Pirsig considered riding motorcycles one of his favorite pastimes.  

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is classified as a “fictionalized autobiography.” Pirsig published the work in 1974 to critical acclaim. The full title is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values.

During the trip with his son, the narrator and his son have many philosophical discussions, which tie in the narrator’s past version of himself, whom he calls Phaedrus. Topics discussed along the ride include the definition of “good,” epistemology, the philosophy of science, and more. 

Pirsig wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance over the course of four years while working a full-time job writing computer manuals. He reportedly struggled to find a publisher for the manuscript, ultimately pitching it to 121 publishers. When the book came out in 1974, readers were blown away by the philosophical undertones and perplexing themes. 

Today, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the best-selling philosophy book of all time, topping five million copies

Should Motorcyclists Read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

While Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has philosophical themes, it largely tells the story of a motorcycle journey, which many motorcyclists can relate to. You may want to read it in batches, because the content is deeply philosophical. 

The Minneapolis origin for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has made it a classic for Minneapolis-based bikers. Some have even recreated Pirsig’s journey to Northern California detailed in the book. 

Law Tigers: Minneapolis Motorcycle Attorneys

Our Law Tigers team includes a vast network of motorcycle accident attorneys across the country. If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis St. Paul Minnesota, our local attorneys are available to assist you. 

Contact us today at 1-888-863-7216 to schedule a free consultation.