The bike behind “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” joins Smithsonian’s collection

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The Smithsonian National Museum of American History collection has a depth and breadth that stretches far and wide into the automotive landscape. Now, a literary legend will join those ranks. The 1966 Honda Super Hawk that inspired Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Traveling great distances by motorcycle requires a self-reliance unrivaled by other forms of transport. Pirsig’s novel captures how one’s mind wanders and engages in thought that it otherwise wouldn’t when covering ground while exposed to the elements. The 1974 book documents a fictional trip, but this Honda Super Hawk is the actual bike that Pirsig rode on the real-life 5700-mile trip with his son, back in 1968, that inspired the novel.

The book is not just about the relationship between man and machine. Pirsig ruminates on a fascinating array of topics and how they relate to the human condition. Hundreds of thousands of readers have been inspired to not only think deeper, but to dig deeper into their toolboxes in the search for something more fulfilling.

The museum seems like an ideal place for this particular machine. However, if you have one similar or have been eyeing one to buy, don’t take Pirsig’s word. Experience the world. They don’t all belong in museums. Go out and hit the open road.

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