Since 1974, when ‘Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance’ was published, biking has had a bit of an intellectual thing going. Robert Pirsig’s seminal text might not be to every motorbiker’s taste, but it’s earned its place as the one philosophy book that most riders have actually heard of. (It’s probably the one philosophy text that most people have heard of, period).
But Pirsig isn’t the only thoughtful motorcyclist – and we’ve looked for some other stocking-filler books with a serious motorcycling flavour – written by philosophers, provocateurs and politicians who have taken to two wheels.
Matthew Crawford has to be a favourite. Not only a philosopher and a biker, he also runs a motorbike repair business in Virginia, USA. He’s written a book called ‘Shop Class as Soul Craft’ which, according to Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government, Harvard University, looks at the “morality and metaphysics of the repairman.”
‘Philosophical Ridings: Motorcycles and the Meaning of Life’ is written by Craig Bourne, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire. It takes in aesthetics, justice, life and death as well as motorbikes. Sounds like it should be on every biker’s Christmas wish list…
Of course, you don’t have to be a pure philosopher to be a biker and a thinker. Look at Che Guevara: apparently, riding a bike around South America helped turn him from medicine to political activism and, ultimately, into a 20th century icon. If you’re interested to find out more, but don’t fancy tackling the great man’s written diaries of the trip, then check out the 2004 biopic, ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’. MovieMail is one of the sites selling the DVD on special offer.
Conan the Barbarian wouldn’t get into many lists of intellectuals, but the folk at Bikesure are nothing if not freethinking. So Arnie Schwarzenegger, who played him on film, gets picked as a Harley-Davidson rider and a politician who, as Governor of California, managed to ruffle plenty of feathers. If you fancy a Schwarzenegger-style Fat Boy, there are plenty of online resources to check, such as Bowker Motor Group’s Harley-Davidson pages. Meanwhile, if you’d like to find out more about muscular Austrian and the philosophy (really!) behind his bodybuilding methods, you could start with ‘Arnold: Education of a Body Builder.’
The philosophers have it that people cannot live by bread alone – but we can’t live without it, either. Jamie Oliver gets into the Bikesure list because there’s no doubt that his ideas stir things up, and not just on the hob (though some of those recipes are really tasty). Check out the heat he generated with attacks on attitudes to school dinners, fast food, healthy eating, and so on. These days on the box he’s more often seen in a Range Rover than riding his scooter in a pukka Parker, but we love him because, like the others mentioned here, he’s definitely a fan of two wheels.