Passing of Notable Motorcycle Names Paints Dark Week

It’s been a tough week for motorcycle enthusiasts, with two notable names in two-wheeled history passing away.

News broke over the weekend that John Parham passed away on April 20th and more recently, an author who touched many riders with his well-known book 'Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance', Robert M. Pirsig died on Monday April 24th.

Regardless of what a biker rides, everyone on the motorcycle community knows J&P Cycles, an aftermarket parts company. This as well as the National Motorcycle Museum was founded by John Parham, who impacted the riding community so much he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2015.

He opened his first shop with a partner in 1975 in his hometown of Anamosa, Iowa. Four years later, he branched out with his wife Jill, starting J. Parham Enterprises. This company came to be known as J&P Cycles.

By the 1990s, J&P Cycles had grown into one of the largest motorcycle accessory mail order companies in the world.

“The American Motorcyclist Association offers its condolences to the Parham family and to the many friends John made over the years,” said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman. “Beyond his success as a businessman, John dedicated his energy and resources to preserving the history of motorcycling. It was an honor to know him. He will be greatly missed by the motorcycling community.”

Mr. Parham stayed on board to run J&P Cycles after selling it to Motorsports Action Group in 2001. In 2001, Parham relocated the National Motorcycle Museum to Anamosa, where it has continued to thrive and grow into one of the world’s foremost motorcycle museums.

Parnham died at the age of 62, following a prolonged battle with pulmonary fibrosis.

Another figure in our motorcycle world who impacted as many if not more riders as Parham is author Robert M. Pirsig, with his "novelistic autobigraphy," Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. As mentioned Pirsig died Monday at the age of 88.

The book describes, in first person, a 17-day journey on his motorcycle from Minnesota to Northern California by the author (though he is not identified in the book) and his son Chris. They are joined for the first nine days of the trip by close friends John and Sylvia Sutherland, with whom they part ways in Montana. The trip is punctuated by numerous philosophical discussions, referred to as Chautauquas by the author, on topics including epistemology, ethical emotivism and the philosophy of science.

Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. "The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication. "It is probably a work of genius and will, I'll wager, attain classic status."

The book quickly became a best-seller, and has proved enduring as a work of popular philosophy.

His publisher William Morrow & Company said in a statement that Pirsig died at his home in South Berwick, Maine, "after a period of failing health."

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