58 Tiger Cub Motorcycle

FRS 106, Michael Littman – Spring 2017

February 7, 2017 (day 1)


  • Introductions
  • Task assignments for the semester (3 photographers, 1 quarter-master, 12 scribes)
  • Course overview
  • Basics of editing and accessing the website
  • Discussion of Preface and Introduction to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • Shop tour and safety video

Course Objectives

  • Learn about the underlying science of motorcycles
  • Use a variety of tools
  • Consider system integration and human factors
  • Gain practical shop experience
  • Look at the big picture into which motorcycles fit (for example, their crucial role in transportation in third world countries)
  • Gain troubleshooting skills
  • Contemplate design objectives (why was this made the way it was? How does it operate?)
  • Explore the trade-offs in design decisions (why were certain compromises made?)
  • Be exposed to “modern tools” (for example, a laser cutter for the gaskets)
  • Develop a functional schedule to complete the project on time

Background on the motorcycle

  • 1958 Tiger Cub (a Triumph motorcycle)
  • Matching engine and frame numbers (a good sign!)
  • Sold by Adam Cramer (We watched a youtube video that he made in which he argues that the largest problem in America at the moment may be deindustrialization as it is causing the next generation of Americans to lose their “can do” attitude)

Discussion of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

  • Phaedrus (main character) introduces the theme of tension between his past and present self as he struggles to see which will win out.
  • The book looks at the distinction and synthesis between the “romantic” and the “rational,” integrating the concept of beauty along the way.
  • It is written as a travel log.
  • It broadly covers eastern and western philosophers, but, due to this sweeping approach to philosophy, is often disregarded as a serious philosophical piece by contemporary philosophers.


  • For Thursday, read the Introduction to Shop Class as Soul Craft.

February 9, 2017 (Day 2)


  • Recap and review of interesting/memorable/striking lesson learned about the motorcycle made on day 1 (tire-remover machine, suspension– particularly how there is more in the front than the back of the bike, the instability of lightweight forks, trail, fuel tank as structural component, differences between nvarious starting mechanisms, the importance of hole in the gas cap to allow air in, the role and impact of various design decisions–for example the structural purpose of the gas tank and the location of the muffler/silencer)
  • Discussion of Intro to Shop Class as Soul Craft
  • Review of newly posted material on the web site (group job descriptions, class task assignments)
  • Disassemble motorcycle and label and organize parts in the shop

Explanation of Swing arm suspension

  • Because the tension is highest in the top of the chain (as opposed to the bottom section of chain), the swing arm causes the whole rear assembly to swing up a bit if the bike is throttled hard.

Reading Discussion

  • Motorcycle/machine references (throttle–controls the gas to the engine, clutch–separates the engine from the wheels; some use axial compression (slip clutch), others use radial compression, lathe– a tool that spins the piece (as opposed to the piece remaining still and the tool, for example, a drill, spinning), allowing for rotational symmetry)
  • Crawford’s argument (influenced by his background growing up in a commune)
  • The importance of considering and weighing both pro’s (environmentally friendly, convenient, efficient) and con’s (abstraction, lack of agency–Crawford focuses only on the cons)
  • The paradox our increasingly specialized society faces between desiring progress and maximum efficiency, while also wanting more control and agency

Shop Time

  • We disassembled the whole bike, labeling and sorting parts as they came off.
  • One team removed the tires from the wheels.


  • Going forward, for every Tuesday, read 2 chapters in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. For every Thursday, read 1 more chapter in Zen and 20 pages in Shop Class as Soul Craft
  • So, for Tuesday, read the first two chapters of Zen.