For all his accomplishments, Phil Schilling was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame last year. Those that knew him thought it was truly overdue. After all, few had contributed more to motorcycling in so many diverse ways and for close to two decades he set the gold standard for motorcycle journalism during a time when magazines had the power and there was no internet, no blogging, no self appointed experts. In the process he, and his friend and co-worker, Cook Neilson put Ducati on the map in America with Cycle magazines Racer Road series and that famous perfect day when Cook, Phil and the California Hot Rod 750 Super Sport known as “Old Blue” kicked the competition to the curb and left Cook on the top step of the podium at Daytona in ’77.
Yep, Phil Schilling did a lot of great things for motorcycling and especially for Ducati, but for me the greatest thing he did was tell a story about a Ducati with a funny front brake and the effect it had on him. It was called “A Satisfied Mind” and it was (and remains so 40 years later) the best motorcycle story ever published.
I wasn’t among the subscribers of Cycle magazine that read the story when it was first published, I heard about it years later, and tracked down a re-printed copy in a book of Cycle/Cycle World Ducati articles. But no magic had been lost, the story was timeless – a classic love story, like Romeo and Juliet (if Juliet was 175cc’s with classic Italian styling). It stayed with me, and eventually I too succumbed to the siren call of the Ducati F3. And the bike in the story became part of my story too. 39 years after Phil told the tale of his star crossed love affair with his little Ducati, he found himself listening to his “fresh rebuild” screaming around the 18th green at Pebble Beach for the camera crew of the famous Concours d’Elegence. The whole saga is the cover story of this months Motorcycle Classics. To accompany it, Cycle World also republished Phil’s original masterpiece.