Interview: Marco Raymondin

Marco Raymondin of Brooklands Classic, France
Marco Raymondin is well known in the French classic motorcycling scene, but little known outside it. In the 70s he started Brooklands Motors, a Triumph dealer near Paris. Brooklands later switched to selling Ducati, but Marco has now gone back to his first love: dealing in, servicing and restoring classic British iron.

What was the first motorcycle you bought with your own money? A friend of my father’s had a 1950 Gnome et Rhône 125. A little two-stroke with a rigid frame. I was only 15, and he told me that for 50 francs it could be mine. I worked in a boucherie for a couple of weekends to get the money, and the deal was done. Most of my friends were riding push bikes or mopeds, so I was definitely the king! The fenders quickly disappeared, I changed the handlebars for a pair of clipons, fitted a bigger carb, and so on. That was my first café racer.

Velocette motorcycle
What do you think is the most beautiful production motorcycle ever built? My grand-père used to have a little garage in a suburb of Paris. That was in the early 60s. I loved to see the engines dismantled, the smell of the old oil, and get my hands dirty. He explained to me how pistons, valves and camshafts work. He also had a neighbor who had a very nice Velocette (below)—such a lovely sound—so I understood that riding a moto was a must for me.

What motorcycle do you despise? To me a real motorcycle cannot be over 200 kg. It also must have two wheels, unless a sidecar is attached. So the worst of all is the Piaggio MP3 (below).

Piaggio MP3
What is your idea of perfect happiness? They are plenty of good moments when riding a motorcycle. The thrill of starting it with the kick-starter after flooding the carburetor, the joy of hearing the engine roar. But best of all is when I’ve had a tough ride with friends in an offroad race (or just a race on the track). When it’s finished we share the different thrills we had together and finally we open a cool beer.

Electric motorcycles: Yes or No? A good motorcycle is nice to look at, and also nice to hear. So for me, there’s no future for electric.

What is your favorite journey? The best journey I ever had was last year, when we went to the Salt Lake at Bonneville. I was racing a highly tuned Triumph T110—iron head, running on methanol—and going at almost 120 mph flat out on the salt with the two big megaphones on full song (below). That was magical. But a nice twisty road in the south of France on a sunny day with a couple of friends is also quite something.

Triumph T110 at Bonneville Salt Flats
Which ‘everyday’ modern bikes do you think will become future classics? The equivalent of the Honda CB750 or Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, if you like? There is one bike that I think will become a real classic: the Ducati Mostro (Monster). The design is superb and the handling and braking are above everything. The engine has plenty of torque, quite enough power and such a lovely sound.

Who are your real-life motorcycling heroes? One of the people I respect the most in the motorcycling world is Edward Turner. Just before the war he made that fantastic Triumph twin that was to last until the mid 80s. He gave Triumph that glamour touch, always with colorful paint (Pacific Blue, Spring Gold, Grenadier Red and so on) and evocative names: Thunderbird, Speed Twin, Bonneville. Steve McQueen, Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood … they all rode on a Triumph.

Walter Kaaden
The other man who has been a motorcycle genius is Walter Kaaden of MZ fame (above). His humble factory fought—and so often won—against the Japanese giants. A sort of David against Goliath. And of course Mike Hailwood and Barry Sheene, because they were fantastic riders AND good fellows—playing guitar, drinking beer with numerous friends, and enjoying life. There is also Joel Robert, six-time world motocross champion. And Percy Tait and John Giles, lifetime works riders for the Triumph factory. And it’s difficult to forget riders like Jiří Stodůlka or Kvetoslav Masita, who won so many ISDTs for Jawa.

Are you optimistic for the future of motorcycling? It’s difficult to be really optimistic for the future, as we’ve had so many crazy rides. We will never have the same freedom to do want we want and even a bit more. But the motorcyclist is a clever animal—he will always survive!

What is your current state of mind? I try to be fit enough to be able to kick my bike and still open the throttle. But it is not that easy. So many stays at the hospital because of my 25 broken bones, so many good dinners … so many, I cannot remember. But whatever. We keep on rockin’.

With thanks to Vincent Prat. You’ll find the Brooklands Classic website here, but be warned: Marco is a mécano, as a Parisian would say, rather than a web designer!