Interview: Nick Clements of Men’s File

Nick Clements of Men's File
Nick Clements is a man of many talents. He’s a top-flight fashion photographer, a menswear designer, and thankfully for us, a dyed-in-the-wool motorcycle fanatic. In the motorcycling world, Clements is best known as the publisher of the magazine Men’s File, a moto-themed style rag with a fast-growing following. Here’s an insight into his world.

What was the first motorcycle you bought with your own money? A Vespa 90. This was back in 1979 and the start of a love affair with scooters. The ultimate was to have the Vespa 90SS (below), the one with the fake gas tank where a normal motorcycle has it. It took another 25 years to find one and own it. Very rare.

Vespa 90
What do you think is the most beautiful production motorcycle ever built? I’ll have to put that answer into categories: Triumph Hurricane (below) as a street bike, the early 850GT Guzzi California as a touring bike and the Vespa 90SS as a scooter.

Triumph X-75 Hurricane
What motorcycle do you despise? I don’t despise any motorcycle. I’m not a motorcycle snob. Okay, I’ll expand that. My approach is that there’s nothing wrong with being elite, being good at things, creating beautiful collections of objects or having hard mates. What I don’t like is the way that people use those positions to intimidate others. This has happened in everything—surfing, fixed wheel cycling, classic motorcycling and everything else that involves owning cool stuff. At the moment I ride a (very nice looking) Enfield and don’t mind being perceived as a loser.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? In terms of motorbikes? Riding the South Downs in Sussex, England, on a warm summer evening on the way to Goodwood (below).

Motorcycle at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
Electric motorcycles: Yes or No? Why not? In London they’ll need a noise added due to suicidal pedestrians and cyclists. They can be bloody fast too.

What is your favorite journey? The ride along the Ligurian coast (below). The last leg of a long ride down to Italy. It’s interesting to see the transitions in road quality and driving style as you leave the UK, get on the ferry, travel through the regions of France and on into Italy. France is an incredible country. You pay plenty of taxes, but get plenty in return. One of the benefits are millions of miles of empty, smooth roads. Italy has mainly two-lane freeways and there’s a lot of very aggressive and (what we would call) crazy driving. If you want to overtake and there’s someone in the outside lane going slower than you want to go, you drive about two meters behind them at 160 kph and flash your lights and sound your horn.

Ligurian coast by Jean-Marc Rosier from http://www.rosier.pro
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? The CB 750 and the early V-Guzzis were made at the end of the period when things were expected to last, and before built-in obsolescence became the norm. Software tuned motors will mean long-term problems with self maintenance and will change the nature of a ‘classic’. Maybe it will be the Hayabusa?

Who are your real-life motorcycling heroes? I don’t have any, although Barry Sheene always stood out when I was a kid. We admired the way he took his crashes as much as anything. He also came across as a nice bloke.

Are you optimistic for the future of motorcycling? I’m concerned that motorcyclists will be forced to wear hi-vis vests in Europe. As the editor of a men’s motorcycle ‘style’ magazine we are concerned with the pure aesthetics of motorcycling, as well as the material substance of the ‘life’ on two wheels. Motorcycles could form part of a serious package of measures on reducing the consumption of oil and the emissions of CO2. Even in the temperate UK, many people will sit and read a newspaper in the car with their engines running, so that they don’t have to turn off the AC. So I guess those things still aren’t that important to individuals. Perhaps the electric bicycle/motorcycle will mix exercise with convenient transport and become a big part of motorcycling in the future. That’s the way it’s going in Asia.

What is your current state of mind? I’m wondering why I’m working 24/7 x 365 on Men’s File magazine!

Men's File magazine