Interview: Vincent Prat

Southsiders MC's Vincent Prat
Vincent Prat is one of the leading lights of the classic motorcycle scene in France. He’s the driving force behind the highly recommended website Southsiders MC, and led the team that created the ultimate Triton, the CP Project #1—otherwise known as ‘the Chanel motorcycle’. Vincent is also an accomplished photographer, and has partnered with Benoit Guerry to set up Guerry & Prat Images, a specialist motorcycle photography studio.

What was the first bike you bought with your own money? A Yamaha TY125 [below] when I was 16. I was practicing trial riding and all-terrain over the mountains. At that time you could ride on any track, but nowadays it’s strictly forbidden. I had a lot of fun with this sport, enjoying the balance and concentration required.

Yamaha TY125
I was already fond of vintage machines and I have to admit my walls were covered with posters of choppers. I needed a little time to meet the right people and fulfill my dreams. I finally bought a BSA which had suffered the ravages of the 1970s, and it was my first restoration. From that moment on, my vision of the motorbike changed and I was not interested in modern bikes any more. But I don’t see myself as a collector or a purist—I like modifications if they add something.

What do you think is the most beautiful production motorcycle ever built? My list is long, so it’s impossible to give only one name. Paul d’Orleans has already named the Brough SS100, so I have just the Vincent Black Shadow left. If we stick to commercially-produced motorcycles, it’s an incredibly technical and innovative bike with an irrefutably great design.

Otherwise, it’s the Koehler Escoffier 1000 Monneret [below]. This is relatively unknown because it is very rarely photographed. It was produced in very small numbers, but had a huge amount of success in competition. It’s a gold standard. I always prefer the architecture of a V-twin engine: it perfectly matches the shape of the frame.

Koehler Escoffier 1000 Monneret
What motorcycle do you despise? Certain so-called ‘functional’ bikes. The ones you don’t turn backwards for a last glance before you close the garage door. (See the Tunnel of Love with the messenger’s bike.)

What is your idea of perfect happiness? It’s 6pm and I’m riding westbound towards the sun. The bike is humming, and there are no suspicious noises—I’m rather irritable when it comes to that. My wife’s behind me, the sky looks threatening, but it doesn’t matter because within an hour, we will arrive at a harbour we can explore. In a few words, a beautiful trip makes me happy; it’s as far as possible from all the usual life complications.

Southsiders MC's Vincent Prat
Electric motorcycles: Yes or No? On one hand, I am very concerned with renewable energy. On the other, I belong to a generation that has enjoyed the smell of leaded gas. And when motorcycles start to look like coffee pots and all sound alike, my pleasure will never be the same. Then I’ll prefer to forget, and ride a bicycle. (Then long live to Cycle EXIF.) In other words new energies will surely uprise in a few decades, and young people will surely have fun with those new items. But what about our beautiful old machines, what will happen to them?

What is your favorite journey? It’s early, the wind is ‘offshore’, waves are beautiful, I go surfing. After that session, I take my motorbike and go riding through the Pyrenean mountains, totally relaxed by the morning action. It’s a very nice feeling to share with good friends.

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? Those that are sales hits and/or have great designs. You can name the MV Agusta F4, or more simply the Ducati Monster or Triumph Speed Triple. Otherwise a commercial fiasco such as Voxan [below], will become a great classic.

Voxan motorcycle
Who are your real-life motorcycling heroes? They are generally great travellers like Ted Simon or the Van Buren sisters [below] or Elspeth Beard [second below]. Those people simply make me dream. More than any achievement, I love adventure and toughness. Adventure is a sacred word; I have a head full of stories.

Van Buren sisters, motorcycle adventurers
Elspeth Beard, motorcycle adventurer

Are you optimistic for the future of motorcycling? It depends on the country. Generally speaking, France is heading towards a restriction of freedom and over-secure politics. It’s becoming sanitized. But elsewhere, I feel the uprising of an underground energy. Throughout the world there’s a real desire to get off the beaten tracks and away from the narrow propositions of the manufacturers.

What is your current state of mind? For a few weeks I’ve been dreaming about the epic Cannonball. The idea is still not very well defined in my mind, but I feel a great trip holding the handlebar of an antique machine is emerging.

  • Leston

    Koehler Escoffier 1000 Monneret is absolutely gorgeous. thanks for bringing it up

  • Pascal

    I love these interviews.

  • Anthony D

    I’ve done that journey – a surf in San Sebastian and then riding in the Pyrenees.

    Vincent’s right. It’s bloody marvelous.

  • Griffin

    I’m relatively new to motorcycling and I want to thank you for bringing me and other readers great interviews with those who’ve been where I’ve only dreamed of going. I learn so many new things with every word spoken by these people. I also find it kinda cool that many of them keep bringing up the Monster as a future classic (looks like I will be holding onto mine after all!)

    Thanks BikeExif!!!!

  • Helge

    Totally off topic, but what boots is he wearing? Keep these great interviews coming!

  • ahh, Vincent. Surfing, then riding through the Pyrenees. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful replies. I had not yet previously read about Ms. Beard, nor seen a ‘modern classic’ Voxan before. It is great to see some items that are not commonly referred to in today’s motorbike press. take care.

  • Great responses. Surfing and a ride into the mountains? That sounds like a dream.

    I’m also interested to know what those boots are? Anyone know?

    Well thanks again Bike EXIF.


  • Jedrek

    That Voxan bike got me interested. Another awesome interview. Don’t stop!

  • Helge and Rick: according to Vincent, the boots are an old pair of Redwing Linemans.

  • Harry Farquhar

    These interviews are very interesting and informative but as an off-roader the idea of rejecting modern motorcycles is just beyond my ability to comprehend. As is the idea that if a bike doesn’t look or sound a certain way then it wouldn’t be worth riding. One criticism I have of these pieces is the notion that a motorcycle is capable of being despised. Anything with an engine and two wheels has the ability to provide motorcycling enjoyment that can’t be found doing anything else.

  • Harry, Please try to enjoy reading each person’s opinion in these interviews. The bike press has traditionally only focused on the positive, in an attempt to keep advertisers happy. I welcome the comments from folks that have a negative opinion and who are not afraid to share it.

    Of course ~anything~ can be despised by one person or another. We are not forced to love all motorcycles just because they have two wheels and a motor.

    With a discerning view, you may find that you really don’t like Lambretta scooters for example, or 1970’s monkeybikes, or modern dirtbikes, or old dirtbikes or Hayabusas or 60’s Triumph twins or OCC choppers or Puch mopeds or Brough Superiors or Honda C90s or BMW appliances or Vincent Black Shadows or URAL sidecars or electric motorcycles or ?

  • Harry Farquhar

    The idea of despising a bike is completely different from whether you find it aesthetically pleasing or suitable in terms of performance. Personally I wouldn’t be interested in a Hayabusa, OCC chopper, Brough Superior or Vincent for the reasons listed above. But they are all still capable of providing that two wheeled enjoyment that makes the sport so great and therefore have value as a motorcycle.

  • I don’t agree with your statement “The idea of despising a bike is completely different from whether you find it aesthetically pleasing or suitable in terms of performance.”. Definition of Despise: to look down on with disdain. I’d say that we all look down on (despise) things that we think are ugly or slow or handle badly.

    Sure, the bikes have value and they are capable of providing enjoyment. And yet, some bikes are still despised. ;)

  • This article…. Vincent’s words, Chris’ questions… tis all rather poetic. I love it. Indeed, the whole overtone of what we are getting from Vincent, is much a poetic prose, a rouse to entice those with passion for two wheels, to delve deep within to the quirky mechanical fetish that is the soul of riding. Man and machine, at one together… an extension of our soul and the need for freedom… on the open black stuff. It’s passion we can see from Vincent and it’s passion that will keep the true motorcyclist around for time to come, no matter what the contraption he rides ;)

    Fantastic article Chris. Probably the best interview I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing! Was a pleasure to meet you at the Deus B/O… Had so many questions for you but just didn’t eventuate… Cheers!