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.