Editor’s Note: I’m always looking for ways to share more motorcycles with you, and the best way to do that is to have more people contributing. So with that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Mathieu (Mat) Guyot-Sionnest! You may have already noticed his name on a few bikes over the last couple of weeks, such as:
Hopefully you’ve been enjoying what he’s been sharing, and you’ll continue to do so with his future finds! I asked Mat to introduce himself so you could learn more about him – come say hi!
My name is Mathieu, and I am a 24 year-old French man that’s been living in LA for the last 2 years with my wife and my French bulldog. Being passionate about classic vehicles since a very young age, I have always like spending time on the French equivalent of Craigslist looking for good deals ever since I have had my driving license. So when I saw that Abhi was looking for some writers to participate in the Bike-urious adventure, it seemed like a natural fit and I immediately wrote him an email explaining my background and how I would be excited to write for the website.
Originally from Paris, France, I have a father that likes cars, especially the classics. As he started to have a nice collection made of German, British, and American cars, a friend of his slowly got him involved in classic car racing. I think I was 12 years old at the time, and I realized how privileged I was to see and even get in some of these classics around racetracks. This is where I started feeling that classic cars would always be in my life, and I thought I had nothing in common with modern cars. When I turned 18 and got my driving licence, it was obvious I would be buying the car that I had been dreaming about for a few years, a classic Mini! I bought a 1973 Mini Clubman 1275 GT and used it as a daily driver in Paris.
I delved more into classic cars, becoming a staff member for events like the Le Mans Classic and starting racing myself. But I learned the hard way that classic cars are expensive to maintain. That is a fact. I had recently passed my motorcycle license, and my realization of how onerous it was to own a classic (even though it was “just” a classic Mini) opened the door to motorcycle ownership.
But my motorcycle life didn’t just start that day. Despite having parents that very scared by motorcycles, my father bought my two brothers and me a Yamaha PW50 so we could put it in a trunk on Sundays and go have some fun on grass. Learning at such a young age, as I was maybe 6 or 7 the first time I rode, definitely helped me for my future motorcycle life. I learned how to kick start, how to use a petcock, how to use a choke, how to use your right foot to brake, etc…Even though I was not going much faster than 30 mph, it felt like I was doing 150 mph! I loved it and I still have some great memories of it. Unfortunately, one day, as we went down to the garage, it wasn’t there anymore because someone stole it. So for my 12th birthday, my father bought me the same toy he had bought one of my brothers few years earlier: a Chinese 70cc motorcycle just a little bit bigger than the PW. It was cheap, using a 70cc Honda Dax [Editor’s Note: The US knows the Dax as the Trail 70] replica with the same kind of transmission – 3 speed semi-auto, but it was great! This taught me how to shift. Again, I can’t say how many great memories I have of this bike as it was small and we could bring it anywhere by putting her in the back of the car.
Years passed, times changed, and I was using my 70cc less and less as we barely had the chance. Plus, legislation became more tough about that kind of pleasure in France. But I never lost the memory of what it felt to be on two wheels with a helmet. So, shortly after having my car driving license, I started negotiating with my parents for a motorcycle license. Even though my father had also gathered some nice two wheeled toys he was barely ever using, both him and my mother were very scared by motorcycles. In just a few years, the presence of scooters in Paris had boomed, resulting in a surge of accidents that traumatized my parents. But I finally got their agreement under certain conditions and passed the motorcycle license exam. The process and test are much harder than in the US, which I actually thought was great because I was truly learning how to operate a motorcycle both at high and low speeds.
Due to the conditions I had with my parents, I eased into riding. The first real two wheeler I used on the street as road legal was one of my father’s Dax replicas. It was a 125cc, 4 speed that I used exclusively at night when I was going from my father’s to my mother’s. I started using it more and more, expanding from that specific route and then in the daytime as well. It was fun in the small streets of Paris, and obviously, the convenience was nice, too.
In the summer of 2014, my father started talking about the idea of creating a motorcycle collection based on what he already had. Knowing my passion for motorcycles and classic vehicles, he asked me if I thought it was a good idea and if I was interested in managing it, which I definitely was! So we found a nice shop to store the bikes, I found a good partner to help me, we found some collectible bikes, and we found a mechanic to help us with some of them. From there we thought: let’s do a proper workshop, not just a showroom! And this is how Motodrome was created. Aside from the bikes we were buying for the collection, we had to buy a motorcycle we could ride. It had to look vintage but still be easy to use. This is why we decided to buy a brand new Royal Enfield Classic 500. It was very rare in France, and a lot of people started getting interested in our shop. The Enfield was the first “real” bike I had ridden since my license test few months earlier.
In addition, my partner got me a nice deal for the one and only bike I have owned under my name (and probably the one I have had the most fun with), a 1978 Kawasaki KL250. I was essentially riding those two bikes, plus I had bought a well-prepared 125cc Dax replica for summers and errands I needed to do. The shop permitted me to gain some experience very rapidly riding all kind of motorcycles, original and custom. The ones that really stay in my mind and that I used a lot were a 1975 Honda CB750, a 1978 Kawasaki Z1000, a 1988 Honda Transalp XL600V and a 1987 BMWK100LT. The CB and the Z were very similar bikes, heavy, 4 cylinders, 70’s but to me that might be some of the most impressive and beautiful classic bikes I have had the chance to ride.
The Transalp is the most dependable, flexible, and easy to use bike I know. It is light, it handles well, it was good in any conditions and God, it was fun. The Champagne K100 I had definitely showed me what motorcycle comfort was. I fell in love with it: the engine and the design, it is probably one of my favorite bikes of all time.
Unfortunately, despite all our efforts and the notoriety we had built in the French motorcycle community, the business was not doing very well. It was too complicated to make my partner, our two mechanics, and me a living on top of the shop expenses and above all, the huge amount of taxes we had to pay. So we decided the business had to close.
Wanting to change my life and move from Paris with my girlfriend – who became my wife – we decided to move to Los Angeles and start a new adventure!
My motorcycle life started here with rentals where I could learn to ride in LA and try bikes I have had never tried, especially the R1200GS and the R1200RT, which just like the K100 left me with an incredible feeling. The first bike I bought here was a 1985 Honda Nighthawk, a motorcycle we don’t have in France. I loved it, I passed my motorcycle endorsement here with it and did a small road trip to San Diego with it, but sadly had to sell it as I was going back to France for at least one month. After that I decided to buy a good looking 1982 Honda CB900C that I mechanically fixed and sold nearly a month after.
Feeling that I was starting to get kind of bored with classics, I decided to buy a much more modern bike in order gain some more riding skills. I wanted something fun and powerful but still very light. The choice was kind of easy and I finally bought a 2015 KTM 690 Duke. It was as much fun as I expected it to be and I had great time with it. But I slowly realized that it was not really in line with the use I wanted (lot of city and highways), and that what I was looking for was comfort. Still wanting something sporty, the logical choice seemed to buy a dual-sport. So, my friend today is a low mile 2006 Suzuki V-Strom 650.
You can expect me to focus my posts on classic bikes. Thanks to my experience I have expertise with Japanese bikes, BMWs, and to a lesser extent, British bikes. I don’t really know about classic Harleys and Indians but this is something I am planning on improving! Even though I used to work on them I am not a big fan of customs, except for the rare masterpieces. But it breaks my heart to see so many classic Hondas and classic BMWs molested and destroyed.
I love motorcycles and as you know from my story, I love having them all and riding them all. I know that searching for motorcycles on Craigslist, eBay, or similar is time consuming and can be a pain for some people, but luckily this is something I love and this is why I am really happy to contribute to Bike-urious.
Thanks for reading!