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#297 Just Another Pretty Face

A small company in Montreal knows how to give your bike an upfront personality.

Not just another pretty face

Ever seen a bike with a face? Of course you have. But I hadn’t until recently. I was mesmerized by the machine, a 2001 Honda XR650R with all sorts of gold anodized bits contrasting shiny chrome on a street machine meant for Supermoto racing. The more I looked, the more fascinated I became. When the owner mentioned the bike’s face, I thought he meant a general term for a bikini fairing. But no, the face is a face. And the face is made in Canada! I had to travel to New York City to learn what’s coming out of Montreal. But I’m popping the clutch. Let me start again.
I’ve seen three motorcycles in the last month that have stopped me hard. They are barely legal Supermotos, and I mean barely! People walk right by these lean machines oblivious, while I circle like a shark, astounded that they are parked in the street, plated for traffic. I saw a 2000 era 250 single-cylinder KTM (two-stroke!) parked in Yorkville that I couldn’t believe was there. During Friday the 13th at Port Dover I saw a newer, blue-plated two-stroke on the street. There were so many motorcycles to look at that day, a buffet of bigger, flashier, custom painted machines—but perhaps none faster. People passed it by without a second glance while I froze. Some people are having too much fun.
I flew to New York for Labour Day and enjoyed being chauffeured around on the back of a 2009 Yamaha FZ1. I got to take in the sights and shirk the responsibility while shopping for tools, lingerie and lava lamps. We passed by Cycle Therapy where I saw a bike that made my day.
I still can’t believe the radically detailed thoroughbred that my eyes lingered on. The owner sourced the XR650R in California, the only state where it could be legally imported, and brought it to New York. Then the dressing began. Gold anodized White Bros hubs set in chrome Excel rims, gold Öhlins front suspension … Customized to the extreme with “over $10,000 in parts,” the bike screamed speed. (This is the second 650 single street legal kickstart I’ve met this summer.) The owner commutes to work every day. I can only imagine that ride from the sidelines, giddy with excitement.
It had a face where a headlight would be, with eyes that light up. It came from, a Montreal-based two-person company that sells four different faces. Enzo De Rosa handles promotion for owner/designer Yohan Charge, a blacksmith skilled in restoring European monuments, fences and ancient metal art. He emigrated from France 10 years ago and set up shop. Both men rode dirt bikes as kids, and progressed to street bikes. They are clearly passionate about motorcycles, and in particular, streetfighters—they sell to Streetfighters Inc. in the States. The metal worker maintained a mods shop for some years but now focuses on what is called “tete de fourche” in France. For example, the Alien 2 sells for $445 with mounting hardware, or for an extra $89 can be mounted to the forks. They replace existing headlights, and come primed for paint.
Want to be impressed? Yohan’s personal machine is a 2002 GSX-R1000 with double Sarko exhaust, Power Commander, and paint by Xpert on a complete custom body that he designed himself. It’s named the Iron Gixx and the body looks like art. After the bike was freshly painted last winter, promotional photos were shot with pro stunt rider Felix Famelart.
Small world. I remember meeting Felix at a bike show in downtown Toronto a couple years back. He runs a stunt school in Montreal where one can learn to safely wheelie. I held onto his flyer for some time, thinking about a vacation to stunt school. I’d already been to dirt bike school, so why not stunt school? Never underestimate the value of education, parents often say. Not sure they have stunt school in mind though! But I was born with a sense of adventure, and am attracted to unusual motorcycles—if they come with a face that you can put to the name, so much the better.

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