After near-fatal crash, renowned Italian bike builder sets up local shop
Fabrizio “Sugar” Favre had finally been grounded.
An outdoorsman who readily embraced danger, Favre was zooming along a curvy mountainside highway in northern Italy, his home country. He went straight, but the road didn’t.
“It was March 27, 2002,” remembered Favre’s wife, Oriana Bosonin, through an interpreter, Alessandro Mondi.
Reliving the horrendous wreck in an interview at Favre’s custom motorcycle business in Jacksonville, Bosonin started shaking — and frowned.
“Oriana says it was awful. Very awful,” Mondi said.
Favre, then regarded as one of Europe’s most renowned motorcycle builders, was in about 50 pieces. So was his customer’s bike.
Now 56, Favre (pronounced Fah-vray) spent the next 18 months adhering to his doctors’ orders, agonizingly recovering from internal injuries and broken bones from his shoulders to his legs.
Favre said the physical therapy that followed being pieced back together is the most difficult thing he’ll ever do. To get up the stairs at home, he used his elbows to climb.
“I was not expected to walk again; I almost did not make it alive,” said Favre. “I worked hard the entire time to get better — to recover — just like they do in movies.”
He had hoped to someday ply his trade in the United States, where opportunities for business and contentment were greater, and then retire.
“I still had a lot of living to do,” he said.
In January, Part 1 of Favre’s big dream came true. He shipped his gear and prized possessions across the Atlantic Ocean and set up shop in Plaza 295, an industrial and office park at 7060 103rd St. Favre Motorcycles held its grand opening in May.
“This is our home now. This is what we have wanted for a long time,” Favre said.
Favre fell in love with Northeast Florida during annual treks to Daytona Beach’s Bike Week to compete in the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show, beginning in 1996.
As he became increasingly renowned for his custom builds, including award-winning design work with Moto Guzzi and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, he gradually reached celebrity status throughout the international motorcycle community.
“He is called upon as an international judge at shows throughout the world,” Mondi said.
Favre’s 4,000-square-foot Jacksonville facility consists of design, repair and showroom space. It’s part workspace and part museum. A place of pilgrimage to Favre’s life and the culture he first embraced as a mechanically inclined 12-year-old in his family’s garage.
“People drop by all the time because they hear Sugar is here in the United States,” said Mondi, who went to work as an assistant for Favre when the two met in April. “From an outsider’s standpoint, I can tell you, when people see his bikes, they are amazed by his work and they are amazed that this work is happening in Jacksonville.”
Bosonin has helped manage Favre’s business interests since the couple met in the 1970s.
“She’s very, very patient,” Favre said, laughingly, as his wife nodded in agreement. “She has to be.”
Dubbed “Sugar” as a youngster due to his agreeable disposition, Favre was an expert Volkswagen customizer by 16. His first bike was a 50cc replica Captain American chopper; by 18, he was riding a 1200 cc Harley Electra Glide.
In addition to honors and the highest certifications awarded in the motorcycle business, Favre’s walls are covered with family pictures and mementos. Visitors are often steered initially to photographs of Favre with Arlen Ness and famed motorcycle designer Willie G. Davidson, grandson of Harley-Davidson’s namesake.
“He says the walls here are like a living history of his life,” Mondi said. “But Sugar says there’s a lot of stuff left in Italy, too.”
At the iconic Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, Favre will join Ness and other industry trailblazers as International Master Bike Builders Association (IMBBA) Hall of Fame enshrinees. Favre already has received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
A champion youth boxer and later a professional rugby player, Favre said since his near-fatal accident, he’s set aside his passions for extreme sports like hang gliding and motorcycle racing.
But he still enjoys testing the speed of motorcycles — on straight-aways and much slower than his personal record of 211 mph.
“He still goes too fast,” his wife said, grimacing.
Indeed, Favre — who maintains that the only physical effects of his accident are “classic pains” — said since being given a second chance at life, he tends to seek out opportunities to help others.
The Favres founded an Italian children’s charity, Bikers for Bambini, and Favre volunteered for several years at an Italian prison, teaching inmates mechanical skills.
“I am fortunate to have been involved in the motorcycle culture for many years – and it is a culture that I very much enjoy sharing with others,” Favre said.
Favre also is very family-centric; he and his wife will return to Italy in October for him to judge a motorcycle show and for them to visit their two adult children and three grandchildren.
Bosonin said along with being a motorcycle authority, her husband of 35 years is an expert at bringing joy to her family.
“He is sentimental with everything. His job, with me, with our kids –– and of course, he’s very sentimental with his grandkids. And he always keeps us laughing,” Bosonin said.
“But I’m a hardass” Favre retorted, mockingly flexing his muscles. “And Oriana is very patient.”