November 15, 2013 - San Diego, CA
BikeBandit Visits Icon Headquarters
Coming from SoCal, where it’s still sunny and unseasonably warm well into November, Icon’s hometown of Portland, Oregon made an immediate impression on us with its dreary, cool fall weather and a seemingly endless cascade of golden leaves. The environment here, as we would find out, created a dreamlike backdrop for our visit to Icon; which for motorcycle junkies like us, is a fantasy-land like no other. Luckily, you get to join us on our journey inside the “brain trust” of Icon.
The Home of Icon
Visiting Portland, it was easy to see where Icon gets its unique and diverse influences.
As we arrived at Icon’s headquarters, we were surprised to find out how unpretentious their facilities are. As one of the biggest and fastest growing brands in the motorcycle industry, we half-expected to arrive at a vast, gleaming corporate compound and having to wade through a maze of cubicles to arrive at our meeting with Icon’s representatives. But it couldn’t have been more different. Much like their products, their headquarters itself may be a kind of black sheep of the motorcycle gear industry; down-to-earth, welcoming, and refreshingly nonchalant. Icon is the kind of business you wish more businesses were like.
The vibe at Icon suits its surroundings perfectly. Situated in “Slabtown”, a historic neighborhood of Portland named after the scrap wood sold by lumber mills to the community’s poor early immigrants, the city forms the perfect home for the brand. If you struggle to understand Icon’s odd mash-up of street, chopper, and off-road influences and rugged combat gear, you’d understand when you get here. The city is diverse and artistic but unassuming; quite unlike Los Angeles, where Icon got its start before relocating over to the Northwest.
Filming in Icon's offices - there's creative design everywhere you look at Icon!
Icon’s design director Kurt Walter, the visionary founder of the brand, created Icon to fill a niche of street riders who didn’t subscribe to the status quo of strictly divided stereotypes of the "cruiser rider" and the "track guy." As a “from the streets, for the streets” provider of quality riding gear, Icon made a name for itself emblazoned on the jackets and helmets of riders who, without anyone catering to their unique street style, probably would otherwise not be wearing gear.
The Icon brand has evolved tremendously since that time as well. While staying true to building quality gear for street riders orphaned by image conscious cruiser and pricey racing gear manufacturers, Icon has also ventured out into other areas of the market, including adventure riding gear and their highly successful, super-premium Icon 1000 line.
Icon takes their duty to protect their customers seriously, and it was made evident while touring their facility. Underneath all the wild graphics and brazen designs, Icon considers themselves, first and foremost, a safety gear company. They are proud of every time their gear safeguards one of their customers in a crash, and rashed helmets and gear sent in from their grateful previous owners could be found throughout their offices, being studied to improve their future products.
As a testament to this core belief, Icon rewards its less lucky customers with a special “Busted and Broken” patch, which can only be earned by surviving a crash in Icon gear. They are as proud to show off gear destroyed while protecting a rider as they are to show off their flashy new products or their custom bikes.
One of Icon's most radical builds, and one of their favorites.
Speaking of Bikes…
Right next to Icon’s office is their garage, the motorcycle equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory where, like the mad doctor, Icon’s fabricators saw and weld until the late night hours and on weekend to turn their design visions into reality. While many of their bikes begin as neglected Craigslist finds to become unrecognizable motorcycle fusions transcending style and genre, Icon’s crew often finds itself working on bikes fresh from the crate, commissioned by manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Triumph, and Ural to create special builds on their factory canvasses. One person may call Icon’s fabricators motorcycle sculptors while another might say they’re madmen with ADD; but nobody can say this crew isn’t talented, or hard-working.
Icon's fabrication team, bringing their radical design visions to life
A manufacturer commission build - the electric Brammo Empulse
We’re fans of Icon over at BikeBandit.com. We not only sell a lot of their products, but many members of our staff own and ride in Icon (the 1000 line has particularly impressed us; even our CEO rides in a Chapter jacket.) But visiting their headquarters, seeing where all the magic happens, and experiencing the driving force behind the brand gave us a newly found appreciation for not only their products, but their vision as a company.
They still see themselves as a latecomer to the motorcycle gear industry, the underdog that has to work much harder and be far more innovative to compete against the industry heavyweights. But Icon has become a legitimate market heavyweight in their own right, able to stack up to the biggest names in the business in not only sales volume, but in product quality.
Even then, you’d never know it by the environment at Icon; at the end of the day, they are just riders like us designing gear for riders like us, taking risks that no other business will take, and having a hell of a time doing it. Visiting Icon was like visiting a museum, a custom bike shop, and an R&D lab all in one. But by the time we left their headquarters, it had become mostly like visiting a bunch of friends.
Shop for your next Icon product now on BikeBandit.com!