By Matt Neundorf
on 2.17.14

Since 2002, Portland, Oregon’s Icon Motorsports has been taking their unique and creative approach to motorcycle gear directly to the street. What started out as an after-hours experiment by design director Kurt Walter found immediate favor on the backs of street riders and the then-underground stunt crowd. Catering to a group of riders that had historically ignored protective gear completely, Icon created its own market and developed one hell of a loyal base by literally saving their customers’ skin. Thirteen years after their inception, the Slabtown district-based company is still kicking ass by pumping out both no-compromise protective gear and some tire-shredding bikes.

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A single window looks out over the Icon garage from the clubhouse perched upon the second floor. Peering between the company’s mantra (“Nothing is Finished. Nothing is Perfect. Everything is Process.”) plastered across the window, we could see at least a few new builds underway down below. Apparently it’s like this all the time: they build them, they break them, they do it again. In the early days, the bikes on the lifts were either budget Craigslist finds or, more typically, bikes that belonged to staffers; everyone working at Icon rides, and everyone has a project bike.

Beyond those though, the team’s creative vision has been doled out on almost 40 builds that range from custom graphics applications to full-blown, two-wheeled gut-punchers. Just a couple days before we made the trek, the team took delivery of a brand new Brooklands Green Triumph Thruxton. A donor from the Hinkley-based OEM, this one had a hand written note — a checklist — taped to its seat. In the machine shop, a Triumph Tiger was getting the mock-up treatment with cardboard and masking tape, on its way to a job as the team’s new camera bike.

The team at Icon, 14 strong, tackles everything in-house or around the neighborhood. Builds, gear design, photo shoots, videos, marketing, you name it: everybody in the office wears three hats and at least two helmets. As it’s grown and aged, Icon has branched out to reach new riders. 2012’s Icon 1000 products introduced a premium line to the catalogue that had instant appeal. Drum and aniline-dyed Brazilian cowhide, waxed Highland canvas, detailed attention to more subtle styling and the inclusion of D30 armor throughout put others in the industry on notice — a trend Icon hopes to continue with the launch of the 2014 line on February 21st.

Had we not timed our visit to coincide perfectly with Portland’s once-every-five-years snowmageddon, chances are good that we would have been blasted through the Beaver State, putting Icon’s gear and some bikes through their paces. Sadly, that’s just going to have to wait for warmer weather, but hey, you know what they say: everything is process.