There’s a motorcycle shop in Los Angeles, California with some very special bikes, and if you’re reading this you’ll definitely appreciate them.
Rewind a second and I’ll explain myself a bit. I’m Mark Boxer and I’m a motorcycle tragic. In the early ’90s I was 16 going on 17, and on the very first day I could get my learner permit I made my mum drive me to the motor registration office. Not long after I got my motorcycle licence.
It was a great time to love sports bikes; Suzuki had the GSX-R750 and 1100, Honda the CBR900RR and RC30, Kawasaki the ZXR750, and Yamaha the YZF750 and FZR1000. The list goes on, but it was these bikes that had me and my bike-admiring friends salivating over the pages of bike magazines and brochures every time a new model came out.
The words Slingshot, Fireblade, Ninja and even Deltabox were part of the new religion we inadvertently joined, and there was no exorcisms that would possibly bring us back.
Fast forward a few years and I’d finished school and moved on to become a qualified motor mechanic. Back then we were lucky enough to be able to ride some less-than-adequate bikes on our learner permits, so by this time I’d had a Kawasaki KR250 and then a 1992 Suzuki RGV250 in the Schwantz colours. Great bikes to learn quickly or the hard way on, but I wanted a ‘big bore’ and as soon as I could afford it and ride one legally, I arrived home on a near-new SRAD GSX-R750. Mind you, it almost ended quickly when I came into a corner not realising that the GSX-R had something the RGV didn’t – engine braking. I’ll let you work out the rest…
Since then I’ve been lucky enough to own quite a few ’90s bikes, and would definitely consider myself to be an addict for that era. They’re raw, have carburettors, aren’t always user-friendly, and never take over when you’ve done something dumb like grabbed a handful of throttle mid-corner. In other words, they’re perfect.
Having made friends with an awesome bloke in California by the name of Adam Tromp via the interweb, who also shares the same passion, I decided that a trip to see what he and his team are up to was in order. Adam’s extremely well-named business, Iconic Motorbikes, is an absolutely jaw-dropping experience when you visit. The bikes they have are rare, immaculate and all for sale. Well, almost all of them… Adam has a couple of favourites.
I hung out with Adam and the team for a week and was lucky enough to go out riding with them a couple of times on a few of the cool bikes they have. During my stay I sat down with Adam and we chatted about Iconic, how it all started, and what’s in the pipeline.
MB: Clearly you love motorbikes, what got you started with bikes and how old were you?
AT: I was eight when my mother fell into a few extra dollars and had my older brother take me out to get my first bike. It was a Kawasaki KM80. My brother was riding a Husky and told me: “This bike is more valuable then your life, crash it and I kill you!” Needless to say, I was quite careful that day. At the time, we had just came back to the USA and were living in the mountains in Colorado. I was a bit of a loner then, so I’d take this bike into the hills with a gas can jug in my backpack and ride for what seemed like day and days. I loved that bike so much, and had such a blast with it. Unfortunately, we had some financial issues around one and a half years later, and had to leave to Costa Rica for three years. It was a sad time leaving my baby behind.
MB: What was the first bike you purchased and how much did you pay for it?
AT: When I returned back to America I was 13. I had a couple small scooter-type bikes and dirt bikes in Australia – after Costa Rica – but nothings all that special. So, just before my 16th birthday, I bought a V&H FZR600. I always felt like an ape on that bike, but it was the best $900 bucks I ever spent and man was she nice for what I paid. I rode it and rode it and rode it. I moved to California on my own before my 17th birthday and started taking my FZR to bike nights, but I was seriously outgunned so I traded the FZR and an old Ford Mustang for a Ninja 1000. I had a blast on that too; it was the bike that started my true addiction, and from there it was ZX-7s, GSX-Rs… I’m actually salivating at the thought; I loved my ZX-7 so much and must of put 25,000 miles on it that first year.
MB: What do you love the most about motorbikes?
AT: Not just the bikes but the lifestyle. Back then, when I was about 19, I just lived on that bike. I made incredibly special friends and had a huge group of bike buddies that I pretty much ‘led the pack’ with. We did bike nights, taco Tuesdays, street racing for money in Ontario, drag racing at Carlsbad Raceway, track days at Willow Springs, and tons of rides through Ortega and Palomar Mountain Road. I lived on that bike and worked waiting tables and on a freight dock from 1:00am to 6:00am just so I could afford the lifestyle. It was my heaven and so much fun.
MB: Tell us about the most significant purchase to date.
AT: The most significant purchase to date would most likely be the NR750 or the R7s we have, but to me, what really lit my fuse for the explosion that started Iconic Motorbikes, was the purchase of the Nicky Hayden Formula Extreme bike. It’s an Erion-schemed beauty and sits right in the front of our HQ. This bike will never be sold as long as Iconic Motorbikes exists, and it’s the first thing I want people to think of when they see us, when they walk in, and when they go to our events. I love everything that Nicky was; I couldn’t be more proud to own a bike he spent time on.
MB: Okay, now let’s talk about your business. What is Iconic Motorbikes?
A: Iconic Motorbikes is a passion-fueled company. We’re all about the bikes and the stories that entrench them. We love getting our favourites back on the road, and restoring the bikes that mean something to someone. We live by the motto ‘Every bike is Iconic to someone’ and as such we do our best to fill that void, that gap, and find that missing element that makes your life complete. We do rides, restorations, track days, events, artwork, storage, a museum, etc. I personally seek out the rare, the ultra-clean, and very special bikes all around the world and many through my collector friends, and find them new homes.
MB: How did Iconic Motorbikes get started and who is on the team?
A: The team consists of Adam (me), Danny and Patrick (my partners), and Stephen who is our main wrench and also a partner. Sandro runs parts, service and the dealership for the most part, while I run the social media, books and seek out amazing bikes and collections. Patrick helps with some of the funds, transport, helping at the dealership and wherever he can lend a hand. We’re a very tight team. As far as how we were started, it’s pretty much a ‘life in the making’ type of story. I’ve spent years of my life just thinking about this, and planning out how I’d do it.
We launched MotoExtreme Performance, which was a small shop in Orange County, a while back. It did really well with a focus on sport bikes – a lot of Ducatis and TLRs came through – but I was quite tied up with my full-time career and the guys running it weren’t on the same plan so it didn’t last long. I learned a lot from that venture; it scared me away for a while, but I came back stronger, larger, and with much much better people on the team. Danny, Patrick, Stephen and Sandro are all like family to me.
MB: With regards to the awesome ’80s and ’90s-era of sport bikes, what are the hot-ticket items collectors are chasing you for now, and why?
AT: Every collection isn’t complete without a RC30/VFR750 as it’s the best bike Honda ever created. The V4 motor had the torque, the single-sided swingarm is truly special (especially for the era), the twin headlights are true to the time, the aluminum tank is just awesome, and the style as a whole most certainly makes it one of the most iconic motorbikes out there. Supplementary to that, an R7 OW02 as it’s one of the most beautiful and exotic Yamaha sport bikes every made. NSRs, TZRs and RGVs because they are the two strokes that stole the show.
I personally love RG500s and RZ and RZVs as they are just insanely fun to ride. Can’t forget the ZX7Rs or RRs either, as they have an amazing history in racing and that green just screams cool. Oh wait… don’t forget the GSX-Rs. My personal favourite is the GSXR-RK, or RR as known in certain markets. It looks like a Slingshot but with a more raked front fairing, and has a beautiful tail. I love that bike, too. Did I mention OW01s and RC45s and NR750s and Water Buffalos and Bimotas? And don’t get me started on Ducatis – how could I not mention those gorgeous Italian masterpieces? Wait, wait, wait… what about Laverdas, BSAs, Nortons, and one of my personal favourites – MV Agustas. I’m getting chills – I love them all!
MB: We’ve heard a rumour that you might be getting a rather special MotoGP-style bike in from the UK. What’s the plan there?
AT: The ink hasn’t dried yet, but we really hope to see this very special, very well thought out, and true piece of motorcycle art and insanely cool engineering on our showroom floor later on this year. Keep an eye on the Iconic Facebook page as we’ll be making a big noise about it when it arrives.
MB: You’ve recently launched a new YouTube channel, tell us a bit about what you and the team will be getting up to on that.
AT: So far we’ve just released a few videos to get to know the team, how light-hearted we are, and most importantly how much we love the bikes and each other. We’re just guys having fun with what we love. We hope to get to some cool track events, do some really neat collection tours, and some side-by-side comparisons and interviews etc. There’s not enough time in the day so it’s not our first priority right now, but we’ll get back on it soon and expect to have some really neat, very special content to share, so bear with us and stay tuned.
MB: With regards to motorbikes in general, people keep talking about the fact that bike sales are dropping and are preaching doom and gloom. Do you think bikes these days lack the passion of the older ones, or is it that they’re just too fast for people? Or are kids these days are too busy putting bunny ears on their heads with SnapChat?
A: Yes, kids these days are not exposed to the outdoors as we were. Growing up, my dream was a dirt bike, but it seems as though newer generations lust after the new iPhone or iPad or whatever else. It’s just not important to many and a sad state of affairs, but my kids are much the same. They had dirt bikes and a Toy Hauler, but their phones took over, as did video games.
As far as the new bikes go, I 100% agree – they just aren’t that special, and technology is so beyond our abilities at this point. What’s the motivation to buy new and buy new again? Ideally, I think it’s great to have something new in your garage alongside a classic, but older bikes need more attention and typically work. In my day you’d trade in your ZX7 or GSX-R for the next model for upside-down forks, maybe the next model after that for ram air or lighter weight, or perhaps just a livery you had to have. Now they are all so fast and have many similar features, such as traction control and crazy amounts of horsepower. I’m not sure why anyone would go for the latest and greatest as the last model is likely more than most will ever utilize.
Personally, I prefer smaller runs of special bikes, but big corporations don’t work that way and designs don’t seem to be getting any better. So I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a lot of positive things to mention on the new stuff. Give me an older bike any day.