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'Kiwi can do' drives Riverside motorcycle company to stardom

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More than 25 years ago, New Zealand native Mike Tomas toured North America on an Indian motorcycle and settled in Southern California. Now his Riverside motorcycle shop attracts a cadre of celebrities including two late-night talk show hosts, a couple rock stars and a cast member of "Lost."


Tomas, 47, prides himself on building motorcycles mostly from scratch.


Formerly an author of instruction manuals that dissect the often confusing parts universe of the Indian brand of motorcycles, Tomas has built and serviced the vintage vehicles for Jay Leno, David Letterman, Dee Snider, Billy Joel and Matthew Fox.


When the producers of "The World's Fastest Indian" starring Anthony Hopkins, filmed in 2005, needed technical advice, they called Tomas.


Tomas has come a long way from the small New Zealand town of Wellsford where he grew up in a house situated some 50 miles from the nearest traffic light.


In Riverside, Tomas' Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Co. has grown from his Woodcrest garage, to a two-story 2,400-square-foot shop to his current 11,000-square-foot shop off Market Street and Interstate 60 he bought for $500,000 in 2003.

Q: Do you ever feel like what you do ... would be more suited for a bigger city?

A: I love Riverside. ... As far as our location, we pull from all over the world so I think Riverside for us is a great location. Four weeks ago we had Billy Joel fly in here, and he was on his way to show up in Sacramento but he wanted to stop in and visit us so he flew into Riverside Airport.

Q: Do celebrities have a problem with you talking about the fact that they're purchasing from here?

A: We don't make a public announcement, 'so and so is coming.' They want to be discreet about coming. Afterward, it's no big deal. Leno was the first one we ever hooked up with. He found us, heard about us and invited us up there, and then he did a two page feature on us in Popular Mechanics Magazine and he's asking us if he can do it, and it's like 'Jay, c'mon!'

Q: Where do you see the industry headed?

A: Custom choppers are done. They'll be around, not what they were. It's funny, in America we have a lot of followers, and it's not a bad thing because it fuels a market. ... I think we're going to get to more rider-friendly bikes that people can actually ride. They're done with all the hype. I think we're going to get down to functional motorcycles.

Q: What was it about the Indian Motorcycle that appealed to you?

A: For me, I wanted something American. Everyone in New Zealand, if you had something classic or antique-ish, it was British and I did not care for the British. ... I always liked Americans. I always liked American stuff. I was away on vacation looking for a motorcycle, looking at different stuff, and looking at Harleys. And every time, a Harley just didn't do anything for me. It looked like a plumber's nightmare and a whole bunch of parts cobbled up there. No disrespect to the Harley guys.

Q: (Does the economy) concern you at all?

A: This is really strange, but this is probably about the third cycle that we've gone through in a downturn. When I started there was one, been through another one, and this one here. And each time my growth has been in down cycles. Don't ask me why.


I don't fully understand it. My clientele is varied. It's not only celebrities, its also just the average Joe Blow. I'd say it'll probably affect the average Joe Blow a little more but certainly when you get into the higher incomes, they just don't care.

Q: Why make your own parts and engines and frames instead of just saving time and using existing Indian parts?

A: It's kind of a Kiwi thing. There's a Kiwi attitude and it's 'a Kiwi can do.' I like challenging myself and I think a lot of Kiwis do like to challenge themselves. I always like to learn and that's one thing this country has always been really good to me on, is the fact that I've been able to learn.


Mike Tomas

Company: Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Co.

Founded: 1988

Title: President and owner

Employees: 8

Annual revenue: More than $1 million


Click Here to see slide-show


"When it comes to Indian Motorcycles, we are it," said Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Co. owner Mike Tomas.

"There are other companies ... they're around for a few years and they're gone.

They don't understand what Indians are all about."

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Replica: $59,999.00.

Rolling chassis: $8499.00 (frame, fork and wheels)


Engine: Kiwi FlatHead, 84 ci, 42 deg V-Twin Carburetor: 40mm CV Ignition: Electronic 12v Transmission: Synchromesh 4 speed overdrive Frame: Kiwi spring Forks: Kiwi polished Hydraulic Wheels: Kiwi 16" Brakes: Drum. OPTIONS: Disc brakes Any style or color paint Dual seat, saddlebags, windshield, crashbars, luggage rack, front fender light, fender trim, fender tips. We will customize to owners specs







Bobber Starting at $27,500.00 + paint.

Rolling chassis: $6499.00 (frame, forks, wheels)


Once again Kiwi MotorCycle Company has hit a home run with their 2 models of bobbers that accept either Harley Twin Cam or Kiwi's own Flathead engine. Rolling chassis kit includes Kiwi's leaf spring forks, frame, wheels, tanks and disc brakes. The bike shown is Kiwi's bobber with Kiwi's Flathead engine. Made in the USA

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i would like for him to build me one


Come on out

I will be happy to introduce you


(Rich Fucker!)

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