Arlen Ness, one of the best-known custom motorcycle builders in the US for decades, has died.
Born July 12, 1939, Ness and his company (Arlen Ness Inc.) weathered generations of changes in a rapidly-evolving motorcycle industry, and his family still retains ownership of his company. That’s quite a feat in today’s world of conglomeration and buyouts.
Ness’s custom bikes rose to fame during the first wave of the chopper scene, during the heyday of the 1960s and 1970s. Based in California’s bike-crazy Bay Area, he was known not only for building his own customs, but also selling parts so others could more easily build their own machines.
While the chopper scene typically focused on removing parts from motorcycles, Ness often added unique bodywork or other touches. His work spanned brands and bike styles, not just the Harley-Davidson cruisers that dominate the custom scene. He also dabbled with technical performance upgrade, such as EFI tuning, instead of just changing aesthetics. However, Ness’s bikes did tend to have an emphasis on eye-catching visual design.
In later years, Ness partnered with now-defunct Victory Motorcycles to help design special-edition models.
Arlen Ness died March 22, 2019, aged 79. CMG wishes to express our sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.