Motorcycle USA caught up with Arlen Ness at the 2010 V-Twin Expo in Cincy. Always a class act, the man has earned legendary status in the custom motorcycle building world by creating iconic bikes for over 40 years.
member of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, Arlen Ness isn’t quite ready to slow down just yet. When he’s not busy running Arlen Ness Enterprises or collaborating with Victory Motorcycles, he’s touring around the country promoting his business and meeting with fans. He’s been extra busy lately developing two new product lines called Deep Cut and Retro for his 2010 Parts and Accessories Catalog for Harley-Davidson Motorcycles. Classy, gracious, and always quick to sign an autograph or pose with fans for pictures, Ness is a true legend in the industry.
Motorcycle USA: Since the sales of custom production bikes have taken a dive, what has your company been doing to stay afloat?
Arlen Ness: We have so many aspects of the business, from our catalog to new parts to our dealer network that we’re doing OK. Sales of production bikes has been really slow, but I did just get back from a trip to Italy and Spain as we’re looking to expand our European network. We are now licensed to sale in 11 countries.
Motorcycle USA: What are you working on now?
Arlen Ness: I’ve been working mainly with Victory Motorcycles. We’re already working on the 2012 models. We’ve also been putting a lot of energy into our new product line since we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary, including lots of cool stuff for baggers.
Motorcycle USA: How does it feel to have both Cory (Arlen’s son) and Zach (his grandson) carrying the Ness torch?
Arlen Ness: It’s great. Cory’s been running the company for the last 15 years, and Zach’s four months away from finishing college. He’s getting a degree in business administration. Zach has also been working on the bike that he built for Victory that’s going to be released in 2011. Victory is looking for the influences some of these young guys are bringing.
Motorcycle USA: Did they pick up custom bike building on their own or did they feel obligated to carry the family torch?
Arlen Ness: Zach was always into sports, but after building a few, we realized he has an eye for it. I don’t think they felt obligated so much, but you might say they were bred into it.
Motorcycle USA: What would you like your legacy to be?
Arlen Ness: I’ve had a great life. Working on motorcycles is good stuff. I get to meet people with the same passions from all around the world, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do what I love for a living for a long time.