Arlen Ness Bio

December 3, 2010
By Motorcycle-USA Staff

Arlen Ness
An icon of custom motorcycles, Arlen Ness has partnered up with Victory Motorcycles to create a limited production model every year. Offering his custom styling at a price anyone can afford.

Arlen Ness

A legend in the custom cruiser builder world, Arlen Ness had been building custom motorcycles for more than four decades – the Ness name synonymous with chopper.

Arlen Ness, also known as “The King of Choppers,” has built some of the most iconic custom motorcycles in the industry over a 40-year career. Not bad for someone who started out painting motorcycles in his garage in San Leandro, California. He would continue to hone his custom bike building and painting skills by opening a parts store on East 14th Street in Oakland. As his custom parts gained in popularity, he eventually expanded his enterprise by creating his first catalog. His talent would soon be recognized by numerous motorcycle magazines and before long his work graced covers of most major motorcycle publications.

The one bike that helped catapult Arlen Ness to fame was a 1947 Knucklehead called Untouchable. It was a motorcycle he reinvented over and over in the lean first years because he didn’t have enough money to buy another bike. He eventually restored the low slung, stretched-out bike with the unforgettable tank and engraved knuckles to the way it looked in the ‘60s.

Arlen Ness Hot Bike card
Ness has been a key player in the chopper scene since the 70’s pictured above on his “47-74” custom chopper.

His collection of iconic motorcycles is vast and includes Two Bad, a twin-engine Sportster with hub-center steering and a super-stretched frame; Ness-Stalgia aka the ’57 Chevy bike with body work reminiscent of the classic car; Smooth-Ness, an art deco design which true to its name sports smoothly contoured bodywork inspired by a Bugatti automobile; and Mach Ness, a motorcycle that sources a jet-powered helicopter engine.

In the fall of 2005, Arlen moved his business to a Dublin, California where he opened up a huge, modern facility called Arlen Ness Motorcycles. It includes a museum featuring more than 40 of his custom bikes. His parts and accessories catalog is more popular than ever with popular products like Arlen Ness Billet Grips and his patented Big Sucker Air Filter Kits. He also has been collaborating with Victory Motorcycles since 2004 and annually produces a factory custom for the American V-Twin manufacturer based on his styling input.

Beyond contributing some amazing bike designs  Corey Ness secured the financial foundation of the family business with the introduction of the Arlen Ness Catalog.
The Arlen Ness empire expanded in 2005 with the construction of his new HQ.

Arlen is still a fixture on the motorcycle rally scene as he travels around the country promoting his shop and catalog. He carries himself with class and graciousness and is always quick to sign autographs or pose for pictures with fans. Ness was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1992 and has received several lifetime achievement awards. His work is an inspiration to many in the industry and his easy-going nature makes him a true living legend in the world of custom motorcycles.