Arlen Ness, the legendary custom motorcycle builder, has passed away at the age of 79. A post to the Arlen Ness Motorcycles Facebook page indicates that Ness passed comfortably alongside loved ones in his home.
Ness was born in 1939 and acquired his first motorcycle, a 1949 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead in the ’60s, which he set out to customize. He continued the work out of his garage in California until 1970, when he opened his first business. That first bike, however, had many of the elements that would define the Ness look for decades to come, especially the stretched tank and custom paint.
His paintwork was particularly striking, and was what afforded him some early notoriety. Soon after opening the shop, he also started to make custom parts and that, ultimately, is where he was able to make a living.
Alongside his wife Beverly (the two remained married to his death, 59 years), Ness built a business that encompassed all aspects of custom building, V-twin culture, and, most importantly, family. His son Cory worked with Ness for decades and now Cory’s son Zach is a significant part of the equation as well.
Arlen made an impact on people throughout the world, and a quote ascribed to Ness in the company’s Facebook post announcing his passing summarizes the way he looked at life:
“Motorcycling has been a great ride…my whole life since I’ve been motorcycling has been wonderful. I’ve met so many nice people. Friends all over the world…. We can go almost anyplace and stay with friends. It’s been great.”
We offer our condolences to the Ness family and friends at this time.