Arlen Ness to Receive “Lifetime Achievement” Award at This Years Sturgis Rally
Long before the “TV Celebrity Bike Builders” of the early 21st Century, his name stood above all others when it came to Bike Customisation. He was there long before them, & he’s still there long after the TV Celebs have had their 15 minutes of fame.
I was lucky enough to “run into” Arlen in 2003, sheltering from one of the heavy rain storms that can sometimes appear out of nowhere during a March Bike week in Daytona Beach. He’d just wandered into a marquee, having walked over from his shop in Beach Street. Strangely enough I’d just purchased a Ness bandana from the said same shop, he noticed this & asked me if I’d like it signed!
A special “Lifetime Achievement” award has been added to the Class of 2016 induction ceremonies. Already a Sturgis Museum Hall of Fame member circa 1992, Arlen Ness was a unanimous choice to receive the first Lifetime Achievement honours. “Arlen truly is the ‘Godfather’ of the custom bike movement,” says Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall Of Fame Executive Director Myrick Robbins. “No one has done more to influence the look of what a custom motorcycle is.”
Victory Motorcycles also recognises Arlen’s achievements and is honoured to be part of the induction ceremonies this year. “Victory Motorcycles has worked with Arlen Ness for many years now,” says Rod Krois, General Manager of Victory Motorcycles. “Early on the designers and he helped to create the now iconic Arlen Ness editions of several different models. Arlen has always been the head of his time, and we are proud to be the presenting sponsor at this important event.”
“Legend has it that Arlen really missed his calling as a pro bowler,” Robbins says. “It is true he used his earnings from bowling to buy his first motorcycle.” In 1967, Arlen found an old Knucklehead for sale for $300 and bought it with money he won bowling. He didn’t know how to ride, so a friend had to ride the bike home for him. In between riding lessons, Arlen stripped the bike down and began experimenting with his spray gun. Soon there was a growing list of people asking Arlen if he could do a nice paint job like that on their bikes.
In 1970, Arlen and his wife Beverly opened their first store. Arlen kept his day job and worked on bikes at night. One year later Arlen quit his day job and began concentrating on his passion for custom motorcycles… and create a dynasty. The Ness custom family now includes son Cory and Grandson Zach making them the only three generation family of custom builders. Bowling’s loss has become the motorcycle industry’s gain!