Rest in Peace, Arlen Ness

Legacy in Iron and Chrome

The motorcycle world suffered a great loss this week with the passing of Arlen Ness. I first met Arlen at the Laughlin River Run in 2000. You’d think that a living legend (that’s no exaggeration; he earned being a legend in his own time) like Arlen would have had a presence as bold as the killer creations he conjured up in his shop but the opposite held true. Mr. Ness came across as a very genuine, laid back guy who was very approachable. He didn’t have to talk himself up to anyone. His motorcycles, parts, paint, and a family dynasty spanning three generations all spoke (and continue to speak) for him.
But where did the Ness legacy begin? In this video below, Arlen himself talks about his first custom bike, Untouchable, and the origins of his journey into motorcycling.

Arlen created some very ambitious motorcycles, even saving the Victory brand from the brink of destruction in 2002 when Arlen Ness Enterprises worked hand-in-hand with the company developing the Vegas, one of the sleekest production American cruisers that ever prowled pavement. Ultimately Victory went under a little over a decade later but the lessons parent company Polaris learned from Arlen and Cory Ness were probably applied to the rebirth of Indian a few years ago when Polaris took over that brand. Those lessons and the ones learned by Arlen’s example stand as a legacy few of us will ever have but that all of us are better for having experienced it.