Our 5 Favorite Arlen Ness Bikes

Ness will be honored at the upcoming Quail Motorcycle Gathering, and these singular builds are part of the reason why


This choppereque creation rides on a Dyna-style rubber mount frame made out of aluminum.Jeff Allen

Every year since its inception, the Quail Motorcycle Gathering has drawn thousands of two-wheel enthusiasts to Carmel, California, to gawk at a collection of some of the world's fastest, rarest, and most unique motorcycles. And each year, the organizers also bestow awards and honors to giants of the sport.

At this year's 10th anniversary show, Arlen Ness is slated to be that honoree, and the show will feature motorcycles from three generations of the Ness family, including Arlen's jaw-dropping, Art Deco-inspired "SmoothNess." A collection of other bikes from Arlen, son Cory, and grandson Zach as well as others from the Ness Museum will also be in full view out on that pristine lawn.

Ness, who's often credited with helping create the chopper and showbike industry, was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1992. Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame Executive Director Myrick Robbins has called Arlen "…the 'Godfather' of the custom bike movement. No one has done more to influence the look of what a custom motorcycle is."

No argument there. In fact, here are five of our favorite Ness creations over the years.

Ness Indian Chieftain Custom

Although grandson Zach did much of the design work on this slick Indian bagger, Arlen supplied the parts. Who thought we’d ever see an inverted fork on a bagger?Justin George

King’s Victory

Arlen thought he’d prod Victory into creating a sportbike by shoehorning its 106ci engine into a modified Spondon frame. And dousing it all in aluminum!Jordan Mastagni

1947 Arlen Ness Knucklehead

Arlen’s first bike sports a handmade girder front end and a custom chrome-moly single-tube frame, among other tasty details.Hot Bike archives

Sportster Chopper

Arlen started to hit his stride in the ’70s with out-of-the-box designs like this Sportster and 74.Dennis Anderson

Y2K Chopper

This long and lean chopper started with Arlen’s son Cory’s Y2K frame then rubber-mounting an 113ci S&S motor between the rails.Howard Kelly