Legendary East Bay custom motorcycle designer Arlen Ness dies at 79


(KRON) — Motorcycle designer and entrepreneur Arlen Ness died Friday night at age 79.

Known for his customized bike designs and massive Bay Area-based showroom and museum, Ness is often referred to as the “King of Custom Motorcycles.” 

His motorcycle company announced Ness’ death on Facebook last week, calling the 79-year-old a visionary, loving husband, father, grandfather and leader. 

The post read in part: 

“The most important things in Arlen’s life were his wife of 59 years Beverly, his children, grandchildren, friends and motorcycles. Arlen once said that ‘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.’ With few words Arlen conveyed his priorities every day, family and friends.”

Ness’ company has been staple in the Bay Area motorcycle community for nearly 50 years, according to the company’s website, and is headquarted in Dublin. 

The 79-year-old started his business out of a garage in San Leandro, eventually opening stores in Oakland and becoming an internationally-known brand, shipping a bike worldwide every other day. 

“Although the Ness family cannot put their loss into words, they can look up and smile knowing Arlen has done something that few men do in a lifetime of trying. He has inspired.”

KRON4 spoke to Ness in 2007, profiling the man’s work and how he got his start in the motorcycle business. 

“I had a little bit of experience painting cars, so I started painting my motorcycle and I met some other people who had motorcycles and started painting theirs and I enjoyed it,” Ness said in 2007. “So I’d work during the day and paint at night and finally decided maybe I’ll try to do this for a living.”

The Ness Family says they’ll announce a memorial service and celebration of life after private mourning time. 

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