The word Legend gets used a lot in the motorcycle builder community. Truth is, there are many pioneering and innovating builders worthy of the title ‘legend’.

Given bike builders are a notoriously passionate and opinionated group, most of them driven by competitive spirit, it would be expected there is no consensus on who is the King of Custom motorcycles.

But ask any custom builder of any age who is the King of Custom, and the answer will undoubtedly be Arlen Ness.

This week we mourn the loss of the King of Custom. But more than the King, Ness personified ‘living legend’.

To motorcycle builders and riders, Arlen’s artistic achievements and engineering feats are already well known and undisputed. He deserves legend status for showing us what a one-of-a-kind custom motorcycle could be. Daring to try something new. Defying what was thought to be impossible. And challenging riders to expand our definition of what we thought was ‘cool’.

But Arlen didn’t stop by only showing us beautiful, but for most of us, unobtainable custom bikes. Perhaps just as legendary, and less well known, is that Arlen pioneered bringing custom to the rest of us. Arlen Ness Enterprises, and the products his company designed and manufactured gave us the means to personalize and customize our bikes in more ways than we ever could before. And just like his bike builds, many followed his lead. It’s not a stretch to say millions of us riders owe Arlen Ness thanks when we open our garage and look at our fully personalized and accessorized bike. Arlen Ness Enterprises helped pave the way for a motorcycle parts and accessories aftermarket that helped fuel the popularity of motorcycling in America. That satisfaction we feel when we do something as simple as swap out levers, mirrors or pegs to make our bike uniquely ours. We owe a little bit of that to Arlen.

J&P Cycles founder John Parham and his longtime friend Arlen Ness at the 2005 release of the book "Arlen Ness: The King of Choppers"

Besides giving us the means to personalize our bikes more and better, and the jaw-dropping builds that redefined what a motorcycle could be, what makes Arlen a giant among legends, is his one-of-a-kind legacy as the patriarch of the first family of motorcycling. In other words, Arlen’s greatest build is his family. Every day they build upon what he started. Not only did he inspire us, he inspired his kids and grandkids. Arlen Ness Enterprises is and always has been a family business. In fact, until this week Arlen Ness Enterprises was the only business in the motorcycle industry operated by three generations. Filled with current and future Motorcycle Hall of Fame members, Arlen’s true masterpiece is the family he built. It’s his greatest legacy. And a small comfort in his passing that his talent and generous spirit continues through them.

Long Live the King of Custom.