Thursday, February 19, 2004

Father and son custom motorcycle builders Cory Ness, left, and Arlen Ness were in town for the "Biker Build-Off and Bike Show" Sunday at the Hard Rock Cafe in Waikiki.

Easy Ridin'

"The Great Bike Build-Off
and Show" draws thousands
of local motorcycle enthusiasts

THE ROARING sound of motorcycle engines echoed along Kalakaua Avenue near the Hawai'i Convention Center as thousands of bikers descended on the Hard Rock Cafe for "The Great Bike Build-Off and Show."

"To have something this big come to this little island is awesome," said 21-year-old Chase Deacon, son of one of the event's organizers. "Anyone that has anything to do with a V-Twin bike knows who Arlen Ness is."

Bikers turned out for the event with their custom rides, with some of the detail shown here, for the program that will air on the Discovery Channel in June.

For those of us who stick to riding around on four wheels instead of two, Arlen Ness is one of America's leading custom bike builders. He's been putting motorcycles together long before television shows like "American Chopper," "Motorcycle Mania" and "Ride On" ever made it into the living rooms of enthusiasts and casual fans alike.

Last week, Arlen and his son Cory were in town to film an upcoming episode of "The Great Bike Build-Off" for the Discovery Channel. Father and son each built a custom motorcycle at their shop in California, then shipped them to Hawaii for test drives on the Big Island and Oahu. The resulting footage will be used when the episode airs in June.

Twenty years ago, $10,000 would result in a nice custom ride a bike. Today, $80,000 would be a start.

"It's been great," Arlen said of Sunday's taping as he signed autographs and took pictures with fans alongside his creation in the Hard Rock parking lot. "We spent three days riding (on the Big Island). What a great place to put the miles on!"

Cory agreed. "All this TV stuff is making people aware of our industry. Motorcycles are a lot of fun, you know?"

Thousands of motorcycle riders, their families and those who don't ride but wish they could, wandered throughout the parking lot, looking on in awe at motorcycles lined up in categories such as old-school chopper, new-school chopper, full custom, island style and vintage. For Ho'ohui Kakou Motorcycle Club president "Big Al" Abreu, the amount of money some invest in their bikes is mind-boggling.

Gleaming paint jobs and parts go with the territory during the "Great Bike Build-Off and Show."

"Twenty years ago when you built a custom bike, you'd spend $10,000 and you'd have a hot bike," he said. "Now you spend $80,000 and you have a good start!"

Abreu, who owns his own shop in Waipahu, was also proud of the fact that so many motorcycle clubs were able to participate in the show, helping to make Hawaii look good in the eyes of a national audience.

"If you look, you'll see there's probably 20 different clubs here," the 60-year-old said, gesturing toward groups of people, each wearing different colors on their riding leathers. "On the mainland, you don't see 20 different clubs in one place."

Koa Puna Motorcycle Club treasurer Steve Longwell agreed. "It's good for the motorcycle community," he said of Sunday's gathering. "We got a lot of local builders here that don't get the recognition or whatever.

"You bring these guys in," he continued, motioning toward the Nesses, "and the next thing you know ... things start moving."


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