Exclusive. Zach Ness NessCafe. The First Custom Victory Judge.

If last Friday you were not present at the New York International Motorcycle Show, you discovered the 2013 Victory Judge model first in photos in my blog, then in a video where it was shown in action flexing its American muscles. But this new model unveiling is only part of the story. Some of you know that a few hours later the Victory staff was also unveiling to the press and public present at the Manhattan Javits Center  the first ever Custom Victory Judge designed and built by Zach Ness.

It must be noted that, as far as I know, Victory Motorcycles seem to be the only major manufacturer to release in simultaneity both a production model and its radical custom version. A great idea that I wish all manufacturers should follow…

I asked Zach to tell me the story of this radical custom Victory Judge named NessCafe, how it got started, his approach in designing it and the mods he had to make with his crew to turn the new production Judge into a pure and original American Cafe Racer.

“It all started at the Polaris corporate headquarters in Medina, MN. Victory gained me clearance to Polaris’ high security R&D and design facility where the full range of Polaris products are developed. It was there when I first saw the new cruiser model “The Judge”.  Victory then gave me the task of building my own custom Judge for the model release at the New York IMS show, giving me a total of 6 weeks to complete the build. They wanted a highly modified bike, not the usual bolt on and paint mods but a complete change from the frame up. The only guidelines I had to follow were to keep the stock headlight and tank, the rest was free style. Once I received the bike I took it for a ride. The bike handled and performed very well, and I immediately knew I wanted to do a Café style bike. The concept was simple: Gain performance and handling, drop weight, and create a simple classic café stance with new/different modern design details.

The frame was cut in half and rear section completely re-designed. The heavy stock castings were replaced with chromoly tubing varying in size from 1 inch, inch and an eighth, and inch and a quarter.  I kept the stock suspension and motor mount location so I didn’t step too far away from the new model but put much work into improving the style and strength. An additional set of side frame rails were added to gain additional strength and give the “continuous” frame look that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been done on a Victory. The tail section was a one-off design that accented the rear of the gas tank. Complementary side moldings and brake/turn signal LED pockets were fabricated for added detail. The battery, ECU, power commander, and fuse box are all contained within the tail section. Dzus button fasteners were used throughout for a clean look and ability to make technical adjustments on the fly. The tank was lifted in the rear to gain the slight downward sloping line found on traditional Café Racers. Both front and rear of the tank received custom tank mounts.

Ohlins built a one-off  fully adjustable TTX rear shock according to the bikes specifications. The shock adjusting knob was mounted to the newly installed side frame rails for easy adjustability and a clean look. The front fork tubes were slipped an inch through to gain the desired stance. The bike was sent to Lloyds Motorworkz in Pine Bush, NY the week before the show. I met the bike there on Monday where we pulled the engine and completely re-built it. Engine mods included: crank weight reduced by 10 lbs, cams, raised compression, heads port and polish, custom built ECU, power commander, Lloyds Torque Tube intake, and nickel plated rocker boxes.

The painted sheetmetal and seat were shipped to Lloyds where they were installed Wednesday night (2 days before unveiling) and the bike was completed Thursday morning. We then headed to New York City and revealed the bike on Saturday.”

Zach added that he was very thankful  to Victory Motorcycles for giving him the opportunity to work on the new Judge because he is perfectly aware that many other builders out there would have been as qualified as him to complete such a radical build. Of course he also acknowledged the hard work of his team helping him complete such a radical project on a short notice from Victory.

During this interview I also learned that the Judge model and Victory NessCafe releases set records of web traffic for the Victory corporate website and its social media sites… All this confirming what I have thought right away when, before the launch, I looked at the Judge for the 1st time. This model has the muscle strength to attract many buyers from other brands and is particularly fit for many customization styles. Ness Enterprises.

Engine Modifications:
Re-engineered cam to reduce weight by 10 pounds
S&S 495 Cams
Port and Polish Heads
Raised Compression from 9 to 2, 10 to 1
Power Commander
Custom built ECU
Lloyds Torque Tube Intake
Nickel plated Rocker Box’s
Lloyds Nickel Plated Engine Covers

Completely re-designed rear frame section: Removed heavy stock steel castings and replaced with Chromoly tubing varying in size from 1”, 1 1/8”, and 1 1/4”. Resulting in a dramatic weight loss and increased strength while keeping factory suspension angles
Added second frame rail for a continuous frame look never before done to a Victory and added strength.
Foot Controls moved an additional 5” back
Gained an additional 3-5 inches of ground clearance (adjustable)

One-off tail section housing battery, ECU, and fuse box. Integrated LED taillight and turn signals.
Tank remounted to raise rear and lower front to achieve café look.
Dzus fasteners used throughout for clean look and ability to make technical modifications/fixes on the fly.

Ohlins TTX rear shock. Fully adjustable. Custom built by Ohlins for bikes specifications

Ness 10-Gauge wheels, rotors, and pulley. Sizes: Front- 18×3.5 Rear-18×5.0

Other Modifications:
Ness “Slot Track” grips from our new Fusion Series grips and pegs.
Headlight relocated
Ness RAD III hand controls
Vortex 43mm clip on’s
Goodridge Sniper Brake lines and Stainless Steel fittings
Barnett clutch and throttle cables
Alloy Art/Todds Cycle rear brake reservoir
One-off handmade exhaust. Chrome ceramic coated then Scotchbright finished. Accel header wrap
One-off seat by Danny Gray, comprised of Mercedes AMG leather

Paint: PPG Black Cherry, with Candy Red panels and variegated gold leaf border
Painter: Ogawa Designs
Powdercoating: Maas Brothers

Special Thanks:
Danny Freitas
Tim Stanton
Ohlins Suspension
Goodridge Fluid Transfer Systems


66 Responses to “Exclusive. Zach Ness NessCafe. The First Custom Victory Judge.”

  1. 1 Biker Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Wow … a great bike … with very nice details 😉

  2. 2 Ben Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Reduced crank wieght by 10 lbs? Holy crap, that must be a screamer! I would ride that motorcycle, very nice lines, but the exhaust isn’t really turnin me on. It’s good to see a manufacturer willing to say, “here is our new best effort, change it!” Nice job Zach, me likey!

  3. 3 BrotherTiberius Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I like the exhaust better, love the wraps, would gloss back the rear end of the exhaust system. This build, overall, I like better than the stock.

  4. 4 A 1 CYCLES Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:07 am

    great job zach

  5. 5 Luis Jan 25th, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I wish the judge looked like this from the factory

  6. 6 JJ - Moto Addict Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Please make a more affordable production version of this bike please.

    Why is this segment so void of cool bikes like this?

    Awesome job Zach!!!

    Can this bike be raffled off?

  7. 7 just my opinion Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Now that is an American bike the young riders today would buy and be proud to own. Hope Victory starts producing these like they do Arlen and Cory’s designs. Great job Zack

  8. 8 Cory Hebert Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:17 am

    WOW…that’s a REALLY beautiful execution. Bravo!

  9. 9 CafeSportyTC Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I’ll take one in Cobalt blue!

  10. 10 MostChillin Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Victory should consider building a version of this bike considering the current cafe racer craze that I personally like. Triumph (Thruxton), Moto Guzzi (V7 Racer) and Ducati (no longer available Sport Classics) have all embraced the factory cafe racer concept. It would be great to see an American company like Victory step up to the plate and offer a factory cafe.

    I love what DP Customs is doing with old Ironheads and embracing the cafe craze. I’m considering one of their examples currently…

    I wish I was a bit more ahead of the cafe craze as I’ve been looking for an old RD350 or RD400. Before the craze they were available for less than $1K — now a barely decent example will fetch $2K-$4K. Oh well… Sorry for going off topic.

    Please build a version of this bike, Victory.

  11. 11 Mauler Jan 25th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    This is great looking Judge. Victory needs to make a production version. It looks great in the cafe style.

  12. 12 Bruce Whitey Knight Jan 25th, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Beautiful bike Zach!!!!! Cory and Arlen the kid just proved himself worthy. I myself love the pipes and the fact this bike should just about outrun anything else America is turning out. I would definitely be a proud owner. But, I would put some risers on it and a Ness Fairing and it would make one hell of a screamin club bike. Good job keeping the tradition alive.

  13. 13 Wiley Jan 25th, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    “The First Custom Victory Judge.”

    Maybe that’s because they got one before everyone else……

  14. 14 badams Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    This kid is refreshing. He gets it.

  15. 15 Jason Hallman Jan 25th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Sollis is the man!

  16. 16 Steve Carr Jan 25th, 2012 at 3:23 pm


    Someone Gets it!

    This is one of , if not THE nicest bike I have seen in years, This needs to be a production bike, PERIOD!

    Great Job Zach…..

    Steve Carr

  17. 17 Night Train Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:02 pm


  18. 18 morpion Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    i am not a victory fan,but i can say it is a good job

  19. 19 Timmoking Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I think Victory has hit the marketing nail on the head! . There are so many changes I would make to the Nesscafe if I owned a production version; but that is the whole idea, isn’t it? Inspire your market and then sell them more products to personalise their machine. Harley Davidson, please don’t get lost in the ageing fog of your own “mystique”. Call Roland Sands now! The younger generation is always the new marketing target. Give them what they so obviously want. Victory is now doing that! ( If this concept goes to production without futher “input” from the production designers.)

  20. 20 Hondo Cat Jan 25th, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Congratulations to Zach Ness, as well as, Lloyd Greer of Lloydz Motorworkz on a very sweet custom cafe inspired bike.

  21. 21 Captain John T. Awesome Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Hasn’t Roland Sands been doing this for years now???

  22. 22 Captain John T. Awesome Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Oh and he even stole Roland Sands hat!!!!

  23. 23 Mike Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    -engineered cam to reduce weight by 10 pounds

    Should this crank and not cam, my cams together don’t weigh 10 lbs, also lets see what happens after he gets some real miles on it or if it evens gets any miles on it. Also lets see what power this bike has, if Lloyd worked on it and it has Lloyd’z TT I am sure it got dyno done
    When all the fuss was being made about this build a comment was made ” yes but will it be fast” well mister is it fast
    Mike S.

  24. 24 Zach Ness Jan 25th, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you everyone for the comments, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support! I had a great time with this build, much thanks to Victory for the opportunity.

    Captain John T. Awesome-Cafe racers have their roots in the 1960’s and as of recent times have been a popular trend in the motorcycle industry as a whole. The point of this project was to do a cafe racer style bike starting with the new Victory Judge. So to elaborate on both your comments that lacks any fact, substance, or seemingly intelligence…yes, hundreds or even thousands of cafe bikes have been done since the 60’s because it is a certain style of motorcycle. My friend Roland is very talented and does exceptional work, he and hundreds of other builders have built cafe racer style bikes in the past. But as far as Victory cafe racer motorcycles, this is one of very few. Wish you the best Captain Awesome!

    Mike- Once I finished the bike, it was shipped to Lloyds shop in Pine Bush, NY. I flew to New York the Monday before the show and met the bike at Lloyds. It was at Lloyds where we pulled the engine, rebuilt it, and finally dyno tuned the bike. To answer your question, yes the bike is fast. Unfortunately due to time constraints I havent been able to ride the bike too much yet…but I will meet it in Daytona where I will really get to test it and run it on the track.

  25. 25 Seymour Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    “So to elaborate on both your comments that lacks any fact, substance, or seemingly intelligence”

    I like that! Sucks that you would have to respond to imbeciles though..

  26. 26 JC Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Don’t lower yourself to reply to dumb asses like that. They don’t have the balls to say who they are so they hide behind an alias. Great job on the build.


  27. 27 Eric Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks Zach. Awesome job. Can’t wait to hear how it rides on the track. Keep us posted!

  28. 28 Sollis Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Good job Zach and Thanks!

  29. 29 Branner Jan 25th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Cyril & Zach,

    How about a follow up post at Daytona? You’ll both be there… I’d love to see more pics and even a video.

    Zach, congrats, that’s the nicest Victory I’ve seen.

  30. 30 LENNY SINNET Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Great job nice bike time to make it a production bike its an American winner..

  31. 31 Joe Mielke Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Was able to check this motorcycle out first hand in New York at the IMS. It is a stunning motorcycle. Once again, great job Zach.

  32. 32 Woody Jan 25th, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Very nice. I wish THAT bike was the “new Judge” and the production bike was some “custom” we could chuckle about and move on. Seriously, Zach’s bike would truly have been a NEW Victory. I’m sure if there’s anything under the skin that would have to be tweaked for buildability on a production line, it could be done without sacrificing the overall concept. To steal a previous comment, “Zach gets it.”.

  33. 33 roscoe Jan 25th, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Very nice!
    Victory did well with the stock bike, and now Zach steps it up a notch. I love it.

  34. 34 CHINGON CHOPPERS Jan 25th, 2012 at 11:06 pm



    From Los Angeles, DAVID CHINGON. youtube “chingon choppers”

  35. 35 Brandon Carlson Jan 26th, 2012 at 12:25 am

    I hope Victory is listening. People sure love this NessCafe. PLEASE MAKE A PRODUCTION VERSION, with more cornering clearance of course.

  36. 36 nicker Jan 26th, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Very nicely done, indeed.
    The old look done in a new way.


  37. 37 Rider2 Jan 26th, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Funny that the first custom bike from a Judge model makes Zach take the entire rear of the bike including that ugly oval “whatever the hell is this” portion. Nicely done. Maybe Victory could hire him to design the next model. The only thing I would be concerned about here is that this custom is very Roland Sands looking… We don’t need another builder like him….

  38. 38 Robert Pandya Jan 26th, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Zach did a great job on this build. So did Lloydz on the motor (as they did on the recent Klock Roads). Victory was proud to facilitate and promote this. We also happy to see reactions one way or the other on both the production bikes and the customs that spring from them. There are many people forging ahead. And these is more to come. And I know that some of it will be loved, some of it will be hated and all of it will be great riding American motorcycles designed by riders for riders.

  39. 39 Duckman Jan 26th, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Well done Zach!

  40. 40 krugger Jan 26th, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Nice job Zach, very tastefull and well proportionned !! At least , you look pretty with the Roland hat…. 😉

  41. 41 GB Jan 26th, 2012 at 4:24 am

    Zac, congratulations on a fine job,. What is the dry weight of the bike now mate? Would LOVE to see Victory release this model ‘down under’ where I live. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and come on over here mate, would love to pick your brain with custom ideas.

  42. 42 Donny Jan 26th, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Thank you Cyril for reporting on this project. I know many readers would like you to test it in Daytona to tell us if it’s more that a nice design package conceived to sell the new Victory Judge production model.

  43. 43 Brett Jan 26th, 2012 at 6:34 am

    The best “Polaris” bike to date.

    Like people have stated…maybe it’s time to stop hiring all engineers & start hiring some designers. I think it would help them alot.

  44. 44 Lloyd Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Its not a Roland Hat its a Zach hat! Most of the young SuperStars today are flat brimming it. Hey I’m alittle jealous too, I just dont look good in a flat brim:(

    I agree with Robert that all comments are good ones. Like it or not see it for the talent put forth in the build and the desire for top builders like Zach to show their style of work.
    I think Zach did an awsome job on this build and the detail and worksmanship show that. Also having had the oppertunity to spend a week in the shop turning wrenches with Zach I was impressed with his attention to detail and he is just a great person whos down to earth. It wont be a surprise, but this young man is going to forge frontiers!

  45. 45 Skins Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:14 am

    That bike needs to be in production! That is the BEST custom Victory ive seen yet! Hell of a job young Ness! Hell of a job!!!!!!!!

  46. 46 krugger Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:47 am

    @ Lloyd

    About the Roland’s hat…. It was a joke …. stupid maybe , but a joke….!

  47. 47 Rick Lossner Jan 26th, 2012 at 8:59 am

    VERY NICE build … looking forward to hearing more about the engine output… since it starts at 96HP, wondering where we are now with it?

  48. 48 Mike Jan 26th, 2012 at 10:37 am

    “Mike- Once I finished the bike, it was shipped to Lloyds shop in Pine Bush, NY. I flew to New York the Monday before the show and met the bike at Lloyds. It was at Lloyds where we pulled the engine, rebuilt it, and finally dyno tuned the bike. To answer your question, yes the bike is fast. Unfortunately due to time constraints I havent been able to ride the bike too much yet…but I will meet it in Daytona where I will really get to test it and run it on the track.”

    Yes I understand not being able to get some miles on bike this time of year in this area, but do you have any numbers on what it pulled on dyno or are we keeping it quite for now. I no Lloyd can do wonders with a Victory motor and a dyno.
    Mike S.

  49. 49 BobS Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Reading the engine build sheet, I’ll bet with a good 2-1 pipe and stock crank/redline this bike would make somewhere in the 120hp range. 11 or 12 -1 compression and a 116″ kit would’ve been really cool. With that crank the redline could be moved up and with it hp numbers, but my guess is we haven’t seen dyno results because those pipes are probably sucking away some of the gains from the motor build. If that dyno came back with 110 to 115 hp, that might not look to impressive. However, I’ll also bet that bike only weighs 500 lbs. AND I bet the motor still has about 120 ft/lbs of torque at 2500 to 3000 rpm, mucho fun ride. Now an equal length 2-1 header, a little bit more bore, a little bit more compression…..

  50. 50 Matt Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Great balance of classic and modern style/engineering. That’s what I usually come to expect from Victory and Zach has definitely kicked it up a notch. Great job man!

  51. 51 The Supreme Team Jan 26th, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Gotta say…up to this point, I didn’t know if Zach was riding Dad and G-Pa’s coattails…shame on me.
    Now, I can honestly offer a sincere congratulations on a job well done. Beautiful build Zach…I’m looking forward to the next one.

  52. 52 Mike Jan 26th, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I would hope he got a least them numbers with a 106,since you can get just about the same with a set of cams, TT, controller and a good exhaust from a 100 engine.
    Mike S.

  53. 53 Captain John T. Awesome Jan 26th, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Zach, Seymour -I apologize to Zach for feeling the brunt of my styling frustrations with Victory. They offer an amazingly engineered product, yet over and over, the styling of the production and custom models disappoint me. They always seem to be dated before they ever get released. That is the nature of production bikes, but I have higher hopes for customs.
    I know I’m not “friends” with Roland Sands (LOL) but I’ve always presumed Roland’s bikes were superbike influenced, due to his years on the track and statements made to the media. Not Cafe. Nor is this bike really a cafe racer. It’s a ground up custom bike with race bike influences. To my eyes anyway. The beauty of art is that anybody can have their own opinion of it. The hardest part of being an artist is putting yourself out there to bear the brunt of other peoples opinions of your work. Now to comment negatively on my intelligence and to presume that my comments lack facts or substance for presenting a dissenting view is just low class. I was commenting on the overall style of the build and giving my opinion as I see it and offering a supporting statement of said view. Granted, my delivery probably left something to be desired and for that I must also apologize.LOL But not everybody is going to like what you do. To assume that they’re all stupid is just shutting yourself off from growing as an artist. An artist is supposed to constantly analyze and question themselves and what they do. That’s how boundaries are pushed.
    Now, all that said, it’s a neat bike, I never said it wasn’t. However, it does seem to me to follow a little too closely to the template as set by Roland Sands during the Biker Build Off years to be considered that great a custom. Even the paint is similar to the particular bike I remember. It’s even pretty similar to the Yamaha MT-01, which is also a neat bike, but nothing special these days.

    JC – And just what exactly is JC but an alias? Seems kinda silly for people who live in glass houses to be throwing stones.LOL I choose not to use my name openly online; however if you notice, my email address is attached to this nickname and should anyone, including yourself or Zach, like to contact me feel perfectly free to do so.

  54. 54 Captain John T. Awesome Jan 26th, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Krugger – Thanks, and yes it was a stupid joke.lol

  55. 55 Captain John T. Awesome Jan 26th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Krugger – Sorry, I meant my joke about the hat was stupid. Didn’t even see yours till just now. Oops.

  56. 56 lumpy Jan 26th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Very Cool, Love The Cafe Racer, Here In Daytona Beach A Few Of My Buddies Have Been Doing Them With Old Bikes From The 70’s.. I Will Be Building Custom Frames For Iron Heads An Making Them Into Cafe Racers Just Something Different,

  57. 57 BobS Jan 26th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Mike, there’s a build very similar to this on on Lloyd’s site. But it has stock crank and I think an S&S intake, 119 hp. That is with a Bassani 2-1 too. Of course I can’t tell much from the outside, but it would not be unheard of for a poor performing pipe to loose 10hp over a good one. Of course that bike wouldn’t look as good with a Bassani 2-1 either.
    Oh, and Lloyd also has a 116″ with. 14-1 compression on his site with 149 hp!

  58. 58 Gary Jan 26th, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Nice…but it’s not Victory

  59. 59 sollis Jan 27th, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Capthan john viva internet and free blogs now dumb ass can comment his nonescnence all day long thinking this is text messaging

  60. 60 Sid Jan 27th, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    This would have been done years ago if Victory would sell crate motors or if salvaged motors of the 2nd gen. design were easier to come by.

    Nice paint and bodywork, but the swing arm pivot looks low for a torquey twin and foot pegs are too forward. Further revisions will be better.

  61. 61 John Green Jan 28th, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Zac Atta Boy We are starting to see the Vics trickle into the show circut.
    The simple fact that Victory picked you to do the bike is enough.
    I can’t think of a single name that trumps the Ness family for inovation, dedication and longevity.
    Each generation brings their own style.
    Raisin Pie (you might have to ask Gpa what that means)

  62. 62 Blackmax Jan 28th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I wanted to wait till almost the end to comment:
    I knew it would be a winner, lots of favorable comments & talk of the next Ness Custom????
    Congrats, Zach, WTG !!!!!
    We’ll talk about it in Cincy !!!!!

  63. 63 Tim Jan 28th, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks for the props Zach!!

  64. 64 barney Jan 30th, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Interesting take. However I find the wheel choice and sprocket to be far too fussy. The header pipe doesn’t do much for me either…would have looked better all chrome. Cafe bikes were historically stripped down affairs so the ‘loud’ wheels don’t work for me.
    I really like the clean style of the production Judge myself.

  65. 65 mid-north-kustomz Feb 1st, 2012 at 8:03 am

    its in the blood hey boyz,, if he can build that now,,,,,, imagine whats instaled by the time he gets to his dads age !!! good on ya son, i look at that bike, and your taste is somewhere in between, dad and grand dad ! bravo ! u deserve the best in life mate !

  66. 66 David Mar 18th, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Great bike I just love it !!! I Hope Victory will jump on this and put it into production….I’ll order one.


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Cyril Huze