Digger Bikes Are Back. Thanks To Arlen Ness.

What is the definition of Digger? Before its definition gets distorted and corrupted (like the one of Chopper and Bobber), let me just say that almost 40 years ago the word Digger was derived from Drag Racing bikes and applied to street custom motorcycles with a long and low rigid goosenecked or straight frame, most often using a Springer or Girder front end, and featuring Prism, Diamond or Rocket Sportster gas tanks. Many used Weber’s or Dellortos carbs, Rajay turbos, Magnuson superchargers… Nothing wrong with making the Digger style evolves through the use of today’s available parts, but at least…keep the spirit.

It’s what Arlen Ness just did with a reedition of what he started 35 years ago. A Digger frame kit that he used to build these 2 bikes still faithful to the style of a bygone era, but employing a lot of his new parts, most valuable in his 2012 catalog.

Frame is constructed of 7/8” DOM steel tubing with rugged .188” wall thickness for optimal strength and durability. The frames top bar is 1-1/2” tubing for easy wire routing. Designed to accept: 23” wheels front and rear, EVO style engines up to 124”, and EVO style Softail transmissions. Frame kit includes: under frame bolt-on oil tank, Battery/Electrical box, and rear axle.

By the way, all those with a “Custom Builder Eye” noticed with me that this frame kit could also be an excellent base to build a “New Bobber” or “New Chopper”. Just pick your frame configuration: 5” stretch, 38° rake, with 1” drop in neck or 2” stretch, with 38° rake (both accepts a pair of 23″ wheels.) MSRP $2899.95. Arlen Ness Digger Frame.

23 Responses to “Digger Bikes Are Back. Thanks To Arlen Ness.”

  1. 1 Boss Hawg Mar 15th, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Sweet. long and low….

    Always liked what my good friend calls a Boulevard Cruiser, too.

    Boss Hawg

  2. 2 burnout Mar 15th, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Slim n trim. This is what I like to see from A. peace

  3. 3 Matt Mar 15th, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Reminds me of the NessCafe, Gotta love it.

  4. 4 Mad River Motor Company Mar 15th, 2012 at 9:32 am

    I haven’t seen alot of digger around lately.
    Someone like Duane Ballard or Kutty Noteboom should build one.
    That would be awesome…

  5. 5 CafeSportyTC Mar 15th, 2012 at 10:06 am

    very cool , love the fact that the rear tires arn’t wider than what i have on my jeep. Kinda over that thing. cool stuff cool stuff

  6. 6 Magnumbob Mar 15th, 2012 at 10:53 am

    ‘Always loved this look while the bike was sitting.
    With a rider though, not so much….

  7. 7 Jeff Nicklus Mar 15th, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Arlen Ness and Cyril Huze are the only two people I know that can make Candy Purple look good!

    Over & Out,


  8. 8 Rick Fairless Mar 15th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    We not only need to thank Arlen for bringing back the diggers, we should all thank Arlen that we have jobs in the industry that we love. Without Arlen, this industry would not be anywhere close to where it is today. Thank you Arlen, you’ll always be the king of custom motorcycles!

  9. 9 BrotherTiberius Mar 15th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Is it just me, or does the rear profile of the yellow bike look askew? Rear tire to centerline?

  10. 10 dannyb278 Mar 15th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    No doubt, without Arlen Ness, the custom bike seen would have lacked a lot of what we have today. However, these new designs just dont say “digger” to me in the traditional sense of the word, like the earlier photo does. Mad river Moto co was right, check out “Plum smuggler” by Kutty Noteboom and Duane Ballards “Pink Taco’ and ‘Funkenstien bult a few years back before “diggers” were cool again and major catalogues were building “digger kits”

  11. 11 Jeff Nicklus Mar 15th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    AND, to pick up where my friend RF left off …… no matter what level of success or fame Arlen has achieved throughout his career he has always remained a true gentleman. Personally, I know of no one in this industry I respect more than Arlen Ness! He is, as RF said, the King of Customs!

    Over & Out,


  12. 12 ian Mar 15th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    great stuff – built a couple of bikes like this and now I know I can call them Diggers! From a riding perspective I have to say the pair of 23″ wheels with Avon Rubber really handles so well!

  13. 13 badams Mar 15th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Hopefully this style’s resurgence has enough traction to evolve beyond its predecessors. The custom scene in California is pretty fragmented at this point. To see all those who are currently in desperate sub genres come back into a collective style would be explosive.

    The question remains if this will remain sublime, or spill into the ridiculous. Then again, very few can pull this bike off. It requires extreme acumen and talent to pull off the motor / trans setup to be considered a real Digger. Think Wink Eller, Rico Fodrey, etc…..someone who knows about V-Twin high performance down to the crankpin. Then you need guys who can actually fab with structural integrity and an eye for style. Think Cole Foster, Corey Conyers(Hanna Dragsters),etc…..or someone who has both a custom and racing fabrication credentials. Then quality paintwork that isn’t a repop of the original Digger style or some lame back alley job with bubbles, fish scales and acid waves. Beg Perewitz or Arlen(or his painting constitutes) to pic up their guns again…..or someone who can execute perfect leaf work, candies/pearls and fine-line striping, updated and subtle……

  14. 14 Woody Mar 15th, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Sweet! Very nice lines, always liked those bikes. Lowrider Tommy out of MN did some great ones back in the day, too.

  15. 15 Sportster Mike Mar 16th, 2012 at 3:24 am

    I DIG the purple one….

  16. 16 Fausto Mar 16th, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Great, now I am going to have to make all the fenders I added width to skinny again!

  17. 17 Keith Bruno A.K.A. gangster Mar 16th, 2012 at 7:15 am

    I have known Arlen Ness since the late 60’s, when he had a small shop out of his garage where he hand built some of the most tricked out bikes anywhere. Anybody in our industry today owes much of what we do to the many bikes, parts and creations he has built over the years. Arlen has always been a gentleman and will always be the original king of customs. Somewhere in the arcives I still have an old picture of Arlen with one of his purple diggers and his custom van….kudos Arlen, the builders of today should remember Arlen Ness was cool before being cool was old school and having an Arlen Ness custom was as cool as it got…FTW…

  18. 18 alan Mar 16th, 2012 at 9:05 am

    hi cyril

    did you did the purple one this remind me hight octane


  19. 19 tholland Mar 16th, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Jeff & Rick are ‘spot-on’ about Arlen Ness.
    To have attained the position of Top-Dog in the custom motorcycle industry, and still have such stellar values (personal,business & family) he should be #1.
    As reflected here, there are tons of great people in this industry, but the OCC’s and BMC’s continue to get the press.

  20. 20 Steve Hog Radio Producer Johann Mar 16th, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Love the purple bike. Ok I love purple period, but the wheel trim work on this bike etc, really works for me. I also love the fact these type of bikes use standard sized wheels and tires which allows money to go elsewhere. Nothing against big tired bikes, just in a down econ these types of bikes make a lot of cents.

    Great job Arlen!

    Thanks Cyril

  21. 21 Iron Horse Mar 16th, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Gotta agree with BrotherTiberius about the yellow one. It’s probably just the camera angle, but the rear wheel does look like it sets off to the left of center. While I kinda like the overall style, I’ll take mine with a 200mm wide rear tire Thank You. Kudo’s to Arlen for all of his many contributions to the industry.

  22. 22 nicker Mar 27th, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Yes, he’s certainly a classy and gracious gent.

    But more to the point…….
    Mr Ness makes hand building scooters an endeavor in which one can to take pride.
    Hopefully his example will bring out the best in us all…… and somehow mitigate the damage done by too many years of “TV moronics.”


  23. 23 john delinski Jun 12th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Frames above remind me of some of round track and salt flat bikes that we have watched on film and occasionally see live. Amazing aerodynamics. Studying some of the top speeds of frames like these and designs is a wealth of knowledge for any Motorcycle Enthusiast etc.


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Cyril Huze