Tonight, Wednesday August 14 at 9 p.m. on National Geographic, the 1st episode featuring Zach Ness in the new TV series “Let It Ride.” In the show, wild inspiration drives Zach and his crew to build the very best custom motorcycles, whether by resurrecting dead bikes or through premium commissions from clients seeking a one-of-a-kind dream machine. Zach Ness, son of Cory Ness and grandson of customizing legend Arlen Ness, strives to set out his own path, but custom bikes never come easy…
This evening episode. When a stunt rider from the YouTube sensation ”Harley Wheelies” group commissions Zach to build a bike, the challenging, big-ticket job comes down to the wire, pushing Zach and his crew to their limits. This monster of a motorcycle needs to be finished in two weeks for the next “Harley Wheelies” video shoot. The problem? The bike Zach buys is just a pile of old parts. Tensions rise as the deadline looms and the “Franken-bike” refuses to come together…
Before you watch this first episode, I asked Zach Ness to answer a few questions.
Zach. 25 years old, Not Married but have a girlfriend, Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University
Cyril. Tell me about the oldest memory you have associated with motorcycles.
Zach. The oldest memory I can think of is being in my Grandpa’s garage when he was working on one of his Tail Dragger style customs. My parents were gone, so I was at Grandpa’s for the weekend, I remember just sitting down on the garage steps in front of the door leading to the house and just watching and analyzing each process of the build. After several hours I remember asking him countless questions, I think after the 50th question he told me that I talked too much. He told me to watch, learn, and then do. Ever since, I like to keep the talking to a minimum and focus on learning my craft and getting the work done
Cyril. When you were a kid, you wanted to become a?
Zach. I never was set on being anything specific when I was a kid. I was always just interested in learning and experiencing new things/subjects.
Cyril. Do you remember your first accompanied trip with your parents or grandparents to a major rally event? Which one? What was your first impression?
Zach. The first rally I ever went to was Laconia with my dad Cory. I was 15 years old. It was right after I finished building my first motorcycle. My dad was on the Hard Rock Roadhouse tour, which was held in one of the largest bars at the rally. I was allowed into the bar so I thought it was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen. At the time I was new to riding and had my motorcycle driving license, so I loved riding around the event and seeing so many custom bikes in one place. The highlight had to be judging the Hawaiian Tropic Bikini contest. A few months later we had a family party for my birthday and the TV happened to be on the Entertainment channel (E). I popped up on the screen judging the contest with the girls persuading me to give me their vote… I had a big smile on my face and felt pretty cool…. Grandma and Mom didn’t think I was so cool.
Cyril. Many children don’t want to embrace the same career as their parents. Was it the case, at least at a certain period of your life?
Zach. My grandpa and dad have always been my heroes, and fortunately we have always gotten along very well. So I can’t say I’ve ever not wanted to embrace my current path. But at the same time I didn’t want to only follow but to make my own path by diving into all types of motorcycles, design, and possibly other subjects. My core will always be motorcycle, but I also don’t want to limit myself
Zach. After finishing building my first bike at 15 was when I really knew for sure I wanted to join the Ness enterprise. I was always very interested in bikes and in our business. But it wasn’t until I finished turning that last bolt, fired the engine for the first time, and actually rode my machine down the road that I was positive in my direction. It was a feeling of personal satisfaction that I hadn’t received anywhere else yet and it was the first time I was allowed to ride on the actual street. It was over after that
Cyril. Growing up, was there a special motorcycle, a certain custom builder you admired?
Zach. The builder was Grandpa and the motorcycle was his “SmoothNess.” Till this day I think it the most beautiful motorcycle ever built
Cyril. Your first own motorcycle was?
Zach. The first motorcycle was the full custom I built when I was 15. It was a chopper with a Ness Y2K frame, custom tanks and fenders, and all polished & chrome accessories. The paint was a black base with American flag flames. Someday I would love to get it back. I sold it to purchase my first truck
Cyril. Which year did you officially join the Ness business appearing on the payroll? What is your current official title and responsibilities?
Zach. I started working at the shop at 13 sanding frames, sweeping the floors, and working in packaging putting together bolt kits for products. I worked every summer until 15 when I was officially and legally allowed to be on payroll. Since I was 15 I worked every weekend and every summer until I went off to college. Through college I worked each summer and during my winter & spring breaks. I flew home to work as well. My last two years of college I started getting very involved with our core business and with Victory. I graduated in 2010 and started working full time the day after I moved back. My current responsibilities in our business include: – Design: My dad and I share the responsibility of designing all our products including parts and apparel. As well as our company and personal motorcycle builds. – Catalog and marketing: which include our parts catalog, ads, and our product wirte-ups and information regarding products.
Zach. Sure, there is definitely pressure because of my last name. Whether it’s from the level of quality that is expected when a Ness builds a bike, filling the massive shoes of my family, or the “Silver Spoon” type comments. How do I handle it? Its hard to say handle or deal with it because I have a fortunate life and have some really amazing opportunities. I just make sure to work as hard as I can. No one can take away hard work and dedication. I believe it’s not what you are given or born with that you should be judged by. It’s what you choose to do with it. Other than that I just do what I love, treat people with respect, and keep learning as much as possible.
Cyril. Do you watch Motorcycle Reality TV shows? Which ones?
Zach. I’ve seen some motorcycle reality shows but I don’t watch them.
Cyril. Now you have your own TV Show (“Let It Ride” premiering August 14th on National Geographic at 9 pm ET/PT). Tell me when and how you were approached to do it.
Zach. I was approached by other production companies several times before but was never interested. Pilgrim approached my with an idea. I said I was interested so they flew a crew down to film me talking, answering questions, and working on projects. Two weeks later the heads of Pilgrim called, came out to the shop, and we started laying out the show and a deal.
Cyril. Please, explain in what aspect(s) this “Let It Ride” TV series is going to be different from others who have seen since year 2000.
Zach. Well first off there is no drama. We will be customizing all different kinds of motorcycles: cruisers, customs, sport bikes, dirt bikes, and more. Not only just their aesthetics but also improving the performance and rideability. Once the bike is done, we don’t only cruise it down the road. We will show it performs. Each episode will include the build process, riding, and also entertaining scenes around the shop and on our travels. Not everyone in the world enjoys watching every bit of the motorcycle build process, so we have something for everyone in each episode. My goal in the end is to attract the younger generation and more people to the motorcycle industry.
Zach. The only thing they told me is to just be myself, enjoy the moment, and have fun with it
Cyril. For each custom motorcycle you build on the show with your team, how much time show producer Pilgrim Production gave you to complete a project?
Zach. It varies from 1 to 3 weeks maximum. The deadlines are not false, we have been working hard to get bikes that should take several months done in weeks time.
Cyril. Building bikes front of the camera is having eyes all over you even when you don’t wish. Any situation where you and you crew felt a little bit uncomfortable?
Zach. At first it was tough to think and figure out designs/issues on the fly on camera. Thinking of a solution immediately that will be judged on national television was a little unsettling at first. But you get over it real fast when it’s on a daily basis
Cyril. You signed for 8 episodes with National Geographic. Are you currently still building bikes for this series?
Zach. I actually signed 10 episodes the first season. I have 1 bike left after the debut date
Cyril. After the Chopper, the new or old Bobber, the Ultra bagger and the Cafe Racer, what do you think is the next big thing to hit the custom motorcycle industry?
Zach. I think the next big thing is intelligent design and improving the motorcycle itself, no matter what is the style. You see many people putting performance-oriented parts on cruisers more then ever before, whether it is inverted front ends or better braking. Whether it’s performance or technology, we’re going to improve the motorcycle
Zach. Yes, I’m going ALL IN on one soon… Can’t say too much now, but what I will say is that it will be detailed down to every bolt and will take some time to build.
Cyril. Thanks Zach.