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St. Albert Harley shop owner wants to grow city's biker scene

Anyone with a love of motorcycles is welcome to join
Lee Ness working on a Harley Davidson motorcycle at his new repair shop. RILEY TJOSVOLD/Thestreetgypsies

Harley-Davidson motorcycles are in Lee Ness’s blood.

His father owned a Harley. His grandfather owned a Harley. And now Ness owns St. Albert’s first Harley repair and customization shop, HighSide Motorcycle Service, and he hopes it will grow St. Albert’s motorcycle community.

St. Albertans are more into motorcycles than those unfamiliar with the city might expect, Ness said.

“If you don't have an old hot rod or a Corvette, you’ve got a Harley in the driveway,” he said. “Or you’ve got some kind of motorcycle. There's a lot of family guys here that are into biking.”

He’s met many fellow enthusiasts just stopping at gas stations along St. Albert trail.

That could be why he had so much business when he first started doing Harley repairs and customization work from his home.

Now that his shop is in a dedicated garage at 12C Rayborn Crescent, and Ness has made working with motorcycles his full-time gig, he wants to create a space for the biking community, not only for Harley riders, but for anyone who is passionate about an engine on two wheels.

He plans to launch a bike night, where every two weeks riders, Harley or not, can meet at the shop and go on a cruise together.

“There’s a lot of people that ride solo and who don't know a lot of people,” he said. “It’s good to have somewhere where they can meet new people and do these big group rides.”

Ness said he understands Harley-Davidson motorcycles have a reputation.

“Just because it's a Harley, doesn't mean that there's bad people,” he said. “It’s not like that at all.”

But he confessed that the bikes can be loud. That’s why he’s been firm that customers should be respectful of his neighbours by not intentionally making noise with the bikes.

Ness has been fascinated with motorcycles for as long as he can remember. He started as a kid by doing stunts on dirt bikes, and eventually he graduated to sports bikes or “crotch rockets.”

Now in his 40s, Ness got into Harley-Davidson motorcycles after he had his fill of high-speed, high-adrenaline bikes.

A large part of the excitement for Ness stems from getting to create the motorcycles of his customers’ dreams.

“When it comes to the customization world, the sky's the limit,” he said. “If you can’t buy it, you build it.”

The work can take months in more extreme cases, painstakingly tearing a bike down to the frame, adding new handlebars, stereos, suspension gear, brakes, lights, wheels and tires.

“Some people just say, ‘Here's my credit card. I want this thing to be rowdy.’”

Kyle Hebb went to Ness for help making major modifications to his Harley.

“It was previously wired with computer wire bought off Amazon, we found out when we started tearing into it,” Hebb said. “It was just a complete mess.”

That motorcycle wound up in a major international automotive show in Las Vegas.

Ness is just incredibly passionate about motorcycles, Hebb said.

Hebb understands that the stereotype of bikers as being loud, mean, dirty and aggressive.

“That's why it’s a great thing that people like Lee are coming around and trying to change the stigma around it,” he said. “He doesn't want people like rolling in, revving and acting like hooligans … there’s a time and place for everything, right?”

Ness is still getting his shop set up, but he is accepting customers.

“There’s probably a thousand kids living in St. Albert that have the same dream — they want to work in motorcycle shops and work on motorcycles for a living,” Ness said. “And it's always been a dream of mine too. I just never thought it would take off as fast as it did.”

About the Author: Riley Tjosvold

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