Bike Talk with Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger

The duo behind the new Arch KRGT-1 discuss capturing the true riding experience in a motorcycle.
Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger with the KRGT-1
Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger with the KRGT-1 © Keith Thompson/Arch Motorcycles
By Eric Wright

Keanu Reeves has been a massive proponent of motorcycles and motorcycle culture throughout his acting career, often to the chagrin of directors and producers, favoring almost always to be on two wheels rather than sitting in a car. Ever the fan of custom motorcycles and the visceral experience that comes with riding a bike, Keanu has partnered with legendary motorcycle builder Gard Hollinger as the duo embark on creating their own production bike, dubbed the Arch KRGT-1, with the goal of creating a bike for the rider who truly values what it means to ride a motorcycle. The two were out at the United States GP round of Formula One in Austin, Texas, and were gracious enough to give us the scoop on the new project:

The Arch Motorcycles KRGT-1
The Arch Motorcycles KRGT-1 © Keith Thompson/Arch Motorcycles

What’s the plan for Arch and the KRGT-1?

Gard Hollinger: That’s a big question. We’re in the production process of the first model. We have certain prototypes that we’ve done a pretty extensive amount of testing on after about two years of development, and we’re producing inventory to start assembling bikes. We are ready to start assembling the first batch of about 15 motorcycles.

What spurred this idea, to create an entirely new motorcycle?

Keanu Reeves: I love the experience of riding, and appreciating the design of a motorcycle. When I met Gard, we ran through this idea of building a dream motorcycle; a bike that looked like an exotic motorcycle that had a retro influence, but still very modern – a big twin, a bike that you could cruise on but also ride like a performance motorcycle. A bike that you could really get into corners, that would be ergonomically thought out and wouldn’t just be an object to look at and admire; one you could also get on and ride however you wanted to ride. Once we had the prototype built, we decided that maybe this bike could go out into the world. For the past two and a half years, we’ve come up with the production model – the KRGT-1.

Gard: It definitely started as a dream, like any business. But this one was a little bit different because it wasn’t necessarily driven by the same dreams that a person who starts a normal production motorcycle company dreams of, which is a mass-produced thing to get as many butts as you can get on it. It was a lofty dream to do something rare and unique, that a select group of people could appreciate.

What aspect of the motorcycling experience was the most important thing for you to capture in the KRGT-1? Was it the look, the sound, the feel, the ride?

Keanu: That’s exactly it – the look, the sound, the feel, the ride, the smell. This is a motorcycle that you can cruise on, yet at the same time if you want to dig into a corner and maximize an apex, there’s a lot of torque and a lot of horsepower that the motorcycle can handle. It’s not a race bike, but a cruiser that you can go at a fairly extreme lean angle and feel confident. I also wanted to be able to take a bike that you can sit on for a two hour ride and be comfortable, where you can have enough fuel and not have to stop every 70 miles to get more gas. I really envisioned this idea of a motorcycle that you could take a journey on, take a trip on, spend an afternoon on, and really enjoy those pleasures of riding – the wind, the sound, the handling, the experience.

Gard: Having been a rider from an early age, who maybe became a little bit jaded, the focus from the beginning was being pushed by Keanu to build this machine that [performed], but was also artistic, and had a little bit of modern technology – enough that it wasn’t lagging behind the times, but not so much that you lose that raw, visceral aspect that you want in a motorcycle. There’s nothing wrong with anti-lock brakes, and traction control, and automatically-adjusting suspension, but we wanted something a little more raw. So the focus was how to deliver that and make it reproducible. I was riding more and more and sort of regained my passion for riding, which started to feed into the process as well, to push this project to where it’s ended up.

You seem to have a solid mix of old-school style and new-school technology with this bike. How involved were you in the entire design process? Were you putting together your own prototypes for everything?

Gard: It’s been very much a ground-up, every nut and bolt kind of scenario. Every possible part we could make ourselves, that was practical, we have done that. And we’ve done it from a blank sheet of paper, working from a 2-D sketch to create a 3-D model, refining that until we’re happy with it, then creating that part through whatever manufacturing process is required.

In instances where we’ve had to find vendors, we spent a lot of time sourcing the best parts that we could, and in almost every occasion, it has not been an off-the-shelf part, so the vendor has made some modification to the part just for us. Obviously, some of the challenges with that are dealing with the component manufacturers that are typically supplying companies that produce in the tens of thousands and, on the high end, over 100,000 motorcycles.

Our production capability is miniscule, targeting 100 units a year maximum. So to attract them to consider selling us the parts – much less modify the parts to fit our application – took some effort. But all of them, once they saw the project, wanted to be involved – not for the financial aspect, but because they believed in the project and wanted to get behind it. Of course, Keanu’s not here welding anything together, but he’s been massively involved in everything on this bike, because he has a great eye and a great opinion.

Keanu Reeves at the Formula One 2014 USGP in Austin
Keanu Reeves talks F1 with Red Bull Racing crew © Mark Thompson/Getty Images

What are some features on the bike that you think riders will be the most excited about?

Keanu: I think the lines of the motorcycle are really cool. I think of Japanese anime; with that big rear tire, with that beautiful custom swing arm going into that big rear cowling. It has some really unique design features that are striking.

Gard: Also, the ride. [The look] is something that we've done that we hope will translate into sharing the [riding] experience, because we know a limited number of people are going to be able to ride it this year. You can’t just go to your local dealership and ride it. So the hope is that we can translate and share that riding experience with the world, because this bike presents a unique riding experience.

Keanu: I think that this bike, just from an engineering and design standpoint, is one that when you get more and more into the detail you really find what went into the machine. Specifically, when you’re looking at the rear carbon fiber fenders and how those are manufactured, and even the frame itself, or the gas tank made from 540 pounds of billet aluminum.

It’s not just a collector piece – the customer cannot wait until the next time he rides it.

Gard: Exactly. The more you look at it, the more is revealed. As the flower opens, you see more of the bloom inside. Many of the most intriguing things about it are hidden beneath something, where you have to look behind, at an angle, or up above. Even as you remove certain pieces, more is revealed.

Keanu: And I also like the functionality of it, in terms of odometers and signals that we’re using, or where we put in the oil check, where you drain it. It’s all thought out. People just need to experience it. They need to ride it.

Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger with the KRGT-1
Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger with the KRGT-1 © Keith Thompson/Arch Motorcycles

What are the plans for the future? Is the ultimate goal to get this bike in dealerships? Or is it going to stay fairly small, and catered to a niche rider?

Gard: By virtue of the process it takes to build these, it’s not really a dealer-network kind of product, because the volume is so small. So what we’re hoping is that over time we develop some relationships with people that would be good, key outlets in different parts of the world. In the mean time, we’re happy to sell the bike and help arrange to get the bike to anybody anywhere in the world. There is the dream to see these bikes everywhere.

Keanu: I’d like to keep that aspect of customization to the rider – different seats, or different risers on handlebars, or different placing of the footpegs, where you can get information from the rider and set up the bike. I love to have that element of knowing that this motorcycle is for you, and I want to make sure that no matter what happens, we keep that.

Gard: There’s also this idea of creating a culture about it; trying to have some spectacular ride somewhere every year that Arch owners can go on. That’s part of the dream, too – for this thing to be out there in the world, being ridden, and encouraging the people to have passion for it. My hope is that this is a bike that makes people want to ride it, not just look at it. It’s not just a collector piece – the customer cannot wait until the next time he rides it. From a practical standpoint, once we get some KRGT-1s rolling out the door, we want to try to do another one.

So you guys have plans to do more models?

Gard: Ideally, the plan has been to have up to three different models. It’s important to keep the identity, where you can always tell that it’s an Arch, but the next one [after the KRGT-1] might be a little more purposeful for something else.

Keanu: With the KRGT-1, we are always going to be constantly developing it. So it’s going to keep its identity. For me, I always dreamed of having the chance to make something like a Porsche 911, playing into the car culture idea – a legacy model that keeps changing with the times. I hope the KRGT-1 can have that kind of story.

Check out more info on the Arch KRGT-1 at archmotorcycle.com 

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