For decades, actor Keanu Reeves has been spotted darting about Los Angeles and movie sets around the world on various motorcycles. Years back, the actor, famous for his roles in films ranging from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” to “Speed” to “My Own Private Idaho” and “The Matrix” series, met with motorcycle designer Gard Hollinger to customize a bike. In 2011, the two riders formed Arch Motorcycle Company, based in Los Angeles, to fulfill a dream to craft custom American V-twin performance motorcycles.
The limited production motorcycles have been enthusiastically received for their appearance, customizable parts, and performance. This summer, Reeves and Hollinger brought the KRGT-1 bikes to Carmel for The Quail Motorcycle Gathering and to the Monterey Jet Center for McCall’s Motorworks Revival. Carmel Magazine caught up with the two road warriors just before press time.
What is the absolute most important element for you to experience as a motorcycle rider? Why do you have to ride?
There isn’t just one element that a rider walks away with, or experiences, on our bikes. Or on any motorcycle for that matter. It’s the culmination of the feel, an appreciation for the design, the performance on the road, the sound and the smell. A complete sensory pleasure when you are going somewhere on a bike. I learned how to ride when I was 22 and shooting a film in Munich and I was hooked. I bought my first bike shortly thereafter, a Kawasaki KLR600, and rode that for a while before buying my first Norton. Every city or country I worked in from then on, I would go around and buy used bikes, everything from a 1978 Moto Guzzi T3 to a 1984 Harley Shovelhead. All these bikes came with such different elements to appreciate as a rider.
CM: In what way did your preferences for motorcycle performance and design shape your desire to launch Arch Motorcycle Company? How do those translate to the design of the KRGT-1? What are some the custom elements on the bike that make it unique?
KR: The constant search for the complete riding experience and the desire to always modify my bikes is what led me to track down Gard Hollinger. I wanted to build a custom production motorcycle that was not just beautiful and handcrafted but one I could actually ride. When Gard and I met, I was looking to customize a Harley Dyna Wide Glide and we basically took everything off keeping only the engine. Through extensive conversations, sketches, 3D models, Gard built the prototype, which was nothing like either of us ever seen before. A molding of retro and modern design, and riding exactly how I like to ride; being able to cruise but still take and feel the curves. That’s the KRGT-1. The entire bike is fit to you, like a suit. Bespoke with its finishes and customized to your foot placement, seat height, handlebar placement. An attractive design of the tank and the frame, precision fit and finish.
CM: What do you consider the most innovative aspect of Arch? What does the name signify?
KR: The ride…a production custom cruiser that performs like no other motorcycle. The Arch KRGT-1 not only feels comfortable and confident on the open road but in the curves and sweepers…it is innovative in the Cruiser class of bikes—a Performance Cruiser. Gard and I decided on Arch because we love the story that the word implies. The connection of the rider and the motorcycle, a journey and a joining of entrances and exits. It was the guiding eye into the company we created.
CM: You attended the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in May in Carmel Valley and the McCall’s Motorworks Revival at the Monterey Jet Center in August. What was the response to Arch?
KR: It was a great opportunity and experience to have the chance to exhibit the Arch KRGT-1 at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering and McCall’s Motorworks Revival. It was great to share our passion for the machines with folks and have such an appreciative and enthusiastic response.
CM: What are some of your other favorite bikes, past and present?
KR: I’ve still got the first Norton I ever bought, an Interstate. Modified it a bit. I put Koni shocks on it and heavier fork springs, Axtell cams, raised the compression. I also have a ’72 Combat with Dunstall pipes. And then my “mutt bike,” a Fastback with a ’68-’72 engine. I’ve always had an affair with Nortons though and learned everything about them I could.
CM: Have you had a chance to ride through Carmel or Big Sur? Where are your favorite rides?
KR: Yes, I’ve traveled through Big Sur many times and the beautiful winding roads and extraordinary ocean views—passed through gorgeous Carmel a couple times as well.
CM: You’re offering a “fantasy gift” of an “Arch Motorcycle and Ride Experience” in the 2015 Neiman Marcus Christmas book for $150,000. It includes a KRGT-1, and for two people, a two-day ride with you and Hollinger along the California Coast. What do you have planned for the buyers?
KR: We wanted to offer a unique experience of a Limited Edition Arch KRGT-1 that will be fitted to the owner and presented to them in Los Angeles—and then spend a couple of days riding with me and Gard and one of their friends—on another Arch KRGT-1—along some of our favorite fantastic rides here, through the Santa Monica Mountains, along the Pacific Coast Highway and the Angeles Forest—to be motorcyclists…enjoying the machines, going for a ride—sharing a meal, talking of the day—we would also tour the shop to show where and how the bikes are made.
CM: $5000 of that “fantasy gift” will be going to charity. What are some of the charities that you are involved with?
KR: The charities I am involved in range from support to education and arts for students and young people; rain forest preservation; independent theater; and support for communities that have experienced natural disasters.
Carmel Magazine: How did you and Keanu meet and form Arch Motorcycle Company together? What were the specific goals, and how did you accomplish them? How long did it take?
Gard Hollinger: I met Keanu at my previous business, LA County Choprods. He liked the work I was doing there and asked if I would modify a Harley Davidson Dyna he had. As we got into the project, we began discussing what he wanted the bike to do and I was impressed and even inspired by his thoughtfulness and passion for the riding experience.
As the project progressed, I was further impressed by his artistic eye and how much our visions were colliding. He would be gone for long periods working on film projects and the bike took a while to complete. It moved along in stages waiting for his input/approval before moving to the next stage. As that bike was nearing completion, the combination of art and function that we were aiming for began to look familiar, like a concept bike might. But the best thing was that the bike was amazing to ride. Keanu actually began suggesting that we make some more and share them with the world even before the first one was done. I sort of kept rejecting the idea, knowing how challenging the industry can be, and would say, “Let me finish this one first…” but he was persistent and after some long discussions, I began to believe we could offer something unique to the motorcycle world, which was intriguing to me.
The real work began when we formed the company late in 2011 and got underway with all the usual stuff necessary when starting any business. I had a very specific idea about the kind of space we should occupy. I knew I’d basically be living there for a few years during development and wanted the space to inspire artistic expression every day we walked into it. I found a great “right hand man” in a young guy living in Colorado named Ryan Boyd. I’d been introduced to him by a mutual friend and he’d actually made a few parts on the original bike when I was in a pinch near the end of the project.
I convinced him to move to LA and help us get Arch up and running. As we built the infrastructure of the operation, we simultaneously began redesigning the original bike to be even better, more proprietary and friendly to manufacture.
Nearly three years later, every single part of the motorcycle had been redesigned even though at a distance, the production KRGT-1 bears a strong resemblance to the original prototype. The goal was and remains, to build low volume, unique motorcycles that blend art and function, without compromise. Keanu and I have always been focused on building a motorcycle brand that will hopefully live on long after we’re gone. We could easily be distracted; we’ve passed on many offers to make all kinds of things bearing the brand name as well as ongoing offers for TV shows, but we are keeping all our focus and energy into building the brand’s reputation on our motorcycles.
CM: What has it been like working together? What does each of you bring to the table?
GH: The partnership is very easy and natural, because our goal is the same, the focus always remains and there are no egos involved. I think we balance each other nicely. Since Keanu has a demanding “day job,” I obviously tend to the day-to-day operations in addition to lead design responsibilities. Keanu has very strong opinions on everything from the overall design direction and all things in between that and the final product. He is involved in every major and many minor decisions and he is the ultimate test rider.
CM: What has the response been to the KRGT-1? What are your future plans for the company?
GH: We are very pleased with the response to the KRGT-1. We’ve had many respected moto-journalists give the bike great reviews. We always believed we’d designed and built a motorcycle that offered a very unique riding experience, but it’s nice to get those positive nods. It’s great to see the big grin on riders’ faces the first time they experience it; we know where it comes from.
The KRGT-1 is our first model and we think it’s helping define a new category of motorcycle, the Performance Cruiser, and that you will see more big manufacturers investing in that market, which is somewhat validating. Our plan has always been to eventually have several different models while still keeping the total number of motorcycles produced at or under 100 units annually. We’ll maintain a “no compromise” approach as we further develop iterations of the KRGT-1 as well as other unique models. For us, it’s about the experience: from the personalized production, making each bike uniquely tailored both ergonomically and visually to the customer, to the visceral riding experience the KRGT-1 offers.
CM: Anything else you would like to add?
GH: We feel like each Arch Motorcycle customer becomes part of our story, sharing the experience and vision. For more information on the Arch KRGT-1, go to www.archmotorcycle.com.