2020 Arch KRGT-1 | First Ride Review

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
The author flogging a 2020 Arch KRGT-1 along the Angeles Forest Highway. Photos by Alessio Barbanti/Arnaud Puig/ARCH Motorcycle.

I’m going to be brutally honest. I showed up in Pasadena, where Rider Magazine was being given the opportunity to ride the new Arch KRGT-1, with low expectations. That’s probably not fair, but it’s the truth. I’m jaded and cynical. I’ve ridden a lot of bikes, sat through a lot of technical presentations and talked to a lot of engineers and designers. There’s so much that goes into building a motorcycle from the ground up — one that not only looks good but functions well — that frankly I didn’t expect what I saw as a movie star’s pet project would amount to much of anything. (Keanu Reeves is a co-founder of Arch Motorcycle, along with designer and builder Gard Hollinger.)

Well, I was wrong.

Arch invited us to ride its KRGT-1 for a reason: they wanted it to get the regular treatment, a complete shakedown from a respected industry magazine. Still, Arch is a small company that hand-builds each machine to order, so I’d be surprised if Gard, Keanu and the rest of the crew didn’t harbor at least a little emotional attachment to the bike and our opinion of it. After all, they’ve invested years of blood, sweat, tears and time — in Gard and Keanu’s case, more than a decade — into the KRGT-1. And a couple of skeptical moto-journalists were getting ready to thrash two of the precious machines on one of the most famous (and locally notorious) stretches of curvaceous road in the LA area: the Angeles Crest Highway.

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
At the Arch Motorcycle factory in Hawthorne, near Los Angeles, we got to see (and sit on) the bike that eventually became the KRGT-1: a 2005 Harley Dyna. The only remaining original part is the engine.

Before we get to that, though, a brief backstory. Arch Motorcycle was born from circumstances that most of us can totally relate to: a guy (Keanu Reeves) had a motorcycle (an ’05 Harley Dyna) whose character (pure Americana) he loved…but he wanted more from it, specifically in the handling department. So he asked respected builder and owner of LA County Choprods, Gard Hollinger, if he could help. The two started making changes and adjustments. Afterwards Keanu would go out and ride the bike in the twisting canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, then he’d return with feedback and they’d go at it again. By 2012, the ’05 Dyna they’d started with had morphed into the genesis of what would eventually become the KRGT-1. All that remained of the original machine was the engine — everything else, including the frame and swingarm, had been created from scratch. “You know,” they said to each other, “we could make more of these.” And so Arch Motorcycle was born.

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Keanu is clearly in his element when on a motorcycle. His enthusiasm for riding but also the art and engineering that goes into creating the KRGT-1 is contagious.

So here we are in Pasadena, it’s 7:30 a.m. and one of those Southern California November mornings that elicits a groan of anguished envy from most of the rest of the country. We’d been given no technical presentation or press kit. Instead we were ushered to a corner of the hotel where we were introduced to both Gard and Keanu, slurped a bit of coffee and shown to the bikes. There were three examples sitting outside, red, blue and silver, and we were given our choice for the ride. Each KRGT-1 is unique, curated by the Arch team with the client to create a motorcycle that is ergonomically and aesthetically bespoke. In short, the bike is built to fit your body as well as to look the way you want it. I wondered silently for whom these three had been built, then was provided the answer for one—the blue one was Keanu’s personal bike.

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
The KRGT-1’s machined billet aluminum gas tank is a work of art and science in itself. It’s a two-part design, with the steel frame’s backbone running down the middle. The two halves attach on either side, with hoses keeping the fuel level equal, and once bolted on the tank(s) are stiff enough to act as a stressed member of the frame. In between sits Arch’s proprietary downdraft induction system, shown here, developed in partnership with K&N. Photo by the author.

Despite a Harley-Davidson being the genesis of the KRGT-1, the production bike is powered by a massive 124ci (that’s 2,032cc for those of you keeping score at home) S&S mill that Arch modified with its own primary drive, powertrain and clever 45-degree downdraft intake system that does away with the unsightly air filter protruding from one side. The frame is a steel and aluminum hybrid — steel downtubes and backbone, with machined aluminum clutching the rear of the engine and arcing over the rear wheel.

This is actually the second iteration of the KRGT-1 and a direct result of Keanu and Gard’s relentless quest for improvement. Compared to the first version released in 2015, the 2020 KRGT-1 includes more than 20 major changes and 150 new components, including the swingarm, suspension, brakes, bodywork and controls.

The first thing one must understand when looking at a KRGT-1 is that nearly every metal piece you see apart from the engine itself is machined billet aluminum. That includes the sculpted two-piece gas tank, which itself requires more than 33 hours to complete and is ingeniously designed to operate as a stressed member of the frame, the massive but lightweight swingarm, the headlight cowl and the side plates that accommodate the new swingarm pivot, which is attached directly to the engine.

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Each KRGT-1 contains around 150 pounds of machined billet aluminum. Very clean examples are used for customers who want a bare, polished look, while parts with even a hint of imperfect swirling will be anodized.

The second thing is that no expense was spared. When you’ve got the support of Keanu Reeves, a true moto-head who owns but one car and goes everywhere on a motorcycle — if not his KRGT-1 then often an old Norton Commando — and a master of metal in Gard Hollinger, sparing no expense is something you can and should do. Fully adjustable front and rear suspension is by Öhlins and was developed in partnership with Arch specifically for this model. A new larger-diameter 48mm fork has a special carrier at the bottom to accommodate 130mm mounts for the massive new six-piston ISR calipers (two-channel Bosch ABS is standard). Clutch and front brake assemblies are by Magura, five-spoke carbon fiber wheels are by South African company BST (Blackstone Tek), exhaust is by Yoshimura and tires are Michelin Commander IIs.

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Arch Motorcycle R&D Manager Ryan Boyd (left) is the man responsible for taking each KRGT-1 from computer screen design to finished product.

Settled into the deeply scooped saddle, feet on the narrow forward controls, we gradually wicked up the pace as we climbed the mountain, holding the throttle open a bit more and bending a bit deeper with every corner. It might resemble just another custom chopper from a distance, but I was having one of those come-to-Jesus moments where one realizes that one’s prejudgment was quite wrong and one will have to explain this in a (hopefully) well-written review pitched at others likely to have the same prejudgmental opinions.

Now, is this a Panigale or RSV4 or ZX-10R? No, and Arch doesn’t make such ridiculous claims. What it is: an American cruiser, distilled to its essence then fortified with top-quality components and construction techniques designed to bring out the best in performance. Despite the 240-series Michelin rear tire, the KRGT-1 leans willingly and, once there, sticks stubbornly to its line. The long wheelbase helps but so does the stiff chassis and the downright amazing suspension, which was plush yet offered good feel and matched up well with some of the best front brakes of any bike I’ve yet ridden. And with a claimed 122 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel it pulls like a freight train down low, although it runs out of juice fairly early — remember this is a power cruiser, not a superbike.

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Admittedly I was riding a bit more cautiously than normal, given this bike belonged to a certain actor, but still the KRGT-1 impressed with its seriously sporty handling. With the right pilot aboard this thing might catch an unsuspecting sport rider by surprise.

Jenny’s Gear
Helmet: Arai Signet-X
Jacket: Alpinestars Gal
Pants: iXS
Boots: Falco Ayda 2

By the time we stopped midway through the ride to meet up with Keanu and Gard for a quick Q&A before continuing on, it had become clear this was a machine that had been tested and developed in the canyons and on the mountain roads of the Santa Monicas, not (flat, straight, traffic-choked) Hawthorne Boulevard. “But it also has to work on Hawthorne Boulevard,” responded Keanu matter-of-factly.

And to that end, I was a bit surprised at how docile and easy to handle the fire-breathing monster could be. In hot, stop-and-go city traffic, sure the clutch pull starts to feel a bit heavy and the S&S generates considerable heat, but throttle response is smooth and linear and the low-to-mid powerband feels flat as a pancake (I’d love to get a KRGT-1 onto the Jett Tuning dyno). Vibration from the rubber-mounted engine is readily apparent at stoplights but smoothes right out once underway. It cruises the city boulevards like, well, a cruiser should. In short, Gard, Keanu and team have actually created an American bike worthy of the often over-used term “power cruiser.” 

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
The KRGT-1 cruises like a boss. Loping along at 1,800 rpm, give the throttle a twist in any gear, however, and hold on tight.

What makes the KRGT-1 special, however — what justifies its $85,000 out-the-door price tag — is not just its performance. It’s the fact that when you buy one you’re getting a machine that is hand-built and made specifically for you. The process is a consultation rather than a “sign here” order taking, with the new owner remaining in close partnership with the Arch team throughout the 90-day build. Since there are no dealerships, any aftersale work is coordinated with local service centers vetted by the Arch team, and in many cases the owner has the direct contact info for R&D Manager Ryan Boyd, in case questions or issues arise.

So while it’s true that the KRGT-1 is a limited-production, hand-built, expensive piece of rolling art it’s also a bike that performs better than it has any right to, and that is a direct result of the vision, passion and talent of Gard Hollinger, Keanu Reeves, Ryan Boyd and the entire Arch team. And they aren’t stopping here — next up is a naked sportbike dubbed the 1S. Here’s to hoping I get invited to ride that one too.

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
2020 Arch Motorcycle KRGT-1.

2020 Arch KRGT-1 Specs

Base Price: $85,000
Website: archmotorcycle.com
Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, DOHC, 2 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 124ci (2,032cc)
Bore x Stroke: 104.8 x 117.5mm
Transmission: Arch proprietary 6-speed w/hydraulically-actuated dry clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 68 in.
Rake/Trail: 30 degrees/5.0 in.
Seat Height: 27.8 in.
Claimed Dry Weight: 538 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5 gals.
MPG: NA

Keep scrolling for more pictures!

Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
The author poses with Arch Motorcycle founders Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
LED headlight includes cornering lights.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Massive six-piston ISR calipers squeeze two floating 320mm discs up front, while a four-piston caliper pinches a 240mm in the rear. Bosch ABS is standard.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Billet aluminum abounds, including around the old-school red dot matrix display and even the key.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
The hybrid steel/aluminum frame includes a new swingarm pivot built into the rear of the engine.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Scooped seat is customized to fit each client.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
More billet aluminum: the headlight cowl.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Serrated pegs offer excellent grip, which is good given the narrowness of the forward controls.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
Inside the Arch Motorcycle factory in the Los Angeles area.
Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves motorcycle
The Method 143 is a radical prototype that will give birth to Arch’s next model, the 1S.

6 COMMENTS

  1. After 8 harleys and one storz street tracker i can say these bikes are the real deal.as great as the movies. The s1 really looks great. Good to see there made to order with great parts no need to go to the drag cat. Eric harder

  2. I am not a cruiser guy, but if I win the lottery I would love to own one of these bikes. Form and function, partly created by one of our great Canadian exports! Jenny you fit right in, great picture. I would be freaking out, you are Ms. Cool herself. Did you discuss future career options on the big screen? LOL. Cam

  3. It is awesome to see what a real enthusiast like Mr. Reeves can get done with the right Team and some cash. These bikes are truly pieces of ride-able Motorcycle Art with performance, fit, finish, as the precursor to it’s existence. Way to go KR and Team! Thank you for sharing your hard earned money to create products that continue to perpetuate my desire to ride every day. I now have another bike I must ride before i’m done, along with the Britten V1000! I cant wait to see the 1S in person
    Very nice work!
    Joe Martin

Leave a Reply to Eric harder Cancel reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here