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The story of Arch Motorcycle

Michelin logoMichelin 7/11/2016

We caught up with Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger—the founders of Arch Motorcycle—at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to talk bikes, dreams, and obsession with detail…

So, how did Arch Motorcycle come about?

Keanu: We met in 2007, when I went to Gard’s garage to try and get him to customize a Harley-Davidson. I asked Gard if he could make a sissy bar for the Harley and he said no. But eventually he did agree to build a custom bike, which ended taking about four and a half years. Once that bike was built and we rode it, we saw it was really exceptional! And, at that point, I thought this bike should be in the world. So, I asked Gard if he wanted to start a motorcycle company…

Gard: And I said no… But then I asked, why? So I asked if you could boil it down to the one reason why we should do this, what is it? And you said…

K: Because we’re gonna die! And what that meant to me was that I want to create something. That motorcycle has to be in the world—let’s make something that is beautiful!

G: That was the one thing Keanu said that I couldn’t find an argument with—the idea of leaving something behind that we created that we’re passionate about. And then I started to think, yes.

K: And our bike, the KRGT-1, came from that prototype. It took about three years from prototype to production model. What we were looking for was a big American V Twin Cruiser that would perform, that was confident going straight, but when curves were coming up you could lean it over, and that isn’t what you’d think of with a cruiser.

G: That was part of the challenge, and what’s been great about the company and the KRGT-1. The idea of doing something that hasn’t been done before.

How did you go about designing your first bike?

G: The first bike I built for Keanu before Arch started was the spark and benchmark for the KRGT-1, and that came about through Keanu expressing his wish for the bike. What he wanted to do with it. What he hoped it would do. I’d do a bit of work on it, have some ideas, we’d get together, and I would try and kill some of his ideas! But that was sort of a process. It took about three years of development.

So you saw a gap in the motorcycle market?

K: The line I kept saying is, ‘I want a production custom motorcycle you can ride.’ High-end quality fit and finish with a custom experience for the customer, so we fit the bike to them, to make the KRGT-1 their bike. We make parts; we make the frame and have created partnerships with vendors like S&S for the engine, Ohlins for the suspension, BST for the carbon fiber wheels, Yoshimura for the pipe and with Michelin for the tires, which work on our bike, amazingly.

So where did your passion for motorcycles start?

G: For me I was about 8 years old when I became obsessed with them. There was this older kid in a street near me, he was a teenager and had this mini-bike in a cul-de-sac that he’d wheelie down to the end, turn around and wheelie back up. I was into riding bicycles at the time, and we’d built a bicycle track in the neighborhood, and this kid showed up one day and asked if he could ride on our track—he rode around a couple of laps, stopped and asked me: ‘Do you wanna ride’? And that was the moment.

K: I started way later. I didn’t learn to ride a motorcycle until I was 22. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and every summer these motorcycle gangs would come into the city on these choppers – the sound, how they’d ride them, it was all so appealing. Later on, I was working in Munich and this girl had an Enduro, she taught me how to ride it, showed me where everything was and I loved it. When I got back to L.A. I bought a KLR 600 single and rode that around. But, I had a dream… and a picture of a yellow Norton Commando. There was a shop called Super Twins and they had a Norton—black with red lettering—and there I learned how to ride Nortons and how to look after them—the paint chips on the tank, throttle cables breaking. But what I fell for was the smell of it, riding it...

How to you work together?

G: There’s clearly a shared vision and passion. And an appreciation for what each other brings. Every venture needs a dreamer. Keanu’s our dreamer, and there needs to be someone who understands the dream but is a bit more practical. We have very similar sensibilities when it comes to aesthetic, and we enjoy each other’s company—most of the time.

Tell us about the Arch bikes you’ve brought to Goodwood?

K: The KRGT-1 we’ve been refining and developing over the years, and it’s in a really great place. And with that came, now what?

G: So the idea was to take our performance cruiser a bit further—a sport cruiser kinda idea. So we have three bikes here at Goodwood, and one of them is a beautiful black KRGT-1, then we have the KRGT-1S which is in the works, only the second one that we’ve built, and we’re still developing it. And then the third thing we brought is what we’re calling the Goodwood Experimental. That has a race engine in it—126 cubic inch—a single-sided swing arm with an offset wheel in the back and superbike front fork. What makes our motorcycles different is the fit and finish. We’re a little obsessive, maybe.

K: Every fastener, every channel is considered, how pieces come together. Just seeing the detail in there, the grooves drilled out, the lines and finishes—that’s the beautiful part.

What’s next for Arch?

G: The goal at the beginning was always to have three models. The KRGT-1, then something more radical and rarer and then the third one—we talked about maybe developing one for a passenger and a rider. But right now it’s finishing the final development of the KRGT-1S and the 143, which we’ll debut later this year. It’s sort of a continuous cycle—once you get something finished and refined you circle back round and think, what’s the next generation? And then there’s always the challenge of getting the world to know who we are, to see our motorcycles and ride our motorcycles.

Spend some time with Keanu Reeves & Gard Hollinger from the Arch Team and see another side of Le Mans! Watch here

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