Reviews the KRGT-1 Reviews the KRGT-1

By Kevin Duke February 26, 2015  Photos by: Barry Hathaway, Simon Hammerson, Duke

Riding an exotic custom motorcycle with actor Keanu Reeves seems an unlikely scenario, yet there I was on the twisty roads in the hills above Malibu aboard a machine bearing the initials of the film star. The KRGT-1 translates into the first production bike from the partnership between Reeves and veteran custom builder Gard Hollinger in a venture called Arch Motorcycle.

Truth be told, when news first broke that Reeves was becoming involved with a high-priced custom bike business, I raised a wary eyebrow. It seemed so very 2007, back in the home-equity-as-ATM age when fancy custom cruisers — most lacking meaningful engineering investment — were being parked in every two-car garage. It was a little reminscent of the Dirico Motorcycles launch I attended in 2009, which boasted the involvement of legendary rockstar Steven Tyler.

Shockingly, there have thus far been no efforts made to produce merchandise like T-shirts and hats. “We’re under-branded,” downplays Reeves in a candid moment.

Here is the custom bike Gard Hollinger built for Keanu Reeves, beginning in 2006 with continued development until 2011, when it became the jumping-off point for the KRGT-1. Surprisingly, it was Reeves who had to convince Hollinger to enter production, not the other way around.

So, it was with a measure of relief to see the engineering behind Arch’s KRGT-1 to be more substantial than many of the boutique builders of days gone by, some of which would simply bolt a crate motor into an off-the-shelf frame and add fenders that may or may not have originated from a different aftermarket supplier.

The KRGT-1 uses a powertrain from outside suppliers S&S and Baker, but even here the Arch crew have added their own touches. The Reeves bike seen in the above photo has two drawbacks that needed rectifying. Its fuel tank was too small, and the air cleaner sticking out on its right side significantly impeded legroom. The solution was to use a bespoke downdraft intake.

Air is gulped through a custom K&N airbox (with a purported 40% increase in volume over a typical side-induction system) and injected with fuel to feed the 2032cc S&S Cycle T124 V-Twin motor. Arch claims a healthy 121.5 horsepower and 121.8 lb-ft at the rear wheel. The arched-backbone frame tube is a neat trick of a steel tube inside a tube. The rear section of the frame (in black) is a chunk of billet aluminum.

“We’re building an American brand,” says Hollinger about the choice of the S&S motor. Despite the manufacturer’s small size, Arch and S&S are in the middle of EPA and CARB testing, to ensure the KRGT-1 is compliant with federal regulations. The KRGT currently uses a Yoshimura muffler that is quieter than most aftermarket systems fitted to Harleys but is louder than anything from a major OEM.

The aluminum-billet theme is one that repeats itself, and Arch says it chooses the material because it’s stronger than cast pieces, is lightweight, and it enables an almost unlimited choice of shapes. It also allows for subtle tweaking that is easily repeatable for production. “There’s been very few parts we’ve made that we’ve only made once,” admits Hollinger, who comes across as a finicky guy who demands perfection.

The seat pan and tailsection unit consists of five pieces of billet weighing 18 lbs, a massive machining effort from the 480 lbs of five billet chunks that originated the components. Note the seat-release cable mechanism that is handily mated to the ignition key, a detail touch distinct from most custom builds.

Arch’s CNC machines typically run 12 hours a day, six days a week. Each half of the 5.0-gallon fuel tank begins as a 260-lb aluminum block that gets whittled down to just 3.5 pounds!  

You’re looking at a 75-lb block of aluminum that gets machined away until a lovely primary-drive cover emerges.

The goal of practicality seems an odd focus for a radical custom bike such as this, but Arch has several surprises. “We wanted it to be a rider, not just a bar-hopper/profiler,” says Reeves. And so the triple clamps – billet, of course – are fitted with a steering lock. Gauges include low-fuel and neutral lights.

Riding With Keanu – Arch Support

The KRGT-1 is an impressive and imposing motorcycle, stretching some 68 inches between its axles and weighing some 600 lbs fully fueled and ready to ride. Making it more manageable than it might seem is its scooped saddle, low to the ground at 27.8 inches, and its surprising narrowness – no air filter poking outward at your right knee. The handlebars are placed fairly forward, providing a fists-punching-the-wind stance that can be altered depending on bar-riser blocks or alternative bars

With a pair of 1016cc cylinders pounding at a 45-degree angle between the knees, it doesn’t take a Fabio Taglioni to realize vibration will make its way to a KRGT-1 rider. And there is some serious thudding going on when the Twin is revved out.

Don’t think Reeves is just a celebrity poser on a motorcycle. He rides the canyons more adeptly than most.

Then I stopped riding it like a Ducati and instead surfed the bountiful torque pulses found much lower in the powerband and wasn’t bothered by vibes for the rest of the day’s ride. The 124 cubic-inch mill is rubber mounted to the frame at the forward end, and the connector from the mount to the engine case is the only H-D part on the entire motorcycle. The rear cylinder head uses a bushing as an attachment to the backbone frame. Meanwhile, the Baker Drivetrain six-speed transmission proved to be smooth and precise; and the clutch pull fairly light.

The KRGT-1’s handling manners are much better than I was expecting from such a stretched out bike with a 30-degree rake and 5.0 inches of trail. A key aspect to its surprising performance is the stiffness of its chassis. A hard shove on the bars of such a long motorcycle almost always reveals flex of some sort, but the Arch divulged none.

So, while the KRGT-1 can’t be considered a sporty bike, its cornering performance goes beyond what its specs might lead you to believe. The stable chassis invited aggressive cornering. I tested both the mid-mount and forward-mounted footpegs, and not once did the road scrub a peg. The mid controls were preferable for when railing canyon roads, but the forward pegs seemed a better match for the KRGT.

The Arch KRGT-1’s swingarm is also constructed from billet, the five pieces getting shot-peened and anodized before assembly into an 18-lb component that resists flex.

The Arch also surprised by its exemplary ride quality, especially at the rear, where a wide 240/40-18 Michelin Commander tire resides. Fat tires always run counter to performance aspects, but the feathery BST carbon-fiber wheels offset the extra weight of the heavy tire . Hollinger spec’d a 210mm tire for the KRGT-1, as fitted to Keanu’s prototype, but that size was no longer offered in the 18-inch diameter he prefered, so a 240 bun is what made it through to production.

A 43mm Öhlins fork efficiently soaks up bumps delivered to the 120/70-19 front tire, while the rear end is damped by a specially built Race Tech shock and rising-rate suspension geometry. Arch also brought along a KRGT-1 equipped with an Öhlins shock, but I actually preferred the bump-absorption qualities of the Race Tech damper.

In addition to the fully adjustable suspension, the Arch also adapts to its rider via eccentrically adjustable toe nubbins on the foot controls and the handlebar mounts. I preferred the 3-inch bar “risers” that placed the bars closer to a rider than the 2-inchers.

The KRGT-1 is a sportier horse than it appears.

One area the Arch comes up a bit short of its lofty intentions is its instrumentation. Sourced from MotoGadget, the gauges’ red-on-black dot-matrix-y readouts are a far cry from the full-color TFT instrumentation of modern high-end bikes. Also, the sweep of the tachometer only reaches halfway across the screen due to the relatively short rev range of the T124 motor, and there is no gear-position indicator.

But, really, the above is one of the few complaints I have about the KRGT-1. Aside from its price, which is listed at $78,000. That might not seem extravagant if you roll with A-list celebs, but it’s a pretty penny to those of us who are trying to eke out another few hundred miles from the shagged tires on the bike in our garage. Arch hopes to sell 50 of ‘em before moving on to a new model.

Personally, I think the KRGT-1 nicely bridges the divide between cruiser and sporty bike, and its sultry and exotic appearance is sure to gain attention from gearheads and the uninitiated alike. Whether you can make a case for it or not depends largely on the size of your bank account.