Motorcycle USA KRGT-1 REVIEW
ARCH Motorcycle KRGT-1 First Ride
Bryan Harley | March 11, 2015
The devil is in the details.
It starts with the horns of the downdraft induction system perched above the headlight, twin funnels shoving an overabundance of air down the throat of an insatiable 2032cc V-Twin. It rattles in your bones when the monster mill fires to life, and through the vibrations in the bars and pegs you know this is no ordinary beast. You hear it in the snarl of its exhaust, a deep, menacing growl, speaking in tongues only motorcyclists truly understand. It ends in the red slit of an LED frenched into the aluminum rear cowling, the wink of a taillight all that cars see as you go blowing by.
The backbone of the bike is thick and muscular, double-tubed walls bent like Cerberus’ back. Beneath the backbone resides a special K&N filter mounted vertically between the small cavity created by the dual tanks. These twin tanks began as 534 pounds of billet aluminum before a CNC machine carved them down to the 9 pound finished product in a 66-hour ordeal. The right tank does double time in its role as a supporting member of the chassis. With no air filter jutting off its side, the KRGT-1 is streamlined and svelte, cutouts in the tank providing an intimate fit. The scooped saddle and tapered tail scream sport more than cruiser.
Gard Hollinger and his team have constructed the ARCH KRGT-1 with an obsession to detail. OCD levels of quality control are one of the reasons ARCH opted for CNC machining over hand-fabrication as it gives them the ability to repeat exacting procedures for a limited-production bike. Attention to detail is over the top, down to the swirl patterns from machining carrying over cleanly on every bend and fold of metal, regardless whether that part of the bike is visible or not. The name of the bike, the name of the company, nothing is arbitrary. Like the motorcycle itself, even the names were debated, dissected, and discussed before a common ground was reached.
The carbon fiber on the bike, which is all proprietary, gives us another measure of the attention to detail. The list of carbon fiber parts includes the front fender, the front cowling that houses the electronics, rear hugger, chain guard, and a belly pan that closes off the bottom of the rear cowling. There were 18 versions of the carbon fiber front fender alone before settling on the final product. In all, over 200 pieces of the KRGT-1 are made in-house. It ties into the ARCH mantra of controlling their own destiny.
“If we can make it, and make it better, then let’s do it,” said Hollinger.
The unitized powertrain and oil pan are an engineering feat of beauty. More like an automotive-style oil pan, it sits below the engine and is bolted directly to the bottom of the powerplant so no feed line is necessary. Oil flow follows a series of guides Gard designed so it takes a long path from feed through the engine to return back to the pan for maximum cooling. ARCH worked with S&S Cycle to determine the necessary volume the T124 Twin Cam needed and exceeded their recommendations with a little over four quarts total. The pan itself is angled so when the bike is sitting on its sidestand, all the oil will drain easily because the slope channels it to the drain plug. Gard also created a sight glass so checking levels is a cinch.
For the gearbox, ARCH collaborated with the mad genius of motorcycle transmissions, Bert Baker. Baker had recently introduced a modular transmission case system which worked perfectly for what Gard had in mind. The six-speed Baker drivetrain uses a custom compact high torque mainshaft that is almost two inches shorter than standard. The shorter tranny mainshaft helped keep the design narrow and allowed Arch to lift the clutch and primary, tying into the scheme Gard aimed to achieve with the downdraft induction system while also helping the KRGT-1 achieve the generous lean angles it’s capable of. The front section of the oil bag Gard created also serves as a driveline component and mounting point between transmission and engine.
Even items like the swingarm and tail section have been overbuilt, with ribbing and wall thickness up to a half-inch thick. The billet aluminum swingarm is made up of five pieces that bolt together with dowel pins and three large bolts on each side. The billet swingarm undergoes 17 hours of machining, has a hollow chromoly axle and comes with titanium adjusters. The tidy tail and seat pan started as five chunks of billet weighing in at 480 pounds before being CNC’ed down to five integrated pieces weighing only 18 pounds.
“We’re experts at recycling,” joked Hollinger.
Components sourced from outside parties are top-shelf, Patron Platinum and Grand Marnier in a salted rim with lime. The Swedish ISR brakes on the front feature 6-piston monobloc radial-mount calipers paired to dual ISR floating dampened discs. The 43mm Ohlins inverted fork is fully adjustable while the rising rate rear suspension provided by a single Race Tech shock has hydraulic preload adjustment and full adjustability. Throw in a set of strong yet light BST Ultralight Carbon Fiber Wheels and you’ve got the GP of cruisers.
The four ARCH KRGT-1 motorcycles waiting for our group of journalists to ride came in various configurations. The one I hop onboard first has a “high performance” engine with higher compression and different mapping than the others. ARCH will tailor output to a rider’s personal preference down to customizing final drive ratio. The four test mules also have different control and riser combinations as well as ARCH will tailor the ergonomics of the KRGT-1 to rider preference. This includes either forward or mid-controls, narrow or wide-mounted foot pegs, and 2” or 3” handlebar pull-back risers.
The KRGT-1 I’m on has forward controls and short risers, ideal for me at six-feet-tall. It places my feet comfortably forward and the reach to the bars is natural, slightly lower than chest level. The bike is also in its billet state, my personal preference over the colored models. There’s just something about metal in its pure form that strikes a chord within me. Of course, the billet is shot peened before being anodized and coated in clear enamel. ARCH will have the KRGT-1 painted if that’s what a customer desires, but it’s hard to beat au natural.
It doesn’t take long to learn that the higher compression engine begs to be fed big handfuls of throttle. It wants to be opened up, to run fast and hard, and rewards a heavy throttle hand with an arm-stretching blast of torque. The big S&S V-Twin is loaded with power on the low end, stays meaty in the mid but fairly light on top. Clutch play is light and manageable, gears of the Baker Six falling into place with ease and precision American OEMs wish they could achieve. Gearing isn’t overly wide, so shifting early keeps it in its happy place.
Mulholland Drive above Malibu serves as an ideal testing ground for handling characteristics of the KRGT-1. First I follow Gard on an open stretch as he sets a rapid pace. The power of the KRGT-1 is intoxicating, the 2032cc engine claimed to put out 121.77 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel on a motorcycle with a dry weight said to be 538 pounds. The initial hit will set your heart racing and teeth grinning. The big powerplant is rubber-mounted, but there’s still healthy doses of vibrations in the bars and pegs. Crack the throttle wide and its surges of power make vibes a moot point.
The dual ISR brakes up front are powerful, with a strong bite. The pedal for the rear is small and tucked in tight to the bike and I’m finding it hard to get it squarely underfoot. The back brake requires a few pumps to build up pressure in the line before it begins to respond how you’d think ISR brakes should. It is a new bike, after all, and the location of the footpeg would be remedied quickly in-house if I were the buyer.
With a 27.8-inch seat height, I can place both feet firmly on the ground. Between the scoop of the seat and the relatively thin cushion I figured comfort would be comprised, but after an hour in the saddle it’s more comfortable than anticipated. ARCH worked with specialists at Danny Gray on the seat base, and the ABS-formed seat base has IT cutouts that allow the seat foam to move, so despite its thinness it allows for a surprisingly high level of comfort.
I spent the next part of the ride chasing Keanu Reeves and another journalist on a circular route through the hills. Reeves is a co-founder of ARCH, and the prototype KRGT-1 started out as his personal motorcycle. Reeves thought so highly of the original he convinced Hollinger to turn it into a limited production bike, to share the riding experience the KRGT-1 offers with others.
“It performed in a way that I never experienced before with a forward control V-Twin,” said Reeves.
Even though the original looks close to the production KRGT-1, Hollinger said every part has been changed except the front tire, and eventually even that got changed out as well. Remember those OCD levels to attention we mentioned earlier? Among those changes are a shorter wheelbase, tighter rake, expanded fuel capacity, and the change from a Harley powertrain to an S&S/Baker combo.
It’s evident Reeves is no weekend warrior by the pace he sets and the lines he holds. Center of gravity on the KRGT-1 is properly dialed and the motorcycle transitions better than expected. The bike steers without much input at the bars and handles much better than you’d think a motorcycle with a 240mm rear would. More impressive still is the amount of lean it offers, the sum of the measures Gard’s taken rewarding riders with a solid, stable machine mid-corner. The KRGT-1 can intoxicate you to the point of possession, enticing you to twist its throttle just a bit more, lure you into leaning a bit farther with each approaching turn.
And lure me it did. Feeling comfortable and acquainted with the bike, I came rumbling up the hill into a corner photographers were using to capture the standard “leaned in shot.” Head up, I chose my line. It’s the type of corner I’ve taken thousands of times. Unfortunately, before I could blink, the front end washed out, the bike lowsided beneath me, and I slammed into the asphalt with my ribs taking the brunt of the spill. Still not sure what happened. I heard talk of a patch of oil that had seeped into the pavement, dusty road, rider error, maybe a combination of all three. It was a low-speed lowside, so the bike didn’t skid too far. In fact, I heard that after receiving new controls, bar-end mirror, foot peg and exhaust, it was back on the road the next day. Remember me mentioning that much of this bike was almost overbuilt? As for me, I didn’t fare as well as the motorcycle. A helicopter ride to UCLA Ronald Reagan later, I’m sitting in a hospital room with a chest tube pumping blood out of my punctured lung to go with four broken ribs. Of course, I do now have the dubious distinction of being the first person to bin ARCH’s KRGT-1. I was hoping to make a positive impression on Gard and Keanu and am now confident that they’ll never forget me!
While I went into the test ride with serious doubts about a motorcycle with a price tag of $78,000, I came away with a different perspective. The KRGT-1 is built like a Sherman tank. I should know. I tried to break it. But even after laying it down, damage was minimal. It’s loaded with innovative engineering, from the downdraft induction to its oil-cooling system to its proprietary Arch/Baker 6-speed drivetrain. The amount of billet that goes into one KRGT-1 is mind-blowing, and every component that goes into the motorcycle is about the best money can buy. I don’t think I’ve ridden a motorcycle where every part has received as much scrutiny. It’s a pure power cruiser, and I have to agree with Keanu, it rides like no other motorcycle out there with foot controls in the forward position.