2020 Arch KRGT-1

Editor Score: 82.49%
Engine 17.0/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.0/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.99/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 7.0/10
Overall Score82.49/100

Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: If you can’t immediately dismiss the $85k price tag, you’re not the target customer. So far Arch has only produced 45 motorcycles, and there are plenty of potential customers around the globe who could purchase all 44 without blinking an eye. The KRGT-1 is motorcycle as designer watch or collectible artwork, and if the whole point isn’t exclusivity, a huge chunk of it probably is. I wouldn’t know, since I can’t get past the price tag.

But who wouldn’t want to meet up with Keanu Reeves and Arch co-founder Gard Hollinger at the very nice Langham Hotel in Pasadena for a quick blat up the Angeles Crest on their new baby, complete with “20 major changes involving more than 150 newly designed and manufactured components”?

As we noshed on an al fresco brunch amidst the Langham’s manicured landscape waiting for the morning motojournalist shift to return from their ride with Keanu and Gard, next to the first Olympic-sized pool on the west coast (our friend Chrissy Rogers got the scoop on the whole Langham layout while I rode the afternoon shift), we learned that our (very attractive) host/ Arch PR person also reps some other major actors and famous literary lights – names I had to drag out of her discreet self, like a tourist, on condition of anonymity. We are definitely Hollywooding it up. Soon, the South African journalist and the English one Arch had flown in returned from their ride, and it was Jeff Buchanan’s and my turn to meet, greet, and ride the afternoon shift. (Jeff used to work in the film industry, is always taking meetings for screenplays and things, and is more than happy to share; celebs are no big deal for him.)

2020 Arch KRGT-1 Keanu Reeves

I think Keanu is just really, really tired of people pointing cameras at him.

As preparation, we’d watched The Matrix the night before, and I didn’t get it again, but Chrissy had informed me that Keanu is 55 years old and just recently dating age-appropriately. He must be coloring his hair; I’d’ve guessed he’s 40, tops. Tall and still thin for an old guy in the backward trucker hat, he reminds me of my 25-year old son as much as anybody.

Everybody knows Keanu, but everybody doesn’t know Gard Hollinger, who was happy enough to build a few custom motorcycles a year until Keanu convinced him to co-found Arch. Gard resisted until he made Keanu understand that if they were going to do the thing, they were going to do it right, and doing it right wasn’t going to be easy or cheap.

But enough about all this. You probably want to know about the motorcycle. They don’t like to classify it, but if they have to, Gard and Keanu want to call the KRGT-1 a Performance Cruiser. I think the last thing I rode with a giant S&S engine was a Jesse James West Coast Chopper a couple of decades ago (which was maybe a Merch), so I sort of had my preconceptions. But Harley clones and S&S have come a long way too. The 124 cubic inch ARCH X S&S V-Twin alerts you immediately you’re not mincing around on some whiney little sportbike as soon as you start it up and get the front tire jiggling back and forth: Different things vibrate and stop vibrating at various rpm, but none of it’s ever objectionable, really, and the bike’s not even all that antisocial; we’ve got full EPA and even CARB compliance.

2020 Arch KRGT-1

That carved-from-billet swingarm is one of the big upgrades on the KRGT-1. For a complete list of all the changes, go to our earlier news post.

It is pretty long, though, and pulling out of the gated Clara Vista Cottage compound within the 23-acre hotel compound, the length, the 240-section rear tire, and the instant unstoppable torque had me thinking that if I did go accidentally off-roading, these expansive old-money Pasadena lawns would be a nice place to do it, provided I could dodge the statuary. Who’s gonna yell at me? I’m with Keanu Reeves, bitches. Replace my divots.

The other reason you pay the big money for an Arch is that each one is custom-tailored to its buyer; the word “bespoke” comes up frequently in the literature and even occasionally in conversation. They put me on the red bike, whose grips are a bit more rearward and which has a thicker seat bolster, and those things had me feeling reasonably comfortable as we blatted through town on our way out of it. This is a perfectly functional motorcycle, complete with mirrors you can see out of and everything. It takes a while to appreciate what’s missing. Instead of the usual chopper intake system fighting for space with your right inseam, the Arch is thin from stem to stern, thanks to Gard’s downdraft intake putting the throttle bodies inside the right gas tank.2020 Arch KRGT-1

The display of red LED lights is a little, actually a lot, dated, but the instrument panel it’s set into as finely crafted and perfect as the rest of the bike. The fly screen’s not plastic, it’s carved from billet like everything else.

There’s no tachometer but there is a digital rpm readout: 124 cubic inches is 2032 cubic centimeters, and those 4.125-inch pistons are happy to propel the bike smartly along at any rpm above idle. The claim is 122 lb-ft of torque at the rear tire at some unspecified rpm, which feels about right – and shifting the surprisingly low-effort six-speed gearbox at not much more than 3500 rpm provides maximum thrust. Not that you want max thrust most of the time; just cracking the throttle and surfing all that midrange gets you where you want to be quick enough. For real drag racing, we’re kind of spoiled by the new Indian Challenger’s smoother and revvier V-Twin. But there’s no denying the visual appeal of the big Harley clone’s bristling cooling fins.

2020 Arch KRGT-1

First impressions, that the Arch feels like a cross between a Jesse James chopper and a BMW roadster, gradually go away as we hit the curves and learn the bike is solid, isn’t going to do anything dastardly, and nothing’s going to fall off.

If it looks long, that’s because it is: 68 inches between contact patches is a waaay long wheelbase, and with 5 inches of trail, the front tire seems pretty far out there. The 240/40-18 Michelin Commander 2 out back doesn’t encourage great steering manners either, but once you adjust to all that, the Arch sweeps through turns with surprising ease and even grace. If you expected to be grinding footpegs and undercarriage through every corner, you’d be disappointed. I didn’t grind a thing all day except my bootsoles.

2020 Arch KRGT-1

The sprockets are even milled from billet.

Premium, custom Öhlins suspension components at either end absorb bumps and weight transfers as well as they look like they should; the big Brembo brakes both front and rear are plenty powerful even if the front’s a bit grabby initially… overall, everything works like it should and encourages you in the time-honored way to ride faster than you probably should. After a while I remember what the Arch feels like more than anything else; the Ducati Diavel is another weird-Alice long thing with a 240 rear tire (though the Arch’s wheelbase is 5.5 inches longer than even it). You ride the Arch the same way, sort of hanging off the side like you’re on the track to help it turn, and dragging the rear brake seems even more effective on things with 240 rears. Pretty soon you feel pretty trusting of the 19-inch front’s contact patch, you’re making pretty good time and having fun doing it. However fast you go, the big S&S engine mostly just burbles easily along without much of a discernible powerband.

2020 Arch KRGT-1

Unlike the Diavel, and like so many custom artisanal bikes, the overall systems integration that you feel on a motorcycle that’s been extensively test-ridden by a top-level testing staff isn’t quite there on the Arch – Keanu likes to joke that he’s the test rider; maybe he’s not joking?

The finest components are all here, but the ability to really smoothly work them all together for seamless braking and acceleration and turning is a few percentage points less than something like a Diavel – maybe only because that giant S&S motor has such a visceral personality and such huge gears in its 6-speed box. And maybe I’m spoiled; a little bit of rough edginess is part of the Arch’s appeal. It all hangs together so much better than I expected it would, now I’m wanting to compare it head-to-head with a Ducati. Jesse James would’ve glove-slapped me for even suggesting such a thing. The fact that the Arch is a bit edgy is a key selling point. Rich people want a thing around that’s not another yes man, don’t they?

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Suter, who Arch was partnering with for a short while, helps with engineering, along with Bosch, K&N and others.

We rode the things for four hours, and my butt wasn’t even that tired at the end, even though the forward-mount footpegs meant I couldn’t get it out of the seat the whole time. The red one is Keanu’s personal bike, who’s 6’1”, so I imagine if they actually did build a bespoke Arch for my 5’8” self, it wouldn’t be bad at all. That said, I’ve always preferred having my feet more under me than ahead of me, and the 1s is the Arch that more appeals to me.

2020 Arch 1S

Arch 1s gets mid-mount footpegs, 17-in wheels, single-sided swingarm, other cool and distinctive touches, for a few dollars more.

Back at the compound within the hotel compound, it was time to debrief and dig into where the name Arch came from. Keanu says he was sitting in a backyard (Gard’s I think), not long after he’d finally convinced Gard to go into business with him by finally coming up with One Good Reason to start a motorcycle company that made sense: Because we’re all gonna die one day.

In the backyard, Keanu was watching the sun set through an arch, and boom, there it was. Keanu dove a little deep here, talking about connectivity, strength, a passageway, the beginning of a journey, and even giggled slightly when he mentioned something about the matrix of all things. Also, Arch is a short, nice-sounding word that looks good on a gas tank and as a logo. It’s about building something, it’s about architecture.

By then it was getting dark and there was a scrabbling at the door; Chrissy Rogers had finally managed to tunnel her way into the inner compound. After a long afternoon poolside and a couple of $17 cucumber-infused beverages, there was no way she was going to leave the Langham without at least seeing Keanu Reeves.

He was completely gracious, but what he seemed like more than anything in meeting her was just a bit shy. It has to get old, people wanting to see and touch you just so they can say they saw and touched you. Followed nearly immediately by, oh – you’re really just another human being like the rest of us. Another Christmas morning mound of ripped wrapping paper. It’s nobody’s fault.

Stalker.

It completely makes sense that you’d want to step outside of that make-believe world and create something real, something that’s beautiful and functional and as kinesthetically stimulating as a fine motorcycle. Something that proves you’re a person to be taken seriously, and not just because of your celebrity. Keanu likes to say, of the 45 bikes they’ve sold, “nobody’s bought one because of me.”

There are better motorcycles for riding hard and better ones for riding far, but there are no others quite like the jewel-like Arch, with its billet Russian doll construction, and even among Arches no two are alike.

2020 Arch KRGT-1 booklet

When they get rolling, says Gard, they’d really like to produce 75 or 100 Arches a year at their SoCal factory, where they employ about ten full-time employees. But they want to keep it personal, they seem to want to genuinely connect. They want to sit down with every buyer and go through all the options, and each Arch is delivered with a leatherbound book documenting its build from beginning to end. What they agree they don’t want to do is bring in outside investors – so far anyway, though there’s reportedly been plenty of interest.

2020 Arch KRGT-1 tool kit

Speaking of Christmas, Keanu gets excited when he shows us the owner’s toolkit.

Where to from here? What’s next? The other hard part for celebs must be answering the same predictable questions repeatedly. Keanu makes eye contact with Gard before answering that they’d really like to build their own engine. That would be a serious undertaking, but given the amount of money sloshing around at the top of the world and their connections, why bet against them?

Gard says he bumped into Jesse James at a bike show somewhere, where the infamous West Coast Choppers builder asked, how much for an Arch? When Gard told him, JJ said, well, that’s not enough is it? For all the work that goes into one of these, it’s really not. If you’ve got a spare $85k and a couple other motorcycles in the rotation, why not? Personally, I’d go for the 1s. Or maybe the Method 143. Park it under the Picasso in the man cave.

Arch Method 143

Arch Method 143

 

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