Movie star designs motorcycles
Hawthorne, Calif – . — Sporting a beard and wearing brown leather boots and jacket, Keanu Reeves summed up the new motorcycle he’s selling in a single word: “Awesome.”
The $78,000 KRGT-1, years in the making, is a “custom motorcycle you can really ride,” the actor said.
Reeves conceived and designed the bike in partnership with his Arch Motorcycle Co. co-owner Gard Hollinger, who built the KRGT-1 off specs and sketches he and Reeves cooked up.
Standing in a high-ceiling brick-walled warehouse here, surrounded by sections of KRGT-1s in various stages of readiness, Hollinger said his introduction to Reeves was not very promising.
“Someone called and asked me if I was interested in building a sissy bar for Keanu Reeves,” Hollinger recalled. “I said, ‘No, but I’m happy to meet with him.’ ”
Within a short time, Reeves had given Hollinger a 2005 Harley-Davidson to customize, and a friendship was born.
Hollinger was a lifelong rider, mechanic and designer, having started racing dirt bikes as a kid growing up in Los Angeles. He worked in a boatyard in the San Juan Islands, owned a motorcycle shop in Seattle, and built choppers and bobbers as a “fabricator for hire” and then at his own Ziggy Harly Custom Motorcycles in Canoga Park.
Reeves came to motorcycles later in life. When he was 22, he bought a Kawasaki KLR600 while working on a movie in Germany. The bike was stolen, but the hook was set. When he returned to Los Angeles, he bought a classic Norton Commando.
Over the years, he acquired more bikes — sometimes buying them for the duration of a movie shoot, and selling them when the production wrapped — owning MotoGuzzis, Suzukis, and Harleys.
The KRGT-1 started as a one-off custom bike for Reeves, but as it became a reality, the actor started talking about making more of them. Hollinger couldn’t see it, and found reasons to dismiss the idea.
Finally, Reeves told him: “I want you to stop telling me why we can’t do this, and start telling me how we can.’ ”
Once the design was under way, the two men were in agreement about what the KRGT-1 would be and do.
“We didn’t want a bike that would just look pretty sitting in your living room,” Hollinger said. “It had to be comfortable and reliable.”
“It had to go into extreme lean angles and really take care of you,” Reeves said.
Now completed and undergoing the testing required to pass emissions and noise standards, the KRGT-1 looks like a rough-hewn road warrior. Blacked-out rims, cylinder heads and fork tubes are stark against the bright chrome and polished aluminum of the gas tank, exhaust pipes and upswept muffler.
The engine — a 120-cubic-inch V-twin producing 121 horsepower and 121 pound-feet of torque — roars like an untamed beast.
But this beast is a beauty, a hand-crafted, 538-pound piece of motorcycle art. Each bike requires hundreds of hours of labor.
The two-section gas tank alone requires 60 hours of work to turn from 600 pounds of solid aluminum into the sinuously-curved 21-pound final product.
The bike is fast, too. At a recent test run on the track at Willow Springs International Raceway near Lancaster, Hollinger said, professional motorcycle racer Danny Eslick took the KRGT1 up to 138 mph.
Arch employs eight workers at the Hawthorne facility. It is in the process of assembling the first five production KRGT-1s and crafting parts for more. The company is taking orders for bikes that Hollinger said can be delivered in 90 days.
Hollinger and Reeves plan to build a maximum of 100 machines a year, and may expand their line to three different Arch models.
But the price point won’t come down.
“There’s a general attitude that no motorcycle should ever cost $78,000,” Hollinger said. “But that’s the kind of person who’s never going to buy a Rolls Royce. We never set out to make something affordable.”