I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. – Neo, The Matrix
If you’re selling high-end motorcycles with big, air-cooled V-Twin engines, there could be no better figurehead than globally recognized actor Keanu Reeves. It was Reeves who enlisted Gard Hollinger to modify his Harley more than a decade ago, a relationship that eventually blossomed into ARCH Motorcycle.
“I said no a lot of times to the idea,” Hollinger explains about Keanu’s desire to start the company. “I tried to talk him out of it. In retrospect, 12 years later, I’m glad he was persistent.”
The partnership bore its first fruit with the KRGT-1, a performance cruiser that featured scads of billet aluminum and carbon fiber. A lusty S&S crate motor was employed to meet emissions regulations necessary for official production. It arrived in 2015 with much fanfare and a princely price tag of $78,000.
“As soon as we had a production KRGT-1, we started playing with it,” Hollinger tells us. “You know, what could the next version be, one that was more sport-oriented? We started to do some sketches on what it would look like. Then, in 2017, we really went all-in.’”
Hollinger took his napkin sketches and drawings to Thomas Flueret, an experienced automotive designer from Vintech, who helped get all the digital design work done.
“And we went to EICMA in November (2017) with an updated KRGT-1, a 1s prototype, and a Method 143 prototype,” Hollinger says with a sense of pain and achievement. “It was a kooky time.”
Related: ARCH Introduces New KRGT-1
“Of course it was great!” Reeves roars with delight, recalling the trip to EICMA. “It was super creative and inventive and ambitious. It took all of our resources to make it happen. And for me, it was like making the dream real – us planting the flag of ARCH Motorcycle.”
Hollinger most often plays the pragmatist in the duo, coming across as a finicky guy who demands perfection. He credits Reeves for enthusiastic inspiration.
“I am one of the dreamers,” the John Wick star admits. “It’s like, ‘Let’s go! Let’s do it! Why can’t we do that? Yeah, let’s go to EICMA, and let’s have three fucking models there!’”
Hollinger describes their relationship as symbiotic and complementary.
“Even when he says things and my initial reaction is ‘No, we can’t do that,’ then as we talk about it, I start to go, ‘Okay, maybe we can do that,’” Hollinger says. “I think of myself as the ‘no’ guy. That’s my favorite word. And it’s not because I don’t want to do it, it’s because I want to be convinced that we can do it.”
The ARCHers have their sights set on long-term sustainability but not large-volume production. They are content serving an elite group of well-heeled customers who demand fabulous handmade machines with an interesting backstory.
A significant part of ARCH’s charm is the ability to tailor bikes for their owner’s specific tastes and sizes. Bespoke, as they say. Seating options are nearly unlimited, as are the positions of foot and hand controls. The sky’s the limit for paint. No two bikes are alike.
“They’re a part of that process from the very beginning,” Hollinger says of his clients, “which is kind of unique – having that relationship with the customer to create this thing that’s theirs.”
Reeve pipes in, “We’ve had clients say, ‘I wish we had one of those things where I could plug my phone in.’ Okay, let’s design that. Now we have the ‘Daniel’ package where we have this one owner that’s like, ‘I want the thing with my phone, and I want it to open my garage.’ Okay!”
Another perk of ARCH ownership is the chance to rub shoulders with an A-list movie star.
“We try to have ARCH owner events every year, where we bring in new owners,” Reeves enthuses. “The opportunity to all come and spend two to three days together and ride and hang out and eat. To be part of a lineup riding down the road and seeing 20 ARCHs in front of you … Woooo!”
Thus far, ARCH has sold about 85 bikes, and the new 1s has expanded the brand’s appeal to new customers. All ARCHs are still powered by a massaged S&S crate motor but with unique downdraft induction. Hollinger describes it as “a wonderful engine” but admits an off-the-shelf powerplant constrains the parameters of future designs.
The most expensive part of any motorcycle is its engine, especially when development costs for a totally new powerplant are factored in. The massive scope of design and development costs to produce a new motor makes it impossible for small companies like ARCH to create one.
Or not. ARCH is currently in the process of building an engine of its own design, along with cooperation with Suter Industries in Switzerland. Hollinger says it will be a V-Twin displacing approximately 2 liters.
“We still want a lumpy, thumpy V-Twin,” Hollinger insists. “We’re not interested in making a 14,000-rpm sportbike engine.”
Somewhat surprisingly for a new engine in 2023, the ARCH mill will be cooled by air instead of liquid and an attendant radiator and hoses. This will result in a more attractive motor but add to the challenge of meeting contemporary emissions regulations.
The powerplant boasts two important features that will dramatically open up design choices. It uses unit construction that incorporates the transmission into the powerplant rather than the bulkier setup of two separate components. It’s also designed to be used as a stressed member of the chassis instead of requiring a cradle-type frame.
“Hopefully, we’ll be getting to road test some sort of a mule in the next eight months,” Hollinger says, “and hopefully by 2025, we’ll have this all-new platform.”
“That for me is an important step,” Reeves underlines. “Once you start making your own engine, that’s like your mark.”
And making their mark has been inspiration for the duo. They want ARCH to still be standing even after they’re not.
“This was the goal of starting a motorcycle company: that hopefully someday it’d have some meaning to the world of motorcycles,” Hollinger explains, adding that a “real motorcycle company” should be designing and making unique things that haven’t been seen or done before.
“We’re an American company trying to build a motorcycle as much as we can in America,” Hollinger summarizes. “I think that’s what I’m most proud of.”
“For me,” observes Reeves, “it’s working with Gard and the bikes themselves, the pleasure of seeing other people enjoying what you’re a part of. Like, make cool things and then other people, they think they’re cool too. It’s very rewarding.”
During the interview, Keanu’s eyes burned brightest while recalling interactions with people who recognized the bike he was riding as an ARCH.
“The other day I was on one of the early KRGT-1s that I ride – it’s got no logos on it, and I’m in a motorcycle helmet at the light. I look over and the guy’s like, ‘Is that an ARCH? That’s an ARCH, right?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah,’ and he’s like, ‘Yeah!’ So that dream, that hope – once in a while you get a taste of it, and it’s really nice.”
As our interview was wrapping up, Reeves had a new topic pop to mind. It wasn’t the first time he went off on a tangent, but it was illustrative of his drive to keep moving the ARCH ball farther down the field.
KR: Okay, but what about this whole bagger racing nonsense? Now there’s the Hooligan – Roland Sands in racing, and he’s got his own series.
GH: Roland kind of started the whole Hooligan…
KR: Super Hooligan! Are we going to jump in there, man?
GH: We could do that, sure. In our spare time…
KR: Yeah! Let’s do it. Let’s go, man!
GH: I’m already talking to Alex about when we have an engine that we can stick one in our chassis.
KR: Yeah! Yeah!
GH: But again, I have to look at what the rules are.
KR: Well, let’s find out the rules, and let’s go racing, man! Let’s put an ARCH out there!