Keanu Reeves Takes Us for a Ride on His Totally Excellent Motorcycle

Test-driving the new Arch Motorcycle KRGT-1 — with its iconic co-designer in tow

December 4, 2019 9:27 am
Keanu Reeves Arch Motorcycle Company
Keanu Reeves got into motorcycles when he was 22 and filming a movie in Munich. (Eric Hendrikx for InsideHook)

Pop quiz, hotshot: What celebrity co-owns a motorcycle company that designs and builds bespoke bikes made from materials like aircraft-grade billet aluminum and the toughest carbon fiber in the world? 

The answer, if you couldn’t gather from the Speed reference, is Keanu Reeves. And before you ask, no, this just isn’t the case of an opulent movie star sticking his name on a brand outside of the entertainment industry in exchange for more wealth or unwarranted street cred. As if we didn’t already find our coveted Hollywood star to be among the most excellent men on the face of the earth, Keanu can fucking ride.

The enigmatic dreamboat and action hero is a pure renegade when you put him on two wheels. And his company, Arch Motorcycle, is a first-class, legitimate, badass manufacturer based in Los Angeles. Founded in 2011 by Reeves and master craftsman and bike designer Gard Hollinger, Arch creates bespoke, ultra-high-end performance motorcycles, including their new benchmark performance cruiser, the KRGT-1 (“Keanu Reeves GT, model 1”).

“This refinement is sophisticated,” Reeves tells InsideHook, as we look over the latest iteration of the KRGT-1. Reeves is elated about the newest reveal and enthusiastic for the ride we are about to embark on along the Angeles Crest Highway on these new bikes. But before our ride, we kick the tires and chat about the utter magic that happens when an ambitious vision and capable design chops come together in perfect harmony.

Keanu Reeves showing off Arch motorcycles KRGT-1
Gard Hollinger and Keanu Reeves (Eric Hendrikx for InsideHook)

“To me, it reminds me of when I’m on the set and I watch all the grips, and electrical workers set the lights, stands and cabling,” says Reeves. “There’s something very beautiful about when a set comes together and I see that same kind of beautiful craftsmanship in the way these bikes come together — the creation of the aluminum components, assembly of specialized parts, all the hand-wiring, and ultimately, the thoughtfulness that’s put into everything.”

Reeves points out that everything on the KRGT-1 was designed so that you can ride more aggressively with less effort. “Intuitive is a good word,” he says. “When you want to go left, it’s more of a thought than an action. This iteration of the bike feels like you can push it a little bit more than you could with the first version. You can go deeper into a corner and you can brake later. Because of the new controls, the bike has more refined contact, allowing you to trail brake with just one finger.”

Over the course of our afternoon, it becomes quite evident that the John Wick star isn’t simply playing with motorcycles here, he’s a lifelong rider and enthusiast who has dedicated decades of attention to the finer details of a motorcycle’s inner workings and handling on the road.

The KRGT-1 “Keanu Reeves GT, model 1"
Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger build bespoke bikes made from materials like aircraft-grade billet aluminum and the best carbon fiber in the world. (Eric Hendrikx for InsideHook)

Reeves first took an interest in riding motorcycles at age 22 while filming a movie in Munich, Germany, after an encounter with a woman riding a Kawasaki 600 Enduro. Upon his return to the U.S., he bought the same model motorcycle and began his lifelong addiction to a two-wheeled flirt with death. Over the years, Reeves has accumulated a notable collection of bikes, including a number of Nortons and Suzukis, a 1974 BMW 750, a Kawasaki KZ 900, a 1984 Harley Shovelhead, a Moto Guzzi racer and the 2004 Ducati 998 that was part of the chase scene from The Matrix Reloaded.

But has our boy actually ridden in his films, or was it all movie magic and stunt riders? 

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve ridden in some of those movies,” he says with a smile. He first rode a bike on-screen in My Own Private Idaho and then again in Chain Reaction. As you might guess, Reeves also recently rode a motorcycle during the filming of the latest installment of the John Wick film series.  

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Reeves’s business partner and riding pal, Hollinger, is also a lifelong motorcyclist, who took to racing and motocross as a teenager. His fervor for design and engineering led him to a job in Los Angeles as mechanic and fabricator, experience that would culminate in the launch of his own custom Harley-Davidson business. In short time, Hollinger became known in the custom motorcycle word for pristine design and precise engineering, a reputation that drew Reeves in to his shop for the first time in 2007.

“Keanu was looking to customize a motorcycle with a big sissy bar and king and queen throne seat — and I said no,” laughs Hollinger. “Because that kind of work wasn’t of interest to me. But then he came into the shop and explained to me what he was looking for in the experience and what he wanted to see a motorcycle to do.” To Hollinger, the idea felt like something to explore. And it surely was. The two decided to embark on a fully custom build, founded upon Reeves’s vision and Hollinger’s practiced ability to bring that vision to fruition. 

“It really became not just about customizing that bike, but in a way, coming up with what Arch Motorcycle would ultimately become,” explains Reeves. The two new partners felt like they had essentially innovated a new category of motorcycle. “It’s a big V-twin 124-cubic-inch 2-liter monster,” he says. “But it’s not just that. Because of the ergonomics, designed and machined just for this bike, we call it a performance cruiser.”  

The new iteration of the KRGT-1 is most definitely something new: the bike gives the immediate impression that Arch Motorcycle is doing something really lofty and special. A prince, a king, a mastodon among motorcycles, this awe-inspiring machine is built from billet aluminum, carbon fiber, stainless steel, streamlined wiring and world-class components from top fabricators around the world. The beating heart of the KRGT-1 is, of course, the distinctive Arch/S&S V-twin motor that reliably and consistently sends near-orgasmic torque and vibrations through the bike’s extremities and beyond. This is a motorcycle that rides unlike any other bike I’ve ever ridden: sleek and unruly, a polished pirate, Apollo’s chariot led by fiery horses.

Gard Hollinger Keanu Reeves business partner
“Keanu was looking to customize a motorcycle with a big sissy bar and king and queen throne seat — and I said no,” laughs Hollinger. (Eric Hendrikx for InsideHook)

“If you try to ride it too hard, you’re getting in the way of the bike in a weird way,” explains Reeves. “The bike is like a horse that just looks back at you wondering why you’re pulling at its mouth — ‘Why are you kicking me? I know where you want to go. I’ve got this.’”

Hollinger’s explanation of the bike’s performance, as you may infer, is a bit less esoteric. “We are a production motorcycle company, but our bikes are designed to be personalized,” he explains. “So ergonomically, you might notice subtle differences between the bikes we have here today, even though they are the same basic motorcycle.”

As Reeves, Hollinger and I suited up to test the KRGT-1 on the Angeles Crest Highway — a blacktop labyrinth of twists, turns and tight corners — I found myself in the midst of a truly wonderful existential predicament: selecting between a red and a blue motorcycle (I chose red). With the unknown ahead of me and Reeves and Hollinger just behind, we started up the bikes and took off for the mountains. 

Not just to ride, but to feel the KRGT-1 was a religious experience: the deeply satisfying, spiritually comforting thrum of the engine, the responsiveness when braking late and throttling through the apex of an S-turn, the redolence of pine and sage wafting into my helmet as I weaved my way around the mountain.

“Everything that we put into an Arch has a story, has a function, has a responsibility, beginning with the frame,” Reeves explains. “Gard talks a lot of multifunction and multipurpose. The custom tank completes the triangle required for the stiffness of the frame.” The aluminum two-piece tank begins as a 500-pound billet-aluminum block that is machine-carved down to 19 pounds of TIG-welded perfection to both stabilize the frame and provide a path for the air-induction system to the motor. 

“The more you dive into this bike, as you unpack it, the more you learn,” says Reeves. “Like if you didn’t know about the induction system, or the work that’s gone into the rear hub, or the way that the oil is being cooled and refined in a very unique and special way.” 

So how much does it cost to get a Keanu Reeves GT, Model 1 to park in your own garage? An entry-level price of $78,000, beginning with a $15,000 deposit and a consultation with Hollinger and Reeves to fully understand the expectations, desires, colors and fit of each client. 

“We are fortunate enough, and our volume is small enough, that we certainly don’t feel like we get customers. They sort of become family members,” explains Hollinger. “There’s a relationship formed at the beginning when you’re talking about something that’s creative and something we’re all passionate about. It’s not about salesmanship, but more of a journey that we go on together and a true appreciation for engineering and craftsmanship and the desire to create something that’s unique.”

Reeves holds that most of the Arch Motorcycle family of owners share an innovative mindset. “I would say that everyone seems to be fairly entrepreneurial, and not necessarily with financial success, but also in their personal life,” he says. “Everyone has done a few things with their lives and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with money, it could be a change in a career — we’ve had PhDs, SEALS, software people, hardware people — really all sorts of people forging their own paths.”

Keanu Reeves motorcycle bike
“The more you dive into this bike, as you unpack it, the more you learn,” says Reeves. (Eric Hendrikx for InsideHook)

Each year, the collective of Arch owners get together for an annual Arch weekend trip where they all meet, including Reeves and Hollinger, to ride together, dine together and spend quality time discussing all things two wheels. “We just did our 4th annual Arch Owners event,” Reeves says. “It allows us to ride with everybody and for all of our clients to get to know each other. We do three nights and two riding days and we share great meals. It’s cool to get us all around a fire pit at night and be out on the road together and just spend time together laughing. Over the years the owners are starting to know each other. There’s a lot of camaraderie and humor and late-night philosophy happening.”

And as far as the world of motorcycles is concerned: cream rises. For every motorcycle brand cranking out bikes to meet the sweet spot on some cost-benefit bell curve, there is an unapologetic builder who works behind the doors of a real design space to produce innovative motorcycles on their own terms. Arch Motorcycle Company is exactly that.

“The goal of any motorcycle manufacturer is to create a motorcycle with soul,” says Hollinger. “I think we’ve done that. I think this bike has an amazing soul.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Chain Reaction (1996) came out before My Private Own Idaho (1991). Apologies for the mistake.

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