Arch Motorcycle Company KRGT-1 Test
Thundering at full lean through a double-apex corner, I mentally prepare for the exit with imagery of a Saturn V rocket lifting from the launch pad. With 122 ft/lbs of torque at my behest, blistering speeds are instantly accessible with just slight modulation of the throttle.
I am not riding the latest sport bike from Japan or a technology-packed muscle-bike from Europe; I’m piloting the California-made KRGT-1 from Arch Motorcycle Company. The KRGT-1 was born out of necessity, defining a niche that is equal parts highly refined custom cruiser and performance speedster, combining neck-snapping acceleration with all-day comfort and the range to match.
To know the KRGT-1, one must not only unravel the aesthetic and mechanical layers of the bike itself, but also understand the motivation behind the machine and the men who created it.
Gard Hollinger is well known in the industry for his custom creations at L.A. County Choprods, and his artistic and innovative gifts are now being honed and focused to achieve the ultimate challenge — to design and build artistically exotic motorcycles in a repeatable fashion, in limited production, individualized for each buyer, while maintaining the cultural DNA that is unique to Arch.
Keanu Reeves, the catalyst to creating Arch Motorcycles, needs no introduction — worldwide gross receipts for the movies he has starred in total $4 billion — but a lesser known fact is that the elusive Hollywood outsider is an avid motorcyclist, an obsessive Norton aficionado and, despite numerous painful mishaps, he still prefers to circumvent LA traffic on two-wheels rather than in his Porsche.
In late 2012, after building Keanu the prototype for the KRGT-1, Gard was courted and eventually persuaded by Keanu to join him as co-conspirators in the formation of Arch Motorcycle Company, with the objective of creating a completely unique motorcycling experience — one that is functional at the highest levels of performance, with a mind-blowing artful fusion of form and function.
A visit to Arch headquarters in Hawthorne, an industrial area in the heart of the LA Basin, juxtaposes 1960s-era space-race manufacturing with modern day Tesla and SpaceX, two of the most technology-advanced companies run by Elon Musk. Behind a nondescript façade, the building opens up to a large warehouse with polished concrete floors, high wooden-beamed ceilings, and the requisite minimalism that creates a void designed to be filled with creativity and innovation.
Sprinkled throughout the space are tokens of inspiration, classic dirt and street motorcycles from nearly every era, antique metal shop equipment from bygone times, and countless paintings and artistic expression on every wall.
Gard explains the creative process, beginning fundamentally from the concept of humanity and our need for tools, our thought process behind how those tools are used, their visceral feel, and the relentless pursuit to make them better, simpler, and more elegant. At Arch, this process begins to take shape in the form of two-dimensional sketches, advancing to clay and foam mock-ups, and eventually into 3D modeling and prototyping.
In the open-air office of Ryan Boyd, who heads up R&D, anti-propaganda art from Max Grundy adorns the working area and provides a constant reminder to resist established thinking. Ryan explains the painstaking process that spanned nearly three years to transform the vision for the KRGT-1 into a meticulous, repeatable machining process, with the aim to build as much in- house as feasibly possible.
Further, the KRGT-1 is only a starting point for Arch Motor- cycle Company. Invigorated by the pride of manufacturing motorcycles in the Los Angeles metropolitan area—a highly unusual prospect—more models are planned for the future. The KRGT-1 is a statement of intent.
Involvement with Arch is designed to be experiential from a rider perspective and, from a serviceability point of view, the bike is engineered with the fanatic gearhead in mind. Items such as the battery tray and cross-member serve multiple roles, as do the transmission mount and oil pan, not only making servicing a quick and simple process, but they are also elegant expressions in design.
This is further evidenced when fully disassembling the bike, where one will discover that parts such as the swing arm pivot utilize finely machined collars and precision bearings that fit together with surgical tolerances, a true work of art— albeit art that most people will never see, which itself is a testament to the passion and dedication that is the culture of Arch Motorcycle Company.
The creation process of the KRGT-1 is just as impressive as the finished product, as all metalwork is billet; nothing is stamped, cast, or forged. A water-jet cutting machine accomplishes the heavy lifting, reducing billet aluminum to the proper size before it is precision machined to exact specifications in one of two hulking Hass CNC machines.
The shop runs 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and utilizes over a half-ton of billet aluminum to render just 100 pounds of finished product for each bike. The fuel tank alone begins as 534 pounds of aluminum that is reduced to two 9-pound fuel cells after 66 hours of machining. Of course, all of the aluminum shavings are meticulously captured and neatly recycled to begin the process anew.
Once the exercise in alchemy is complete, the fruit of over 300 hours of machining is revealed. The design lines exude Herculean power and a fit-for-purpose attitude that scoffs at convention and beckons one to come closer.
The colossal S&S Cycles T124 powerplant is a 45-degree V-twin that operates with dual cams and displaces 124 cubic inches (2032cc), providing an enormous amount of thrust—122 horsepower and 122 foot/lbs of torque at the rear wheel.
The top tube of the frame is exposed like vertebrae separating the two halves of the fuel tank, adding thematically to the raw aesthetic. Functionally, the center portion between the two fuel cells contains the Arch Down Draft Induction System. Built in conjunction with S&S Cycles, it is a fuel-injected system that eliminates the incongruity of a side-mounted air intake, stream- lining and balancing the visual appeal.
The rear fender has a retro-modern speeder bike look that, combined with the integrated LED taillight, gives the impression of a glowing afterburner. An integrated license plate holder and rear turn signal hanger is an elegant solution to keep things legal, and it does not distract from the allure of the massive 240mm Michelin Commander II rear tire mounted to BST Ultralight carbon fiber wheels with carbon fiber huggers.
The cockpit is clean and Bauhaus-inspired, with everything where it should be and fully functional. Turn signals are cleverly integrated into the bar ends next to the flip-out mirrors. MotoGadget Motoscope Pro Digital instrumentation includes a programmable display for monitoring vital signs, and brake and clutch levers are fully adjustable. The KRGT-1’s cock- pit is finished off with a small flyscreen above a modern billet aluminum LED headlight housing mounted between two air intake dams that are integrated into the Arch Down Draft Induction System.
Walking around the KRGT-1, the ocular experience is completely sensual; the closer I look, the more is revealed. The tool- ing paths through the billet aluminum are precise within the piece itself. As I step back and open the aperture, I find that they harmoniously work with the surrounding pieces as well.
Focusing on the exhaust pipe routing and precision bends, the influence from MotoGP is readily apparent, and the slip-on canister was designed and tuned in close collaboration with Yoshimura R&D. The three pieces of the modular billet aluminum swingarm come together into a sculpted look that is pocketed and machined for wire channels, keeping a clean look. Everything has been considered.
So what separates the KRGT-1 from other exotic motorcycles? I fire up the big V-twin to discover the answer for myself, and in doing so I’m immediately greeted with a throaty growl from the tuned exhaust that literally raises the hair on my arms! The Arch-proprietary S&S engine rumbles with the expected vibration at idle, a physical reminder of the massive potential within. Once the clutch is released and the KRGT-1 underway, the motor settles down and it’s all business.
With the scooped out saddle design, and comfortable handlebar position, I realize that I am not on top of this motorcycle — I’m in it. I am the missing element, it needs me as much as I need it, and together the circuitry is complete. I can grab a handful of throttle and explode forward with face-distorting acceleration— also known as a sinister grin. There’s no need to hang on for dear life, as I’m fully ergonomically integrated into the bike.
A 68-inch wheelbase and five inches of trail give the KRGT-1 rock solid stability, yet it is surprisingly agile in the twisties for a bike that tips the scales at 538 pounds (claimed dry). Riding hard through sinewy tarmac, the handling is purposeful and the feed- back direct, with a front-end feel that becomes second nature in just a few miles. Long and fast sweepers are where the bike really shines, with a lock-and-load feeling that begs me to ride faster through constant-radius curves.
Fully addicted to the torque, I ratchet up the pace and put the KRGT-1 to the test, realizing that the harder I push the bike, the faster the exhilaration rate increases. This wouldn’t be possible without the dual ISR six-piston monobloc calipers that are radi- ally mounted to the front forks and mated to floating dampened rotors, providing one-finger progressive stopping power that allows for rapid acceleration from the apex of a turn to the entry of the next, with full confidence.
Close attention to suspension action and a massive amount of effort has gone into tuning the damping on the KRGT-1 both front and rear. Öhlins 43mm inverted forks are adjustable for both compression and rebound damping, and keep the rubber on the road without any noticeable wallowing or undue fork dive.
In the rear, a single Race Tech shock is deployed, which is also fully adjustable and designed with a remote reservoir for consistent action over long rides; it also has the benefit of hydraulic spring preload adjustment. Even with the de rigueur 240 tire, the suspension keeps things orderly over rough tarmac and hard acceleration.
In addition to being fully individualized from a paint and upholstery perspective, the Arch KRGT-1 is also custom-fitted to each buyer, and can be configured in one of two different foot control positions, forward or mid controls. I rode both setups extensively and my favorite was consistently the last one I rode.
The forward control position offers a riding experience unlike no other, relaxed yet upright, with a free flowing feel that makes me want to use every drop of the five-gallon fuel capacity, only stopping every 200 miles for a fill-up. The mid controls are equally as comfortable and provide a neutral platform for adjusting body positioning for corner setup which really allows for hard braking, though I sacrifice the knees-in-the-breeze flowing experience of the forward controls. Choices are good.
Hours could have passed and I wouldn’t have noticed, completely lost in rapturous acceleration and canyon carving. Men- tally, I’m designing my personal version of the Arch KRGT-1, with silver shot-peened fuel tank and rear fender, matte-black carbon-fiber wheel huggers, bare-naked metal side covers, black cylinders, and a titanium exhaust with a light bluish hue from constant use, and mid controls, or perhaps I’ll opt for the for- ward controls. At this point, I was glad I had a full-face helmet on because I was surely talking to myself audibly and grinning from ear-to-ear.
Pulling up at the end of the ride with my personal KRGT-1 mentally configured, I realized that I haven’t been totally objective. I need to make a list of what I would change on the bike. After much thought, I came up with an exhaustive list—folding footpegs. That’s it.
Speaking with Keanu and Gard, it appears that I’m going to have to depart from my test bike, as I was secretly and optimistically hoping I could just ride it indefinitely. Nonetheless, they were eager for my feedback, like proud fathers at a parent- teacher conference.
It’s obvious that this is not the too-typical high-end custom mash-up motorcycle. The KRGT-1 is at a level of refinement and harmony across artistic expression, precision fit and finish, and power and handling that earn it a unique position in the world of exotic motorcycling.
In the bench racing that ensued, I boiled it down to a feeling—the Arch KRGT-1 simply made me feel like a million bucks, which Keanu quickly pointed out, is a great deal for a bike that will hit the wallet for $78,000, which financially is an exponential return on investment. I had to agree.
- Helmet: Joe Rocket Speedmaster Carbon
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Syndicate
- Gloves: Joe Rocket Pro Street
- Pants: Joe Rocket Stealth Sport
- Boots: Joe Rocket Super Street RX14
Studio photography by Simon Hammerson; location photography by Don Williams
Story from Ultimate MotorCycling Magazine.