STEP 1 Cover the seats: St­ingray Seat Cov­ers (About R450)

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Driving - BY DAVID CURCURITO

ž The seats look like they tried to break up a fight be­tween two ra­bid wolver­ines, too far gone for any leather spray to save. Time for seat cov­ers. Op­tions in­cluded Hawai­ian mo­tifs, wet­suit neoprene, or that old standby of re­tired aca­demics given to wear­ing tweedy gar­ments and hats, sheep­skin. Cab­bies: you're on to some­thing with those acu­pres­sure beads. Aim­ing to match the fac­tory in­te­rior rather than make a state­ment, I bought a pair of tweedy-taste­ful equiv­a­lents. Turns out, this is one of the best bang-for-the-buck up­grades you can make. Mine will shroud the Bronco's up­hol­stery un­til I find a pair of de­cent seat re­place­ments.

The three of us line up at a red light on Ven­tura Boule­vard in Los Angeles. Ed­die Van Halen is on my right and Heath Cofran of Alpines­tars on my left. We rev our en­gines hard, the gi­ant V-twins be­neath us shak­ing our skulls while we wait for the light to go green. Blaaaaah­h­hhh!!!!!! Ed­die flies off the line so fast I'm sur­prised the hel­met doesn't pop off his head. Heath is right with him, tucked for­ward so his front tyre stays on the tar. I'm white-knuck­led and crank­ing on the throt­tle. My heart pounds and I'm gig­gling be­cause the power doesn't slow un­til we stop at the next light. I man­age to pull off a con­trolled skid be­hind them be­fore of­fer­ing a thumbs-up and a smile.

With mas­sive power and the rid­ing po­si­tion of a high-per­for­mance cruiser, the han­dling and re­sponse of a su­per-sport, and a com­pletely dif­fer­ent look that comes with be­ing hand-built in Amer­ica, these bikes don't come cheap. Heath and I are on KRGT-1S (about R1 million) from Arch, a com­pany started by Keanu Reeves – who's ac­tu­ally a big mo­tor­head – and mas­ter builder Gard Hollinger. “I had this Har­leyDavid­son Dyna that I was look­ing to cus­tomise and what I was do­ing was hor­ri­ble,” Keanu told me. “I wanted a sissy bar and Hollinger looked at me and said, ‘I don't make sissy bars, but why don't you come inside and see what we do here?' ” With Hollinger's guid­ance, Keanu built what would be­come the KRGT-1 and the two men launched Arch. Ed­die, whom I've known for a lit­tle while now, is on the strange and beau­ti­ful Con­fed­er­ate Wraith B120 (R1,2 million) one of only 50 ever built. Con­fed­er­ate was founded in 1991 in Ba­ton Rouge, Louisiana, by Matt Cham­bers. Af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina de­stroyed his New Or­leans fa­cil­ity in 2005, he moved to Birm­ing­ham, Alabama, where the Wraith was the first of many bespoke bikes to roll out of the new fa­cil­ity. Van Halen is rid­ing se­rial No. 1.

If the Sil­ver Surfer gave up surf­ing, he'd ride the bike I'm on. It's chrome, with a big 20-litre solid pol­ished-alu­minium fuel tank. Heath's Arch has a red-and- whitepaint scheme and gold forks, and a com­pletely dif­fer­ent rid­ing po­si­tion. Even though these are pro­duc­tion bikes with more than 200 hand-as­sem­bled parts, each one is cus­tomised specif­i­cally for its owner. I clunk the six-speed gear­box into first and rev the en­gine un­til it vi­brates my teeth. Green light. If you think Ed­die is fast on the gui­tar, he rides even faster. The Wraith set the world land speed record in its class at just shy of 268 km/h in 2008 and Ed­die seems as if he's try­ing to beat that now. “The whole thing is car­bon fi­bre, in­clud­ing the winged back­bone frame, wheels and back­ward-look­ing forks,” he says. “The rest is air­craft-grade bil­let alu­minium, so it's nim­ble, ma­noeu­vrable and very, very fast.” The pedes­tri­ans he roars past must think some­thing from the fu­ture just ar­rived or that a fighter jet flew over their heads.

Heath leads us to a great restau­rant called Ga­solina Café, where we sit drink­ing iced teas with these beau­ti­ful, ex­pen­sive ma­chines parked in front of us. It's hard not to think about how much love, pas­sion and en­gi­neer­ing goes into ev­ery bike. Even if you never have the chance to ride one, it's good to know that peo­ple are al­ways push­ing the lim­its of what's pos­si­ble.

Ed­die re­alises the owner of the restau­rant speaks Dutch and strikes up a con­ver­sa­tion in his na­tive lan­guage. He em­i­grated from Hol­land when he was a kid, and look how far he's come. Amer­ica really is great.

1

The Arch KRGT-1 has a mas­sive 2 032-cm3 91 kw V-twin en­gine.

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