‘‘We want the best for the bike’’
In conversation with ARCH co-founders, and
How did the bike come about? Gard Hollinger (GH):
it came about from a wish and discussion with Keanu, who wanted an american cruiser but wanted something different and unique.
Keanu Reeves (KR):yeah,
i wanted one
We built the prototype based on a Harley and when we got close to the finished product, Keanu said,‘Hey, we should build more of these’. i said no at first, but, ultimately,
when the bike was fully finished, when we both rode it, it was a very different riding experience from what we’d had before, so then we considered the idea and we started arCH.
the Krgt-1 was the first bike. since then we’ve been looking at updates based on customer feedback, our feedback internally, and over the past year the bikes have been evolving. then two things happened. We had design ambitions, like re-designing the swing-arm and we embarked on making the bike euro-4, which brought many challenges. We had to make the bike legal in europe. an example is the rear tyre envelope. We had to make that larger. We couldn’t have the hugger close to the tyre. but we also saw that as an opportunity to re-design the rear fender. We had a technical goal to meet, for euro-4, but we also saw that as a design opportunity, a chance to be creative and you’ll see many examples of this across the bike. We refined and updated the bike while at the same time meeting euro-4.
What were those upgrades? KR:
We created a lot of cool elements on the new bike, like abs, but with that we needed new reservoirs and brakes. We needed a new, more informative dash, but for that we needed a new cowl, wiring for the turn signals. We changed the front end, changed the chassis position, the new swing-arm; it’s an evolution of the old bike, it now turns a little quicker.
When you’re re-designing a bike, are you looking at handling, performance or aesthetics?
i think we must look at them all together and i and Keanu work well together. the initial drive was for a re-style and we wanted to remove some weight and unsprung mass. then we wanted euro-4. like Keanu was saying, we took euro-4 opportunity into design. We’re small enough to make our own changes; we don’t have marketing, logistics, legal, etc, departments. it’s just us creating a motorcycle.
the flexibility comes from the fact that we produce our own parts, over 200 items, so we can try different designs.
How far is this bike from the original bike Keanu brought into your shop to be modified back in 2007?
basically, i had a Harley dyna. i was a little, er, you know. it was an amazing motorcycle, but i wanted a big v-twin, a big rear tyre, like a cruiser, but i wanted it to handle. i didn’t want to have to unperch it on to its side with loads of effort to get it to turn. i didn’t want to push the front into a corner. i wanted a bike which handled. i also wanted to go long distances, but when i got in the canyons, when i got in the curves, i wanted it to work. this is what i wanted and we’re close to that original idea now.
When you’re re-designing parts — the swing-arm, for example — do you have a “mule” bike? How does the testing work?
We always have a few bikes which we ride and test parts on. the new bike you’re riding has 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometres) on it or more. We’ve tested parts on that bike.
i’ve done around 2,500 miles (4,023 km) on the blue bike you’re riding and a little less on the red bike. on my other bike i’ve got 28,000 miles (45,060 km).
We must have done over 100,000 test miles (160,930 km) and Keanu is on the bikes all the time. since 2014, he must be close to 50,000 test miles (80,465 km), at least over 40,000 (64,372 km). Keanu is the biggest logger of test miles on the road. He’s our test rider in many ways.
Ha, ha, yeah, man, i’m the test rider. sometimes, kind of.
Keanu can make things happen that nobody else can. He’s so good at breaking things.
if something is going to break, in the early stages something electrical, it will be with me. i don’t try to break them; it’s just a natural talent i have. Part of the experience and enjoyment for me, the opportunity is to ask questions, why are we doing it that way, then test-ride it. for example, in our tyre selection process, we had to go through a wide selection of tyres to find out which worked the best. We had one company which wanted to be involved, but it didn’t ride as good as these. gard would put a set on the bike and say, ‘tell me which you prefer’.
So, decisions are based on what works best and not commercial gains?
We want the best for the bike. We don’t test every exhaust, for example, but we know from previous experience that yoshimura would produce the best exhaust for this bike. many vendors, usually driven by volume, have taken an interest in the bike and have supported us, created a bespoke part for us, even if the end volume is low. Öhlins, for example. the forks are unique just for arCH, even the switch housing.