I’ve just swung a leg over the most exclusive production motorcycle we’ve ever tested: the $85,000 Arch KRGT-1. It’s a made-to-order performance cruiser, with unapologetic looks to match that hefty price tag.
But do Arch owners Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger actually know what they’re doing—or is this just a vanity project for a Hollywood star? And how much bike do you get for Tesla Model X money? I flew from Cape Town to LA to find out.
Along with a select few other media outlets, Bike EXIF was invited to Arch’s hometown of Los Angeles to ride the KRGT-1, visit the company’s headquarters, and pick the brains of Reeves and Hollinger.
The KRGT-1 concept came from Reeves himself: he wanted an American-made cruiser that would actually handle. So he commissioned Hollinger, an experienced custom bike builder, to customize his 2005 Harley-Davidson Dyna. By the time Hollinger was done, the motor was the only original part left.
Reeves loved the result. And after some initial resistance, Hollinger agreed to use it as a prototype for a production model. Arch Motorcycle and the KRGT-1 were born.
Reeves is the antithesis of the typical Hollywood type. He’s humble, passionate and deeply knowledgeable, and his investment in Arch goes way beyond just dollars. He’s also the company’s primary road tester, racking up more miles on development bikes than anyone else in Arch.
Hollinger and senior Arch staffer Ryan Boyd told me that every time Reeves takes a bike out, he comes back with a list of changes—often unrelated to the aspect of the bike he’s supposed to be testing.
Reeves’ uncanny ability to ‘feel out’ a bike, and provide usable feedback, is one of the things that persuaded Hollinger to pull the trigger on Arch. Hollinger himself talks about their projects in a steady, considered manner—giving away just how experienced he is, and how obsessive he is over every little detail.
Development at Arch is ongoing and never-ending. This new version of the KRGT-1 was born out of the constant drive to improve, and the need to meet Euro4 emissions standards. It’s hard to tell the old and new models apart at a quick glance, but it’s a huge step forward. There are over twenty major changes, with a total of 150 newly designed parts.
Each KRGT-1 is assembled like a giant Meccano set, by Arch’s ten-plus staff. It starts with a high backbone frame, which looks incomplete until you bolt on the CNC-machined aluminum subframe and tail structure. The fuel tank is also aluminum, and acts as a stressed member of the frame.
The new swingarm is a distinguishing feature; a curvaceous aluminum unit that’s visually bigger than before, but weighs five pounds less. It mounts directly to the rear shock with no additional linkages—a deliberate move to have fewer moving parts.
The shock itself is a custom unit from Öhlins, who also supplied the front forks. High-end parts tailored specifically to Arch’s needs are a recurring theme throughout the KRGT-1: the wheels are five-spoke carbon units from BST, but with hubs specific to the bike. And the brakes are a combo of ISR calipers, Bosch ABS electronics, and Magura master cylinders and controls.
Power’s handled via a proprietary six-speed transmission with a special high torque main shaft, and a hydraulic clutch. The final drive is via a chain.
The motor is a specially designed 124 ci 45-degree V-twin from S&S Cycle, and it’s both EPA- and CARB-certified. (That’s a two-liter engine, for those of you on the metric system.) But instead of breathing through a big fat filter that sticks out on the side, it sucks air through a proprietary downdraught system.
Air ducts in the headlight surround channel air down to the area between the two halves of the fuel tank, and into a K&N filter housing. Everything is specific to the KRGT-1: the filter, its housing, and even the rubber boot connecting it to the intake.
The exhaust is a combination of hand-built headers, and a muffler made in-house from parts supplied by Yoshimura. It’s a great system that adds sport bike style and gives off a forceful bark.
There’s no doubt that the KRGT-1’s aesthetic is seriously polarizing (we can’t even agree on it here at Bike EXIF), but I’m into it. There’s an undeniable flow from front to back, and nothing feels out of place. It’s also one of the cleanest production bikes out there, with not a single unsightly wire or tube, and is way less bulky than it looks in photos.
Since the KRGT-1 is usually made-to-order with a 90-day turnaround, Arch only had three next-gen bikes on test—in red, blue and grey, with varying parts finishes showing off the range of customization. If bright colors aren’t your thing, just order yours in black.
The bike I rode most of the test bore the initials ‘KRYK-1’ on the muffler, a reference to the International Klein Blue color that Reeves picked for the paint. The dash is from Motogadget, and the switches are made by Domino specifically for Arch.
They work well, but they’re plastic—and on a motorcycle laden with so much gorgeous metal, I think there’s potential for something special here. I can’t fault the rest of the parts spec though, which also features a lot of Rizoma trim. The headlight’s pretty neat too—it’s an LED unit from JW Speaker, with adaptive cornering lighting built in.
There are carbon fiber fenders at both ends too, and optional heat shields on different points along the exhaust headers. (The front heat shield bolts neatly to the motor, as an example of how well put together everything is.)
Every last finish is top grade—from the paint and anodizing to the seat upholstery. Even the mandatory license plate bracket, mounted off the swingarm, is borderline art.
Touring Arch’s Los Angeles manufacturing facility was a rare treat, and the sheer scale of the operation blew my mind. It takes about 1,200 pounds of aluminum billet to produce the machined parts for one motorcycle—but 90 % of that ends up as recyclable shavings.
Take the split fuel tank, for example. It’s made of sections that go through multiple phases of CNC machining, before they’re ready to be welded shut with insanely good-looking welds. All of that takes 40 hours, per tank.
All these parts have tooling marks that have been designed to create a feeling of motion across all surfaces. What’s more, when you strip the parts down, you’ll notice special cavities and cutouts all over—either for mounting other components into, or for channeling wiring.
The HQ is not open to the public, except when you’ve made an appointment to order your own KRGT-1. The order process starts with a consultation, so that Arch can tailor each bike to not only their client’s taste, but their body too. (No two KRGT-1s will ever leave the factory the same way.)
For ergonomics, the footpeg position can be varied via custom mounting plates and adjustable pegs, the seat can be set deeper or further back, and the bars can be adjusted too. There’s also a fair amount of freedom around liveries and the anodized and raw finishes.
There’s no option for mid-mount pegs though. I originally questioned the idea of a long wheelbase, fat rear tire and forward controls on a performance motorcycle. So I asked Reeves and Hollinger [above] if that was a deliberate move to maintain an element of cruiser DNA in the KRGT-1, and they confirmed it.
The truth is, this was never meant to be a sports naked—only a performance cruiser. A combination of the things Reeves liked about the cruisers he was riding before he approached Hollinger, but with performance turned up to eleven.
Riding the KRGT-1
To put that performance to the test, we rode from our hotel in sleepy Pasadena towards the endlessly meandering roads of the Angeles Crest Highway. Was I nervous riding an $85,000 motorcycle, of which only three prototypes currently exist? Little bit.
Hitting the starter button quickly reminded me that the KRGT-1 is a pure American muscle bike. That 124 ci V-twin is nothing short of monstrous, with ample bark and bite. And as you’d expect from a mill this size, it shakes. And it gets pretty hot, too. But Arch make no apologies for this—it’s all part and parcel of this type of bike, really.
That ethos is pushed further with the use of a traditional cable throttle. There’s no ride-by-wire, no traction control and no rider aids beyond ABS…which gives the KRGT-1 a refreshingly visceral nature.
The KRGT-1 weighs in at 538 lbs [244 kg] dry—over 100 lbs less than the new Harley-Davidson Low Rider S, and in the same ballpark as BMW’s R1250 GS. It’s a big bike, but not a total lump.
The weight, and the heat and shimmy from the motor, make it a bit of a handful from stop light to stop light in traffic. But the second I hit the open road, I whacked the throttle wide open, tucked into the deep seat and felt the KRGT-1 come into its own.
I found Arch’s six-speed transmission pretty stiff at first, and hard to get into neutral too. But then I rode the other bike on hand that day, and it was far more compliant. I discovered that the hydraulic clutch simply needed to be bled. It’s understandable—the bike I was riding was Reeves’ personal test mule; a prototype build with over 3,000 miles on it already.
The beastly S&S Cycle power plant is well tuned, with masses of usable torque. Arch and S&S didn’t just grab a motor off the shelf and pop it in the KRGT-1—they spent a lot of time fine-tuning it, and it shows.
There’s 122 Nm [90 lb.-ft] at the back wheel. But rather than peak at a tangible point in the rev range, most of it is on hand, most of the time. So while I was hustling the KRGT-1 through the endless blissful corners of Angeles Crest, I seldom had to hit the gear shifter. Instead, I could just roll on and off the throttle.
Cornering with the KRGT-1 is a revelation too. Despite the rider triangle and stretched wheelbase, it’s remarkably intuitive through turns. It takes hardly any effort to pitch it over—and once it’s there, it holds the line like it’s on rails.
How did Arch get this so right? I’d say there’s a few reasons. For starters, carbon wheels and an aluminum swing arm go a long way to reduce unsprung mass, and you really feel it through corners. But it’s also the fact that the KRGT-1’s a ground-up build, with every component front to back designed to work in unison.
The entire chassis feels stiff and connected. And the suspension works well too, keeping the bike planted with no vagueness or wallowing. And with the 19F/18R wheel combo and the KRGT-1’s relative tallness, you’ve got a lot more room to lean than you have on most cruisers.
There’s a ton of modulation (and power) in the brakes too. I grabbed a handful early on and sent the nose into a sharp dive, before realizing that all the ISR units needed was a gentle tap to slow the bike down. Once I’d figured that out, I was feathering the front with a finger or two while trail braking into corners. Yip: trail braking on a cruiser.
As someone who actually digs riding cruisers, I didn’t hate the forward controls at all. I get why the KRGT-1 is setup like this, and actually like it. And I really liked the setup of the bars and seat, too, though the tank contours weren’t in the right place, and I ended up sitting a bit wide-legged.
I also found that my butt and lower back were mad at me towards the end of the ride, just from sitting in a hunched position for long. I’m a big guy though, and my regularly-sized riding partner on the day had no such issues. The two bikes we were riding had tangibly different ergonomics too, so some setup time might yield improvements.
The ride was remarkably fun, but afterwards I wondered how many of Arch’s customers simply buy into the concept of owning an exclusive boutique motorcycle—and how many actually appreciate the KRGT-1’s ride dynamics.
So I asked Arch’s client and communications manager, Jordan Mastagni. He said that most customers are avid motorcyclists who are drawn to the bike specifically due to its capabilities.
Arch also have a strong focus on the ownership experience. They’re hands-on during the ordering process, and each bike ships with an ‘owner’s box’ with a custom-made key, a special tool for adjustments, and a book detailing the unique build process. Arch once even sent a technician all the way to Australia to fix what turned out to be a minor issue.
That level of obsession and dedication is written all over the KRGT-1. From the outlandish level of build quality to the unusually good riding experience, it’s a remarkable and special motorcycle.
Sure, it still has a lot of cruiser DNA, but my gut says that will be a selling point for Arch customers.
And ultimately, it rides unlike any other cruiser out there.
Published at Mon, 11 Nov 2019 17:01:40 +0000