Keanu Reeves has always loved motorcycles. Well, not always, but since he’s been an adult and been able to afford them, riding motorcycles has been his favorite pastime when he’s not acting in our favorite movies. So he’s lucky, then, to have met Gard Hollinger, a world-renowned motorcycle visionary and architect based in Los Angeles. Together, the two have formed one of the more unique partnerships in automotive history, as the co-founders of Arch Motorcycles. They are the only two partners, and their plan is to keep it that way.
Keanu’s reason for co-founding the company is simple but, in typical Keanu Reeves fashion, deep. “Someday we aren’t going to be here, and it would be really great to leave something that matters to us, something we love.” As if his massive catalog of blockbusters wasn’t enough to cement his legacy, Reeves wanted something tangible and physical that people could point at and be like, “Keanu Reeves made that for me.”
And that’s where Arch Motorcycles comes in. Together with Gard Hollinger, the company builds completely bespoke, one-of-a-kind motorcycles (that cost a ton, upwards of $78,000 for the base version). But in spending that kind of money, you’re getting something completely unique. They’re called “performance cruisers” because of the way Gard has designed the ergonomics and telemetry of each bike, and because of the way they handle. They aren’t fat or low like a hog, nor flat-seated for extra passengers. They’re for urban riding and highway cruising.
Let's learn a little more about the unlikely duo’s company. Here are 20 things to know about Keanu Reeves’ motorcycle company.
20 How Keanu Experienced Different Bikes To Find What He Wanted
When a bike was done, they would ride it. Gard had been riding since he was eight, and has ridden every bike imaginable, but Keanu started riding much later. He’d ridden a lot of different bikes because he’d owned a lot. He’d go into a motorcycle shop and said, “What used motorcycles do you have?” He’d check them out and say, “Okay, how about that one?” and he would try it and take it back. He started collecting them, but not just to own them, but to experience riding them.
That was how he got along with Gard so well: Gard respected Keanu’s approach of having enough money but wanting to experience all sorts of motorcycles. So they formed a partnership and then the company. (Source: Petrolicious.com)
19 Production Availability
So far the company has produced a handful of pristine bikes and a few different models. The bikes have homes in the United States, Australia, Malaysia, and Russia, and volume stays low on purpose.
They build a maximum of 50 to 100 bikes a year, and within the last few years the single model Arch sold has jumped to three models: an evolution of the flagship KRGT-1, a small, two-person motorcycle, and a low-production, high-dollar hyper-exotic bike.
Gard hopes that every bike they build will feel like the “gruff-but-docile KTGT-1” that first began the partnership with Keanu. Arch is not the “Keanu Reeves Motorcycle Company,” as Hollinger has said, “We want people to understand we’re serious and we want to be here for the long-term.” (Source: Maxim.com)
18 The Arch KRGT-1 Specifications
The flagship model of the Arch company is the KRGT-1, or the “Keanu Reeves GT, model 1.” (As much as Gard says the company isn’t the “Keanu Reeves Motorcycle Company,” the bike is still named after him.) Its engine is a 2,031 cc Arch Proprietary S&S cycle T124 twin cam, with a 45-degree downdraft fuel-injected V-twin. The transmission is also Arch proprietary, a 6-speed drivetrain with a custom compact high-torque mainshaft. The frame is built from Arch tube and billet steel with billet aluminum structural members, and the brakes are Dual ISR 6 piston mono-block radial-mounted calipers, with dual ISR floating dampened discs. The front suspension is an Ohlins invested 43mm. The wheels are BST ultralight carbon fiber-built, and the swingarm is built from modular billet aluminum with titanium axle adjusters.
17 How Arch Motorcycles Came To Be
While Gard was working on Chop Rods, Keanu came in with is Dyna, as mentioned above. Keanu loved the quality of the bikes Gard was building and asked what he could do with his Dyna. Four years later, Keanu’s “chop rod” was finished, and he loved it. Keanu said, “Man, that thing is beautiful. What if we made some more of them?” Gard was skeptical and wasn’t interested in starting a motorcycle company with a celebrity.
But over drinks, Keanu talked him into it, giving him a list of 20 reasons they shouldn’t make the company, and then some reasons why they should. Finally, Gard asked a final question: “If there was one reason you had to say we shouldn’t do this, what is it?” And Keanu’s response: “Because someday we’re not going to be here.” So the company was formed.
16 How The Company Grew
After Gard answered Keanu’s question with “Okay, I don’t know how to argue with that. Let’s give it a shot,” they started work on a second motorcycle. Basically, the point of Keanu’s response was that he wanted to leave a legacy (besides his movies), something physical, that would be there when he was gone.
And for Gard, it was a natural progression: this is what he’d spent his life doing, so what’s the point in running away from it?
Gard makes it clear, though, that without Keanu he would not have done this. At the time he was building one-off motorcycles, three a year. Then they got in contact with a CAD guy (computer-aided design).
15 Newest Bikes: The Arch 1s And The Arch Method 143
The two newer bikes were recently unveiled at the 2017 EICMA. As their website says, “The 1s is the first production single-sided swingarm motorcycle from Arch. The new model is sport influenced with a more aggressive riding position, while still keeping hold of its performance cruiser formulation. CNC-machined aluminum and extensive use of carbon fiber flow within the lines of this elegant yet race-inspired motorcycle.”
The Method 143 is “the first concept production motorcycle featuring a carbon fiber mono-cell chassis. The unique layering design concept and elegant craftsmanship of the bodywork include fine leather, carbon fiber, and artfully programmed CNC-machined aluminum. This progressively designed motorcycle will be limited to only 23 units.”
14 Why Keanu Is Gard's Only Partner
As it stands, Arch Motorcycles is run by Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger, and no one else. Gard didn’t have the financial means to build highly expensive, highly specialized bikes like Keanu wanted, but he got that capital from Reeves, of course. Gard also has said there’s something pure about having only one partner. Even if more people with money-backing had come to him, he wouldn’t have made the company. It was an organic, passionate partnership with Keanu. They both share the passion, and Keanu reignited something in Gard. The purity of it is what interested Gard—they’re not pulled by any customer, they’re just doing what their passion drives them to create.
13 Visualizing Bikes Using Virtual Reality
To Gard, there’s a huge difference in building one-offs that share parameters (like with Chop Rods), and building replicable machine pieces. The second is more challenging and difficult, and it was also the part he was interested in. This would be more challenging and fulfilling than what he was doing with Chop Rods.
After Keanu’s first bike modification, Gard forayed into CAD-designed bikes. They would visualize bikes in the 3D world, and things started to look “like something that was familiar but different—like a concept bike.”
They were seeing these bikes before they were ever built in the real world, so they knew what they were working toward and how to get there before they even began.
12 Making The Second Bike
After modifying Keanu’s first bike, Keanu loved it and said “What if we made more?” To which Gard said, “You know what? Let me finish this one. Maybe there’s something to talk about after I finish this.” And clearly there was. They started solidifying the plan to make the second bike after they agreed to form the company. That’s when they reached out to a CAD guy, started getting visuals and design work done, but for something that wouldn’t just be a one-off. It was a strange place for an artist like Gard to be in, but he wanted to build bikes that could be sold and reproduced over and over, but in a completely unique way.
11 How They Got To Work On The First Arch KRGT-1 Model
The bike Keanu brought in, the ’05 Harley Dyna, was pretty messed up, and he was hoping to turn it into a beautiful custom cruiser. It was a big, V-twin bike with good handling, that was “like a cruiser you fit inside of,” according to Gard. The bike Gard created for Keanu didn’t have the character Reeves was looking for, but Reeves still said, “I really do believe the machine was telling us that it had to be in the world. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. It was there. It was asking.” Keanu won Hollinger over to make another bike, and he became the builder’s creative counterpoint and the financier. (Source: Maxim.com)
10 The Arch Motorcycles Shop
Arch Motorcycles is a small enterprise, just how Gard wanted it. It’s a six-person shop that does all design and assembly in-house, as well as much of the parts fabrication.
The main showroom is stocked with sample KRGT-1s, a mini factory, complete with CAD computer stations, CNC machines (computer numerical control) that mills small, precision parts from aluminum blocks, and a boneyard of scrapped and forgotten projects.
Adjacent to the factory is the warehouse, where there are hundreds of brackets, casings, and odd parts that are laid out on ceiling-high shelves, each labeled meticulously with sticky notes from Gard Hollinger himself.
9 Differences Between The Two Founders
Gard Hollinger is considered the level-headed architect of Arch, while Keanu is the dreamer who’s drawn to the creative passion and freedom that the company provides. Keanu has said that “Arch definitely has similarities to some of the work that I’ve been a part of, like The Matrix or A Scanner Darkly or The Devil’s Advocate or Bill and Ted, or Speed, or Point Break—projects that I really enjoyed and that changed my life and were so satisfying as an artist.” That is Keanu’s goal of being part of this thing, to satisfy his curiosity and his hunger to ride: because he could no longer find the bikes he wanted in stores, he decided he needed to build them, and Gard was the perfect architect for the job. (Source: Maxim.com)
8 Their Different Styles Of Building And Riding
As mentioned earlier, Gard Hollinger started riding at a very young age, on dirt bikes and scooters and groms. Meanwhile, Keanu learned to ride as an adult.
But he logged tens of thousands of miles riding on the backs of Nortons, Suzukis, a 1974 BMW 750, a Kawasaki KZ 900, a 1984 Harley Shovelhead, and a Moto Guzzi racer, all bikes that were from his own personal collection.
Keanu said, “It was really riding the prototype [KRGT-1] that was the proof of the business concept, even though we didn’t know it.” Reeves always loved Nortons, but he wanted something different and more easily customizable. (Source: Bloomberg.com)
7 Style Of The KRGT-1
The bike they wanted to build had to both look beautiful and cruise, as a gleaming prototype with thick tires and a gas tank curved like the fender of a Bugatti, according to Gard. “It was this idea of a big V-twin, a long wheelbase with modern grade suspension and the telemetry that Gard had designed and the ergonomics,” Reeves said. “It was this package that I wanted from the first time riding that bike. I’d never ridden anything like that.” As Gard put it: “It has to make you giggle when you ride it.” The KRGT-1 is built of 200 individual parts fabricated in the Hawthorne shop.
6 Stats And Cost Of The KRGT-1
Each bike is bespoke to its owner, which means the speed and power of each bike is subject to change. They’ve only built 30 or so a year of this bike. In general, they weigh about 538 pounds, and with 121 hp they can cruise easily at 100 mph.
They have six gears, scooped-out insides, ultralight carbon-fiber wheels, and aluminum bodies. They have a single LED headlight and low, short handlebars.
They’re heavier than a 485-pound Ducati xDiavel S, but lighter than a Harley-Davidson V-Rod (640 pounds). The five-gallon gas tank will take you 200 miles before a fill-up. Each bike requires a $15,000 deposit before the overall price of $78,000, making them on the very high-end of motorcycles. Similar to a custom suit, buying your own KRGT-1 requires multiple sessions of measurements.
5 Why The Company Is Called Arch
Gard Hollinger designs the bikes himself based on Keanu’s vision, then the actor road tests them. It took them three years between finishing the prototype and getting the final result to production. The company is called Arch because it “sounded good in the mouth,” Reeves said. “Arches, doorways, bridges, beautiful, functional—it made me think of tunnels and bridges and connections and journeys. It was the rider to the bike, the experience of riding a motorcycle, our relationship, the idea with connecting with the company and our client.” Leave it to Keanu Reeves to make an explanation of the word “arch” as deep as humanly possible! (Source: Bloomberg.com)
4 The Company Started With A Half-Finished Dyna
Before Keanu and Arch Motorcycle co-founder Gard Hollinger partnered together, Keanu was a customer. A friend of Gard’s, a leather and silver artist, called him and said, “Hey, Keanu Reeves is a customer here, and he’s got this ’05 Harley Dyna that he just did a bunch of stuff to, and would you be interested in building a sissy bar for him?” Gard said, “Not really,” but agreed to take a look at the bike.
When Keanu came in and asked the same question about building him a sissy bar, Gard said no again. But through the conversation, they ended up modifying his bike anyway, sans sissy bar. (Source: Petrolicious.com)
3 A Little Bit About Gard Hollinger
Before becoming partners with one of the most famous actors in the world, Gard Hollinger was the owner of another bike shop called Chop Rods.
His goal with the company was to “do what I wanted to do, and if people dug it, cool. If they didn’t, then after a couple of years I’d have a few cool motorcycles and I’d just, like, go off into the distance.”
Fortunately, people responded well to his bikes, which were very specialized and technical and for a certain kind of customer (rich ones). His bikes have a very distinct look and feel to them, as we’ll get into later in this article.
2 When Gard Started Working On Motorcycles
Gard Hollinger got into bikes at a very young age, when he was about eight. His first opportunity to ride a bike with a motor on it came from a friend’s mini Honda 50. He fell in love the bike and couldn’t stop talking about it to his stepfather and mother. His first mini bike was a purple Taco 22, a $150 bike that basically had no suspension, with the equivalent of a lawnmower engine. After that came a Honda CT70, and it snowballed from there. He started working on them out of necessity, taking wrenches to fix broken rides, and from there he started modifying them.
1 Gard Co-Founds A Motorcycle Company Prior To Chop Rods
Enter Gard’s first foray into the business side of motorcycle building. He got into racing bikes and then co-founded a small protective gear company called Duval and Junior, which manufactured aluminum protective components for dirt bikes, like disc brake protectors and master cylinder protectors.
He became a Marine mechanic, then in ’97 he started a shop called Ziggy Harley, then he became the L.A. Indian dealer and opened an Indian dealership in 2002.
After that, Chop Rods was started, and he began by using the Indians as platforms for creative endeavors and modifications. After Indian went away, his switched his focus entirely to building his own custom “chop rods.”
Sources: Petrolicious.com, Maxim.com, Bloomberg.com, Archmotorcycle.com