Keanu Reeves might be best known for his acting career but behind the scenes, he co-owns ARCH motorcycles and the KRGT-1 is the latest model. Is this $123,000 work of art the ultimate performance cruiser? We find out... Photography: Alessio Barbanti/Arnaud Puig/ARCH motorcycles
The Arch KRGT-1 receives 20 major changes for 2020, featuring 150 newly designed components. We travel to Los Angeles, California, to test the new 2032cc powered bespoke and handmade machine. What is the $123,000 performance cruiser like to ride?
I don’t normally get nervous before a test ride, but today is very different. This isn’t like any other production bike; this is a bespoke, handmade machine that takes 90 days to assemble and costs $123,000 AUD.
I am one of the first test riders to try the new KRGT-1, which has been significantly updated for 2020. And to add to the pressure, co-founder and designers Gard Hollinger and Keanu Reeves are observing and will be joining us on our test ride. Oh, and let’s not forget its power-plant: a tweaked S&S 2032cc V-twin delivering drive to a huge rear carbon wheel wrapped in 240-section Michelin Commander 2 rubber. This is no ordinary bike on no ordinary day.
ARCH was created by co-founders Keanu and Gard, and the KRGT-1 is their latest machine to roll out of their small factory in LA. For 2020 there are 20 major upgrades and 150 newly designed and manufactured components.
Some of the changes – like the re-designed rear mudguard, or fender as they say in California – have been forced upon the team to meet Euro 4 homologation. Other components have been changed or tweaked to improve the handling and performance or simply to add aesthetic value. Some do all three. Check out the lovely five-spoke carbon wheels and new ‘race-inspired’ billet aluminium swingarm, which increases rigidity and reduces weight compared to the old arm.
There are noticeable changes throughout the bike. New digital clocks, for example, with more information; updated bodywork; a re-designed billet aluminium fuel tank, – yes, I did say billet aluminium fuel tank – that is truly special. The tail section, which is also billet, is all-new, as are the seat, suspension, there’s ABS… the list goes on.
The longer you gaze at the ARCH the more you notice the changes and appreciate the craftsmanship behind it. There is billet aluminium everywhere – 540kg of aluminium is used to produce one bike. The in-house machined side plates are lovely, equally so are the fork bottoms that accommodate the six-piston ISR monobloc calipers ($2200 AUD per side). From the tailored seat to the Magura levers, which are $1400 AUD per lever, every detail has been thought about to a Rolex level of detail and precision. And everything is CNC machined in-house, with some items requiring more than 15 hours of machine time alone.
We could discuss the design and build all day, but I’ve not flown all the way to California just to admire this work of art. It’s time for a ride.
The new digital, slightly retro dash illuminates with a turn of the rather large central mounted key. One press of the starter button and that huge 2032cc air-cooled V-twin barks into life, along with a bespoke exhaust designed in partnership with Yoshimura.
The vibrations are as apparent as Donald Trump’s wig, and the new clocks shake charismatically as I blip the throttle. Arse perched on the comfortable seat, bar-end mirrors positioned correctly, into a surprisingly slick first gear on the forward-set controls – and we’re away.
As we leave the hotel car park I’m immediately aware of the taught Öhlins-suspended chassis, which is on the firm and sporty side for a cruiser. Öhlins have been heavily involved in the KRGT-1’s development, and like so much on the bike the shock and forks are not off-the-shelf items. The ride isn’t overly harsh, though, and the seat is comfortable, but the lack of rear sag certainly takes me by surprise.
Even in LA, where celebrities and supercars are around every corner, the ARCH turns heads at every intersection. The two-into-one Yoshi’ exhaust has a charismatic bark, while on wide throttle openings you can hear the K&N airfilter gasp for air. The bike’s song is distinctive and soulful without being offensive, popping on the overrun too, but you can certainly leave home without waking your neighbours.
As I ride through town I notice that the S&S gearbox is far smoother than expected, a far cry from the agricultural American gearboxes of old. The clutch is lighter and easier to use. The dash is clearer than before, though not the full-colour display you might expect on a high-end cruiser. The bar-end mirrors give just enough vision behind and the two heat shields on the exhaust also reduce the amount of heat reaching the rider.
Up onto the freeway and the KRGT-1 is in its element, grunting up to speed without fuss. Acceleration from 1500rpm in any gear is like riding a tidal wave of torque. Without passing 3000rpm I’m already up to 130km/h and breaking the speed limit. Away from the eyes of the law she’d hit 160km/h with only a tickle of the throttle and continue climbing…
Now cruising on the freeway the ergonomics feel natural. I’m relatively short, yet the ‘bars and feet-forward controls aren’t a stretch. That firm suspension doesn’t jolt me out of the seat on bumps and undulations as I was expecting, in fact the ride quality is impressive. At 120-130km/h the motor is ticking over smoothly around 3000rpm, creating vibration through the ‘bars, which is noticeable rather than annoying. With its 19-litre fuel tank you could easily go touring on the new ARCH, no problem – the only detail lacking in this respect being a fuel range indicator.
As we leave LA and head for the hills and the famous Angeles Crest, a series of endless curves which goes on for 80km and more, I’m salivating with anticipation, waiting to push the sporting potential of the new model. As you’d imagine with a wide rear tyre, long wheelbase and a lazy raked out front-end, stability was never going to be in issue.
The initial turn is slow, but once passed five-degrees of lean the ARCH rolls into corners predictably and gracefully. You can then just keep leaning and leading. And unlike most sporty cruisers, I’m not dragging footpegs and the exhaust on the apex.
I push on a little harder, lean a little further and it’s the same result. The ARCH delivers with almost sportsbike levels of lean, the stuff Harley riders can only dream about. Put some more rear-set ‘pegs on this bike, drop the ‘bars and you’d have a knee down mid-corner cruiser. Ish.
That quality Öhlins suspension holds the heavy chassis extremely well. There is very little sag in the rear shock and because the rear isn’t sitting down as expected, nothing touches the road, even when a few unexpected undulations are thrown into the equation. Despite the lack of squat, you can still dial in fistfuls of torque and feel the grip. Eventually, without any rider aids like traction control, that fat Michelin will break free, but you’d need to be devilish with the throttle or have a cold tyre to do so.
The front 48mm fully-adjustable Öhlins forks are also on the sporty side, while the uprated six-piston ISR calipers are sportsbike-strong and free of fade, which is impressive given they have to haul down 244kg plus rider. (The brake system itself has been updated for the new model with a new reservoir and twin-channel ABS developed in partnership with Bosch.)
In the endless twist and turns of the mountains, what impresses me the most, aside from the class-leading ground clearance, is the bike’s ability to switch from one corner to the next without any dramatic counter steering input or pushing on the ‘pegs. Again, the control of the Öhlins suspension helps – you don’t have to pull the bike upright, lift it over the shock and force it back down the other side – and the ride is far more flowing and effort-free than I’d anticipated.
At the halfway point we’re joined by ARCH co-founders: legendary bike builder Gard Hollinger and Hollywood star Keanu Reeves. It’s rewarding to hear them discuss the bike, the set-up and explain the changes they’ve made. Gard is the accomplished bike builder but Keanu isn’t just there for the publicity, he’s a genuine biker and often used as a test rider. He’s clocked up more than 80,000 test kilometres, and some of the chassis changes such as the sporty steering, and increased rigidity from the rear, were at his request.
For the remainder of the ride, both Keanu and Gard ride with us down the mountains back to Pasadena in LA. Riding a valuable bespoke bike is daunting enough, doing so under the noses of the men who made it takes things to another level.
Keanu follows my wheel tracks and as we up the pace he’s still there in those bar-end mirrors, following my every move. The pace is brisk and he’s having fun as we push the legality of our riding. Now and then we all give a thumbs up, we’re all enjoying the road, the bike, and each other’s company. Amidst a cacophony of noise, I can see LA rising from the smog in the distance and conclude that if ARCH has designed the KRGT-1 to make you feel good then they have succeeded. In California, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Before flying to LA, my assumption was the ARCH KRGT-1 was going to be a soft, vibey, slightly agricultural cruiser. Some power, certainly, but mainly just another custom built with bolt-on parts. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The level of workmanship and the man-hours that have gone into this bike are mind-blowing. The level of the components, the CNC machine work, the creativity and craftsmanship are all first class. The pictures don’t do the bike justice (the CNC-machined billet swingarm and petrol tank have to be seen in the metal).
Producing a bike from scratch and getting it through European and US testing is no easy task. But after years of painstaking testing and re-designing, it has worked. Looks and appeal are subject to interpretation, of course, but I like the style and the polished look and feel. And from images I posted on social media, the verdict is an unquestionable ‘Yes’. For a performance cruisier, the KRGT-1 handles, stops and certainly has some go. The elephant in the room is its price: at $85,000 USD ($123,000 AUD) it’s not realistic or achievable for most, simply a poster bike like a dream sports car. But thankfully I did get to ride it, and thankfully it blew away my expectations…
2020 ARCH KRGT-1 SPECIFICATIONS
Price: Approximately $123,000 AUD
Service: 800km, then every 4000km
Claimed Power: N/A
Claimed Torque: 166Nm[123lbs-fts] Dry Weight: 244kg
Fuel capacity: 19L
Engine: 2032cc air-cooled, fuel injected, twin-cam, V-Twin, Yoshimura/Arch two-into-one exhaust
Clutch: Dry, hydraulic actuation
Chassis: Tubular steel frame, with in-house made billet CNC alloy sub-frame and swingarm.
Suspension: 48mm Ohlins FGRT inverted forks, Ohlins custom shock, ARCH linkage.
Brakes: 320mm disc (f), six-piston ISR radial-mount caliper, 240mm disc (r), four-piston ISR caliper, Bosch ABS.
Wheels & Tyres: BST carbon-fibre wheels, 120/70 – 19in (f), 240/40 – 18in (r) Michelin Commander 2 tyres.
Seat height: 706mm
Ground clearance: N/A
Overall width: N/A
Overall Length: N/A
Overall height: N/A
Instruments: ARCH KRGT-1 Display
Fuel tank – Again billet aluminium and it takes 15 hours to machine just one side, that’s 30 hours of machine work per fuel tank. Then add the finishing, hand welding, and painting, that’s close to 50 man-hours per fuel tank. A decent five gallons inside.
2020 ARCH KRGT-1 Gallery
The Verdict | Review: 2020 ARCH KRGT-1 Cruiser