Interview: Keanu Reeves tells the story of Arch Motorcycles
by Chris Knapman
“Coming out of Goodwood it shifted a little bit from ‘What’s an Arch?’ to, ‘Ah that’s an Arch’. That transition happened.”
Few would doubt the Festival of Speed’s ability to put a brand on the map, but even so, it is neat to think that those words come from Hollywood A-list actor, Keanu Reeves, who attended the event last year with his business partner Gard Hollinger.
Their aim was to demonstrate the first product of their collaboration, the Arch Motorcycle Company's KRGT-1. GRR caught up with the pair in America at the recent launch of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyre, where a couple of Arch bikes were on display.
“We are friends with Alain de Cadenet, and we were speaking about Arch,” says Reeves. “He really liked the motorcycle and said ‘You should go to the Goodwood Festival of Speed’. And so he made an introduction. I wrote a letter to Lord March and he was kind enough to reply and give us an invitation.”
While Hollinger was aware of the event beforehand, Reeves didn’t know what to expect. “I was aware of it, but when I got there it wasn’t what I thought it was. I didn’t know it was this remarkable event – the only one like it,” he says.
“It was an amazing experience and introduced us to a lot of people,” adds Hollinger.
The pair didn’t disclose if any of those people went on to buy an Arch, but with 20 or so of the $78,000 bikes already produced, the company is clearly on to something. So, other than the star names behind it (Hollinger is renowned in the world of custom motorcycles, having run LA County Choprods), what makes an Arch special?
For that, we need to rewind eight years to when a friend suggested Reeves contact Hollinger to see if he would make a modification to his Harley-Davidson. “I really just wanted to get a sissy bar [a backrest for a pillion rider] and asked if Gard would do it. He said no.”
Upon enquiring what Hollinger did do, Reeves was shown into the workshop, at which point his rejected sissy bar turned into a request to build a custom bike.
“Gard was kind enough to ask what I wanted, and ultimately over the course of time I realised I wanted a cruiser that you could ride. That’s where we got to know each other, as this bike was being built.”
What they ended up with was what the pair call a performance cruiser. “It was a cruiser with forward controls, but it handled like I’ve never experienced in a machine like that. So I asked Gard if he wanted to start a motorcycle company,” says Reeves.
Although initially reluctant, Hollinger eventually agreed and so the pair set about changing the original bike, which was based on a Harley, into something completely bespoke, with 200 of their own parts (including a billet aluminium fuel tank) that could be industrialised and duplicated. In addition, it brought in partners such as S&S for the V-twin engine, Ohlins for the suspension and Michelin for the tyres, each of which produces bespoke parts for Arch Motorcycles.
“All these companies do proprietorial things with us, which has been really awesome. Parts that are unique to the motorcycle to make it the best that it can be,” says Reeves.
The result, as those who attended FOS in 2016 will have seen, is a seriously impressive machine, not to mention one that is custom fitted to its rider as part of the build process.
It has also set the tone for more models to join the Arch Motorcycle range in due course, and so while the pair can’t make it to FOS in 2017, don’t rule them out for future years.