Like it or not, compromise is fundamental to the modern production process. Engineers and designers may have great ideas about the ideal component for a particular situation, but the realities of production mean that ideals are seldom realised, especially in mass market production, where saving cents is paramount.
But what if, for example, you were making a motorcycle and wanted the fuel tank to be a structural chassis member? And what if you decided that machining it from billet aluminium was the best way to achieve that and its other functions?
In low-volume production it would be possible, of course, but stamping the same thing in sheet steel would take a fraction of the time that starting with a 242kg billet of aluminium and spending 66 hours machining it into the desired shapes – yielding two 4kg fuel cells and an awful lot of swarf – would do.
To manufacture with such little compromise would cost, but if you had customers willing to pay US$78,000 for a motorcycle, you could do just that.
Arch Motorcycle Company, in Los Angeles, California, was born of such desires. It helps that its co-founder – Keanu Reeves (we’ll try to resist the temptation to make any bad puns based on his movie credits) – probably wouldn’t blink at a 78 grand price-tag, but that doesn’t tell the full Arch story.
Reeves is a long-time motorcycle fan, though his garage over the years has not been solely high-end motorcycles, far from it. After learning to ride in his 20s, the actor made a habit of purchasing a second-hand bike whenever he was on location shooting – quite a frequent occurrence. This exposed him to a range of different machinery from his first Kawasaki Enduro to a Suzuki GS1100E, Suzuki GSX-R750, 1974 BMW 750, a Kawasaki KZ 900, an ‘84 Harley Shovelhead, and a Moto Guzzi, and the actor also has a soft-spot for Nortons.
It was while personalising a Harley Dyna Wide Glide that he was introduced to Gard Hollinger at L.A. County Choprods. Reeves admits that he is now embarrassed to have asked Hollinger to make him a sissy bar. Hollinger’s response was that he didn’t do sissy bars, but that he could build him a bike. It possibly came as a surprise that it turned into a bike company, Arch, and the KRGT-1.
At first glance the KRGT-1 power cruiser has some familiar American v-twin styling cues, but with the KRGT-1, delving deeper reveals an astonishing level of workmanship and innovation.
Clearly Hollinger is a fan of the machined billet approach, with not just the fuel cells, but the swingarm – a 17-hour machining process, and fitted with titanium adjusters and a hollow chromoly axle – and even the headlight nacelle are manufactured using the same method. Look closely and you’ll notice the latter features integrated air scoops that feed air to the proprietary air-intake system.
Power is provided by an S&S Cycle 2,032cc v-twin, but one with a few differences.
For starters Arch decided that the usual right-side air intake position interfered with the rider’s leg, and thus his balance on the motorcycle, so the Arch Downdraft Induction System was developed, moving the air intake up between the twin fuel cells. In conjunction with S&S, Arch developed its own six-speed drivetrain as well.
There are off-the-shelf parts, but as is fitting for a motorcycle in this price-range, only the best are used. The front forks are fully-adjustable Öhlins inverted 43mm items, while the rear is a Race Tech unit with reservoir and hydraulic preload adjustment. Front brakes are dual radial-mounted ISR six-piston monoblocks. And gorgeous BST lightweight carbon-fibre wheels from South Africa round out the you-can-have-it-if-you-have-the-money motorcycle porn.
Because of Hollinger’s experience with a wrench, service items are properly accessible, but thanks to his aesthetic sensibilities, not in such a way that it is ugly – it all comes back to that compromise usually made by engineers. A unitary crossmember-battery tray neatly hides the battery from view, while also functioning as a chassis member. Likewise the combined oil pan-transmission mount unit serves double duty without compromising styling.
Other neat styling touches abound, such as the multifunction LED taillight unit that sits in a reflective aluminium rear cowling, eliminating the need for plastic lenses.
The test of a motorcycle is more than just a list of its features, however. And with the KRGT-1 the result comes back to the original conversation between Reeves and Hollinger.
Reeves wanted a bike that could be ridden comfortably for long distances – and the 19-litre fuel capacity and 300km range points towards that. Plus he wanted it to be something that could be enjoyed through a set of corners, so the KRGT-1 has decent ground clearance and the six-speed gearbox allows the rider to make the most of the grunt from the big v-twin. And he wanted something that could be adapted for different owners, with different options for footpeg and handlebar positions. Plus there are a range of options for the finish.
Can a single motorcycle be all things to all people? Perhaps not – Arch has plans to release different models in the future – besides which, to have universal appeal would imply compromise, and it’s difficult to imagine Arch countenancing that.
In the meantime, if you have the means, Arch intends to manufacture around 100 units of the KRGT-1 every year. It’s quite the excellent adventure.