In 2011, a motorcycle designer, dealer and customiser called Gard Hollinger co-founded the motorcycle production business, ARCH Motorcycles. In the years leading up to this, Hollinger had, amongst other things, raced motocross motorcycles, manufactured protective equipment for motorcycles, worked as a mechanic/fabricator and established a couple of motorcycle business, including LA County Choprods.
Based in Los Angeles, the design and engineering philosophy of ARCH Motorcycles is underpinned by three values, namely simple, elegant and efficient.
What makes ARCH Motorcycles particularly interesting, and unique, is Hollinger’s co-founder, Keanu Reeves. Yes, that Keanu Reeves. The Keanu Reeves who has acted in what I consider two of the most iconic action movie franchises in the last few decades, namely The Matrix and John Wick.
For those old enough to remember, when the first Matrix movie came out, it influenced culture, fashion, filmmaking and, to a certain extent, how we viewed the world. It also had a special place in Southern Africa because of Reeves’ character’s name – Neo. In Sesotho, Neo means gift or talent. In English, it symbolises ‘new’. The Matrix changed how I view the world and reinforced how our humanity and humanness is something to fight for.
And, while John Wick is, simply, a dope action flick, it taps into things like grief, friendship and identity/community. Other favourites Keanu Reeves movies include Speed, Point Break, The Devil’s Advocate and Constantine. I even loved Johnny Mnemonic which was ahead of its time.
Keanu Reeves the man, from the stories that float around about him, comes across as kind, thoughtful, humble and genuine without airs and graces, at least from a distance. In some quarters, he has been called ‘the nicest man in Hollywood.” There is a video of him riding the subway in New York and giving up his seat to another passenger. Or his not making a big deal after a woman reversed into his motorcycle in LA.
In my eyes, it is that personality and character that chooses the characters that he plays in film, and how he plays those characters. The roles that he takes on reflect the human being. There is a certain vulnerability, melancholy and gentleness that he brings to every role that he plays, even as ‘Baba Yaga’ (defined as the ‘Russian bogeyman’) in John Wick.
And he loves motorcycles. His journey on two-wheels started in the mid-1980s as a 22-year-old, when he learned how to ride, while doing a film in Munich, Germany. Ironically, I read somewhere that that is considered late to start riding but, considering I only started at 40, and my youthful reckless wouldn’t have suited riding, it does seem early.
From that moment, as the cliché goes, the bug bit. Reeves has since built an impressive collection of motorcycles, including Nortons, Suzukis, BMWs, Kawasakis, Harleys, Moto Guzzis and Ducatis, amongst others, primarily classics. He seems to love every style of riding and considers the motorcycle his primary mode of transport.
Reeves said, “For me, riding is a kind of freedom. Just the sound, the feeling of it. The connection to the road, to riding, to the environment, to the journey.”
This perfectly articulates how I feel when riding. It was this that hooked me I first rode a motorcycle, outside of the training course. It feels like he is speaking my thoughts when he talks motorcycles.
For example, “Riding your bike is one of the greatest things you can do to clear your head and just feel the speed and the motion.”
Reeves has gone from hardcore motorcycle enthusiast to part owner of a motorcycle business. Reeves met Hollinger when he commissioned him to customise a motorcycle for him. After multiple discussions, and growing friendship, that commissioned motorcycle morphed into their first motorcycle, the ARCH KRGT-1.
ARCH motorcycles feel like a cross between art and engineering. They only have three motorcycles, the KRGT-1 with a V-Twin, 2032 cc engine pushing out 122 horsepower, the ARCH 1s, with a V-Twin 2032 cc engine that delivers 115.3 horsepower, and their ‘ultimate production motorcycle, the ARCH Method 143, with a 2343cc engine and 151 torque.
Their approach to the production of motorcycles is completely collaborative, customised to fit the owner’s specs, aesthetically and ergonomically, including elements like the seat and placement of foot and hand controls.
While Hollinger brings the design and building expertise, Reeves brings an innate understanding of what people are looking for in a motorcycle. In a way, Reeves is living the ultimate motorcycle enthusiast’s dream.