The brotherhood and kinship that motorbike lovers have for one another and their often-beautiful machines is well known; and any perceived threatening image is probably simply hiding a quiet, bike-loving individual.
Maybe there is none more famous yet humble than Keanu Reeves, who has become an Internet sensation; he has emerged phoenix-like from the baptism of fire as a young actor criticised for wooden performances, to an actor making big box office movies and incredibly, the subject of many a social media inspirational quote meme, where you can expect to see a cool picture of the actor, surrounded by even cooler philosophical words that you will find hard to disagree with.
“I’ve been what!?” was how Reeves greeted the news recently that he was being ‘gushed over’ on the Internet. “That’s wacky.” The actor doesn’t actually have a social media presence himself, he has better things to do; like act, exist – and run a motorcycle company…
The John Wick actor is renowned for his love of motorcycles and yes, he runs his own bike co called Arch Motorcycle Company. Arch Motorcycles came into being when Reeves met Gard Hollinger, a custom motorbike builder whom he had employed to build a customised Harley-Davidson, a bike which ended up more ‘Trigger’s Broom’ than a Harley, as the final result after 5 years of testing, designing and building, was a motorbike with only the Harley engine remaining. The final result was so good that Reeves asked a reluctant Hollinger to form a bike company with him. That customised Harley-Davidson became the benchmark for the original Arch Motorcycles prototype, leading on to eventually become the Arch KRGT-1 in the autumn of 2014. Arch aim for the Holy Grail; a bike that is true to the American biker dream of comfort and all day cruising, but with the ability and agility of a sports bike.
Norton Commando 750 and 850 Mk II Roadster
Shortly after the Second World War, during which my uncle George had fought in Burma leading a small crack team of Gurkhas and Indian British Army troops scouting behind enemy lines, he took my aunt for a picnic. When a biker gang resplendent in traditional leathers and denim appeared, my aunt became slightly nervous. Unphased, George casually wandered over to have a chat with them. Much laughter ensued, and when he came back she asked him what on earth had gone on. He said they chatted about bikes, and when he told them that he rode a Norton during the war, the leader of the chapter had told him that if he still had that bike, he would have had to stand down and let him lead – hence the amusement.
Being a famous actor of course does help with the finances when it comes to starting a company as well as building your very own collection of classic motorcycles to be inspired by. Keanu Reeves’ bike collection is impressive; he even has in his possession that famous Ducati from The Matrix Reloaded. Of course, my eye is drawn to the Norton Commando 750 that Reeves has in his collection. It’s a brand that he seems to like a lot, as the 750 is not the first Norton that he has been spotted with.
The Commando 750 hit production in 1968, having been premiered at the Earls Court Show the previous year. Despite being initially plagued with design issues, the Commando went to become a best seller – a stone cold case of classic beautiful looks and brand romance overcoming known running problems; even though the problems of frame failure, flooded carbs leading to fires, and a clutch that wasn’t built to withstand the engine torque were pretty serious issues to contend with.
Despite the problems, the Commando remained in production from 1968 until 1977 and achieved ‘Machine of the Year’ in Motor Cycle News 5 years on the trot from ‘68-‘72.
Following the demise of Norton and the expiration of patents and a dispute over name rights, several new ‘Norton’ companies emerged from the rubble finally resulting in Norton Racing Ltd acquiring the rights to the Commando and producing a new Commando 961 model in 2010. The new Commando has received favourable reviews too, being described as a neutral handling bike both tame and manageable when riding in traffic.
Another Norton that Reeves has in his collection is a 1973 Commando 850 Mk II Roadster, which he bought back in 1987, two years before his name went stratospheric with the release of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Legend has it that Reeves rode this Commando 850 across America to go and visit River Phoenix in person to convince him to co-star with him in My Own Private Idaho in 1991.
Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide
The original Harley FX Super Glide was introduced in 1971 and helped to cement the company into the annals of motorbike history – surely every bike rider wants a go on a Harley. The Glide variations have proved to be hugely successful for Harley over the years, but the one many movie buffs will remember is the Electra Glide, following the release of Electra Glide in Blue in 1973 starring Robert Blake as a Harley-riding traffic cop in Arizona. File alongside Two Lane Blacktop in the seventies section of cult motorbike and car movies.
The Dyna Wide Glide was in production for 25 years or so from 1991. The cruiser offers a more laid back vision of the world compared to the more upright Norton 750 style and it’s maybe this stark difference that makes this another of Reeves’ favourites. It’s said that no one knows their motorcycle customer base better than Harley-Davidson, and the company surely lead the way in providing what even the layman on the street might recognise as a Harley above all other bike manufacturers.
The Wide Glide originally ran from 1980-1986 as a solid-engine-mount bike, re-emerging as a rubber-engine-mount bike in 1993 until 2008 and then reappearing again in 2010. Fork angle is important when it comes to either desiring a sharp, skittish handling bike or something a little more laid back, and the Wide Glide’s relaxed 36-degree fork angle certainly won’t give too many heart-stopping moments. The later model even replicates the cooler-than-anything-you’ve-seen-before petrol tank flames.
West Coast Choppers El Diablo
Seeing as the actor resides in California, it would be remiss of him not to own a motorbike from the stable of Jesse James-owned (yes, really) West Coast Choppers. Reeves’ choice is the made-to-order El Diablo in black – with a profile that looks like everybody’s idea of what a Harley looks like.
It’s probably far easier to get hold of the famous ‘Iron Cross’ logo printed T-shirt than it is a West Coast Choppers’ bike, as the company seems to make very few bikes a year, and mostly as custom orders for celebrities.
Arch Motorcycle Company
Keanu Reeves’ love of motorcycles emerged when he was filming Babes in Toyland in Munich as a 22-year old. It was here that a young girl taught him how to ride, and it wasn’t too long after this experience that the Canadian actor bought the Commando 850. From this learning-moment on, the actor’s love of motorcycles just grew and grew and ultimately led to the birth of Arch Motorcycles with Hollinger.
Despite Reeves’ love for his Harley-Davidson Wide Glide and his Norton motorbikes, there is surely a big place reserved in his heart for the KRGT-1, which signalled the beginning of his new career as a motorcycle company part-owner.It’s easy to see how this performance cruiser was developed after looking at just a few of Reeves’ favourite bikes.
The setup is built for comfort, but not too laid back as to not be able to get you out of a tricky situation with ease. With the intended combo of cruiser and sport, Arch say that the 2032cc KRGT-1 is designed to be a comfortable all-day cruiser but with added toughness thrown in.
It’s easy to see how this performance cruiser was developed after looking at just a few of Reeves’ favourite bikes. The setup is built for comfort, but not too laid back as to not be able to get you out of a tricky situation with ease. With the intended combo of cruiser and sport, Arch say that the 2032cc KRGT-1 is designed to be a comfortable all-day cruiser but with added toughness thrown in.
You don’t just walk into Arch and buy a KRGT-1 though, as each bike is customised to fit each new rider, much like the original customised Harley that inspired the company around 2008. But all this personal fit stuff from a bike company owned by a Hollywood actor comes with a mighty price tag as you might imagine: The KRGT-1 will set you back a cool $90,000…
Perhaps a 300-mile range and 120bhp might soften the blow a little. What is perhaps most surprising though, is that you will be hard pressed to find a serious motorcycle review that pronounces the KRGT-1 as over-priced. Yes, it really does seem that Keanu Reeves can do no wrong.
Images: bennetts.co.uk, hotcars.com, networthcelebrities.com, cycleworld.com, cheatsheet.com
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