It’s here, and for the most part it looks exactly how we hoped it would: like a classic BMW. The 2021 BMW R 18 “Big Boxer” cruiser has finally been unveiled in complete production form, with a look reminiscent of the R 5 model of the 1930s.
Powered by a massive 1,802cc OHV air/oil-cooled 4-valve opposed twin, the largest “boxer” engine BMW has ever produced for a motorcycle, that generates a claimed 91 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 116 lb-ft of torque at 3,000, the new R 18 certainly seems to talk the talk, ready to go toe to toe with the established cruiser brands. It sports modern rider aids like partially integrated braking (the hand lever activates both front and rear brakes, the foot pedal only the rear) with ABS, a six-speed transmission with anti-hop (slipper) dry clutch, standard ASC (stability control) and MSR (engine drag torque control), and three ride modes: Rain, Roll (for regular riding) and Rock (for sportier riding). Hill Hold Control and Reverse Assist are optional.
The R 18’s classic lines come courtesy of a double loop tubular steel frame with easily removable rear subframe for easy customization, a double-sided swingarm with exposed driveshaft on the right side, a telescopic 49mm fork with 4.7 inches of travel and a hidden, preload-adjustable cantilever rear shock with 3.5 inches of travel for a hardtail look. Three brake discs, two up front and one in the rear, are 300mm in diameter and are squeezed by 4-piston calipers.
Spoked wheels are 19 inches up front, 16 at the rear, and appear to be tube-type, although that is not specified in the information we’ve received. Lighting is all-LED, and the R 18 can be fitted with an optional Adaptive Headlight (lean-angle sensitive cornering lights). Keyless Ride is standard.
The 2021 R 18 will be available worldwide in a special First Edition model, which includes the signature black paint with white pin striping, chrome details, “First Edition” badging and more. A base model will also be available in the U.S. and other select markets. Pricing starts at $17,495 for the base model and $19,870 for the First Edition.
This is, after all, a cruiser, and so BMW will also be offering two customization packages from Roland Sands Design, the “Machined” and the “Two-Tone Black.” BMW will also offer an extensive list of customization parts and accessories so buyers can make their R 18 uniquely their own.
V-twin baggers are as American as baseball and apple pie. Big, stylish and built for our wide-open highways, they embody the self-expression and freedom that make motorcycles objects of obsession rather than just vehicles. America’s two major bagger manufacturers — Harley-Davidson and Indian — are well-known brands from coast to coast, even among folks who’ve never ridden one, and their histories and rivalries stretch back more than a century. Being so steeped in tradition, Harley and Indian take great pains to satisfy their base, building motorcycles that conform to the expectations of loyal cruiser riders.
Modern baggers must strike a delicate balance. On the outside they need to look a certain way — a big V-twin front and center, a long, low profile and muscular styling with bodywork covered in rich paint. But on the inside they need to meet increasingly stringent emissions, sound and safety standards, provide modern levels of comfort and reliability and deliver an engaging riding experience in terms of performance, technology and features.
These two 2020 baggers, Harley-Davidson’s Road Glide Special and Indian’s Challenger Limited, strike that balance remarkably well. Being the latest incarnation of a model family that’s been in Harley’s lineup for 40 years — starting with the 1980 FLT, then known as the Tour Glide — the Road Glide is the seasoned veteran in this comparison, and its signature feature is a frame-mounted sharknose fairing with dual headlights. Powering the Road Glide Special is the air-cooled, 114ci (1,868cc) version of Harley’s Milwaukee-Eight 45-degree V-twin with pushrod-actuated overhead valves. The Challenger is Indian’s newest model platform and the first to be powered by the PowerPlus 108 (1,768cc), a liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin with valves actuated by single overhead cams. Like the Road Glide, the Challenger has a frame-mounted fairing, a first for Indian.
As head-to-head competitors, the Road Glide Special and Challenger Limited are similar in many ways. Their fixed fairings have bright LED headlights and large vents that bring fresh air into the cockpit, and both have long floorboards and protective highway bars. Their rumbling V-twins have hydraulic valve adjusters, throttle-by-wire and rear-cylinder deactivation, and both send power to their rear wheels through 6-speed transmissions with assist clutches and belt final drive. Both have cruise control, electronic rider aids (cornering ABS, cornering traction control and drag torque slip control — standard on the Indian, optional on the Harley), keyless ignition and touchscreen infotainment systems with audio, navigation, Bluetooth and USB ports. They have low seat heights, 6-gallon fuel tanks, cast wheels with tire pressure monitoring, top-loading lockable saddlebags and a pair of non-locking fairing pockets. Even their as-tested prices are separated by just $45 and their curb weights differ by a single pound—the Road Glide Special costs $28,794 and weighs 847 pounds; the Challenger Limited costs $28,749 and weighs 848 pounds.
Despite so many similarities, these bikes are anything but clones. Specs and features are one thing, style and personality are quite another. With nearly every component bathed in black, a tinted shorty windscreen, minimal badging and foregoing traditional metal flake and gloss in favor of matte Barracuda Silver Denim paint, the Road Glide Special is dark and brooding. (The FLTRXS is available in five other colors, all with gloss finishes.) The Challenger Limited, on the other hand, grabs your attention with Ruby Metallic paint, plenty of chrome and multiple Indian logos visible from every angle. (It’s also available in two other gloss colors, while the Challenger Dark Horse comes in three matte colors.)
More differences between the Harley and Indian emerged after logging hundreds of miles in their saddles. Cruisers are tuned for low-end torque, helping heavy bikes — especially those loaded two-up with full saddlebags — pull away quickly from stops and make brisk passes. These baggers deliver ample torque, sending more than 100 lb-ft to the rear wheel, but they go about it in different ways. The Road Glide has great engine feel, with crisp throttle response, right-now thrust and a deeply satisfying V-twin pulse. The impressive refinement that went into the Milwaukee-Eight V-twin — more power and torque, less heat, less vibration at idle and smoother operation — is why we selected the entire M8-equipped Touring family as our 2017 Motorcycle of the Year. On Jett Tuning’s dyno, the Harley generated smooth power curves with nary a dip or blip, torque rising to 104.5 lb-ft at 2,900 rpm and dropping off thereafter while horsepower increases linearly to 78.5 at 4,800 rpm. Due to its low rev ceiling (5,100 rpm) and narrow torque spread, short shifting the Harley helps it stay in its meaty midrange.
With its liquid cooling, oversquare bore/stroke and SOHC valve layout, Indian’s PowerPlus generates more output with less displacement and revs higher than the M8. Starting at 2,400 rpm, the Indian’s advantage over the Harley increases steadily, the gap widening to 28 lb-ft of torque and 27 horsepower by the time the Harley’s rev limiter kicks in. The Indian keeps going, hitting a peak of 108 horsepower at 5,600 rpm before finally signing off at 6,300 rpm. With a broader spread of torque — more than 100 lb-ft are on tap from 2,400-5,600 rpm, reaching 113.3 lb-ft at 3,300 rpm — and much higher peak power than the Harley, the Indian likes to be revved. The Challenger has three ride modes that adjust throttle response, with Standard mode being fairly soft (Rain mode is even softer) and Sport mode delivering the goods immediately without abruptness.
These heavy machines can be a handful when pushing them around the garage or negotiating parking lots, but they feel well balanced and easy to maneuver at speed. With much of their weight carried low they roll in and out of curves gracefully, and their generous torque propels them out of corners with authority. About 31 degrees of cornering clearance on either side means they can be heeled way over before anything starts to scrape, especially with some extra preload dialed into the rear suspension. Despite having “race-spec” radial-mount Brembo calipers up front, the Indian’s front brake lever feels vague and requires a firm pull to generate full stopping power. In contrast, the Harley’s front brakes have the perfect amount of initial bite and better response at the lever.
If you’re ready to lay down some serious miles, these baggers have nearly everything you need (except heated grips — a curious omission for premium models costing nearly $29,000). But they’re not created equal when it comes to touring comfort. With a lower laden seat height (25.9 inches vs. 26.5 inches on the Indian), you sit deeper in the Harley’s cockpit, with hips rolled back in the dished seat. Because the seat is U-shaped front to back and has a slick finish, it’s difficult to sit farther back; hit one bump and you slide back down.
And bumps can be a problem on the Harley. Most of the time the Road Glide Special provides a comfortable, compliant ride, but its rear shock, which is firmly damped and allows only 2.1 inches of travel, responds harshly to pavement ripples, cracks and seams. Big bumps and potholes send shock waves right up the spine and can bounce a rider out of the seat. Also, the Harley’s fairing sits much farther forward (it’s a long reach to the infotainment screen), its windscreen offers no adjustment and the two large vents flanking the headlights cannot be closed so a high volume of air always flows into the cockpit. This comparison took place in December, and testers always felt colder and more buffeted by the wind on the Harley than on the Indian.
The Challenger Limited provides a more comfortable and enjoyable riding experience. Its seat is flatter and has more grip and support, its long tank is narrower between the knees and its fairing provides more wind protection. The Indian’s fairing is closer to the rider and its windscreen is electrically adjustable over a 3-inch range — raising the screen all the way up and closing the fairing vents creates a calm, quiet space for the rider. With 5.1 inches of suspension travel in the front and 4.5 inches in the rear — 0.5 inch and 2.4 inches more than the Harley, respectively — and more compliant damping, the Indian is much better at insulating the rider and passenger from rough roads. Even at a sporting pace with riders well over 200 pounds in the saddle, the Indian never bottomed out nor reacted harshly.
The Road Glide Special was clearly Indian’s benchmark for the Challenger Limited. At the press launch last October, Indian provided a side-by-side comparison of their performance and features as well as a Road Glide Special for us to ride. With Indian’s sales being about one-tenth of Harley’s, one way to improve its market share is to offer more bang for the buck on competing models. Indian has done so in terms of performance with an all-new, liquid-cooled engine that makes more power and torque and offers the flexibility of throttle-response modes. It has done so in terms of convenience with a more modern and user-friendly infotainment system with higher audio output (100W vs. 50W on the Harley) as well as extra features like central saddlebag locks and a keyless locking fuel cap. And it has done so in terms of comfort with a more supportive seat, better wind protection and superior ride quality, all in a package that costs and weighs nearly the same.
Healthy competition is good for the industry and good for riders because it provides us with better motorcycles. Since the launch of Project Rushmore for 2014, Harley-Davidson has continuously raised the bar with improvements to its engines, chassis, comfort, convenience and other features. The 2014 model year also happens to be when Indian launched its all-new Thunder Stroke V-twin and Chief lineup, reigniting an old rivalry and spurring a feverish pace of innovation from both companies. The 2020 Road Glide Special is better than ever, but the Challenger Limited surpasses it.
Keep scrolling for more detailed photos after the spec charts….
2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Specs
Base Price: $27,299 Price as Tested: $28,794 (RDRS, color) Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles Website: harley-davidson.com
Type: Air-cooled, transverse 45-degree V-twin Displacement: 1,868cc (114ci) Bore x Stroke: 102.0 x 114.0mm Compression Ratio: 10.5:1 Valve Train: OHV, 4 valves per cyl. Valve Insp. Interval: NA (self-adjusting) Fuel Delivery: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection Lubrication System: Dry sump, 5.2-qt. cap. Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet assist-and-slipper clutch Final Drive: Belt
After announcing two new Scouts in its 2020 lineup back in September, Indian Motorcycle has dropped yet another new model, the 2020 Scout Bobber Sixty. Powered by the same 78 horsepower, 999cc, liquid cooled twin as that used in the Scout Sixty, but with the Scout Bobber’s stripped-down, blacked-out stying, the new Scout Bobber Sixty is a claimed 24 pounds lighter than the regular Scout Bobber and is priced starting at just $8,999.
The Scout Bobber Sixty maintains the stripped-down styling of the Scout Bobber, including chopped fenders and a confident riding position, while adding several cues that give the model a look of its own.
It features a blacked-out engine, a modern tank badge, perch mount mirrors, a stripped down headlight, an all-black seat and all new five-spoke all black wheels. Riders looking to customize their Scout Bobber Sixty can do so by selecting from more than 140 authentic Indian Motorcycle accessories.
Like the stripped-down Electra Glide Standard introduced for 2019, the Softail Standard was designed to deliver an essential, no-frills cruiser experience. With a lean bobber profile, a Softail chassis and a Milwaukee-Eight V-twin, the Softail Standard is a back-to-basics Big Twin.
Offered only in Vivid Black, it has a solo seat that exposes
the chopped rear fender and a smooth, 3.5-gallon fuel tank that shows off the
frame and engine. The all-black Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin engine is
highlighted with polished rocker, primary and timer covers and a center-bolt,
round air cleaner. With chrome shields and mufflers, the 2-into-2 offset
shotgun exhaust enhances the Softail Standard’s long, low profile.
Classic laced wheels (19-inch front, 16-inch rear) with
steel rims are finished in brilliant chrome, and the front end features
clear-coated fork sliders, polished triple-clamps, polished top clamp and
riser, and chromed headlamp bezel and turn signals. A mini-ape handlebar adds a
touch of attitude.
With the look of a classic hardtail frame, the Softail swingarm is stout for dynamic handling and the rear coil-over shock is hidden under the seat. Removing the seat allows access to the shock for easy preload adjustments. The Softail Standard has a Showa dual bending valve fork, front and rear disc brakes, and standard ABS.
Priced at $13,599, the 2020 Softail Standard is affordable and provides a solid foundation for customization. Harley-Davidson has created four Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories packages for the Softail Standard model, and they’re offered at a discounted price when ordered as a package (price does not include labor for installation by an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer):
Day Tripper Custom Package ($1,409.95): Combine classic bobber style with next-level versatility by adding a pillion and a 21-inch detachable sissy bar with pad so a passenger can come along for the ride. This package also includes passenger footpegs and mounts, forward foot controls, and a black leather Single-Sided Swingarm Bag designed to hold essentials.
Coastal Custom Package ($1,599.95): Capture the elements of the performance-oriented, West Coast style. Components include a Softail Quarter Fairing, black anodized aluminum Moto Bar handlebar and matching 5.5-inch tall riser, a Bevel two-up seat and passenger footpegs, and BMX-style foot pegs from the rugged 80GRIT Collection.
Touring Custom Package ($1,699.95): This package outfits the Softail Standard model for the long haul, with a comfortable Sundowner two-up seat and passenger footpegs, a 14-inch-high light smoke quick-release windshield, classic black Detachables saddlebags, and a 14.5-inch detachable sissy bar and backrest pad.
Performance Custom Package ($1,299.95): Amplify throttle response and mid-range acceleration with a Screamin’ Eagle Stage II Torque kit for the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine and a Screamin’ Eagle Pro Street Tuner to dial it in. Complete the package with a free-flowing Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather Performance Air Cleaner and Screamin’ Eagle Street Cannon mufflers for a deep-bass exhaust note. It’s a 50-state street legal, factory-engineered performance upgrade that retains the original equipment factory warranty when installed by an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer.
Factory installation offers the customer an attainable
custom paint option that eliminates the need to either re-paint the original
components or install an accessory paint set that leaves take-off painted parts
on the shop floor. The Eagle Eye Special Edition Paint Option finish meets
demanding Harley-Davidson standards for quality and durability, and is backed
by the Harley-Davidson limited warranty.
The Eagle Eye paint option is executed on a brilliant yellow
base color with a glossy clear coat finish. A design highlight is a black eagle
graphic with spread wings that flows from the right side of the fuel tank to
the right side of the fairing. A simple Bar & Shield logo is on the left
side of the tank. Harley-Davidson script is aligned on the outside edge of each
saddlebag lid, and the saddlebag latches are color-matched. The special edition
paint is applied to the fairing, fuel tank, front and rear fenders, saddlebags and
With a limited production run of just 225 motorcycles, Indian’s
Roadmaster Elite returns for 2020 with a larger Thunder Stroke 116 air-cooled
V-twin, a full list of touring amenities and an all-new custom paint scheme.
Each Roadmaster Elite undergoes a meticulous paint process
that takes more than 30 hours to complete and is finished by hand. The new
Thunder Black Vivid Crystal over Gunmetal Flake paint with off-set red
pinstripes and exclusive red Elite badging with matching push-rod tubes
delivers a new, meaner and sportier look. The 19-inch precision machined wheel
under the valanced front fender adds to this look, while still maintaining a
New for 2020 is an upgraded 600-watt PowerBand Audio Plus
system that is said to deliver exceptional sound and clarity from high-output
fairing, trunk, and saddlebag speakers. The PowerBand Audio Plus system
features an enhanced nine-band dynamic equalizer that auto-adjusts specific
frequencies to the optimal level at different vehicle speeds to compensate for
road, wind and engine noise.
“The Roadmaster itself delivers the ultimate touring
experience, but the Roadmaster Elite takes that experience to an even higher
level, designed specifically for riders who pay attention to each and every
detail,” said Reid Wilson, Vice President for Indian Motorcycle. “Whether
riding around town or across the country, the Roadmaster Elite is a statement
maker – packed with all the modern touring amenities riders would ever need or
want, with an aesthetic that is captivating.”
As Indian Motorcycle’s most powerful air-cooled engine, the
Thunder Stroke 116 features a new high-flow cylinder head that makes a claimed 126
lb-ft of torque. Three selectable ride modes (Tour, Standard and Sport) allow
riders to adjust the bike’s throttle response to fit their riding preferences.
The Roadmaster Elite also features Indian’s Ride Command
system, said to be the largest, fastest, most customizable infotainment system
on two wheels. The seven-inch, glove-compatible touchscreen features
turn-by-turn navigation, customizable rider information screens, Bluetooth
compatibility, and pairs with the Ride Command mobile app for remote
accessibility to key vehicle information. New 2020 connected features include
traffic and weather overlays, so riders can plan their ride to avoid traffic
and poor weather conditions. Riders can also plan a ride route with up to 100
points on the Ride Command website and wirelessly transfer it to the bike via
Premium touring amenities include tank-mounted analog fuel
and volt meters, rear cylinder deactivation and full Pathfinder LED lighting
with driving lights. Comfort is enhanced by a genuine leather two-up touring
seat with individual heating for both the rider and passenger, passenger
armrests, heated handgrips, backlit switchgear and a power-adjustable flare
windscreen. Also standard are ABS, keyless ignition, weatherproof and
remote-locking saddlebags, a spacious trunk that fits two full face helmets and
more than 37 gallons of storage space.
Pricing for the 2020 Indian Roadmaster Elite starts at
Harley-Davidson has announced two mid-year additions to its
2020 lineup: the return of the CVO Road Glide and a limited-edition Fat Boy 30th
2020 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
Joining the CVO Limited, CVO Street Glide and CVO Tri Glide
in Harley-Davidson’s ultra-premium Custom Vehicle Operations lineup is the CVO
Road Glide, with its distinctive frame-mounted sharknose fairing. Like other
CVO models, it’s powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-twin, which makes a
claimed 125 lb-ft of torque.
Standard features on the 2020 CVO Road Glide include H-D
Connect, the Reflex Defensive Rider Systems electronics package, Kahuna
Collection components, Boom! Box GTS with Premium Boom! Audio, a Boom! Audio
30K Bluetooth Helmet Headset, a low-profile two-piece fuel tank console with
lighted CVO logo, a Fang Front Spoiler, a Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather
intake, Knockout 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels and more.
For 2020 there is a single color choice: Premium Sand Dune
with pearl topcoat and subtle graphics highlighted by Smoked Satin Chrome,
Gloss Black and Black Onyx finishes. Front and rear wheels are finished in
Gloss Black/Smoked Satin, and the Heavy Breather air cleaner is finished in
Pricing for the 2020 CVO Road Glide starts at $40,999.
Harley-Davidson is celebrating three decades of the iconic
Fat Boy with a limited-edition 30th Anniversary model—only 2,500 will be built,
each serialized with a number plate on the fuel tank console.
Introduced for the 1990 model year, the “Fat Boy took the
look, proportions and silhouette of a 1949 Hydra-Glide motorcycle and
completely modernized it for a new generation of riders,” explains Brad
Richards, Harley-Davidson Vice President of Styling and Design. “Those riders
appreciated our post-war design DNA but also found themselves drawn to the
clean simplicity of contemporary industrial design. Each of these elements was captured
in the new 2018 version of the Fat Boy model. For this 30th Anniversary model
we wanted to create something very special, so we leaned into the popularity of
darker finishes and a limited run/serialized strategy to make the bike truly
unique and exclusive.”
The Fat Boy 30th Anniversary offers a bold reinterpretation of the original with dark finishes and a single color option, Vivid Black. The cast-aluminum Lakester disc wheels are finished in Satin Black with machined highlights. The blacked-out Milwaukee-Eight 114 powertrain is finished with engine covers in gloss black and subtle bronze-tone lower rocker covers and timer cover script. The exhaust finished in a Black Onyx, a durable physical vapor deposition paint finish that reveals the underlying chrome in bright light. A Vivid Black headlamp nacelle, handlebar and controls as well as a new bronze-tone waterslide Fat Boy tank logo complete the dark look that is distinctive from the regular production model.
Based on the Harley-Davidson Softail platform launched in 2018, the Fat Boy redefines an icon with power and presence. The entire Fat Boy front end is massive and topped with an LED headlamp in a newly shaped nacelle. The Lakester disc aluminum wheels update one of the Fat Boy’s defining styling features, with a 160mm front and a 240mm rear tire that deliver a factory custom look.
Pricing for the 2020 Fat Boy 30th Anniversary starts at $21,949.
The motorcycling world looked upon this machine in absolute amazement — a cruiser putting out more than 100 horsepower. Unheard of! Sure, sportbikes like Honda’s CB1100R were knocking out that many ponies, but those were for riders who liked leaning into corners at insane speeds. But a cruiser with feet-forward pegs and wide handlebars — and a shaft drive no less? This was nutso!
If this bike could be put in a category, it would be Power Cruiser. Harleys were the standard cruisers of the day, and they were lucky to get 55 horses to the rear wheel, using a pushrod V-twin that had been around for the better part of half a century. Whereas this bruiser was a V-4 with two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. And liquid cooling to boot, so no worries about overheating when cruising down Main Street on a crowded Saturday evening. Except for that mildly unaesthetic radiator up front.
What was Honda thinking? The company had a whole bunch of bikes in the showrooms that year, 40 different models covering all the bases, from shopping-friendly Passports to huge Gold Wing touring platforms. Even a V-twin cruiser, the 750 Shadow. And a second V-4, the 750 V45 Magna, introduced the year before.
This all began with Soichiro Honda’s wanting to again be celebrated for putting an entirely new machine on the market. The world remembers (although this may be news to some of the younger generation) when he introduced the overhead camshaft, in-line four back in 1969, beginning the evolution of the UJM — Universal Japanese Motorcycle. Now the V-4 would do it again…he hoped.
But the backroom boys wanted to create a jaw-dropper, knock the American public back on its heels, as they used to say. The 750cc V45 was just a starting point for creating a machine the likes of which the motorcycle crowd had never seen. The V65’s majorly oversquare engine, with a 79.5mm bore and 55.3mm stroke, would cheerfully rev to 10 grand, with maximum rear-wheel power of 105 horses coming on at 9,500, redline at 10,000. A lot could go wrong with 16 valves popping up and down 10,000 times a minute, but Honda’s engineers made sure nothing untoward would happen.
These horses came from using some appropriate fiddling inside the head, with the four valves having a rather narrow 38-degree included angle. This and the shape of the combustion chamber effectively put the fuel as close to the spark plug as possible, compressed 10.5 times. Bang, bang, bang, bang — and the crankshaft spins.
Four constant-vacuum 36mm carbs, by Keihin, were accessible by lifting the gas tank. These had an easily changeable paper air cleaner. Fuel consumption was less than 40 mpg, but range was no problem as most riders wanted to get off after an hour or so. And at the time the U.S. was blessed (cursed?) with the 55-mph speed limit, so highway riders on the V65 had an excuse for not going very fast. With the V65 ergonomics city traffic was preferable to the interstates.
Power ran via straight-cut gears back to a hydraulically operated clutch. This had a diaphragm spring as an essential part of the device, which the engineers knew would be much abused, with the single diaphragm offering more consistent control than a multi-spring unit.
The gearbox had five speeds plus an overdrive sixth. If the bike could have pulled 10 grand in sixth gear, its top speed would be better than 170 mph. A more practical (!!) top speed was 140 in fifth. If the rider could hang on!
A full-cradle frame, with double downtubes, held this unit-construction herd semi-firmly in place, as rubber mounts were used to keep any vibrations hidden away. Which were few as the 90 degrees between the two pairs of cylinders presumed good balance, enhanced by that short 55mm stroke. A shaft final drive went out the left side, so those Levi’s would be nice and clean on cruise night, not having to put up with an oily chain. An air-adjustable 41mm fork suspended the front end, with an anti-dive unit. Rake was a pretty lazy 30.5 degrees with more than four inches of trail, and while this was OK in town, it was best not to get too optimistic out on the twisties. At the back a pair of shock absorbers had all the adjustments: spring preload, rebound and compression damping. The fork had almost six inches of travel, the swingarm a little more than four inches. Axle to axle measurement was just shy of 63 inches.
Cast wheels were 18 inches at the front and 16 at the back, with two discs at the front and a single at the back, all three squeezed by twin-piston calipers.
This power cruiser was designed by the Los Angeles boys for the American market, because the rest of the motorcycling world was not much interested in cruiser styling, preferring standard or sport. Honda hoped that the numbers would blow the Harley riders into the weeds.
Which they did. Quarter-mile times? Don’t even think about them. The 1,338cc Harley was in the 14-second category, and couldn’t break 100 mph. While the 1,098cc V65? In the 10s!! At 125 mph! More numbers? At $4,000 this V65 was at least three grand less expensive than a Harley.
What Honda had failed to realize was that in the cruising world of the 1980s, style was far more important than performance. Power cruisers would be a passing fancy, whereas Honda’s Fury model of today is a V-twin.
One final note: apparently somebody in the 1980s was selling a supercharger kit for the V65 Magna. Boggles the mind!
I’m going to be brutally honest. I showed up in Pasadena, where Rider Magazine was being given the opportunity to ride the new Arch KRGT-1, with low expectations. That’s probably not fair, but it’s the truth. I’m jaded and cynical. I’ve ridden a lot of bikes, sat through a lot of technical presentations and talked to a lot of engineers and designers. There’s so much that goes into building a motorcycle from the ground up — one that not only looks good but functions well — that frankly I didn’t expect what I saw as a movie star’s pet project would amount to much of anything. (Keanu Reeves is a co-founder of Arch Motorcycle, along with designer and builder Gard Hollinger.)
Well, I was wrong.
Arch invited us to ride its KRGT-1 for a reason: they wanted it to get the regular treatment, a complete shakedown from a respected industry magazine. Still, Arch is a small company that hand-builds each machine to order, so I’d be surprised if Gard, Keanu and the rest of the crew didn’t harbor at least a little emotional attachment to the bike and our opinion of it. After all, they’ve invested years of blood, sweat, tears and time — in Gard and Keanu’s case, more than a decade — into the KRGT-1. And a couple of skeptical moto-journalists were getting ready to thrash two of the precious machines on one of the most famous (and locally notorious) stretches of curvaceous road in the LA area: the Angeles Crest Highway.
Before we get to that, though, a brief backstory. Arch Motorcycle was born from circumstances that most of us can totally relate to: a guy (Keanu Reeves) had a motorcycle (an ’05 Harley Dyna) whose character (pure Americana) he loved…but he wanted more from it, specifically in the handling department. So he asked respected builder and owner of LA County Choprods, Gard Hollinger, if he could help. The two started making changes and adjustments. Afterwards Keanu would go out and ride the bike in the twisting canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, then he’d return with feedback and they’d go at it again. By 2012, the ’05 Dyna they’d started with had morphed into the genesis of what would eventually become the KRGT-1. All that remained of the original machine was the engine — everything else, including the frame and swingarm, had been created from scratch. “You know,” they said to each other, “we could make more of these.” And so Arch Motorcycle was born.
So here we are in Pasadena, it’s 7:30 a.m. and one of those Southern California November mornings that elicits a groan of anguished envy from most of the rest of the country. We’d been given no technical presentation or press kit. Instead we were ushered to a corner of the hotel where we were introduced to both Gard and Keanu, slurped a bit of coffee and shown to the bikes. There were three examples sitting outside, red, blue and silver, and we were given our choice for the ride. Each KRGT-1 is unique, curated by the Arch team with the client to create a motorcycle that is ergonomically and aesthetically bespoke. In short, the bike is built to fit your body as well as to look the way you want it. I wondered silently for whom these three had been built, then was provided the answer for one—the blue one was Keanu’s personal bike.
Despite a Harley-Davidson being the genesis of the KRGT-1, the production bike is powered by a massive 124ci (that’s 2,032cc for those of you keeping score at home) S&S mill that Arch modified with its own primary drive, powertrain and clever 45-degree downdraft intake system that does away with the unsightly air filter protruding from one side. The frame is a steel and aluminum hybrid — steel downtubes and backbone, with machined aluminum clutching the rear of the engine and arcing over the rear wheel.
This is actually the second iteration of the KRGT-1 and a direct result of Keanu and Gard’s relentless quest for improvement. Compared to the first version released in 2015, the 2020 KRGT-1 includes more than 20 major changes and 150 new components, including the swingarm, suspension, brakes, bodywork and controls.
The first thing one must understand when looking at a KRGT-1 is that nearly every metal piece you see apart from the engine itself is machined billet aluminum. That includes the sculpted two-piece gas tank, which itself requires more than 33 hours to complete and is ingeniously designed to operate as a stressed member of the frame, the massive but lightweight swingarm, the headlight cowl and the side plates that accommodate the new swingarm pivot, which is attached directly to the engine.
The second thing is that no expense was spared. When you’ve got the support of Keanu Reeves, a true moto-head who owns but one car and goes everywhere on a motorcycle — if not his KRGT-1 then often an old Norton Commando — and a master of metal in Gard Hollinger, sparing no expense is something you can and should do. Fully adjustable front and rear suspension is by Öhlins and was developed in partnership with Arch specifically for this model. A new larger-diameter 48mm fork has a special carrier at the bottom to accommodate 130mm mounts for the massive new six-piston ISR calipers (two-channel Bosch ABS is standard). Clutch and front brake assemblies are by Magura, five-spoke carbon fiber wheels are by South African company BST (Blackstone Tek), exhaust is by Yoshimura and tires are Michelin Commander IIs.
Settled into the deeply scooped saddle, feet on the narrow forward controls, we gradually wicked up the pace as we climbed the mountain, holding the throttle open a bit more and bending a bit deeper with every corner. It might resemble just another custom chopper from a distance, but I was having one of those come-to-Jesus moments where one realizes that one’s prejudgment was quite wrong and one will have to explain this in a (hopefully) well-written review pitched at others likely to have the same prejudgmental opinions.
Now, is this a Panigale or RSV4 or ZX-10R? No, and Arch doesn’t make such ridiculous claims. What it is: an American cruiser, distilled to its essence then fortified with top-quality components and construction techniques designed to bring out the best in performance. Despite the 240-series Michelin rear tire, the KRGT-1 leans willingly and, once there, sticks stubbornly to its line. The long wheelbase helps but so does the stiff chassis and the downright amazing suspension, which was plush yet offered good feel and matched up well with some of the best front brakes of any bike I’ve yet ridden. And with a claimed 122 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel it pulls like a freight train down low, although it runs out of juice fairly early — remember this is a power cruiser, not a superbike.
By the time we stopped midway through the ride to meet up with Keanu and Gard for a quick Q&A before continuing on, it had become clear this was a machine that had been tested and developed in the canyons and on the mountain roads of the Santa Monicas, not (flat, straight, traffic-choked) Hawthorne Boulevard. “But it also has to work on Hawthorne Boulevard,” responded Keanu matter-of-factly.
And to that end, I was a bit surprised at how docile and easy to handle the fire-breathing monster could be. In hot, stop-and-go city traffic, sure the clutch pull starts to feel a bit heavy and the S&S generates considerable heat, but throttle response is smooth and linear and the low-to-mid powerband feels flat as a pancake (I’d love to get a KRGT-1 onto the Jett Tuning dyno). Vibration from the rubber-mounted engine is readily apparent at stoplights but smoothes right out once underway. It cruises the city boulevards like, well, a cruiser should. In short, Gard, Keanu and team have actually created an American bike worthy of the often over-used term “power cruiser.”
What makes the KRGT-1 special, however — what justifies its $85,000 out-the-door price tag — is not just its performance. It’s the fact that when you buy one you’re getting a machine that is hand-built and made specifically for you. The process is a consultation rather than a “sign here” order taking, with the new owner remaining in close partnership with the Arch team throughout the 90-day build. Since there are no dealerships, any aftersale work is coordinated with local service centers vetted by the Arch team, and in many cases the owner has the direct contact info for R&D Manager Ryan Boyd, in case questions or issues arise.
So while it’s true that the KRGT-1 is a limited-production, hand-built, expensive piece of rolling art it’s also a bike that performs better than it has any right to, and that is a direct result of the vision, passion and talent of Gard Hollinger, Keanu Reeves, Ryan Boyd and the entire Arch team. And they aren’t stopping here — next up is a naked sportbike dubbed the 1S. Here’s to hoping I get invited to ride that one too.
2020 Arch KRGT-1 Specs
Base Price: $85,000 Website:archmotorcycle.com Engine Type: Air-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, DOHC, 2 valves per cyl. Displacement: 124ci (2,032cc) Bore x Stroke: 104.8 x 117.5mm Transmission: Arch proprietary 6-speed w/hydraulically-actuated dry clutch Final Drive: O-ring chain Wheelbase: 68 in. Rake/Trail: 30 degrees/5.0 in. Seat Height: 27.8 in. Claimed Dry Weight: 538 lbs. Fuel Capacity: 5 gals. MPG: NA
BMW is marching steadily toward its promised cruiser, anticipated sometime in 2020, with the news of its latest concept bike based around the new 1,800cc “Big Boxer” opposed twin. Buried in a press release for a new Concept R18 /2 (pronounced “slash two”) were photos showing the design and production of the /2, including the most detailed shots to date of the new engine, clearly functional and roadworthy.
First, the bike. The Concept R18 /2 appears to be a classic cruiser in design, with modern flowing lines, a small headlight cowl and a slightly bobbed rear fender. Wheels are cast, 19 inches up front and 16 at the rear, with Brembo brakes and a gorgeous Candy Apple Red paint on the bodywork.
The 1,800cc air/oil-cooled boxer engine used in the /2 has a classic BMW 1960s aesthetic, finished in matte gray and black. The massive cylinders protrude past the ends of the handlebar, and dual air intakes funnel under the rider’s thighs to the airbox beneath the front of the seat. To the rear of that is a hidden single shock absorber to maintain the classic hardtail look.
We’re not quite sure why BMW wants to try breaking into the American cruiser market, given lackluster sales in the segment (and its own ill-fated R 1200 C attempt in the late ’90s/early oughts). Hopefully plans include a bagger as well…but in any case, we’re excited to see and hear more about this new R18 Big Boxer engine, clearly headed for production in the near future.