Keanu Reeves On Motorcycles, Bill & Ted 3, and Immortality

Who knew Keanu Reeves was such a gearhead?

Oh, right. We all pretty much knew that. And last week, Mr. Reeves solidified this notion as he generously shared his two-wheeling life with Supercompressor (well-past his allotted five minutes, the dear lad), chatting all things Speed, his dream trip on a motorcycle, and his status as an unquestioned immortal human.   

In a small indie film released in 1999, Reeves played the role of a character named "Neo." At one point in the movie, Neo said, "No way. No way. This is crazy."

Well put, Mr. Reeves. Enjoy the show, everyone. 

In your documentary Side by Side you explore the relationship between digital and analog filmmaking. Are there two bikes you could use to analogize the relationship?
On the analog side, I’ve got to use one of my favorite bikes, which would have to be the Norton Commando...and then for digital, that’s tough. I mean, it’s a bike I’ve never ridden. Maybe the BMW 1000RR? Man, what would be the digital motorcycle?

I’d probably have to go with the RnineT, the new BMW.
Oh right! Okay...right! Absolutely. The Interface motorcycle.

What’s in your current garage?
I’ve got the Norton Commando. And I’ve been swapping out all of the Arch bikes for test rides.

And what are you driving when you’re not on two wheels?
Daily driver is a 2014 Porsche Carrera 4. Beautiful car.

Do you still have your first motorcycle? The Kawasaki 600 Enduro?
I don’t! It was stolen! I lent it to a friend and it was stolen in front of his house.

Seems like a funny bike to get stolen.
I started learning how to ride a motorcycle pretty late in life. I started when I was 22. I was filming in Munich, Germany at this film studio, and this young girl had a gorgeous Enduro motorcycle which she would drive around. One day I asked her to teach me how to ride it. So I started to ride that bike around the stage when she wasn’t using it, and when I got back to Los Angeles, I got the first bike I saw that was similar. I still have a picture of it.

Right now I'm driving a '14 Porsche Carrera 4. Beautiful car.

My next bike was this Canary Yellow. I think it was like a ‘71 Norton. So I went to a place called Supertwins out here in L.A. in the ‘80s, and that’s where I ended up picking up a ‘73 Norton Commando, which I still own to this day.

As a rider, do you have a taste for sport bikes? Is that where the equipment choice came from?
I approached the partner in the company, the builder and designer Gard Hollinger, to build a big American V-Twin cruiser bike that could handle exceptionally well. And so, in order to do that, we considered the dynamics, the ergonomics, and the components. So you know right now we have an Öhlins front shock, a Race Tech single rear shock rear shock, Booker transmission, and S&S power plant. The ambition with that 240 in the back is that you could have it in mid-forward controls; you could cruise down the highway, or just lean forward and carve up some corners. For a cruiser, it’s got a really extreme lean angle, so you can really get way over on that tire.

Any chance the KRGT1 will make an appearance in Bill & Ted 3?
[Laughs.] I don’t know...All I can say is, hopefully there is a Bill & Ted 3! I suppose that we shall see.

I started riding a motorcycle pretty late in life. I was 22.

It’s interesting to think of a motorcycle as a character in a film. For example, the Fatboy Harley in Terminator 2.
Easy Rider, man! The Captain America bike. That bike is a TOTAL character.

It just went up for auction.
What is it gonna go for, like a million bucks?

It’s priceless, really. It should be in a museum. It should be in the Smithsonian!

What do the insurance agencies that insure the movies you work on think of you riding a bike?
They make you sign a document that says, “You will not ride a motorcycle.”

Do you listen to them?
[Laughs.] Sometimes. I remember being in like Chicago, Portland, Australia, and I’d get a used bike and ride it during the course of the shoot. Then sell it back when we finished shooting. I did that a lot.

What was the Speed bus like to drive?
I didn’t get to drive the bus!

Not even off camera? Not even for a minute?
Right? How awesome would that be just to bomb around in a bus at high speed? Drive through things, smash into stuff. Like that guy who drove the military tank through the city streets. You know there was one part of Speed where we were driving down a highway filled with cars, and we were just ramming through them.

Well that’s awesome.
Everyone on the bus was screaming. 

If you could take three weeks off and ride anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
Oh gosh, probably in South America because I’ve never ridden there. You know, go through Patagonia, Chile. Where else? I mean there’s so many amazing rides around the world. The Black Forest in Germany? There’s still so many places in North America to ride that I haven’t even touched yet. France wouldn’t be too bad. You’ve got the stopping, and the eating, and the drinking.

The whole idea is to just head out into the blue yonder somewhere. There was always some of that “trip envy” when Ewan McGregor did those trips around the globe.

What’s the fastest you’ve ever gone on a bike?
The fastest I’ve ever gone (when I looked down) was on a two lane highway [and I was riding] an 89 Suzuki GSXR 750. It was about 130 mph-something? It was fast, but really not that fast on paper. You have to remember, though, that this was before the ‘90s. That felt pretty intense. I think it was the Taconic parkway.

They make you sign a document that says, “You will not ride a motorcycle.”

Have you been pulled over yet on the KRGT1?
Umm, I have not been pulled over, no. I’ve met a ton of people who’ve stopped me on the bike though. You know, you pull up to a stop light and people lean out their car window, shout at you, “Hey! What kinda bike is that? It’s gorgeous!” The bikes look beautiful, the engine sound, and they ride really, really great.

Walk us through your typical gear set-up. What are you typically wearing out on the road?
Well there’s a helmet law in California, which came about in the ‘90s, which for me was a sad, sad day. It was always nice to ride so ride casually, with no protection. But when I was doing business, like going to the bank or something, for some reason I would put a helmet on.
In terms of gear, I’ve got a pretty simple leather jacket. I usually ride in jeans. I’ve got a couple of jackets with protection, and some regular boots.

Final thing. It’s widely speculated on the Internet, and elsewhere, that you are, in fact, immortal. Does your immortality factor into your riding style at all?
[Laughs.] Well, you know it does, actually. I’ve had a few accidents in my day. I’ve been hit by cars; I’ve gone too fast in turns. I had my spleen ruptured, cracked some teeth...I’ve had some road rash on my knees and stuff like that. I definitely pay more attention than I used to. I have to feel safe before I get on a bike. I used to...If I felt angry or worked up or something, I’d get on the bike, and just f****** twist it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve said to myself, ‘If you feel like this, maybe you shouldn’t be riding a motorcycle.

Ted Gushue is the executive editor of Supercompressor. He is not immortal. Immoral? Debatable.