Keanu Reeve's motorbikes wear carbon fibre wheels made in Johannesburg

SA firm BST creates carbon fibre wheels for fast and rare machines, with a Hollywood connection

30 May 2019 - 07:59 By Denis Droppa
Actor Keanu Reeves astride the Arch KRGT-1 with its SA-made carbon fibre wheels. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Actor Keanu Reeves astride the Arch KRGT-1 with its SA-made carbon fibre wheels. Picture: BLOOMBERG

When Hollywood A-lister Keanu Reeves co-founded the Arch Motorcycle company with Gard Hollinger back in 2011, he set his sights on fitting lightweight carbon fibre wheels to his premium bikes.

His search led him to SA’s BlackStone TEK (BST), a Johannesburg-based engineering company specialising in using carbon fibre for structural and cosmetic automotive parts. 

The association has helped put BST on the world map and its profile has been boosted by a recent YouTube video, which has garnered more than 12-million views in less than two months, in which Reeves speaks of his passion for biking.

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The actor’s bike collection includes the 2004 Ducati 998 used in a particularly hair-raising chase scene in Matrix Reloaded. Reeves has taken his two-wheeled passion to the silver screen and ridden bikes in movies including Chain Reaction, My Own Private Idaho and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

In the YouTube interview posted by GQ, Reeves also describes how his beautiful and very expensive Arch motorcycles are built.

With a starting price of $78,000 (R1.12m), Arch bikes aren’t for the average customer. They are custom production machines with a unique blend of performance and attention to detail, using stylish billet aluminium bodywork blended with custom finishes. The company also sources premium components like Ohlins suspension, along with the BST carbon wheels.

 “Their designs are daring and the bikes are all about performance — we’re a perfect match for each other, and we work well together,” says BST’s Marketing and Operations Director Terry Annecke, who co-founded the company with MD Gary Turner, a former motorcycle racer.

“Gary and I started BlackStone TEK in 2002, with the absolute belief that carbon fibre could be put to tremendously effective use in the field of motorcycling, particularly if we could make carbon fibre wheels, which no-one else had done effectively.

“Our goal was to make a wheel that was 40% lighter than alloy wheels, it would be made in a single piece and have hollow spokes, and it would be safer and stronger than any other wheel. And it would be beautiful.” 

Terry Annecke and Gary Turner have turned Joburg-based BST into a world renowned producer of carbon fibre automotive components. Picture: SUPPLIED
Terry Annecke and Gary Turner have turned Joburg-based BST into a world renowned producer of carbon fibre automotive components. Picture: SUPPLIED

The wheels are tested to the highest international standards, and each part is a handcrafted work of art, she says.

The association with Reeves and his business partner, custom bike builder Gard Hollinger, goes back a number of years.

“Gard heard about our wheels and used them on a special build on Discovery Channel in the mid 2000s, and we’ve been working with him ever since. When they formed Arch Motorcycle, we were their choice of technical partner on all their carbon fibre work.”

BST has its own product range and also manufactures carbon fibre wheels for motorcycle companies such as Ducati, MV Agusta and Norton Motorcycles. It also makes structural motorcycle parts including frames, subframes and swingarms.

Its latest venture is carbon fibre wheels for cars and it has produced wheels for several sports cars including the Ariel Atom in the UK, the Dutch Donkervoort racecar and the Mexican-made Vuhl.

Light, strong and beautiful: a close up of the BST wheel on the Vuhl sports car. Picture: SUPPLIED
Light, strong and beautiful: a close up of the BST wheel on the Vuhl sports car. Picture: SUPPLIED

“In recent years there has been an acceleration in the adoption of carbon composites in many industries, led by the aeronautical field where lightness of the vehicle translates directly into the costs — less weight means less fuel needed and more cargo carried,” says Annecke.

“It’s a simple economic decision based on the fact that they know and have proved that composites are safe, light and extremely hardy. Carbon fibre wheels are a piece of structural art, which is really what car owners would like.”

She says the market for carbon fibre car wheels is enormous and BST is growing its capacity to meet the demand, with Ferrari and McLaren designs also in the wings.

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