Renowned custom bike designer Roland Sands stripped down the BMW R 18 to create a straight-line dragster featuring the iconic and massive boxer power plant. The result is the RSD R 18 Dragster. He and his team created a unique masterpiece built around the impressive Big Boxer, giving their creativity free reign in the process.
Sands’ personal story served as a source of inspiration for his work on this bike. "With an engine that’s so visibly the center piece, I immediately thought of muscle cars. My family has always been into going fast and my dad was a drag racer, so I thought it made sense to strip the bike down to the essentials and shape it to go fast on a straight track," the designer explained.
With the new R 18, BMW Motorrad presented the brand’s first series production bike for the cruiser segment in April 2020. Like no other BMW motorcycle before it, this model stands entirely in the tradition of historical BMW motorcycles – both technically and with regard to its design. It is based on illustrious models such as the R 5 and shifts the focus back to the motorcycle essentials: purist, no-frills technology and the boxer engine as the center of riding pleasure. The Big Boxer continues the line of traditional air-cooled boxer engines offering inspired riding since BMW Motorrad first began production in 1923.
Sands always starts by sketching his ideas on paper. This allows him to figure out the basics of the shape and what the stance and the geometry of the bike could look like. "In the end, the real magic happens when we bring the sketch to life," he said.
More than any other motorcycle, the new R 18 offers a highly customizable design. It features an easily removable rear frame and a simple-to-dismantle painted parts set. This gives the customer a high degree of freedom for easily converting the rear end of the new R 18 to suit personal preferences. In addition you can also change the paint finish to suit your personal taste. "The electronics were definitely the most difficult task we had to deal with as we put in nitrous oxide, stripped out the stock exhaust and changed the intake drastically. It was a bit of an experiment, but we dialed it in! The final product is impressive and characterized by a high level of craftsmanship, as can be expected from BMW Motorrad. Right from the beginning, I couldn’t wait to get customizing!" Sands points out.
For the the R 18 Dragster, Sands's team retained the stock neck geometry, but removed the bike’s rear end and turned it into a drag racer. They also modified the front and rear fenders to fit the modified frame. The whole customizing process took over three months. The bike then headed to the workshop for final assembly and a day at a drag strip.
"Every bike needs different sources depending on the build, special materials or parts. Every new bike concept is a bit of a learning process even after having built over 200 bikes. We always want to understand the genre of the bike we are building in, it’s the key to keeping it authentic and functional," Sands said.
Aside from the R 18 Dragster custom bike, Sands also created two different design collections of milled aluminum parts for the launch of the R 18 Cruiser: "Machined" and "2-Tone-Black." Each range includes front and rear wheels available in different dimensions from the stock sizes, speedometer housings, handlebar clamps, risers, handlebar grips, hand levers and mirrors as well as engine housing trim elements, filler caps, intake silencer covers and much more.
For the R 18 Dragster, Sands used the milled parts from the "2-Tone-Black" collection to customize levers, wheels, valve covers, breast plate, headlight and gauges. The front end was taken from an BMW R nineT. The seat and exhaust are scratch built. Other details include:
- Front and rear fenders have been slightly modified utilizing the stock sheet metal parts in order to keep the classic R 18 silhouette;
- The headlight from the original R 18 is highlighted with the headlight bezel from the milled aluminum RSD collection;
- The standard exhaust has been replaced with a hand fabricated stainless steel twin megaphone system utilizing the exhaust tips from the RSD collection;
- The hydraulic front brake and clutch master cylinders are from RSD;
- Paint is a two-tone metallic blue with classic white BMW pinstripes by long-time RSD painter Chris Wood;
- The fork has been taken from the BMW R nineT;
- The front braking system has been taken from the BMW S 1000 RR superbike; and
- The seat is a RSD custom seat by Saddlemen.
Roland Sands: The man behind the designs
By his own account, Roland Sands grew up on a motorcycle and motorcycling is in his blood. His dad was a drag racer who built custom bikes and parts. As a result, Sands was brought up surrounded by cool bikes. It wasn’t long before he, was riding dirt bikes, taking them apart and rebuilding them. He had a racing career of his own spanning ten years.
Today Sands is a world-famous designer of custom bikes and motorcycle apparel with customers in all corners of the world.
The designer is best known for combining styles and creating new genres in the process. "Combining a racing aesthetic and function with a custom style – this is what we are probably best known for. We like to make stock machines perform better," said Sands.
For Sands, motorcycling is not simply a job. "It’s really hard to describe in a few sentences. Riding a motorcycle to me is like becoming one with the machine. My motorcycle is my life, it’s everything, it’s what I do."