1984 BMW R80 ‘SAPPHIRE’ – KEVILS SPEED SHOP – THE BIKE SHED
1976 DUCATI 850 GTS – 654 MOTORS – ROCKETGARAGE
HONDA NX650 ‘DIRTY SANDY’ – 4H10
PHOTO – GOTZ GOPPERT
HARLEY STREET 750 ‘BRAT CAFE RACER’ – RAJPUTANA CUSTOMS – ROCKETGARAGE
BMW K100 ‘BLACK SPIDER’ – MOTO SUMISURA – INAZUMA CAFE RACERRead More
Professional racer turned professional builder who owns his own brand that produces motorcycles, parts, and attire, starting to sound like a person you’d like to meet? Roland Sands has been a big name on the custom scene since I first starting getting in to vintage bikes. The first build of his I remember seeing is the Technics Sportster, on which Roland is giving his tough guy pose above. I took note of his name right then and there, because the bike stood out so much compared to everything else I was looking at back then. Roland Sands Design (RSD) is a very unique brand. They work with an eclectic mix of motorcycles, producing everything from S1000RR drag bikes, to dressed out Harley Baggers, to KTM dirt machines. You honestly never know what is going to come out of this shop next. What spurred me to get in touch with Roland, was his Indian ‘Track Chief’ build, which won BOTM back in September.
In my little introduction to ‘Track Chief’ on the BOTM post, I called Roland a visionary. After reading through his responses to the interview questions, I feel even more assured that this word does justice in describing him. His passion for life and motorcycles oozes out of all of his responses. If you are like me, and apparently the rest of the motorcycling world, you probably take a lot of inspiration from Roland Sands and RSD. A quick video search revealed literally hundreds of results. Roland seems to have his hands into almost every aspect of the motorcycle industry at this point. So, thank you Roland and RSD for pushing the motorcycle industry and culture forward, and for inspiring us all.
I have highlighted some of my favorite builds and videos from RSD below. However, they put out so much great stuff, it is hard to squeeze it all into one little feature. I would strongly suggest you check out their website, and search Youtube and Vimeo for some more videos.
Can you tell us a brief history about yourself (selves)? How did you originally get introduced to motorcycling?
2 wheels have been part of my life since I was born, so I grew up on and around motorcycles. My dad had a shop and when I wasn’t eating metal chips and smashing my fingers I was doing everything in my power to get on a motorcycle.
What did you do before starting your shop? (Or, what do you do in addition to building bikes?)
I raced for 10 years. I was also the VP of design at my dad’s shop where I developed products for motorcycles while I was racing. When I stopped racing, I got serious about the design game and learned everything I could to help progress the company and the way we machined and fabricated metal. Besides building bikes I design clothing, hard parts, surf, ride every type of motorcycle possible and I have an iPhone. What else do you need?
What about your shop? How did it begin?
It was really about wanting to do things my own way, that and my dad sold his company. It kind of happened in parallel. The shop I was working my ass off in everyday was no longer in the family, so I wanted to focus much of my effort into my own brand.
Can you briefly describe your philosophy and / or process when building a custom motorcycle?
Take off all the unnecessary bullshit, use great parts to improve the function, and make sure it’s going to be a fun ride. I really like to build high performance bikes and the high performance aesthetic coupled with a good eye for lines and color rounds out the RSD style of bike. That and we try to never build the same bike twice. It keeps every build fresh and interesting.
What have been some of the greatest challenges that you have encountered while starting / running your own shop? (Or just building bikes in general)
For me I have to really do different stuff to stay stoked. I’ve been around bikes for so long, sometimes I want to do anything but see or talk about a motorcycle. That said, I always get pumped to ride. I’ve reached a good balance, I’m stoked to go to work every day and there’s a lot of projects in the works. I don’t get a chance to focus on one thing for too long, I’m forced into a kind of functional ADD. It’s tough to lock in on creativity, fabrication or art during the day and after 10 hours of racing a desk I’m pretty warn out, so that’s the tough part. Letting go of things I love to do to run a business.
What has been your favorite build produced so far?
Impossible to pick one. But I’m really loving the KTM vintage MotoCrosser we just did for RedBull, On Any Sunday the Next Chapter and the Caselli Foundation.
Are there any bikes out there that you would like to work with, but haven’t had the opportunity?
I’d like to do a BMW RT and a full custom GS just for kicks. I want to build a long distance bike that kicks ass, fun, comfy, and fast.
Any bike that you wouldn’t touch with a 10’ pole?
Nope. Anything that sucks can be made better. Even a Buell Blast can rule.
Any new builds we should be on the lookout for?
Maybe, but can’t talk about em yet. Let’s just say it might be a BMW, a Yamaha, a Ducati or an Indian, and a few Harley’s.
What are you working towards? Where do you see yourself / your shop in 5 or 10 years?
I’ll be in Bali surfing Uluwatu and virtually managing the shop from my Villa overlooking Impossibles utilizing the cloud and some technology that doesn’t exist yet. Who knows, hopefully California doesn’t run out of water and there’s still gasoline, or we’ve figured out how to convert sea water into fresh water, or gasoline with the turn of a knob. Hopefully I’m the one that figures it out, but I doubt it.
Are you willing to share any of your secrets, or do you have any tips for amateur builders?
Do what you love. If you love to skate, go skate. If you love to cook, cook. Don’t start building bikes because it’s cool, do it because your can’t do anything else and it’s all you want to do and you might have a chance of being successful. Find a unicorn customer that lets you build shit you want to build with an unlimited budget. That’s a good secret.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to open their own custom shop?
Learn how to cook, that way if your bikes suck, your friends will still want to hang out with you.
Any last words of wisdom you would like to bestow upon us?
There’s only one earth. Save it, ride a motorcycle.