RSD Bike Review
Following in the footsteps of the eye-popping Grande Loco that graced the pages of our November/December 2005 Robb Report Motorcycling issue, Roland Sands has created Black Beauty, another custom motorcycle that delights both our senses and sensibilities.
Taking an ’03 Harley-Davidson Softail-a strategy that simplifies registration of the motorcycle-Sands liberally applied parts from the Roland Sands Design (RSD) bike parts catalog. He then added the key component in any successful custom, imagination.
Built for a specific customer-"I get a broad idea from the customer," Sands says, "about what he wants"-the Black Beauty is as functional as it is an eyeful. Of course, Sands adheres to his philosophy that motorcycles are meant to be ridden-he is a former AMA 250 GP National Motorcycle Racing Champion, after all. This way of thinking sets RSD custom bikes apart from builds by companies who are all about the show.
"It steers well, it turns well, it has sticky tires, road-racing forks, radial brakes, and lightweight wheels," Sands points out when discussing Black Beauty. Indeed, the front forks are sourced from a 2007 Suzuki GSX-R, part of a highly purposeful front end that has a Dunlop Elite 3 wrapped around an RSD Platinum Cut Diesel 21-inch rim with radially mounted Performance Machine calipers grabbing a single disc brake. The fascinating combination of sport and custom motorcycle parts reflects the complex personality of the intense and confident builder; this compels closer examination of the machine.
A trip to the rear results in the observer enjoying the same delightful sleight of hand. Sportbike enthusiasts will be immediately drawn to the Dunlop Sportmax GP tire, a highly unlikely choice for a Harley-based custom. The swingarm, suspended by a shock from Progressive Suspension, is the result of a collaboration between RSD and sport-bike customizer Gregg’s Customs, and the arcing single-sided unit is a stunner. Bolted to the RSD Platinum Cut Diesel wheel is a Performance Machine Contour sprocket, and a Gregg’s Customs disc that is gripped by a Performance Machine four-piston caliper.
"When we build a bike for someone," Sands explains, "it has to be something we like to build-something we’re interested in doing. We get a broad base of rules, but we don’t want to do something that’s standard. We want to build something new and exciting. I call Black Beauty a road race chopper."
To ensure that Black Beauty is all-go, as well as all-show, Sands turned to Küryakyn, a West Virginian company that builds both external eye-candy and serious internal performance parts. From the cases up, Küryakyn supplied the camshafts, cylinders, pistons, heads and valves. This turns the friendly Twin Cam 88 powerplant into a serious 95 cubic inch powerhouse held to the frame with RSD motor mounts. Pushing spent gases through a high-mounted RSD exhaust, with a Deco-influenced golden muffler, the raucous roar of the Black Beauty reminds you that this machine is more than just a pretty face.
Once astride Black Beauty, you can appreciate the duality of its motorcycling builder. Although the motocycle is built for speed and handling, you are seated in a classically aggressive chopper stance. The handlebars that rise from the Performance Machine Contour triple clamps were about shoulder high for me-not the typical position for fast riding. However, the RSD footpegs line up between the crank output and the Harley transmission input, so your feet are in a natural location.
Perched on the thin, minimalist one-position Bitchin’ Seat Co. saddle-which is as intricate as it is functional-you accept that what seem like compromises are actually the unique fusion of purpose, desire, and image. Black Beauty is not a reflector; it enhances the rider, rather than taking on his persona.
To be sure, Sands did not ignore the crucial facet of appearance. The three-way balancing act of gold, black, and silver is magical. One can’t help but notice how the sweep of the RSD tank is complemented by the seat, frame and cylinder heads, tying the center of the bike together effortlessly. Chris Wood at Airtrix is responsible for the flawless paint, including the staggeringly intricate RSD "bandana pattern" on the downward facing portion of the tank. Often hidden items such as the battery and RSD prototype Beehive oil tank are proudly displayed, as part of the process that makes Black Beauty run.
Black Beauty’s builder also likes to run-Sands has not let himself get too far removed from his road racing roots. "I want to build what I want to ride," Sands states without reserve. That credo is reflected in Roland Sands Designs bikes, and Black Beauty is no exception. And just as assuredly, we want to ride what Sands wants to build. Photography by Cordero Studios