Community Classic and Custom Motorcycles BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands Design: Competitive Urge

BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands Design: Competitive Urge

“Combining a racing aesthetic and function with a custom style,” Roland Sands explains, “this is what we are probably best known for. We like to make stock machines perform better.” A builder of over 200 custom motorcycles, Sands has directed his attention to the new BMW R 18. The result is the BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands Design.

BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands Design - custom motorcycle

Roland Sands’ father Perry was both a drag racer and a custom motorcycle builder, so the idea of a custom drag bike is inarguably in the younger Sands’ blood. In 2012, Roland Sands built his Harley-Davidson KH-9 V-Rod Night Rod Special—a custom dragster powered by a turbocharged V-Rod powerplant. So, perhaps, this latest exercise in stylish performance, boosted by nitrous oxide, was as inevitable as genetics.

Initially, Sands’ inspiration for the R 18 came from the world of four wheels. “With an engine that’s so visibly the centerpiece, I immediately thought of muscle cars,” Sands explains. “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.”

BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands Design - RSD

The team at Roland Sands Design in Southern California went to work on turning the big boxer cruiser into a rip-snorting quarter-miler. While the rake didn’t change on the R 18, the back end of the BMW received the dragster treatment, including a seven-inch-wide flat-profile slick tire.

For the stability and wheelie-resistance needed for drag racing, the frame was modified and the rear suspension jettisoned—both made easier by the removable subframe on the stock R 18. An RSD custom seat by Saddlemen locks the rider into position. While it looks like a passenger could utilize the seat, there is only one set of footpegs—set next to the rear disc.

An inverted fork from the R nineT was employed to beef up the front end for dragstrip velocities. Braking is courtesy of an S 1000 RR superbike, supplemented with an RSD radial-pump master cylinder on the clip-on.

BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands Design - Price

The nitrous means that quite a bit more air will be flowing through the enormous opposed-twin. RSD created a hand-made stainless-steel twin megaphone exhaust system, with milled aluminum highlighting the tips. There is no muffler in sight.

As always, there were challenges along the way during the nearly four-month build. “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,” according to Sands. “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!”

Many parts were retained from the R 18, allowing it to maintain its identity. The stock headlight is supplemented by an RSD headlight bezel, while the fenders are modified pieces from the production model. The fuel tank survived the transition, with the R 18 Dragster getting paint by Chris Wood of Airtrix fame.

BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands Design - Interview

“Every bike needs different sources depending on the build—special materials or parts,” Sands acknowledges. “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.”

One source, of course, was RSD. Sands dipped into his company’s milled parts design collection, using 2-Tone-Black levers, wheels, valve covers, breastplate, and gauges. Although not used on the BMW R 18 Dragster, RSD has a wide array of parts for the R 18—from wheels to filler caps—dividing them into the Machined and 2-Tone-Black lines.

BMW R 18 Dragster - Builder Roland Sands
Roland Sands

With motorcycling hard-wired into his DNA, Roland Sands could not have taken any other career path. “Riding a motorcycle to me is like becoming one with the machine,” he says. “My motorcycle is my life, it’s everything, it’s what I do.”

We understand completely.

BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands Design Photo Gallery


Don Williams
Don Williams
With 50 years of riding experience, Don Williams is a fan of all kinds of motorcycles. He enjoys sport bikes, cruisers, dirt bikes, touring bikes, adventure bikes, dual sport bikes, and rideable customs. Ask Don what his favorite bike is and he will tell you, "Whatever bike I'm on."

2021 BMW R 18 Review (19 Fast Facts on the First Edition)

Over a year after its concept debut, the 2021 BMW R 18 has made its way to production. Much has been written about its...

2021 Honda CRF450R Review (12 First Ride Fast Facts from Glen Helen)

The 2021 Honda CRF450R is all-new for 2021. The entirely new chassis, bodywork, exhaust, and hydraulic clutch highlight the changes to the CRF450R. Add to...

Arai Spoiler EX2 for the Corsair-X Helmet First Look

The Arai Corsair-X is the Japanese company’s flagship helmet and intended for riders of the highest performance motorcycle. MotoGP racers Maverick Viñales of Monster...

2021 Indian Scout Lineup First Look: Five Models (Photos, Specs + Prices)

Although the five-motorcycle Indian Scout lineup is functionally unchanged for 2021—last year was a major expansion of the line—this year, Indian is offering new...

2020 Ural Weekender SE First Look: Special Edition Sidecar

Just in time for autumn, Ural lets loose with the 2020 Ural Weekender SE. Based on the 2WD Gear Up model, the Weekender SE...

Royal Enfield American Flat Track Debut: AFT Production Twins Class

Johnny Lewis debuted the Royal Enfield Twins FT in the Production Twins class at the American Flat Track Williams Grove Half-Mile I in Mechanicsburg,...