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BMW Motorrad unveils the R18 Dragster

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With an engine that’s so visibly the center piece, I immediately thought of muscle cars

roland sands – acclaimed designer

Long Beach, 5 August 2020. Renowned custom bike designer Roland Sands’ personal story served as a source of inspiration for his work on the BMW R 18 – a straight line dragster featuring the iconic and massive boxer powerplant. He and his team have created a unique masterpiece built around the impressive 2-cylinder Big Boxer, giving their creativity free reign in the process. 

“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 explains. 

R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands. Sketches

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 BMW R 5 and shifts the focus back to the motorcycle essentials: purist, no-frills technology and the boxer engine as the centre of riding pleasure, combined with “good vibrations”. The “Big Boxer” continues the line of traditional air-cooled boxer engines that have offered inspiring riding since BMW Motorrad first began production in 1923.

The electronics were definitely the most difficult task we had to deal with as we put in nitrous oxide

ROLAND SANDS – ACCLAIMED DESIGNER

“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 dialled it in! The final product is impressive and characterised by a high level of craftsmanship, as can be expected from BMW Motorrad. Right from the beginning, I couldn’t wait to get customising!” Roland points out.

Every bike needs different sources depending on the build, special materials or parts

ROLAND SANDS – ACCLAIMED DESIGNER

For the R 18 Dragster, the team around Roland Sands retained the stock neck geometry of the R 18, removed the bike’s rear end and turned it into a drag racer. Moreover, they chose to maintain the bodywork of the original R 18, but modified the front and rear fender to fit the modified frame. The whole customising process took about three and a half months. The bike then headed to the workshop for final assembly and a day at a drag strip.

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.

ROLAND SANDS – ACCLAIMED DESIGNER

“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,” explains Roland Sands.

Aside from the R 18 Dragster custom bike, Roland Sands also created two different design collections of milled aluminium parts for the launch of the R 18 Cruiser: “Machined” and “2-Tone-Black”. The “Machined” and “2-Tone-Black” ranges include front and rear wheels available in different dimensions than the standard sizes. In addition, the range of these exclusive milled parts includes 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, Roland Sands used this milled parts design collection to customise levers, wheels, valve covers, breast plate, headlight and gauges. The front end was taken from the S 1000 RR superbike. The seat as well as the exhaust we created from scratch.

The R 18 Dragster custom bike in detail

  1. The frame has been modified completely.
  2. The bodywork has been completely customised.
  3. The headlights have been taken from the original R 18, the headlight bracket is from the design collection of milled aluminium parts.
  4. The standard exhaust has been completely removed and an individual 2-in-1 megaphone exhaust system made of stainless steel has been installed.
  5. The hand levers are from the design collection of milled aluminium parts.
  6. The tank has been taken over from the original R 18.
  7. The paint finish is metallic blue with classic white BMW pin-stripes.
  8. The fork has been taken from the BMW R nine T.
  9. The seat has been built from scratch and is a RSD custom seat by Saddlemen. 
Roland Sands: The man behind the designs

By his own account, Roland Sands basically 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, Roland was brought up surrounded by cool bikes. It wasn’t long before he, too, was riding dirt bikes, taking them apart and rebuilding them. He had a racing career of his own that spanned ten years.

Today Roland 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,” says Roland.

For Roland 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.”

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