Roland Sands was born into a world of motorcycle customization. His father was both a right brain and left brain kinda guy. A designer, engineer and machinist, all in one. He introduced Roland at an early age to product development of the highest degree.
I met Roland at the INSPIRATION show in Long Beach. I was excited to meet the man behind the bikes and products that I had seen countless times. Two weeks later I was at his amazing new RSD building in Los Alamitos. The place is a shrine for everything motorcycle. From the minute you open the door your view is bikes, motors, leathers and parts.
Roland took me for a quick tour around the facility. The workshop was lined with their bikes. State of the art machines are used to keep up with the demand for newer and better parts, as well as rapid prototyping new parts on the fly. He showed me a few new products that they have been working on and even got me to try on some of his new jackets.
We ended the tour in his cool personal office. His sketches and designs are everywhere. One of his former race bikes sits behind him at his desk. He told me that he got so comfortable with that bike that he was rolling the throttle between his index finger and thumb while racing.
I asked him how he got into designing? "I was probably around 16 or 17 when I started sketching for my Dad. I got tricked into being a designer by my Dad. I just had skill at translating ideas. I never went to design school. Being around talented people my whole life is the best design school I can think of."
By now, you must be familiar with Roland's success on the race track. Racing a TZ250 is no joke. Racing for 9 years and winning an AMA 250GP National Championship is something not a lot of people have under their belt. You can see why he builds the way he does. Coming off a grand prix race bike might steer your decision making when comparing brakes for your next build.
As an industrial designer I appreciate the familiar design process. From sketch to prototype, Roland has his hand in every part of it. As a motorcycle enthusiast I love the mix of modern day performance with traditional aesthetics. Choppers with upside down forks and radial brakes are just a few details that you see on his builds.
Where do you want to go with RSD? "I want to stay true to what we do and make what we wanna make. I have been doing this for the last 20 years and I will do it fo the next 20 years."
Roland is just simply a cool guy. He is modest about his success on the track and what he has done with RSD. He laughs and speaks enthusiastically when he tells stories about his experiences. As laid back as he looks and sounds, I know that when it comes down to his business, his work ethic must be flawless.
Do you have a dream bike? He goes to his screen and does a quick search, "This is my dream bike at the moment. The BMW R7." With only one bike built as a prototype in the world, I could not think of anything more appropriate as a dream bike. What do you expect from a guy that already has a Desmo RR in his garage?
My day at RSD was done. I had an amazing time talking with Roland and seeing what they do behind the scenes was such a privilege.
Thanks for the hospitality Roland. Next time maybe we could squeeze in a ride.