The attraction of the new BMW R nineT is not hard to see or understand. It’s a ‘blank canvas’ upon which owners can, if they so wish, start a customization journey to further enhance their bike’s looks. BMW Motorrad has produced a range of genuine accessories for anyone who wants to individualize their own nineT and customizers like Roland Sands Design are also working on their own bespoke versions.
Following on from the popular BMW Motorrad video Soulfuel (275,000 YouTube views so far) where a group of European urban customizers first get to see and ride the R nineT, several of them – plus legendary Californian Roland Sands – were supplied a pre-production R nineT on which to showcase their customizing skills. The bike shown in these pictures, with no official name and not quite finished, is RSD’s example.
“We don’t have a name for it yet,” says Roland Sands from his Californian office. “I consider this bike an on-going project; its personality is a work in progress. I’m pretty sure you will see more versions of it to come.”
At first, the RSD machine looks far removed from a standard R nineT, but look closer and the reality will stare back at you. Take the front fork outer tubes, for example, which are not new racing equivalents but are actually anodized to a black finish. Different but the same, and geared to the same outcome of tailoring the R nineT to an individual look. The same trick is played with the gear selector and rear brake foot controls and triple-clamps – all have been powder-coated black.
Roland Sands explains why simple and common parts for replacement have been left alone, “My inspiration was very much the customer and what he/she could do without major effort. I really wanted to look at it from a consumer’s perspective and what they could do themselves without major tools, cutting, grinding or any of the stuff that is painful to start working with on a brand new, beautiful motorcycle like the R nineT.”
Unusually, the addition of RSD components is not so obvious. Subtle placement and quality of finish mask the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the legendary custom house. Even the exhaust system looks like an official part. The total list of RSD unique parts is short but very sweet:
|Petrol tank cap||RSD custom billet|
|Exhaust||Custom RSD Stainless Steel & Carbon Fiber 2-1 Slant|
|Valve covers||RSD custom billet|
|Breast plate||RSD custom billet|
|Rear master cylinder||Stock with RSD custom billet reservoir|
|Bar Ends||RSD custom billet|
|Console||Stock with RSD custom billet housing|
|Headlight||Stock with RSD custom billet bezel|
|Axle Plugs||RSD custom billet|
|Tag Bracket||RSD custom steel|
|Reaction Bar||RSD custom billet|
|Rear under-tray||RSD sheet metal, powder-coated black|
Roland Sands’ first view of the R nineT was a privileged one. Many months ago he was fortunate to see an early production model when collaborating with the BMW Motorrad design team on the Concept 90 project. From that first view, Roland’s creative mind was up and running. “I saw the bike and thought ‘bitchin’! The ideas started flowing. I was even more excited when I rode it and felt the torque and how easy the front wheel came up. It’s the kind of bike that gets you excited to modify it because you know the guys who designed it thought about it, meaning it’s not hard to simplify. Our bike is simple and represents a very real version of what someone might do to their new R nineT without going off the deep end and keeping the machine fully functional.”
Like all project bikes, they are never finished. Even when a customer rides his pride and joy away from a workshop, many race engineers and specials builders will tell you that they have just seen or thought about another area or part that could be changed. Roland Sands is no different. Although he likes the subtlety of the RSD bike’s details, Roland doesn’t like the grey swingarm. Recoating it in black will undoubtedly be another tweak in a long line of tweaks.
The R nineT was developed to provide owners with the ability for personal customization e.g. café racer style, or urban custom – a movement that is rapidly growing in Europe. But in a world where big air-cooled V-twins rule, will Americans get what the R nineT stands for? As a man who has raced sports bikes and built an empire customizing American muscle, Roland Sands is perfectly placed to answer this…
“We are trying to help to show the US customer what they can do without a major effort. American customers love to modify their machines and the easier a manufacturer makes it to do that, the more the US customer will embrace the machine. Of course, this is not going to be an overnight thing and takes some time. BMW Motorrad will need to stick with this idea and ride it out for a while to build the ‘want’. I hope we can continue to help them do this.”
With the Concept 90 and now the R nineT special under his belt, it appears the former 250cc racer and Harley-fiend is becoming a fan of the Boxer engine. “I am,” he cheerfully admits. “Truthfully, I didn’t understand the bikes until I spent three days on an RT in the mountains above Lake Como in Italy. Then in France I got to ride both the air and water-cooled GS bikes and really fell in love with the motors. Once you get past jamming your leg into the head after trying to ride leg-out motocross-style, you get it. Keep your foot on the pegs and everything is all good!
“I’m excited to further explore the Boxer concepts and I can’t wait to see what else we can do with these machines. There’s so much that hasn’t been done and there is a want for something a little different from BMW customers. I hope we can help make that happen while still honoring what makes a BMW great.”
It appears that Roland has succumbed to the same feelings about BMW Motorrad machinery as thousands of happy owners have. In America alone, total BMW bike sales eclipsed a successful 2012 to make 2013 the second best year in BMW Motorrad’s history in the USA.