Roland Sands’ Designs are a hot commodity in the custom market. The Vintage bike kit can help convert your softail into a head-turning custom with RSD’s components and a little sweat. Model not included.
Have you always wondered how it would feel to pimp one of the custom bikes being stuck in our psyche by the Biker Build-Off de jour during Bike Week or Sturgis? I have: With the resources they have at their disposal, just imagine the possibilities. Imagine the attention from your fellow bikers, hell, forget about them, what effect do you think it would have on the Betties? As a former fabricator myself, it is always intriguing to see what crazy contraptions rolls out of these builder’s shops next because like them, I too have an instinctual drive to create things.
Unfortunately, my custom bike fantasy is similar to the fascination I have with the Girls Next Door in that both are centered around seemingly unobtainable objects of desire that are paraded around the show for our viewing pleasure, but ones that we’ll never be sampling ourselves. In both cases I’ve accepted that I pretty much have the same chance of riding Glory Stomper as I do Holly: Slim to none.
In my defense, the opportunity to get within touching distance of either had never even presented itself. That’s why when the opportunity to ride the Roland Sands Design Vintage Kit bike, which is based on Roland’s infamous original, El Borracho was offered to me: I sprung to attention quicker than a Vegas stripper being offered a bottle of Krystal, a handful of C-notes and a trip to the VIP room. I was giddy.
Before we get too far into this, it is important to know that the bikes in this article are three completed variations on the RSD Vintage Kit fully installed on a late-model Harley-Davidson Softail. The Vintage Kit, available from your favorite Drag Specialties dealer, is a relatively easy-to-mount collection of a dozen hand-crafted bolt-on components, along with exhaust and a set of wheels. The kit transforms any run-of-the-mill Softy or Fat Boy into a bad-ass custom that, Mr. Sands hypothesizes, will increase anyone’s pulling power by as much as 69%. If that doesn’t matter to you, at the very least you’ll be able to look your future fans in the eye when you tell them how easy it was to throw together on the weekend in your spare time.
“You are going to need some beer, a sawzall, a grinder, at least one friend to make fun of you and some very simple tools,” explains Sands of his recommended Vintage Kit assembly protocol. “Take your time and follow the instructions and you should be fine. It really can be done in a day but I recommend you allow yourself a weekend. When you’re finished you can make fun of your friend and his stock bike.”
Enough of the fluff for God’s sake, lets take a look at these machines and how the different components utilized on them give each its own unique aesthetic identity and distinctive riding experience. Just stay focused on the bikes and not my future ex-wife and photo shoot model Marissa, who we could not get off the bike. Easy buddy, I know what you were thinking, she’s a good kid.
The Stocker and the Punk Rocker demonstrate the Vintage Kit can be molded into a clean one-off creation.
Punk Rocker & Stocker
These bikes are two variations on the Vintage theme. The dark and sinister Punk Rocker, which started life as a 2002 H-D FXST before its $15K makeover, is the tattooed front man of this super group. The Stocker, on the other hand, is not unlike the overlooked drummer left to pound out the beat while the crowd is watching the obnoxious loudmouth lead vocalist prancing around on stage. Both bikes feature the same basic bars, sheet metal and straight pipes that spit out a blood-curdling sound that’d scare the stink off a hippie, so being the center of attention will happen whether it’s wanted or not. The rowdy exhaust note of the new RSD Tracker Exhaust system by Vance & Hines (Available after August 2007) is certainly worth the extra cash, plus it completes the bad-boy look that this beast epitomizes.
Since the motor on all of these particular machines are bone stock, they are more show than go in this trim, but outright performance is not the point of these rolling showcases. With truck loads of hot-rod Harley parts from Screaming Eagle and numerous aftermarket manufacturers available around the world, there is no lack of go-fast goodies to change its state of tune. Even Roland couldn’t resist a bit of tampering though, which is why a keen eye will detect an S&S Super E and RSD velocity stack hanging off the side of the Stocker mill.
The TC88 motors are de-restricted compared to stock and it showed in on-road performance. Anytime the stock intake and exhaust are upgraded, performance increases accordingly. These bikes churn out plenty of V-Twin hit and the massive carb coupled with a free-flowing exhaust ensures they accelerate great in short bursts, but they won’t set the world on fire on top end. The additional effort in the suspension and braking system is an improvement over stock too, plus it’s a fine example of what is possible. The Stocker sports a full Ohlins front fork, appropriate triple clamp and a radial mount four-piston caliper that is significantly more powerful than the more glamorous traditionally-mounted polished Performance Machine 6-piston set-up found on the Rocker.
Between the Rocker and the Stocker the traditional peg position on the former was more comfortable initially than the forward controls of the latter, but by the end of the day the splayed-out layout of Punk Rocker started to grow on me. It was more aggressive in the custom scene sense of things, but it’s up to the consumer to make the choice to what makes them comfortable anyway. No matter where rider’s legs are positioned, the other people sharing the road will be locked on the bike, not the rider.
The Stocker’s steel tank rests on a clever tunnel that hides the OEM wiring and the square backbone while holding the stock ignition switch.
On the freeway between RSD HQ and our destination on the pier it was obvious these hogs attract serious attention. People were wandering out of their lanes while trying to get a better look, or waving like crazed groupies and giving the thumbs up as we motored past the insipid cages as if in some sort of mini parade. I have never experienced the level of acknowledgement and apparent acceptance while aboard any other type of motorcycle before. Hmmm. Maybe Mr. Sands is on to something here? Merely riding down the road drew the approval of the four-wheeled faction.
The stock H-D suspension and standard rear-end of the Punk Rocker is an example of the most simple transformation that can be done using the Vintage Kit. In stock form it retains a decent ride quality on the rough highways of So Cal while offering up enough traditional handling characteristics that should help any rider feel familiar. The riding experience of the Stocker and Vintage is not quite the same because of the tall bars and the 200-series Dunlop rear tire out back. The monster meat requires a bit more effort to steer the bike but the exchange for the heightened wow-factor is worth it without a doubt. The Punk Rocker rolls on RSD Contrast Cut Domino wheels. The Stocker has RSD’s Judges and complete the impressive list of proprietary hard parts on display on these machines.
Besides unique lines, lots of chrome and an insane exhaust system, there is one truly common denominator among the offspring of the custom bike world that makes or breaks a build – the paint job. That’s why Sands enlisted the help of Chris Wood from Airtrix to guarantee his examples sported the best paint money could buy. Compared to the dazzling duds on the Vintage, something similar to the less intensive Punk Rocker paint scheme is going to run a cool four grand if you want Woods to squirt your ride. A cost cutting paint alternative is displayed on the Stocker. Team RSD uses a load of pin-stripe lettering on bare metal with a clear coat finish to show that even sans-color it still looks sharp. The Stocker is a rolling how-to handbook with step-by-step instructions placed strategically around the bike. It truly is a working showcase of the Vintage Kit possibilities.
While the Stocker and Punk Rocker emulate the basic heart and soul of the trio, the Vintage is the guitar hero with its flowing gold locks blowing in the proverbial wind as the envy of everybody in the auditorium with a receding hairline or a fading tattoo of Motley Crue on their ass. The Vintage is the showcase for what the possibilities are when no expense is spared in the assembly of a bike built around the Vintage Kit. This cycle started as a 2001 Fat Boy and rolled out of the garage a few months later as the flagship of the RSD Vintage Kit fleet and one of the sweetest kit bikes ever assembled.
Besides the six thousand dollar Air Trix paint job, The Vintage also features a Paughco Springer front end which really gives this bike that extra something to stay true to its namesake and separate it from the other two. It features a PM Phatail Kit and rolls on the same RSD Contrast Cut Judge wheels as the Stocker. The list of individual components can be viewed on the final page, but a few of the highlights include a more aesthetically pleasing twin-piston caliper and 11.5″ Judge rotor up front and a drive-side sprocket/rotor or ‘sproter’ that keeps the rear of this bike extra clean.
Ride quality is similar to the Stocker, with corresponding control layout and peg placement providing the same basic feel from the Rocker. This version, however, has foregone some performance pieces like 6-piston brakes and racer-quality aftermarket suspension for the nostalgic look of the Springer front end and minimalist braking components. The devil is in the details like the selection of the Contour hand and foot controls along with strategically placed eye candy like the push-rod covers, finned engine cases and stylish Mauricio custom seat.
El Borracho must be proud of this brood of good-looking step-children it has spawned. What started as a bright idea concocted during a six pack past beer thirty a half decade ago has turned into one of the best ways for an aspiring builder or do-it-yourselfer to build a custom bike for less than the price of a small home. The RSD Vintage Kit is one of the easiest, and possibly cheapest, routes to build-off stardom, but it does have the potential to put you in the poor house if you can’t employ a bit of self restraint during the purchasing and assembly process.
One of the most intriguing opportunities afforded by piecing together your own bike rather than building it from scratch is, of course, time, and the opportunity to tailor it to suit your own wants and desires with proven components rather than an assortment of one-off pieces. The sky is the limit here. Certainly these bikes are not on the same level of RSD stalwarts like Glory Stomper or the KRV5 Tracker but they are tight. I mean, just because Holly wouldn’t give us the time of day doesn’t mean Kendra wouldn’t be fun to play around with, right? Why else would Heff keep her around if that’s not the case?
It may be a crazy analogy, but the fact is sometimes the rest of us normal humans need a little help getting what we want and as silly as it sounds you can’t take it with you so spending a bit of discretionary income here and there can go a long way. In this day and age of facades and plastic surgery, there’s nothing wrong with enhancing the things we love with a few bolt-on parts.
“The feeling of riding a custom bike that carries your own personal brand of style is second to none,” reminisces Sands. “It’s the rawest form of self expression, art and mechanics all balled up in one. The fact it gets you laid is also a great way to justify customizing your bike. Chicks buy titties, boys customize their bikes.”
You heard from the man, dumping a few semesters of the kid’s college fund into your favorite Hog is guaranteed to be more emotionally fulfilling than any subscription to the Hair Club for Men or a handful of Enzyte. It will certainly make you feel younger than any amount of age-defying wrinkle cream could ever hope to. Hell, this may even be better than a boob-job and lipo combined. Well, maybe. Anyway, the point is these bikes are as cool as the cat that created them. From the wide rear tires, trick wheels, sick paint, tiny tanks and angular ape-hangers they’re flat-out dripping with rotten excess. And that’s what it’s all about is it not?
Custom bikes, like many other things we lust after, are essentially a means of clinging desperately to a lifestyle normally seen only on TV from the sanctuary of the couch while the pain upstairs that makes your eyeballs ache tries valiantly to suppress its appeal. Custom bikes, or any two-wheeled contraption for that matter, symbolize a break in the routine daily life, of waking up on the same side of the bed for the 10,000th time, loading up the Volvo, dropping the kid off at school and punching the time clock of daily monotony that drives people to the verge of breakdown. Well, my fellow suburbanite bikers, Mr. Sands is offering a great way to satiate that impending mid-life crisis and may very well save you from slipping into the annals of mortality as a simple statistic by infusing you and your ride with the audacious attitude and damn-it-all look that makes custom bikes the envy of all the guys on the bowling team.
As the leader of the new age custom builders, Roland knows the value of standing out in a crowd as well as leaving behind a first-rate legacy. When asked how he hoped to be remembered once he reached the twilight of his life and whether or not his heritage will help him pull cougars at the retirement home – the answer was a pleasant surprise. For all his road racing success, the Bike Build-Off accolades and the notoriety of being who he is, it’s the prospect of bringing the two worlds of motorcycling together, the custom cruiser and the sporting crowds, as a unified front that still fuels his passion. That and some good friends, a bottle of Patron and an insatiable appetite for the finer things in life should keep him inspired for a while longer.
“I would like to think people will remember me as an artist who helped to bring the industry together through inventive and original designs that defied categories and inspired the youth,” explains Sands of his build style that often includes a combination of old-school essence and high tech substance. “I will more than likely be remembered for trashing hotel rooms and riding El Borracho through Wal-Mart.
“As far as the cougars go,” he continues. “When they’re over 50 we call them Sabertooths, but that’s a story for another day.”
The Vintage is based on Sands’ El Barrocho, but we recommend sobriety when handling this bad mo’ fo’.
Whether you want to be remembered for what you did or who you did, you should do it because you always wanted a trick custom bobber and after decades of clock-punching you’ve finally arrived at a point in your life where it’s possible to make it happen. Whatever the driving force, just dust off that Softtail and get down to your local shop to take a look at the RSD catalog or navigate over to his official site if you’re too lazy to ride. From there it’s all up to you to make Roland proud.
The RSD team has done all the hard work of fabricating and fitting now all you have to do is stop procrastinating and make it happen. Go on, what are you afraid of? If you never swing the bat you’re never gonna hit a home run, right. Just imagine how much better Bike Week or Sturgis will be this time around when you roll in like a pimp rather sneak in like a gimp. You know what to do. Peace.
Q&A with Roland
Q: If you could make one element of the custom bike scene disappear what would it be?
A: Mesh body suits.
Q: Does El Borracho still have a place in your heart despite the many more-specialized customs like Glory Stomper and the KR Bike are getting the bulk of the attention these days?
A: It’s the bike I ride the most. The suicide shift and stance are classic bar hopper style and it makes you feel like a gangster.
Q: If the El Borracho-based Vintage Kits were actually tequila – what brand/type would they be and why?
A: I would say Patron Silver. The quality is high and it gets the ladies saucy.
Q: I know you don’t normally sell your bikes, but let’s say some rich, lazy-ass bastard wants to buy the original El Borracho – what would you value it at? This might help to show the value of going the Vintage Kit route instead.
A: It would be a hard bike to let go of. We have a bond. let’s say I would trade it for a Corvette Z 06. When you see a poser like Steve Atlas transformed into a pimp after riding one of your bikes so that he can instantly start pulling chicks like that model we used, does it make you feel a sense of accomplishment?
A: Helping young men improve their chances at scoring with hot chicks is just a part of what we do.
Q: How much hotter is your girlfriend now than the one you had when you won the 250GP title?
A: On a scale of 1 to 10
250 GP title – 7
Custom Bike Builder – 11
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