“Sometimes you get it wrong and today I got it wrong,” grins Roland Sands as blood drips from a cut above his ankle, temporarily bandaged in duct tape to reduce the bleeding. “It happens occasionally.”
Indeed it does, as any serious hard-charging motorcyclist can attest to: accidents happen, and on this chilly winter afternoon at Willow Springs Raceway, Sands got bitten by one of his own toys, the Bandito Softail, a motorcycle that began life as a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail. That is, until Sands and crew put their welder to it.
“You know sometimes we come out here and we ride a little bit hard,” explains the 38-year-old Southern California native and owner of Roland Sands Design. “We want to get some cool photos—and I get a little excited sometimes.”
It’s that kind of excitement and raw enthusiasm for riding that sets RSD apart in the sea of motorcycle customizers and hot-rod tuners. After all, not everyone can say that they have an AMA Road Racing Championship to their name (Sands’ was the ’98 250GP Champion).
“I grabbed second gear when I probably shouldn’t have,” continues Roland, describing his greedy decision to steal an upshift while standing on the footpegs, head over the handlebar and rear Dunlop tire billowing a cloud of smoke, painting a big fat line of rubber. “I don’t know it just happened really, really fast. It didn’t have any warning it just kinda
(Above) It’s pretty obvious Roland has speed running thorough his veins. The 38-year-old loves to get his kicks anyway he can, on four, or two-wheels. Here he is burning rubber in his Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series coupe. (Below) Performance is a key theme at Roland Sands Design. Roland drifts his Bandito Softail—something that would be next to impossible on the standard Heritage Softail in which it’s based off.
went ‘braaap’—over the high side. It’s been a while since I high-sided a Harley, maybe it was just that time again…”
Known as much for his edgy new-school meets old-school style and speed-mad creations as his wild “push it to the limits” riding style, Sands and company were at Willow Springs showing off their latest hard parts and accessories during a catalog shoot for the upcoming riding season.
“We have 176 new products this year,” says Roland’s sister, Summer, who vigorously coordinates all the action on track while sporting a pronounced seven-month pregnancy bump. “So it’s been a really big push with all of manufacturers to get them out the door and on the bikes and get them out here and use and abuse them.”
“It’s an interesting way to do a photo shoot,” she answers when asked if being pregnant is affecting her mojo and RSD Brand Manager duties. “But now I can tell him that he’s been on a racetrack before he was ever born, just like my other son [smiles].”
After a successful last few years manufacturing eye-pleasing bolt-on style hard parts for American heavy iron, Sands and co. are now expanding into the apparel side of the business. But for Sands’ the move is nothing new and something that he envisioned long ago.
“I’ve always wanted to build everything we do around our brand. Motorcycles, parts—it started with motorcycles then it went to parts and it was basically trying to build every part of the bike—improve it, make it look better, make it cooler, different. Put our style and our twist on it. And we’re trying to do the same thing with our apparel.”
“Whether it’s our jackets or some of the knits we’re coming out with; our gloves; I think it all echoes,” he adds. “It’s a good mix of fashion and performance, together. It gives a cool unique look and if you focus on those things and you get a good high-quality product, that’s what we’re really about. It works pretty good– you can’t even really tell I crashed in this jacket [smiles].”
(Top) No rest for the weary: RSD Brand Manager, Summer Sands (left) lends a hand despite being seven-months pregnant during the shoot. (Below) RSD prides itself in building parts and motorcycles that don’t just look cool but are functional too.
The thrill of cracking the throttle is the motivating factor behind everything RSD does as summed up by Roland’s close friend, die-hard riding buddy, and RideApart host, Jamie Robinson. Like his American brother, the British transplant grew up road racing on the other side of the Atlantic in England and loves nothing more than seeing the tachometer needle pointing in the red with the throttle twisted til’ it can’t twist no more.
“As soon as it went to skid time I was happy and when it went to burn-out time I was even happier,” laughs Robinson after spending the last 10 minutes burning off rear tires and showing off for the camera.
“Roland comes from a racing background so he likes to put performance into his bikes,” he continues in his still-thick English accent. “So you start off with a Harley, and there’s not much performance in a Harley to begin with. So he has a tough job as that being his base point. But he does a good job. The Sportster that I was riding today had a good limit. It had no problem with ground clearance and that’s usually a big factor. And as soon as you get rid of that problem you can really have some fun on those bikes.”
A long-time motorcyclist himself, Robinson, 38, has ridden all sorts of bikes, all across the world. And it’s those experiences that have helped him develop a certain palette for what he likes in terms of riding gear in terms of fit, construction and of course styling.
“It’s stylish, it’s comfortable, it’s going to be a bomb (in a good way),” believes the Englishman. “I think people are going to love it. It’s a niche—there not many logos. It’s got an old school design.”
Roland’s good friend and RideApart host, Jamie Robinson, contributed a throttle hand during RSD’s photo shoot from Willow Springs.
“Roland has a great eye for design,” he adds. “And I think when he was looking at his clothing line he wanted something completely different from what was out there. He also started riding bikes back in the ‘70s and I’m sure those influences came into some of his designs.”
“I think the biggest thing in our apparel is trying to come up with something that you want to wear,” explains Roland when asked why he’s building his own riding gear now. “Something you’re comfortable wearing off the motorcycle and on the motorcycle. It does its job as protective equipment but it doesn’t make you look like you just got off a sportbike or a GP bike.”
“And for me, the thing I really like is that I can wear it on any motorcycle I ride,” he continues. “I can wear it on a Triumph, I can wear it on a Harley, I can wear it on a sportbike, and I can wear it on a supermoto. I can wear it on any type of motorcycle I’d ride on the street and I feel comfortable in it. And that’s not always the case with most apparel.”
With hundreds of high-quality brands to choose from, it can be difficult for the everyday motorcyclist to find something that he or she truly loves and leaves them feeling protected without necessarily bragging to the world that you are a motorcyclist. And that’s the exact area which differentiates RSD from others.
“It usually seems like it is always geared to one particular genre of motorcycling,” shares Roland. “And I don’t really place myself in any particular genre of motorcycling so I think our apparel really kind of echoes that. It is really a jacket for everyone.”
Despite getting one thing wrong during the shoot, it’s quite obvious that he got it ‘right’ where it counts.