Motorcycles

Roland Sands builds a straight-line dragster out of the BMW R18

Roland Sands builds a straight...
Roland Sands has spent three and a half months turning the BMW R18 into a dragster
Roland Sands has spent three and a half months turning the BMW R18 into a dragster
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Built for the drag strip, this thing has a fairly committed riding position
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Built for the drag strip, this thing has a fairly committed riding position
Roland Sands with his take on a BMW R18 dragster
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Roland Sands with his take on a BMW R18 dragster
A flat, slick rear tire on a custom rim
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A flat, slick rear tire on a custom rim
The big boxer motor provides an aesthetic challenge
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The big boxer motor provides an aesthetic challenge
Standard tank has been fitted with custom trim. RSD also redesigned the instrument cluster
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Standard tank has been fitted with custom trim. RSD also redesigned the instrument cluster
The front end was taken from an S1000RR superbike, including savage performance brakes
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The front end was taken from an S1000RR superbike, including savage performance brakes
Hardtail frame and NOS bottle
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Hardtail frame and NOS bottle
All the custom parts are of course available at the Roland Sands website
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All the custom parts are of course available at the Roland Sands website
Despite the totally re-built frame, Sands kept the standard steering head angle
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Despite the totally re-built frame, Sands kept the standard steering head angle
A rather intimidating beast to throw a leg over
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A rather intimidating beast to throw a leg over
That slick, flat drag tire says it all
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That slick, flat drag tire says it all
Blacked-out cylinder heads and custom exhaust
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Blacked-out cylinder heads and custom exhaust
Low-set drag bars
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Low-set drag bars
Custom throttle grips and levers
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Custom throttle grips and levers
A hand-made stainless steel exhaust
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A hand-made stainless steel exhaust
Long, low, lean, mean
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Long, low, lean, mean
R18 Dragster plates on the engine
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R18 Dragster plates on the engine
A very businesslike cockpit
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A very businesslike cockpit
Standard fenders have been cut down for aeros and to fit the big back drag tire
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Standard fenders have been cut down for aeros and to fit the big back drag tire
Roland Sands has spent three and a half months turning the BMW R18 into a dragster
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Roland Sands has spent three and a half months turning the BMW R18 into a dragster
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AMA 250GP national champion racer Roland Sands has been taking perfectly good motorcycles and engoodening them further for 20-odd years. Now, he's turned his attentions to BMW's giant boxer cruiser, giving the R18 a hardtail dragster treatment.

It turns out Papa Sands was a drag racer in his day, so young Roland has spent plenty of time around stripped-down straightliners. The moment he first saw the giant boxer twin BMW put together for the R18 cruiser, he started thinking about dragsters, and it didn't take long for BMW to get him a bike to play with.

The objective for BMW, as with all these kinds of manufacturer-sponsored builds, is to have a big-name builder demonstrate the potential of this machine as a basis for customs. BMW hasn't attempted a cruiser for a very long time – indeed the company's last effort has become a bit of a punchline for gawky looks.

Cruisers, particularly retro-lookers like the R18, need to be versatile under the attentions of an angle grinder, and BMW has built this thing from the ground up to be as easy as possible to customize. Every painted part on the bike comes off easy, as does the entire removable rear subframe.

Despite the totally re-built frame, Sands kept the standard steering head angle
Despite the totally re-built frame, Sands kept the standard steering head angle

The motor here certainly provides an aesthetic challenge. This 1800cc monster is huge, and doesn't have the nicely detailed fins and circular casings of a traditional V-twin to provide details and pretty angles from side-on. Instead, it's got two enormous cylinder heads poking out the sides of a fairly flat and featureless grey lump in the middle.

Sands started out by stripping the whole thing down to its bare bones and building a custom hardtail frame out of tube steel. Keeping the stock head angle, he hit the engine with a blacked-out custom breastplate design milled from aluminum, and blacked out the cylinder heads and head covers as well. The stock exhaust went in the bin for a very shouty hand-fabbed stainless twin megaphone system.

He replaced the forks and brakes with a set of serious performance gear from the S1000RR superbike. He dropped the bars down low, drag-style, and re-did all the speedo housings, bar clamps, mirrors, levers and filler caps with his own designs, available now at your local Roland Sands store, of course.

The front end was taken from an S1000RR superbike, including savage performance brakes
The front end was taken from an S1000RR superbike, including savage performance brakes

Keeping all the original bodywork, he shortened the fenders a touch and gave it all a paint job. The wheels were replaced with custom jobs, again for sale in a range of sizes if you like them, and a set of drag racing tires were put on, including a fat, flat, slick rear. The seat, with its giant dragster backstop, was made from scratch. Oh, and Sands and his team plumbed in a nitrous system too, for a lark.

And there you have it. Does it work? Well, personally, from some angles I think it looks great. From others, well, the heart of a cruiser is a beautiful engine, and while this boxer looks powerful and barrel-chested, it almost seems like it'd fit better in the nose of an aircraft than in a beautiful cruiser. And if I'm going to be honest, I think the stock bike does a better job of packaging that big boxer for looks than this one. But that's just the opinion of one goon, and other goons are most welcome to debate the point in the comments section below.

Before you do, though, jump into the gallery and check out a bunch of photos. You can see it in action in the video below.

#ABavarianSoulstory - Episode 10: The BMW R 18 Dragster by Roland Sands

Source: BMW/Roland Sands Design

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1 comment
Martin Hone
I know it is supposed to look like some sort of custom drag bike, but it must handle and steer abysmally with that drag slick on the rear !