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Mirroring its Harley-Davidson counterparts, the BMW R 18 is becoming a popular base for modifications and custom builds. But while some focus on making the BMW cruiser ever more stylish, others go a little bit further. Or, in the case of Roland Sands Design, quite a bit further. Roland Sands’ wide motorcycle build portfolio includes a number of classy yet purposeful BMWs. And the purpose of the BMW R 18 Dragster is pure straight-line speed.

Roland Sands turned the BMW R 18 from a heritage cruiser to a race-ready dragster bike

The blue Roland Sands BMW R 18 Dragster on a rear-wheel stand on a dragstrip
Roland Sands BMW R 18 Dragster | BMW Motorrad

While the 2021 BMW R 18 has the retro-vintage look down, its cruiser-formula adherence limits its performance credentials. The 3.5” rear-suspension travel isn’t a problem, Cycle World says, but the bike’s “long, low chassis” and suspension geometry lead to footpeg-scraping rather quickly. Plus, the R 18 weighs 790 pounds fully fueled.

However, unconventional racing machines are exactly what drew Roland Sands Design and several other teams to King of the Baggers. And as anyone who’s been to a dragstrip knows, not all racing involves carving corners. Sands is intimately familiar with that fact, as he used to be a professional motorcycle drag racer, just like his father. So, when BMW approached him about making a custom R 18, he knew exactly what he wanted to build. And three months later, the Roland Sands Design BMW R 18 Dragster was ready.

That name is more than a stylistic moniker: the BMW R 18 Dragster is a true racing bike. So much so that it doesn’t have any rear suspension. Roland Sands’ team removed it and tweaked the frame and swingarm to save weight and improve rigidity. Ditching the rear suspension saved about 50 pounds by itself. But all told, RSD “’probably stripped 200 pounds off the bike,’” Cycle World reports.

And that was just the start. While the BMW R 18 Dragster has stock front-end geometry, it has inverted forks from the R nineT. The new forks required new clip-on bars and a steering damper, though the stock heated grips are still there. Together with the new rear-set foot controls, they put the rider in the requisite stretched-out racing position. Hence why Roland Sands also added a tank-mounted pad and a custom Saddlemen seat. And to help with aerodynamics, the Dragster has a custom aluminum belly pan.

The Roland Sands BMW R 18 Dragster has more than style—it’s got nitrous speed

A side view of the front half of the blue Roland Sands BMW R 18 Dragster, showing the engine, exhaust, forks, and nitrous oxide bottle
Roland Sands BMW R 18 Dragster front half side view | BMW Motorrad

In addition to those modifications, Roland Sands Design also installed various parts from its official BMW collection. Those parts include the wheels, clutch and brake levers, master cylinders, gauge mounts, and headlight bezels, Cycle World notes. And speaking of brakes, the BMW R 18 Dragster uses the S 1000 RR’s Brembos.

The custom bike needs those upgraded brakes, though, because of the other major modification Roland Sands Design performed. Sands called the R 18’s 1802cc air/oil-cooled boxer-twin “the center piece,” which is partially why he built a dragster to show it off. And with a claimed 91 hp and 116 lb-ft of torque, it’s BMW’s most powerful boxer so far. However, Sands was also inspired by muscle cars. So, the RSD Dragster is a little more extreme.

Admittedly, Roland Sands didn’t change the boxer’s internal components or the stock shaft drive. But the team did remove the stock airbox, put velocity stacks on the throttle bodies, and install a freer-flowing stainless-steel exhaust with RSD x BMW tips. It also re-tuned the engine. Oh, and the team fitted the BMW R 18 Dragster with a nitrous oxide bottle.

Rolands Sands doesn’t know how much horsepower the BMW R 18 Dragster makes. But it’s enough to light up the rear Dunlop racing radial tire even on a prepped dragstrip. Though if that’s too much speed, the nitrous injection can be disabled, Bike Exif reports. Regardless, this is one seriously fast drag bike.

Can you get your own RSD Dragster?


The BMW R 18 Cruiser Goes Transcontinental Touring for 2022

Unfortunately for potential drag racers, the Roland Sands BMW R 18 Dragster is a one-off, non-street-legal build. And it’s unlikely a production version will ever come out of the BMW factory.

However, at least some of the Dragster’s parts are available from RSD, so you can replicate its look somewhat. And over in Germany, WalzWerk’s kits can turn a stock R 18 into pseudo bobbers that somewhat resemble RSD’s creation. The kits cost roughly $3000, depending on the spec.

That being said, other custom BMW builders have made copies and/or kits of their builds to outside customers. So, maybe if you ask nicely, RSD can make another R 18 Dragster. But if you want to ride it on the road, maybe keep the rear suspension in place.

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