Online exclusive: Roland Sands talks inspiration, future of RSD

Publish Date: 
Jun 20, 2011
By Dennis Johnson

There's something very no bullshit about Roland Sands and the things he creates. You get this sense immediately after meeting him.

He's quite obviously a motorcyclist and clearly very serious about design. Take a look at the artwork covering the walls of the new RSD headquarters in Los Alamitos, Calif., and you'll notice that he has a distinct artistic bent.

Also check out the Architects of Inspiration show he did in collaboration with Toyota and Upper Playground during the 2008/2009 International Motorcycle Show tour.

We interviewed him about four years ago for a cover story in Big Twin Dealer magazine. At the time he was at the forefront of a new type of custom motorcycle, having developed an aesthetic that's since been established as his signature style.

Sands and his company, Roland Sands Design, have come a long way since. He's still building custom motorcycles — you should check out the builds he's doing for Mickey Rourke, Tony Hawk and National Powersport Auction's Justyn Amstutz — but that's just a fraction of what RSD's up to.

RSD has launched a signature line of technical riding and casual apparel that typifies the company's well-known aesthetic and opened a retail showroom and e-commerce store. This in addition to the hard parts it designs and produces for Performance Machine and the RSD label, the design work the Sands is doing for OEMs, and the licensing agreements it has with Bell helmets and Spy Optics.

(Read about RSD's new apparel and accessories line in this story that's going to appear in the July 2011 issue of Dealernews.)

Last week, we again sat down with Sands and talked with him about the evolution of his company and what lies ahead.

Dealernews: How has RSD evolved aesthetically and busines-swise over the last four years?
Roland Sands: I think we’ve kept our eyes open and focused on the road ahead to keep it fresh. There’s so much going on visually these days it’s easy to go overboard so we try to let the design speak for itself and not coat it with too much sugar. We want to make sure our foundation is rock solid.

DN: Your custom motorcycles have always melded genres and styles, but it's clear that even the hard parts RSD designs and the new apparel line cross many cultures. Where does RSD exist on the motorcycle history continuum?
RS: People will have their opinions and try to place the brand into a niche. I think that’s the nature of people. For us I would say it’s about never fitting into a particular genre. The need to reinvent, progress and change while staying true to our core beliefs is at the root of what we do. The blending of genres will always help to produce that cross cultural feel.

History-wise, I think we would be the company that pushed that genre-bending envelope. If we can remove a little of the pretentious purist vibe and open eyes to the joy of two wheels regardless of the make or type, I feel we will have done a good job. If that makes bikes feel more accessible to your average Joe, even better.

DN: If you boiled it down to a singular element, what is the central theme of RSD?
RS: Great design and a solid understanding of the two-wheeled landscape.

DN: You mentioned something like that your dream scenario would be for one of the OEMs to step up and give you a blank slate.
RS: I would like to work from a blank sheet of paper to design a bike for the new motorcyclist. From the base design, frame, motor, geometry all the way to the marketing strategy, branding and how it’s sold. This would be a fun project.

DN: Where would you like to see RSD in five to 10 years?
RS: I would like to see us continue to do amazing projects and products with great companies while maintaining the RSD brand as a leader in design. Winning a Moto GP championship would be nice as well.

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