The first time the world laid eyes on the BMW R nineT was three years ago—when it was teased as Roland Sands’ blistering Concept 90. Since then, bolt-on nineT parts have been flying out of the Californian workshop.
So we were surprised when we realized that RSD haven’t tackled another ground-up R nineT build since. Until now.
In a different way, RSD’s latest boxer is every bit as retro-fabulous as the Concept 90. That one was a homage to the iconic R 90 S, but this time Roland and his team took inspiration from elsewhere in BMW’s history.
“This started out as a rendering I did based on the 1936 R5,” Roland tells us. “We wanted to draw from the classic, beautiful lines of the early BMW machines. They really had a very clean, chopped look that I think is tough to duplicate with a new machine.”
“Luckily the nineT is a pretty simple machine to cut up.”
And cut up it is: there’s nothing left out back, save for a svelte new subframe and a solo perch. The seat itself is custom-made—reminiscent of the Denfeld units of old, and upholstered by Bitchin’ Rich.
RSD usually handle all their fabrication in-house—and have done so for almost ten years. But a slammed schedule, and a specific concept, sparked a fresh collaboration.
“I wanted to do a crazy framework around the fenders,” Roland tells us, “and had been talking to Cristian Sosa at Sosa Metal Works, as he specializes in that type of work. Cristian is an amazing fabricator and solid human being, and we were very busy, so it was a great time to do something different.”
“We brought in Cristian and spent a few days building a framework that reshaped the machine into the R5 shape. This proved to be a challenging task for me personally because I’m used to having my hands on things—and that wasn’t the case with this bike when it was gone.”
Clearly Roland had no reason to worry: “When we got the bike back the work was really beautiful.”
The only point of contention was the fuel tank. It was a bit larger than expected, so RSD fabricator Aaron Boss trimmed it down—while keeping it true to Cristian’s shape. He added a pair of sight glass windows at the same time; an idea that RSD had wanted to try.
Naturally, there’s a sprinkling of RSD R nineT parts in play too. Everything from the valve covers, to the headlight and dash bezels, grips and controls are company items. There’s a new gas cap from Bung King too. A number of stock parts have been retained—but coated black.
Specialized Powdercoating handled all the coating work, while Chris Wood at Airtrix shot the bike in a ultra-vintage black and silver scheme. Tom Clark handled the hand lettering for the ‘pedestrian splitter’ on the front fairing.
It’s a gorgeous motorcycle, but it’s way more than just a styling exercise. Roland’s background is in racing—and it shows.
For starters, specialists GP Suspension rebuilt the front forks. They’re now packing a cartridge kit, black powder-coated tubes and black DLC (diamond-like coating) stanchions. There’s a blacked-out Öhlins shock out back too.
The wheels are RSD Hutch units, with the front getting a size bump, from the stock 17” to 19”. Along with the bigger wheel, RSD fitted their own brand discs, new Brembo Monobloc calipers, and Spiegler lines. Dunlop supplied the tires: a D208F up front, and a Q3 out back.
“The suspension on this bike is a few notches above the stock bike,” says Roland, “even with the slightly larger front wheel. I like the fact that the silhouette echoes the R5, but has sticky tires and aggressive suspension and brakes. It’s what customizing today is really about for us.”
RSD also built a new, stainless steel, two-into-one-into-two exhaust system, capped off with their new Track mufflers. RSD velocity stacks do duty in place of the original air box.
“When we build a one-off exhaust and intake for custom bikes it can take some tweaking to get them to run right. Not quite sure why, but this is the fastest R nineT I’ve ridden to date— straight out of the shop with no tuning.”
RSD’s R nineT is about as perfect a modern classic as they come. It has all the performance you’d want from a contemporary machine, but wrapped in a timeless package.
“The performance was really a thing for me, to keep it all intact and to improve it,” says Roland. “I knew [BMW designer] Ola Stenegärd was working on a throwback concept bike for BMW, as we helped him with a few pieces.”
“To look at their bike and the inspiration and the outcome, which I loved, versus our bike and inspiration—coming from the same place but with a completely different outcome—is wild.”
“I think I always want to build something that echoes history, but when it’s a modern machine, the racer kid in me still takes over and wants to get his knee down on everything.”