BMW made us wait for almost a full year before finally unveiling the R 18, its first power cruiser equipped with a massive 1,802cc flat twin, BMW’s biggest boxer engine yet. While the House of Munich’s motorcycle division was busy developing the bike, we got to learn quite a few things about it before its launch.
We notably spotted test mules out for a ride on several occasions a few months before the model’s launch that suggested we’d get more than one version built on the R 18’s platform. In April, 2020, BMW introduced the “standard” R 18 alongside the First Edition to celebrate the launch. As we suspected, however, BMW wasn’t done and while this isn’t the fully-faired R 18 touring we’re expecting (we’re watching you, BMW), it’s a different, creative take on the bike. Except this isn’t a German design; it's an American one.
If you’re remotely interested in motorcycle customisation, chances are the name Roland Sands will ring a bell. The eponymous design and gear company was created in 2005 by retired motorcycle racer Roland Sands (duh) who traded his leathers for a pen and paper. Over the past 15 years, the name has become a synonym for stylish designs both in bespoke bikes and in gear.
For his latest creation, Sands teamed up with BMW to come up with a buff new R 18 design, dubbed the Dragster. To give the bike those additional biceps, the American designer swapped the handlebar with clip-ons and grafted a fork from the R nineT which also increased the rake angle which resulted in a sportier stance. The team completely modified the frame and removed the rear suspension since you don’t need any back support (and extra weight) when you’re racing down the drag strip, complete with a pair of fully bespoke fenders to fit the new frame.
The brake hardware comes from the S 1000 RR while the seat, hydraulic front brake, and clutch master cylinders are all Sands’ design. The foot pegs are kicked all the way to the back, attached below the rear wheel hub, forcing the rider to lie down on the bike for extra aerodynamics. Finally, the dual “swoopy” muffler design was replaced with two stainless steel megaphones. Just in case the giant boxer didn’t sound beefy enough, those new exhaust tips took things to the next level. Watch the video when they put the bike on the drag strip, it’s worth it.
The result is this drag-ready blue beast ready to dominate the quarter-mile and rattle the walls like it’s about to bring the house down.
For the occasion and to highlight the partnership, Roland Sands’ team also came up with two collections of aftermarket parts. While the R 18 Dragster is a one-off—we won’t see this one roll off the production lines—owners of the R 18 will be able to give their bike the Roland Sands treatment thanks to the Milled and 2-Tone-Black accessories.