Roland Sands On The BMW Concept Ninety

Hell For Leather, HFL -



The BMW Concept Ninety — a modern intrepration of the original R90S — dropped jaws when it debuted at Villa d’Este last week. We caught up with Roland Sands, who built the bike for BMW and talked about what that was like.

RideApart: How’d RSD end up building a BMW concept bike?

Roland Sands: I met Ola from BMW Motorrad like 5 years ago. We hit it off and have always wanted to do a project together. When this one came around at BMW, he and Eddie had me in mind to make it happen. It was also a bike they wanted to be a runner and traditionally the concepts are mainly clay models, so it made sense for us to build it as we could get it built and running in a short amount of time. They also wanted the motor detailed out and that’s kind of my specialty.

RA: What was the design brief?

Roland: BMW had a direction for sure, and we worked as a team to get to what we wanted the final design to be. It was up to us to figure out all the connecting details to make it all work, but again we worked hand in hand with BMW and primarily Ola Stengard, who’s a really great guy. It was our relationship that made the project happen as quickly and correctly as it did.

RA: What was the design process like? Did you just pitch a sketch and then execute it, or was it more collaborative with BMW design?

Roland: BMW came with their initial sketches, we talked and gave our ideas and they continued to work through sketches and finally came up with something we all really liked. It was collaborative from start to finish which was really a great way to do it. Throughout the build I was daily on the phone with Ola in Germany passing back new sketches and solutions for every design detail. I think sometimes that could be a nightmare, but with the team we had it was seamless working from US to Germany. We both had our phones on at 2am. I was primarily responsible for all the billet goodies and everything under the body.

RA: What can you say about future plans for this bike?

Roland: I can’t say. It’s really up to BMW, but I see them moving in some really fun new directions.

RA: How’s it ride?

Roland: I dig it. It just feels right when you sit on it. Plenty of torque and the power is linear like a Boxer is supposed to be. It turns in nice and precise, stays on line. The tires are obviously sticky. Brakes work really well and the suspension, although not race tuned, is a great starting point. Geometry is really nice and it steers light without any headshake. Given some time to dial it in I think it would be a really fun track bike. I drug a foot peg, but not the heads so that was a plus.

RA: Can you tell us about the helmet in those photos?

Roland: That is a Bell Auto racing helmet. Skratch and I laid it out and painted it the night we finished the bike. They day before the final photo shoot. The paint still wasn’t dry in the photos.

RA: What was the biggest challenge in designing/building this thing?

Roland: Not being in total control of the design was a new experience, but it ended up not being not an issue because I really agreed with where we were going with the bike from the beginning. On the build side, I would say the biggest challenge was getting 20 billet machined products including wheels and master cylinders reverse engineered, designed and machined in 2 months.

RA: What does the Ninety achieve that other modern bikes don’t?

Roland: I hope it’s biggest achievement is that it gets BMW to push for more stylistic consumer bikes, which I think it will judging from the response. A solid traditional design that draws inspiration and brings attention to a bike like the original R90S is something that is needed for BMW as it’s so important for consumers to get some knowledge about where a lot of what they are riding today came from.

First bike with a fairing…that’s kind of a big deal. BMW brought a lot of firsts to our industry, telescopic fork, dual disc brakes, the list goes on. So it’s good to educate people to those facts. I think it also marks a return to traditional inspiration which in BMW’s case is a really good thing.

RA: It looks heinously uncomfortable. Flight of fancy or a realistic rider?

Roland: Looks can be deceiving Wes. Just look in the mirror…you’re much nicer than you look, sweetheart.

It’s actually comfortable for a Sportbike, Feels close to the S1000RR. That said, it’s no touring bike. I just got off a R1200, wow. That’s a comfortable bike that actually works really well. Rode the 1600 also, sounds like an Enzo.

RA: What was reception at Villa d’Este like?

Roland: For an auto event I think it got more than its share of attention. Dude’s were like.. fuck yea bro! That thing is hella sweet!! [REDACTED] But they said it in Italian so it sounded totally different. Don’t print that.

  • TP

    Is anyone else tired of hipster fashionable bikes that are designed to look good only without a rider on them and look stupid with low screens and tiny seats when our fat asses actually sit on them a f*ck up the proportions?

    Only me? *crickets*

    Okay :(

    • Richard Gozinya

      This is a one off concept, why would you expect it to be built for you? If customs are seeming too hipster or whatever, and it upsets you that much, build one that suits your tastes better.

      The more I see this bike, the more potential it seems to have. Kind of reminds me of the V11 LeMans. Just more sport oriented. Huh, maybe a more stylish MGS-01 Corsa, that also happens to be street legal?

      • TP

        Maybe I will.

        No its definitely a very nice looking bike, and proportions like that are certainly whats trending right now.

        Its just that, to me, motorcycles that are optimized to look good in pictures on blogs (rather than wrought to be in their element in the heat of the moment when actually being ridden) are missing that little something.

        GP bikes compared to production sportbikes have huge fairings and tail sections b/c of this effect.

        • Richard Gozinya

          Oh ok, that makes more sense. Form vs function is probably the hardest balance to achieve. Erik Buell was always horrible at it, in one direction, whereas the people who owned his company were horrible in the other. Nice thing is, there’s room for both extremes, and everything in between.

          • TP


            And also this bike serves a different purpose than say a production bike or racing bike, because its intent is to generate publicity and have the PR spread across the internet so it resonates with more than just motorcycle dudes, and making something that’s hip and shiny and retro-modern will accomplish that.

            So from that angle it has just as much form following function as any goofy looking Buell, just that it was nucleated with an entirely different purpose.

            But being burnt out and jaded from looking at too many of these types of bikes on bikeexif et al prompted the first comment.

    • stever

      the only thing fucking up the proportions there is that guy’s fat jeans.

  • Mugget

    A nice job if you can get it!

    Cool stuff. Would love to see more of the process and concept work.

  • Eric Shay

    why not make this out of the Hp2 sportbike? Or did BMW forget about that one the same as everyone else?

  • Markkit

    Not very different from a 2006 Ducati Paul Smart 1000LE. Not very new, or conceptual.

    • Richard Gozinya

      True, but on the other hand, how many ways are there to build a retro sportbike? For me though, the best bits of this bike, visually, are the engine parts, especially those cylinder heads, and the airbox eliminator. Things that were definitely not a part of Ducati’s Sportclassics.

      • Markkit

        There are many ways to design a retro sports bike in a new key. One way is in combining old and modern in new and unexpected ways. The C90 headlight and front fairing begins to explore such a design narrative, but the rest of the bike including the cylinder heads and the bodywork look more like aftermarket parts from a catalog and not very conceptual.

        With so much retro already around from Triumph, Harley, Guzzi and the big 3, designers already have a wealth of existing retro details that can be adopted, or adapted. I don’t consider such obvious appropriation conceptual.

        Besides the US cruiser market, the Japanese motorcycle market is also full of
        retro aftermarket parts that turn dinky 250cc bikes into high style
        street tracker designs more suitable for fashion conscious consumers.

        Retro is already a very well established and predictable motorcycle design style, to the point that should the Concept 90 make it to production, the Retro trend might already be over.

        In a nutshell this bike is not very conceptual as its name suggests.

        Its disappointing that the money spent on this project only resulted in the creation of dressed up replica and very little apparent design progress.

        As a conceptual project I think BMW could have pushed a bit harder to design something a bit more avant-garde, for example in a Retro-Futurism aesthetic.

        BMW have a good “retro” track record and they did very well with the BMW R 1200 Cruiser more than 15 years ago and that was a production model. But is the C90 how far retro design has come in 15 years?

        Maybe they should have held back on the “Concept” label and called it a RSD Project instead.

        Who knows it was probably a rushed project, or mainly a PR exercise to appeal to new consumers.

        Over and out.

        • Guzzto

          This is a stunning bike , I hope BMW roll this into production without changing too much. Perfect stance and Rolands blllet pieces take it to the next level. It just looks great. yes everyone compares it to the Duc classic range which peaked to soon to catch that next wave a ‘cafe’ madness. however this bike looks more together than the Duc classic and you know it’s got to be more reliable. I really truly hope BMW consider this for production, If so I may be buying my first ever “new” bike,

  • mid40s

    I love Roland’s stuff… but I like the concept sketch better… it’s more angled down in the front. The actual bike is more horizontal…. Maybe that was the idea, but I like the more aggressive look better.

  • dimidi

    First bike with a fairing… ???
    I doubt that

  • Markkit