Roland Sands was my hero growing up. I started building and riding my first bike on the street (legally) around the time he first became famous... well, in the bike building world at least. He had success in racing, first running amateur events in his teens and riding away with the AMA 250GP National Championship in 1998. He grew up sweeping floors in his family’s shop, Performance Machine, which is a manufacturer of high quality go-fast and stop-quick parts for cruisers. He made his way up the rungs until he was designing parts at Performance Machine and winning awards like the Chip Foose Design of Excellence in 2004.
When I was 16, I was aspiring to find a role model in the motorcycle world that wasn’t my dad—Roland Sands was the cool guy I wanted to be.
Around the same time, the Biker Build-Off series started. I'd play pretend in the back of my dad’s motorcycle shop, welding up cut-off pieces of exhaust pipe (the "bending mistakes" of others). High school classes during the day and sweeping floors at his shop in the evening, in order to pay for my first swap-meet engine.
Amongst the crowd of overweight, burnt out, ready-for-their-own reality show custom bike builders, Roland stood shortest in line. He first competed against long-time builder Arlen Ness—one was a rich kid with a utility belt and the other was considered a god amongst mortals in the motorcycling world.
I remember the posters and imagery surrounding the new reality series. Despite his height, Roland stood there with a sense of confidence that arose past the competitors and exceeded their cloud of arrogance.
This was the era of fat tires, long backbones, and big inches. While other builders repeatedly built the same damn thing—just with different wheels and a different color—calling it their “style,” Roland’s bikes were harder to spot. He, while admittingly was still building somewhat into the trend, remained to have some of his own uniqueness he still carries today, despite the changing fads. His bikes are light weight, skinny and fast—three things that don’t fade with time, at least I hope not.
Luckily, his shop has not been destroyed by the economy, like so many others, but his place has grown into an empire. A smart business man, Roland has taken his name and made it into a brand.
Immediately following the success of the biker Build-Off series, Roland took off on his own, opening Roland Sands Designs, RSD.
We had the opportunity recently to check out his new headquarters in Los Alamitos, CA. A two-story building, that houses a retail store up front, offices in the top, an area for CAD designing new parts and the gigantic shop in the back. Above the shop, is the Yard, a place where Roland keeps a bunch of significant bikes that mean something to him. Like the world's fastest Victory along with some of his first custom builds.
With designated areas for clothing design, building bikes, CAD designing new parts and a place for selling merchandise, this is where the king rules his empire and we got a personal tour, enjoy:
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