Roland Sands Desmo Tracker Begins to Take Form

07/08/2011 @ 8:13 am, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

We’ve had our fair share of controversial articles here on Asphalt & Rubber, with some posts dealing with hot-button topics, while others were designed to stir the pot a bit. Usually though we know what sort of trouble we’re getting ourselves into, even before the first comment is left by a reader, but no article caught us by surprise more than our initial coverage of Roland Sands’s latest custom project: the RSD Desmo Tracker. A flat track bike with a Desmosedici RR heart, there’s something about taking the MotoGP replica and turning it into a steel-shoe racer that elicits a very visceral response from Ducatisti and flat trackers alike.

Maybe it’s because those two parts of the motorcycle world are just that far apart — one is reserved for dentists having a mid-life crisis, and the other for back-woods hillbillies that can only turn left. Maybe it’s because people think that if you own a $40,000 Desmosedici RR, the last thing you should be doing with the machine is making it something else. There’s no doubt that Desmo is the sort of thing little boys put posters of on their bedroom wall, so does tampering with Bologna’s GP opus change that childhood fantasy?

We could delve into this topic further, but I doubt we’d get very far in the conversation. I will say this though, just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a bike by its build progress. That being said, this post is one of those articles that we see trouble brewing a mile away. A friendly reminder: the comments section is below, near the bottom of the page.

Source: Roland Sands Design (blog)

  • It doesn’t matter what the doner was, that thing is just plain ugly, but it is a great sadness that it was orginally a beautiful function machine. It has been degrader to something that looks like its only use is a short run to posing spot as it sure isn’t a riders machine. If thats the case the only question I have is who’d want to pose on such an ugly thing?

  • Was quite looking forward to seeing this bike, was an interesting and brave project, but so far it looks like complete sh!te. The tail looks like a wizards hat and the whole thing just looks a mess. I’m sure it will turn out a lot better than it looks so far, but man, he has a long way to go.

  • Uberbox

    Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This is a bit like taking an Enzo Ferrari, throwing away all the body and most of the suspension and making the remaining bits look like a street legal NASCAR.

  • Will

    More money than brains club

  • i say this is pretty cool.

  • Erica P

    I agree with John. ^^

  • joe

    dogshit, waste, and didn’t Rooke already do this with an actual gp powerplant?

  • ohio

    I think it’s awesome. I would be sad if this happed to every D16, but if someone wants to experiment and push the limits with one of them, on his dime… fantastic. Especially to make a flat-tracker – the greatest genre of motorcycle, ever. Can’t wait to see the result.

  • TRL

    Maybe its because his “designs” (and I use that term in the loosest possible way) are ugly (imho) and he takes great bikes and turns them into mediocre (and I am using this term in the most generous possible way) handling bikes (according to some who have ridden them…). Meh, it’s just the same old H-D thing, this too will run its course and fade away, but I look at it this way, beautiful is only beautiful when you have ugly to compare it to, so be sure to thank him for the ugly.

  • Other Sean

    If anybody sees this thing finished and some tasteless fool posing by it, just walk up and punch him in the face as hard as you can. Have a buddy record it on video. Youtube gold!

  • I’ve been building streetbikes that resemble flattrackers for more than 25 years.
    There is something visceral and basic to the character of this form of motorcycle.
    I had my 650 Desmo flattracker knocked over and spit on at the LagunaGP in the 90’s
    People would leave threatening notes of derision on it wherever I went.
    Sandy Kosmann and King Kenny both expressed admiration for it at various times.
    Retentive Ducatisti will just have to live with their rage and shock, boo hoo.

  • Gabe

    The attention paid by the websites (a&r, hfl and others) to every throwaway sketch by any famous designer only encourages this sort of abomination. I cringe at the amount of props given to Oberdan Bezzi, RSD, and pretty much everyone who will excrete whatever design onto a sketchpad just for the sake of doing something different.

  • TRL

    Now that I think about it, flattrackers only go in one direction…right? Maybe the OTHER side is the good side…..

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  • Brad

    Mr. Beeler,
    I must say that I take exception to your article.
    “Maybe it’s because those two parts of the motorcycle world are just that far apart — one is reserved for dentists having a mid-life crisis, and the other for back-woods hillbillies that can only turn left. ”
    Really? As a life-long dirt tracker (who also happens to be a teacher with a Masters degree) I find this bit of hyperbole to be extremely offensive. Ever heard of guys like Kenny Roberts? Wayne Rainey? Freddie Spencer? Doug Chandler? .. all started out racing dirt track. They seemed to turn right as well as left just fine. I also happen to have a number of professional friends (dentists included..) that would take offense to your character assassination.
    If you’re not aware, Ducatis are currently being run in the AMA Flat Track series…with success. In fact, Joe Kopp won a National Main Event last season on a modified HyperMotard, and Brad Baker was fast qualifier at the Springfield Mile.
    As for the artistic merits of Roland’s newest creation, I am impressed. I have always thought Dirt-trackers and their street-tracker cousins were the coolest, sexiest bikes out there. No frills, just bare-bones bad-ass bikes. The Desmo Tracker definitely fits this bill.

  • adam

    “lighten up Francis…” (i mean, Brad)

  • Gray


    As a teacher with a Masters degree, don’t you think you should be able to pick up on sarcastic journalism when it smacks you across the face? Mr. Beeler doesn’t honestly think that the Desmo RR is reserved for dentists having a mid-life crises, nor does he think that all flat-trackers are hillbillies with no ability to point their machines in any direction but straight then left.

    Anybody that follows road racing with more than a passing interest knows and understands that dirt riders are more than competent and have every ability to compete in paved if they so choose. Don’t be so quick to burn the witch (wizard?) and think about the context in which the quote was made. Journalism doesn’t have to be boring and dry (especially when it comes to the greatest machines on Earth), and Mr. Beeler knows this.

    So please… just chill.

  • hoyt

    Brad has great points adam & it didn’t come across as uptight at all, especially compared to every single comment above that disapproves of this build. “lighten up?” The irony in that is hysterical.

    The desmosedici wasn’t the holy grail in its stock aesthetic anyway. Very cool gear-driven cam engine, so I’m all for seeing people do different shit with it.

    Add the Hayden family to the dirt track list.
    Doesn’t the dude that commissioned this build already own a Desmosedici? If so, good for him.

  • Richard Gozinya

    I love it, and would be thrilled if this caught on. It’s a wonderful sort of sacrilege to mutilate a Desmo, or any other thoroughbred sport machine for that matter. I hope it gets finished in brown primer, if any paint must be used at all. Make it ugly as hell, just because.

    Reminds me of the sacrilege committed against the S1000RR.

  • 76

    Not getting into the whole if you should or not, thats for whoever is paying the bill to decide really. As for where its at in current form, I have to say its looking alittle premature at this point. Sometimes there are growing pains during something like this, hopefully this is exactly that. Roland needs to ditch that tail, what in the hell is tracker about that shriveled elf shoe looking thing. Maybe it dosent need a tracker DNA style tail, something very different, sure, just not that thing. Also if it where me I would pull the leading edge of the front side cowl back about an inch and a half maybe 2

    Dont get me wrong Roland Sands has done some really badass bikes and I give him all the credit in the world for what he has done and continues too, good luck with the rest and hopefully the tail matures a bit.

  • Day

    Roland did something similar in the past, a board tracker using Kenny Roberts engine (KRV5).

    That bike was very well put together and looked great. This in the other hand is just plain ugly. I usually like his projects so I don’t have a bias against him

  • Hey! At least she got a headlight… It’s the best I can say about by the moment.

  • Sam

    200 horsepower, 150(?) section rear tire, no front brake.

    oh goodie….

  • Mike J

    Some of you guys are soooo boring!

    So what if the Desmosedici RR is an expensive, exclusive piece of thoroughbred Italian exotica? So what if you don’t like the style or think it looks poorly executed (which, at the moment, it surely does)? So what if it’s being built by a professional custom house, rather than by a bloke in a garden shed – which is the way customised and modified motorcycles should be born. Variety is the spice of life!

    Its not even as if there’s a shortage of Desmosedici RRs. Whenever I see one it’s usually accompanied by 20 more identical ones all lined up next to one another at a specially arranged exclusive Ducati track day… Yawn! Most of them live in rich men’s garages never to turn a wheel from one year to the next.

    So I say go ahead Mr Sands butcher away! Bring us something different, even if its and functional and aesthetic disaster. In her biography of Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall coined the phrase “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” and on this subject I’d like to paraphrase that excellent sentiment by saying to all creative motorcycle builders and modifiers out there, “I may disapprove of the bikes you build, but I will defend to the death your right build them… as long as you don’t work for Orange County Choppers.”

  • hoyt

    The rear wheel is too flowery for any bike, especially a dirt track bike. It is still early, but I agree with the tail section. With a dirt track race bike, make it easier on yourself by emphasizing what is not there by not doing much at all.

  • Brad

    @Hoyt, Thank you. You got it. That was the point of my original point exactly!
    Ducs are amazing bikes. I’ve had the opportunity to ride them on the street as well as do a track day at Willow Springs on one. (Damn difficult to ride, however..) My wife even surprised me with a trip to the Factory in Bologna while on our honeymoon. So, I get the Ducatisti’s reaction to the vivisection of one of their steeds. On the other hand…Dude…It’s still just a motorcycle! People have put their own stamp on bikes, since there were bikes. Roland happens to be an accomplished artist with a view that doesnt always conform to the status quo….but they sure look cool. What separates Roland from the OCC buffoons is that his artistry has a racer’s soul.

    Also, how could I have forgotten Nicky! I guess I’m showing my age.

  • Ward

    My 2 cents: what happened to the donor bike ? If its wasted, then sands can do whtever he likes with the engine. Rearend of that thing is cool, its the borg face i dont like.

  • Ian

    Regardless of the donor (it’s not like there are only 2 desmos in the world, one wasted isn’t the end of the world) it’s just plain bad. Wheelbase is too long, tail is disjointed and looks weak, rad cowl has no visual reference to anything else on the bike, single spot in a square ‘numberboard’ is THE street legal tracker cliche… don’t get me started.

    Just another example of why I cringe everytime RS calls himself a ‘designer’. Nothing more than a custom builder with good connections. “Its not what you know, but who you know” as they say.

  • CBR600RR

    $40,000? In Australia they are $150,000….

  • Jeram

    @ Gabe

    very good point.

    I think there are many better bike builders out there who are trying to get exposure but are blocked out of their deserved attention by attention seeking stunts like this.

    I think its time to fire up the mower and cut down the Tall Poppies.

  • Troutbucketq

    How boring would the world be if every bike out there stayed stock? No bike fits every owner’s needs and if this guy thinks it’s worthwhile, how is that hurting anyone here? If you want a stock version go buy the one that’s on ebay right now, there are always a few out there.

    Overall I’m a fan of RS’s work, but that being said, I’m not big on the styling so far and the first time someone tries to put 200+ hp through that swingarm it’s going to turn into a beautifully welded pretzel. At least it’d be fun to watch!

  • The craftsmanship and creativity of Roland and Co. is entertaining to follow; especially in this build. He’s got a great track record of good lookin’ bikes…in our opinion.

    The article is borderline troll feed, no? Not saying it’s bad. Maybe the irritated folks above are among the vocal minority? If the ‘most-of-the-time silent majority’ is like us, there’s a lotta folks looking forward to Roland firing this work of art up and letting it eat (something not so common in the custom builder realm).

  • joe

    that static display will never see a flat track, and from where i sit a track day cedici is more a work of art

  • Clay

    The owner has 3 D16s, that means he can ride 1, store no.2 in the living room forever, and build no.3 into whatever he wants and still have loads of spares for incase he drops no.1.

    Lucky guy!