Roland Sands Designs’ Roland Sands
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Rider: Travis Pastrana
Born into a family deeply engrained in the motorcycle community via his father's Performance Machine wheel manufacturer, it's no surprise that Roland Sands went and carved out a successful path of his own. The multi-talented racer, designer, and owner of the Roland Sands Design brand has been building and racing motorcycles since he was a kid and is also the keeper of more accolades and accomplishments in both custom motorcycles and professional road racing than can be squeezed into a two-page spread. His 1998 AMA 250GP championship highlights that professional racing career, but his talent in the design world brings him continued success off of the motorcycle as well.
Enter Travis Pastrana via Nitro Circus' recent Evel Live event that ran live on the History Channel, where TP199 recreated three famous leaps that almost killed legendary stuntman Evel Knievel. With the ultimate goal of paying homage to Knievel's legacy, Travis needed not only a look that struck a chord with both young and old viewers, but also a capable machine that was similar to the classic bikes that Evel jumped. The team at Nitro Circus reached out to Sands, who connected the dots and introduced them to the people at Indian and their Scout FTR750 flat track race model. The rest became history and Roland smiled as he described the success of everything: "Four and a half million people watched live. It was the biggest show that History has ever done. I think it was the biggest moment for motorcycling, maybe ever? Back when Evel jumped that was the biggest moment in motorcycling. Since then nothing has affected the public like that, and I think this did." We had to know more about the machine, and Roland was kind enough to break down some details for us.
V-Twin Flat Tracker: The FTR750's engine is a 750cc 120hp V-Twin. It's Indian's highest performance engine, but it's also designed and developed specifically for flat track racing. It's fast, and we didn't touch the engine outside of electronics and modifying the fuel system/ECU to work for the temperatures. S&S provided a different exhaust, which was a stainless steel two-into-one system. We were given a bunch of different maps from Indian, tried them out, and got it working really well with the fuel system and exhaust.
Controls, Fitment, Brakes, And Rollers: Travis is tall, so Saddlemen built a motocross-style seat and also raised the seat level up. He also wanted to jump it sitting down, Evel-style, and during every jump he was sitting in that seat! The bike is originally set up to be a flat tracker, so we designed and machined a custom set of foot controls for it. We installed different triple clamps that we got from S&S that were a lot stronger because the stock triple clamps just aren't designed for jumping, and the handlebars were Travis' bend. We installed a TT brake setup on the front of the bike, and the brakes are made by Brembo, front and rear. The wheels are the stock flat track wheels, and we actually build the wheels for the FTR that's for sale. They're race wheels, so they're really lightweight billet forged aluminum.
Keeping Cool: It was super hot in Las Vegas during the whole event, and the last jump he got spooked because the bike got up to around 250 degrees. It hadn't gotten that hot before then, but he had to ride it through the crowd and was idling the thing without much airflow. The radiator was stock, but we installed added electric fans to keep it cool. We also ran Evans coolant in the bike and had a leaf blower at the first jump to blow air through the radiator before he jumped to help keep it cool. It was such a cluster getting everyone over to Caesars Palace that the blower never made it over there, but the bike handled it and everything worked out.
Suspension: Jimmy Wood and Race Tech did all the suspension work, and he really crushed it. The fork was made by Ă–hlins and tuned by Race Tech, while the shock was built by Race Tech, and we started by setting it up where we thought it should be. Travis went out, test jumped the bike, and he bottomed it out a couple times, metal to metal in the shock, and bent two different swing arms. It wasn't like the bike was going to fail, but we saw stuff move. After that, we got the suspension where it needed to be, and both the fork and the shock were super stiff, to say the least.
Teamwork: Cameron Brewer busted his ass during this build and did all the heavy lifting on the project. He made sure the bikes were where they needed to be, drove the van around and race-prepped all the bikes, and got everything organized. His normal role here at Roland Sands Design is project manager, and he also runs our Super Hooligan team and helps out all the racers. He helps out on all of our bike builds, keeps everything organized, and he's just epic.
Recreating The Look: Chris Wood at Airtrix did the custom paint on the bike and also on the helmet. The paint was definitely inspired by George Sedlak, Evel Knievel's original painter. We used our Clash jacket made custom in white, custom white leather pants, and gave it all the classic Evel Knievel look. The boots were custom made by Bates, and Bell provided the helmet, which was a Star auto-racing helmet. I designed it all right here in my office with Dave Mateus from Nitro Circus and sent it out to get made. When Travis put everything on we were all like, "He looks like a hero!"