The motorcycle world is similar-ish to the car and truck one, but it operates under its own rules. Custom builders in the car world definitely have clout, but there is something different about custom builders in the moto world. Custom cars tend to exist in their own enthusiast corners, usually disassociated with the major manufacturers. If they are talented enough and their work speaks to enough people, custom bike builders can affect consumers’ tastes and ultimately the production of bikes from major manufacturers, like the BMW Urban GS, for example. Roland Sands is one such builder who tends to take stock bikes like the KTM 790 and make them into what the manufacturer should have done in the first place.
The Roland Sands Urban Assault KTM 790 Adventure
As seen on ADV Pulse, ex-racer turned badass motorcycle builder Roland Sands has done it again. Roland and his team recently overhauled (putting it lightly) a friend’s 2019 KTM 790 adventure, from the trademark orange and black, upright, one-of-in-a-million adventure bike and created a matte-green, low-slung, dual-sport inspired by vintage dirt runners that is ultimately the bike the KTM 790 should have always been.
Although this newly re-forged urban assault bike is nearly unrecognizable as a KTM 790, Roland and his team didn’t touch any of the mechanics that make this the modern trail legend it is.
It must be nice to be Roland Sands’ friend
Roland’s friend and commissioner of the bike said he wanted something less angular and aggressive than the stock look of the KTM. Roland decided to soften the bike by taking away the barrel-chestedness of the KTM by rotating the radiator to give it a thinner line. Since the radiator has been hidden, the stock skid plate also needed to be toned down to fit the new sleek aesthetic.
It’s all about the front end
The front forks are the unsung hero of most great-looking bikes; well, I plan to sing it loud here. Roland and his team clearly agree, as the front end of this bike is glorious. The front fenders were sourced from a vintage KTM to give it more of a vintage dual-sport look with the long arched nose instead of the sharp beak of the stock bike.
The stock WP forks sport RSD custom, bobby socks-style steel fork guards. The 790’s distinctive twin headlamps, windshield, and cowling were all replaced by an unassuming round single lamp borrowed from a Triumph and finished with a custom steel cage, transforming the bike altogether.
The ProTaper EVO High Bend handlebars follow suit with more of that low-slung but still dirtbike-ish upright riding position. The bars form a perfect line down to the vintage-looking tank that RSD just had hanging around the shop from a previous project. Although the tank was sitting around, modifying it to fit the bike was one of the hardest parts for the RSD build team. A series of plates had to be welded underneath to make the Suzuki tank mount correctly.
The KTM did lose much functionality
Roland Sands is a master of creating beautiful bikes, but so are lots of builders. What Roland does that few else can do as well is making these incredible-looking bikes still super capable. These bikes are made to be used.
The smaller tank means that this custom KTM 790 can hold about a gallon and a half less fuel than the larger stock tank. Knowing that fuel is a major part of the adventure riding world, RSD added a gallon auxiliary fuel tank on the rear subframe. It all works together to avoid bulkiness by integrating the auxiliary fuel tank, turning the radiator, and using the slim seat from the Husqvarna Vitpilen.
As ADV reminds us, although Sands is most famous for his cafe, cruiser, and flat track bikes, he is not new to the adventure bike world. In fact, my favorite bike of all time might be his Dakar GS that he built out of a 2018 BMW RnineT Urban GS. The point is, the dude is such an accomplished rider that whatever he builds will not only look incredible but will work better for its intended purpose than the factory version. He is a true master of his craft. This is yet another example of how masterful he really is.