Archive: Black Gold

RSD's lightweight heavy hitter

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

Looking at this 2014 Street Glide, I'm reminded of Marvel's hit blockbuster The Avengers. Not because the bike looks like anything in the movie but because of the extremely difficult balancing act Roland Sands faced in creating it. Writer/director Joss Whedon took the heroes of four other movie franchises, stayed true to them all, and not only managed to bring them together in a new film series that's his own flavor, but he was tremendously successful at it. I believe the same can be said of this motorcycle.

Years ago ex-racer-turned-designer-and-builder Roland Sands started RSD, bringing a mix of road racing, dirt bike, and cruiser aesthetics together in ways that were really fresh and exciting. We've seen all kinds of V-twin awesomeness come out of his Southern California shop, from bolt-on parts to finished race-inspired custom iron. What we haven't seen too much of are carbon fiber-laden RSD baggers.

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton

Until now. RSD knows how much a lot of us love ourselves some bagger. It's high time the shop got more involved, bringing Roland's unique style to Harley's luxury liners, just as he has with its other Big Twins and Sportsters. Product development motivated this build from day one. Roland Sands isn't the sort of guy who just slaps a few bolt-ons onto a project bike, though. He's a lot more ambitious than that. “We were looking for a different take on the bagger and wanted to build a high-performance version that was ultra clean with the right amount of detail work,” he told us. “We also wanted it to be something that a customer could build without breaking the bank or hurting the performance.”

Roland broke protocol from the get-go too. He doesn't usually start a project with a new bike, but here he made an exception. This beauty was once a stock 2014 model fresh off Westminster H-D's showroom floor. “We don’t normally start with a new bike, but we wanted to work with the newest version of the Street Glide to make sure what we were developing was going to fit on the new models,” Roland explained.

Once it was back at his shop, Roland faced the biggest hurdle of the whole build. Not fitting the new parts to it or cutting the frame neck for a ginormous 30-inch wheel—you know, the normal stuff customsmiths face on a bike lift. No, his dilemma was, well, more Roland than that: “Not stripping all the bodywork off it and putting a number plate on it was the tough part for me. We had the wheels and rolling gear on it with no bodywork, and it sat really bitchin' without the massive batwing fairing. I had to talk myself off the ledge a few times to make sure we kept it a Street Glide and a true touring bike. It’s always a challenge not to veer too far off the path an everyday customer could take to build his bike.”

Not that the rest of the project would be easy. Carbon fiber is a completely different animal from metal, involving all kinds of molds and resin just to make the stuff. In exchange for the really elaborate creating process, you get a strength-to-weight ratio that's unmatched—just ask any of the high-end car racers who've been using carbon fiber parts for years. The lightweight and durability offered by carbon fiber were just part of the balance Roland Sands sought to strike here, however. “This bike is really about the subtle details with the carbon fiber parts, the new Slant exhaust and elimination, and simplification of the dash with a standard style gas cap and carbon fiber cover,” he says. “This bike is really about that balance of performance and custom. We wanted to build a realistic and enjoyable bike while staying tuned in to what’s happening, so this bike represents what I think a real customer who rides his bike could do with mainly bolt-on parts.”

If you want to see what Roland's talking about, feast your eyes on the motor. While he kept the displacement down to the stock 103 inches the Twin Cam was born with, he optimized the shit out of those cubes by blending Zipper's head breathers, JIMS rockers, and a mess of Feuling cam-related guts, pushrods, and lifters. Not only is the motor sprinkled with RSD Black Ops covers, new entries in the RSD parts stable came out to play, too. “Our newest Blunt Radial air cleaner makes a debut on this bike,” Roland says. “It’s really small and lightweight while still maintaining a high performance flow. Like the airbox that inhales the oxygen, the pipes that exhale the spent gasses are low-weight as well. Their Vance & Hines true dual headers are mated to RSD's Slant carbon slip-ons.

There's a similar mixture throughout the motorcycle, nose to tail. RSD left just enough of it stock (rear fender, gas tank, saddlebags) to preserve the Street Glide image while lightening the load with some cool carbon fiber pieces (dash, teeny BMW S1000R front fender, RSD carbon fiber fairing, bag lids). Like The Avengers, it was a very ambitious project handled by a master craftsman who really knows his shit.

harley Street Glide

Black Gold

RSD's lightweight, heavy-hitting Street Glide

Words: Mark Masker Photos: Tim Sutton