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ADV NewsRSD Dakar GS: BMW R1200GS Build Pays Homage To A Rally Legend

RSD Dakar GS: BMW R1200GS Build Pays Homage To A Rally Legend

BMW R1200GS captures essence of 80s Dakar winner in a modern platform.

Published on 09.23.2020

Roland Sands is known for his killer custom builds on a variety of bike styles, including adventure bikes. Remember that time he took an Africa Twin and turned it into the coolest police bike on the block? Well, Roland and his design and fabrication team are at it again with this transformation of a stock 2008 R1200GS. Its owner had had in mind some mods that would increase the bike’s off-road capabilities and was no doubt pleased when he went home with a bike that both looks and performs as if ready to take on the most grueling challenge in the history of off-road rallies, the original Paris-Dakar.

The idea to go race-ready came naturally for retired 250GP rider turned bike builder, Roland Sands, who drew inspiration from an especially memorable R80GS built by racing specialist HPN-Motorradtechnik and piloted in the 1986 Paris-Dakar by two-time rally winner Gaston Rahier. 

A true hybrid, RSD’s “Dakar GS” replaces the original front suspension with oversized 45mm telescopic fork legs (upgraded with an Ohlins cartridge kit) from Honda’s Africa Twin to more closely replicate the eighties-era front end without compromising modern performance. 

A true hybrid, the GS’s telelever front suspension was replaced with a set of oversized 45mm legs from a Honda Africa Twin. To do so, the entire front half was swapped out for a BMW R nineT frame. After some tweaks, the geometry was almost identical to BMW’s HP2 Enduro.

This modification turned out to be the most complicated due to the nature of BMW’s unique telelever front suspension design, which wouldn’t accept the replacement legs through the stock triple clamps. In the end, the team’s solution was to swap the front half of the stock GS’s frame with one from a 2018 BMW R nineT. This required RSD’s in-house fabrication guru, Aaron Boss, to replicate the Africa Twin’s triple clamps to fit the R nineT frame. Interestingly, the finished configuration created a geometry that’s nearly identical to BMW’s off-road-focused HP2 Enduro. A stock Ohlins shock manages rear travel. 

The Dakar GS sports 21″/18″ custom spoked wheels from Dubya shod with Dunlop’s D908RR Rally Raid tires. 
Lighting the way are two Baja Designs XL Pro LED headlamps housed in a rally-style fairing hand fabricated by RSD. 


Also pinched from the R nineT is the bike’s oil cooler, shielded from roost by a custom RSD plate, while the custom fork assembly is protected by AltRider guards. Touratech is the maker of the bike’s aluminum skid plate and its engine crash rails are from SW Motech.   

Oversized spoked custom wheels are from Dubya USA, the front a 21-inch Excel Takasago that rotates on the company’s Talon CRF1000L billet hub, while the rear 18-inch Excel Takasago turns on a Kite R1200GS billet hub. The awesome looking wheel set is shod with Dunlop’s D908RR Rally Raid tires. 

The bike was fitted with an Akrapovic exhaust system. A R80/100 GS Rear Fender & LED taillight completes the look in the back, complimented with Gaston Rahier’s race number.

The aesthetic highlight of the Dakar GS is no doubt the original 1986 R80 GS Paris-Dakar fuel tank, which was modified by RSD to work with the R1200GS fuel injection system. 

The Dakar GS’s subframe is from the original 2008 bike save minor fabrication work to accept 1980’s-era GS front and rear fenders, custom Saddlemen seat and retro survival box. The original bike’s sponsor, Phillip Morris’s red and white trademark Marlboro paint scheme and livery was recreated by Airtrix and really makes the bike pop. Other on-point touches include the two-tone power coating of the frame, full Akrapovich exhaust and Baja Designs XL Pro LED headlamp housed in a rally-style fairing hand fabricated by RSD. 

The tank is off a BMW R80 GS Paris Dakar model, modified and retrofitted with the modern GS EFI electronics. A Scotts steering stabilizer compliments the ProTaper Evo bars.

The view from the cockpit is likewise old school 80s with ProTaper Evo bars and AEM Factory Titanium/carbon fiber brake and clutch levers and a Raceco custom rally tower. Only instead of the manual roll chart there is a Lowrance Elite-5 Ti GPS.

Roland Sand’s in-house team is responsible for many of the beautiful finishing touches including the hand machined aluminum valve covers, radial breast plate, custom throttle body guards, billet triple clamps and swingarm pivot and rear drive plugs.

Roland Sands tells us this bike is entirely reproducible, “for the right customer at the right price” a.k.a. a large bag of money. For the rest of us RSD released a limited edition “capsule” of swag related to the Marlboro-sponsored GS which includes a cotton bag, t-shirt, waterproof jacket, snapback hat, metal rolling tray, Bic lighter and signed authenticity card.

The best thing about this custom GS, which took home the “Euro Alright” award at the One Moto Show in Portland just before the pandemic shuttered the show circuit, is how it encapsulates the rugged spirit of the original Paris-Dakar rally. Riding 15,000 kilometers over three weeks through truly dangerous, uncontrolled landscapes was no joke. It required not only skill, but real bravery to arrive in Dakar, Africa, in one piece.

It required a helluva cool bike, too. 

For more information go to

RSD Dakar GS Features

  • Paint by Airtrix
  • Two-color powdercoated frame by Specialized Coatings
  • BMW R80 GS Paris Dakar model NOS Gas Tank modified by RSD for fuel injected R1200GS
  • R100GS Front Fender
  • R80/100 GS Rear Fender & LED taillight
  • RSD custom aluminum valve cover guards
  • RSD custom throttlebody guards
  • Raceco custom headlight rack/rally tower
  • Fairing by RSD
  • Baja designs XL Pro LED healdights
  • Africa Twin CRF1000L Forks w/ Ohlins cartridge kit
  • RSD custom billet triple clamps
  • BRP bar mounts
  • Scotts steering stabilizer
  • ProTaper Evo handlebars
  • Cycra handguards
  • Lowrance Elite-5 Ti GPS
  • AEM Factory titanium/carbon fiber brake & clutch
  • Master cylinder reservoirs
  • Ohlins rear shock
  • Hammerhead billet footpegs, forged shifter & brake pedal
  • Akrapovic Full Exhaust
  • K&N air filters
  • Touratech aluminum skidplate
  • SW Motech Rally Low Crashbars
  • Altrider Fork guards
  • Dubya custom wheels: Front – Excel Takasago 21×2.15” rim / Talon CRF1000L billet hub   oversized stainless spokes
  •  Rear – Excel Takasago 18×3.5” rim / Kite R1200GS billet hub   oversized stainless spokes
  • Dunlop D908RR Rally Raid tires: Front – 90/90-21   Rear – 140/80-18
  • Saddlemen Custom Seat
  • RSD Radial Breast Plate
  • BMW R nineT oil cooler w/ RSD guard
  • RSD Swingarm pivot & rear drive plugs

Photos by Jose Gallina

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge

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peter carter
peter carter
September 23, 2020 6:13 pm

What a beautiful looking bike would be easy to park one in my garage when I win lotto

September 25, 2020 3:04 am

This looks amazing! Personally i’d swap the headlights with a big round one and get rid of the tasteless silencer immediately, but this should be in the BMW line-up!
If i was wealthy and motorbikes were my hobby, this bike would be mine!


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