For a period of time, when the rally was still known as the Paris-Dakar, some truly mad men kept pushing the envelope with prototype motorcycles that were simply insanely fast. But in those ultra-unforgiving environments, safety meant slowing things down and today the bike class limit is just 450cc. So for a man who loved the days of the big bikes, he craved a custom machine that paid tribute to the days when rulebooks were small and the horsepower was off the charts. So armed with a new KTM 1290 Super Adventure he headed for a place where dreams come, Roland Sands Design, and the team have delivered one devilishly good desert destroyer.

In the highly competitive adventure bike market, there really are no bad bikes, with all having their strengths and weaknesses and suiting different kinds of riders. The KTM is the wild beast of the bunch, and always renowned for its stonking horsepower, and now with the 2021 model, it delivers the features and finesse to have the Austrian at the top of the charts. But being a newly revised bike meant some challenges straight off the bat for the RSD team. “The bike sat for a bit as we did our research and tried to find parts. But this was during COVID and with a new bike it was ultra-hard to find off the shelf items to fit to the bike. So, we had to beg, borrow and beg some more to find the right stuff for the bike.”

The upside of this was the excitement of having a custom bike act as a test mule for many of the best aftermarket companies, who would otherwise have thrown their prototype parts at a stock machine. “The motivation for the project was to build the ultimate Paris Dakar big bike in memory of the times before 450s dominated the desert.”

So why not dive straight into the mega 1290cc v-twin that delivers so much fun. To help it survive the dirt, Rottweiler Performance supplied one of their stage 1 intake kits, which provides maximum airflow while delivering brilliant filtration.

The company also supplied their canister removal kit and their tuned velocity stacks have the engine breathing beautifully. Lowering the weight and delivering one hell of a bark, the exhaust is made up of Arrow titanium racing headers and the system finishes with an SC Project titanium muffler.

To unlock even more potential, the crew at 3 Bros Racing KTM tuned it all up and installed a tech upgrade that includes the Rally Pack, quick shifter +, motor slip regulation and hill hold control. All of which is kept alive with an Antigravity lithium battery and charging harness.

To adjust the focus of the bike from the road to an all-terrain machine, the wheel and tyre package came in for a major overhaul. Working with Dubya US and All Things Wheels, a full set was put together using Haan billet hubs, Excel Takasago rims, and oversized stainless steel spokes.

Part of this change was to bump the rear up an inch to 18, and then the rolling stock is finished off in Dunlop Rally Raid rubber. To tame tank slap and assist the trick factory suspension, Scott’s came to the party with one of their steering stabilisers that attaches via a custom RSD frame mount.

You can already see this is a build for those who love the latest tech and the braking system gets all of the coolest components. Assisted by Galfer, both front and rear get a set of full floating rotors that are clamped with sintered pads. Applying the pressure are calipers from Brembo, simply the best in the business, with the stunning Brembo GP4RX Nickel plated items looking as good as they function.

The controls for all of these goodies are ASV unbreakable levers that find a home on Pro Taper EVO bars. The pedals are billet too, a good choice for such unforgiving environments and the rear master cylinder features a protective cover too.

Time to get the looks right, and in-house fabricator Aaron Boss is one of the best in the business and jumped straight onto the task. His big goal was to make the rear panels appear to be the external fuel tanks of a Rally Raid bike, and hand fabricating the panels from aluminium gives an incredible finish. BRP hand guards add to the look and the KTM crash protection delivers in form and function. The fork guards and front fender are modified KTM pieces and then it was over to Airtrix to lay down the stunning paint and graphics package.

Long days blasting through terrible terrain requires a high-quality saddle and Seat Concepts took a stock item and reshaped the padding before covering it up with a mix of faux suede upper and carbon-styled reinforced sides.

Then it was time to raid the KTM power parts catalogue, with everything from a touring windshield, to a chain adjuster kit and every single piece of crash protection available bolted on. Finishing out the look is the Baja Designs Squadron auxiliary light kit, kind of important on a bike capable of 150mph, “The fear is real with this machine as it’s capable of doing just that on the dirty.” Giddy up!

[ Roland Sands Designs ]