It’s safe to say that the King of the Baggers race has gotten a lot of attention from motorcycle racing fans. Even from ones who previously wouldn’t have been interested in cruiser bikes. We recently chatted with the winner, Tyler O’Hara, who raced on an Indian Challenger prepped by S&S Cycle. But there was another Challenger there, tweaked by Roland Sands Design and ridden by Frankie Garcia. Frankie finished 3rd, but as we discovered, the results don’t tell nearly the full story.
Frankie Garcia races flat-track and is a bagger veteran, but he “didn’t know what to expect” for the race
Today, Frankie Garcia’s day job is in PR and athlete management at AC Systems, XGames reports. But he still finds time to race, something he’s been doing since the age of 4, he told me over the phone.
Like his dad, Frankie Garcia got his start in flat-track racing, Racer X reports. He then went on to compete in motocross and supermoto, becoming the youngest X-Games motorcycle racer, Road2Recovery reports. After that, he switched to road racing, and eventually found his way to the Daytona 200.
And while Frankie has a day job, he still competes in flat-track events. He briefly raced on a Ducati Scrambler, and now races for RSD in the Super Hooligan series on an Indian FTR 1200.
Racing in the King of the Baggers, though, isn’t like sliding around on dirt. And while Frankie Garcia has plenty of experience, he would be competing against, in his own words, “a stacked field” of talent. The other racers included a World Superbike champion, American Superbike champions, and “a whole laundry list of top road racers.”
Luckily, Frankie Garcia has “a lot of time on baggers.” In fact, they’re his favorite type of bike because they’re not just about going fast. Riding one, Frankie can just cruise and “enjoy the freedom of motorcycling.”
Still, going into the one and only testing session, he felt nervous about combining road racing with bagger riding. He worried about parts dragging on the ground, poor handling, and a thousand other things.
But RSD’s work on the Indian Challenger meant that by Lap 1 of testing, he was dragging a knee on the track. That’s despite the bike being significantly longer than a road racer, and the rider noticeably farther away from the front wheel. Plus, the extra weight, and the risk of spinning the rear tire.
He has a lot of experience with Laguna Seca but hasn’t raced there professionally
Like Tyler O’Hara, Frankie Garcia grew up in northern California. In fact, his hometown of Gonzales is roughly 30 minutes away from Laguna Seca, where the King of the Baggers race was held. Garcia describes the track as “a roller coaster,” with “crazy corners” and lots of elevation changes. He can and did intimately describe each of the track’s 11 turns. And yet, this was also the first time he’d be racing on it.
He was meant to race there in 2012 when he was competing in the Daytona 600cc sportbike class. However, before the practice session, when his bike was being tuned on the dyno, the engine blew. It was the last engine the team had, and Laguna Seca was the last race of the season. So, the team packed up, and Frankie didn’t get to race.
Cut to last year, when he’s racing for the RSD team. He hears that MotoAmerica is planning a bagger race at Laguna Seca, and immediately texts Roland Sands, “We have to do this, this has to happen.” Garcia then followed up with a video of him riding on the track on a road racing bike. Cut to 2 months before the race, and Sands gets back to him, asking if he still wants in.
King of the Baggers was a “bucket list” race that almost didn’t happen
The RSD Indian Challenger was a late entry to the race, Frankie Garcia told me. It was built in just 12 days, and the test session was held 2 weeks before the race. The finalized handlebars weren’t even installed until 30 minutes before the race warm-up. But that wasn’t the biggest hurdle Frankie Garcia faced before the King of the Baggers race.
The RSD Indian Challenger is roughly 250 pounds lighter than the standard bike and features several upgraded components. It has larger brakes, taller suspension, racing Dunlop tires, lighter-than-stock RSD wheels, and, ironically, a few S&S components. The motor itself is stock, but instead of the standard clutch, the racing bike has an experimental slipper clutch. And that clutch caused some problems before the race.
After qualifying, Frankie was practicing racing starts. And the grabby clutch, combined with a grippy racing tire, made the bike wheelie. The usual reaction is to get off the bike ASAP, but the Challenger’s bags caught Frankie’s heels. As a result, the handlebars smashed into his legs, hard enough that he thought they were broken.
Luckily, despite the pain, they weren’t. Frankie then called his physical therapist, who told him to regularly stretch so his legs wouldn’t lock up. So, Frankie Garcia took some anti-inflammatory pills and woke up every hour throughout the night to stretch his legs.
But that level of dedication wasn’t just for the RSD team, who are like family to him. Nor was it just about his dream of wanting to race at Laguna Seca. Frankie Garcia’s King of the Baggers racing number, #14, originally belonged to his brother, Jess. Jess sadly passed away in July 2020, and Frankie wanted to honor his brother’s memory through racing.
Considering the pain he fought through to end up on the podium, I’d say he did exactly that.
What does he think about the race’s future?
As of this writing, MotoAmerica hasn’t officially announced a ‘sequel’ to King of the Baggers. However, Frankie Garcia says “there are talks…of a 3-5 race series” in 2021. And if it does come back, he’ll likely be the first in line. “I can’t explain the amount of fun I had,” he says.
Plus, the bikes themselves level the playing field when it comes to experience. Yes, this year’s King of the Baggers included Superbike champions and road-racing veterans. But no one’s really raced big cruisers before. And the spectacle of large Harleys and Indians tearing up the track garnered just as much if not more attention than the weekend’s Superbike race.
We’ll just have to see if Frankie Garcia’s dream can come true again.
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