After making its return to flat-track racing, Indian is expanding its motorsports participation even further. For example, it recently got back into hill climbing for the first time in 70 years. Seeing one of Indian’s cruisers and touring bikes, like the Challenger, racing is a fairly rare sight, though. However, that’s exactly what happened at the 2020 King of the Baggers.
What is the King of the Baggers race?
It’s not that cruisers, or their full-fairing hard-sided-luggage variants, baggers, don’t race. Harley-Davidson, for example, has a drag-race class specifically for its touring bikes, Motorcyclist reports.
However, going fast in a straight line, while tough, isn’t the same as going around a corner-heavy racetrack. And yet, that’s exactly what the King of the Baggers race is, Jalopnik explains. It’s actually a brand-new class of racing that held its inaugural event over the October 24th-25th, 2020 weekend.
The 2020 King of the Baggers race saw 13 V-twin bikes face off on California’s Laguna Seca Raceway, Jalopnik reports. Originally, the field was all Harley-Davidson, RideApart reports. But Indian decided to enter 2 Challengers in the 8-lap race.
The big draw of the King of the Baggers race is, naturally, the spectacle of seeing big cruisers racing on a track. And they have to run with full luggage, RideApart reports. These motorcycles can handle better than you might expect. One of my MSF instructors ran our full training course on the back of his well-equipped Harley-Davidson at speed. So, theoretically, it’s doable.
Still, cruisers and baggers aren’t sportbikes, Cycle World explains. They’re heavy and designed for long-distance riding, not cornering. Plus, you can’t really lean on them as you can, say, a BMW M 1000 RR, RideApart notes.
Which meant the Indian Challengers racing at King of the Baggers needed a few modifications.
The Indian Challengers that raced in King of the Baggers
To get the Indian Challengers ready for King of the Baggers, the company approached S&S Cycle and Roland Sands Designs. Both have extensive experience modifying motorcycles for both racing and the street.
For S&S, the focus was on lowering the Indian Challenger’s weight and adding horsepower, Cycle World reports. From the factory, the Challenger Dark Horses weighs 839 pounds, Cycle World reports. And its 1.8-liter V-twin makes 122 hp and 129 lb-ft.
It’s unclear how much weight S&S removed or how much power it added. However, its Challenger rides on taller suspension and 17” wheels. The front forks are actually from the FTR1200 flat-tracker. Plus, it has upgraded Brembo brakes, Dunlop racing tires, and a custom exhaust. S&S even trimmed down the clutch cover to add lean angle. And while its bodywork looks stock, it’s actually made out of carbon fiber, Jalopnik reports.
Roland Sands Design’s Indian Challenger racer follows a similar design ethos. Namely, upgraded suspension, lowering weight, and raising ground clearance. And, like S&S, RSD’s bike features larger brakes and light-weight wheels. However, the only confirmed detail is the RSD Challenger’s weight: 600 pounds.
The results came from some comebacks
Riding the S&S Indian Challenger on October 24, 2020, was Tyle O’Hara, who has extensive flat-track, supermoto, and motocross racing experience. He’s also raced on Pikes Peak. And on the RSD bike was Frankie Garcia, who’s also a motocross and supermoto veteran. Garcia’s also competed in the X Games.
The first King of the Baggers race had a bit of drama. 24 hours before the start of the race, Garcia ‘looped’ his bike during qualifying. And during the race, O’Hara’s Indian Challenger developed brake problems, and he briefly went off-track, VisorDown reports.
However, O’Hara managed to claw back into 1st place and won the whole race by 1.9 seconds. And Garcia finished in 3rd, right behind Hayley Gillim on a Vance and Hines-prepped Harley-Davidson.
Now, who’s down for a 2021 King of the Baggers rematch?
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