King of the Baggers is a noticeably different racing series than MotoGP, but the competitors are no less skilled. And crucially, the racing itself is no less intense. But even so, some racers look for even more opportunities to hit the track. That’s why this year, Tyler O’Hara is hitting the asphalt and the dirt on board an Indian.
Tyler O’Hara is racing in King of the Baggers and American Flat Track
It was arguably a given that Tyler O’Hara would return to King of the Baggers for 2021, considering he won the 2020 race. And as before, he’s racing as part of the S&S Cycle team on a specially-prepped Indian Challenger.
In a recent Zoom call, O’Hara said it took “around 100 laps” to get reacquainted with the KOB Challenger and make the necessary tweaks. But he now feels “more comfortable” on it than before. Appearance-wise, the S&S Challenger looks fairly unchanged from its 2020 configuration, so even with carbon-fiber bodywork, it weighs over 600 pounds. Though for the Bagger Racing League events, the team will likely “lighten it up” even more, he said.
However, Tyler O’Hara isn’t only competing in King of the Baggers on an Indian this year. Although the KOB is a road-racing course, like fellow Indian rider Frankie Garcia, O’Hara has extensive flat-track experience. And when we spoke over Zoom, he was getting ready to race in a double-header weekend, going from KOB to the AFT (American Flat Track).
Tyler O’Hara was specifically gearing up to race in the AFT Atlanta Super TT. This race, despite being a flat-track race, isn’t a dirt-only course. It also incorporates asphalt sections and jumps, Road Racing World explains. And that required a different kind of bike: the Indian FTR750.
The Atlanta Super TT was only the second time Tyler O’Hara rode the Indian FTR750
In his own words, Tyler O’Hara “grew up racing flat track,” so he has the necessary skills and is “an asphalt specialist.” But, although some racing techniques are universal, a flat-track Super TT course is noticeably different than, say, Laguna Seca.
Staying smooth is still important, but the FTR750 requires “a different style of riding,” O’Hara said. It has no front brake, for one, and you really steer the bike with the rear wheel, he explained. But unlike in MotoGP or KOB, sliding the bike is an expectation, rather than a rare occurrence. In our Zoom conversation, I compared it to dancing, to which Tyler O’Hara agreed. Adding to the complexity is that, unlike with asphalt, dirt changes shape, making traction management more complicated.
However, that wasn’t the only complication Tyler O’Hara faced in the Atlanta Super TT. The race was only the second time he’d be riding the Indian FTR750. Not competing, note, but riding it. Though admittedly, he did get some practice time before the race and at the Volusia track, he clarified. And while a local shop loaned Tyler O’Hara a road-going FTR to familiarize himself, “they’re completely different bikes,” he said.
How does the rest of his season look?
At the time of our Zoom call, Tyler O’Hara hadn’t raced yet in the 2021 KOB season or at Atlanta. But now the results are in.
The first race of the 2021 King of the Baggers season took place at Laguna Seca, and once again, O’Hara took first place. He wasn’t quite as successful in the Super TT but still managed to finish in eighth place.
As of this writing, O’Hara doesn’t know if he’ll be riding in more AFT races; the Atlanta race was the second of 17. But he will be competing in the entire King of the Baggers season, including the Bagger Racing League. And if another flat-track racing opportunity presents itself, he’s more than willing to hit the dirt again.
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