There are a lot of truly exciting things happening in the world of motorcycle racing these days, from flat-track racing to motocross and everything in between the competition is seriously fierce and innovative across the board. Thanks to MotoAmerica, there’s a new game in town for the folks who love to ride the big bagger bikes, they can root for one of fourteen teams in this fall’s King of the Baggers invitational at Laguna Seca.
Could you imagine riding a Harley-Davidson Road Glide or Indian Challenger around one of the toughest motorcycle road courses in the world? The American V-twin wars are heating up, and that legendary northern California race course is the next big battle ground for performance supremacy. There will be fourteen teams putting up their custom built baggers for the road race competition, and only one team—S&S Cycle—is entering an Indian. The other 13 will be hauling Harleys.
There is nothing I love more than a motorcycle that is woefully out of its element. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of seeing a class of street literbikes take on the challenge of dirt flat track racing, and it went about as horribly as you might imagine. I look forward to seeing how these big burly bikes handle the rigors of a legendary motorsports course. I want to know how you mentally prepare for taking a near-thousand-pound bike over the crest of the infamous Corkscrew. Golly gee.
The photo at the top of this page is the Indian Challenger in mid-build at the S&S shops. Obviously the bike has retained its central chassis structure and massive V-twin engine, but almost everything else has been changed out in anticipation of this race. The suspension, brakes, wheels, tires, and bodywork will all be optimized for maximum lean into the corners and the engine and gearbox will be built to whatever the somewhat-vague rulebook will allow.
In talking with Cycle World, S&S lead project engineer Jeff Bailey admitted that the focus of this project is weight reduction—“Our bike weighed about 805 pounds on our scales and I’m hoping we can take at least 200 pounds out of that “—and adjustability—“We’re doing adjustable triple clamps. Looking at the rear suspension. Ride height and ergonomics are really where we’re focusing most of our energy.”
S&S will keep power gains modest by swapping out cams, porting the heads, and building a custom lightweight exhaust. This, says Bailey, will net the team around 150 horses at the rear wheel, up from about 100 horsepower in stock trim. Considering one of the teams entering the race specializes in turbocharger kits for Harleys (Trask), maybe 150 won’t be enough? I’d sure like a chance to ride a 600 pound bagger with 150 horsepower, though. That sounds like a riot!
Racing innovation has been a bit thin on the ground in 2020, but I am seriously looking forward to watching this event go down at Laguna Seca. The prospect of a full grid of these giant hotted-up potato bikes rip roaring around my favorite race course is getting my heart beating double time. Maybe I should get that checked out.