Here's everything you need to know about Bagger races | Pirelli

Here's everything you need to know about Bagger races

Here's everything you need to know about Bagger races

October 2020, Laguna Seca, California. Baggers, the massive Harley-Davidson and Indian touring bikes sporting bags and large windscreens, are taking to the track for the first time. It's not a parade, but a genuine speed race: it is called the King Of The Baggers, where professional riders compete on the big American V-Twin touring motorcycles and get up to some crazy antics. To explain the level of this unique competition, among them is Ben Bostrom, who starred in the Superbike World Championship and in 2001 won two legs on this very circuit on a Ducati 996 R. He came sixth in this race.

The centuries-old rivalry between Harley-Davidson and Indian

This is the first time these bikes get to compete on the track and the event is organised by Rob Buydos, a well-known American competition speaker and a huge motoring fan. His idea is to put on a show, not an extreme race but, as you know, the riders have to win so they turn up with very well-prepared bikes, lightened as much as possible and with boosted engines. 

It was initially thought that they were all Harley-Davidsons, but it was subsequently discovered that S&S Cycle had worked behind closed doors with Indian Motorcycle to prepare a Challenger. The latter is supplemented by another Indian, curated by Roland Sands Design: the great names of U.S. motorcycling compete on the track, so the presence of Vance & Hines was a must, backing a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. 

The victory was claimed by Tyler O'Hara, riding the S&S Cycle Indian; second place went to Hayden Gillim, on the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson; Frankie Garcia came third on the Roland Sands Design Indian. And, as a show within the show, the centuries-old rivalry between Harley-Davidson and Indian was rekindled.

The Bagger Racing League is born: each race is a show in itself

The King Of The Baggers was supposed to be a single show-event, but it was such an overwhelming success that Rob Buydos decided to turn it into a series of national races: The Bagger Racing League was born. There are several categories and there are a series of collateral events that turn each race into a motorcycle rally. “It is the fastest bike show in the world!” exclaims Rob “With an Arlen Ness custom motorcycle show, an acrobatics show, live music and a village of special parts vendors for Harley-Davidsons and high performance V-twins”.

So who won the bagger races?

The Bagger Racing League championship was launched in 2021 and it took place in two rounds: the first was held at Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville, Utah, and Michael Barnes won the Queen class on the Road Glide Special Screamin' Eagle, beating Tyler O'Hara on his Challenger S&S Cycle, this time Harley-Davidson beat the Indian.

The second round took place at Sonoma Raceway, California and the winner was Shane Narbonne, again riding a Harley-Davidson but a very special one, a turbo preparation by the specialist Truck Performance. This time the top ranking of an Indian was sixth place: ridden by the extraordinary Patricia Fernandez, an amazing road racer who switched to a bagger for the occasion.

How to drive a bagger on the track

The races are exciting because in addition to the “off-road” bikes many riders come from the flat track: the trajectories are round and precise, but they enter the bends completely sideways and seeing them race is an amazing show. The smooth ride is due to the fact that the best performances are obtained by allowing the bike to run, a technique which also serves to contain the oscillations of the chassis, which have been designed for completely different purposes and therefore bend when they are stressed by the well-prepared engines; the best ones manage to deliver as much as 50 HP more than standard.

Another problem with these bikes is the gap on the ground during bends: they are not designed for extreme inclinations and even if they have been modified, the limit they grant is scarce, so the riders have to be careful not to get too close to the curbs, as they risk slamming against them with their bags. The limit offered by the modified chassis, however, is extremely high: they have racing suspensions and 17” wheel rims instead of the originals and are fitted with Superbike tyres, such as the Pirelli Diablo Superbike, chosen by Barnes and Narbonne.