The inaugural Drag Specialties King of the Baggers invitational race is happening this weekend during the MotoAmerica season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and there is a lot of excitement building around the class.
“Oh man, I’m super excited!” said former AMA Superbike Champion Ben Bostrom, who is riding the #77 Feuling Parts Harley-Davidson Road Glide. “I think this is a needed class out here for the show, and motorcycle road racing is a show. They say, ‘race on Sunday, sell on Monday,’ but in this case it really is true. I mean, you’re racing a bagger. Our bike you could ride to Sturgis tomorrow. We even have a license plate on it.”
“I think it’s going to be fun,” said Josh Herrin, another former AMA Superbike Champion who is racing the #50 Performance Machine Harley-Davidson Street Glide in King of the Baggers as well as his Scheibe Racing BMW in MotoAmerica Superbike this weekend. “A lot of people have been bagging on it. ‘This is stupid. This isn’t racing. Is this what American racing’s come to?’ Look at all of the new people and new sponsors that will be coming in because of this. People can hate on it, but I think it’s exciting.”
Here is what we know about the King of the Baggers class so far.
There are 13 entries: 11 are Harley-Davidsons and two are Indians, the only two brands allowed.
Harley-Davidsons must use an original engine with a maximum displacement of 131 cubic inches or an S&S Twin Cam engine and Indians must use their original-displacement engines, which have four-valve cylinder heads.
The original main frames and engine mounting points must be used.
The bikes must use MotoAmerica-approved VP Racing Fuels but they can use any Dunlop DOT-labeled tire available to the general public. Dunlop brought Sportmax Q4s in many sizes for the baggers.
Other than that, the technical rules are pretty wide open. And because of that, there is a wide range of build levels in the field.
Some motorcycles are much closer to stock baggers than others, including what look like actual functional side cases and stock upper fairings with the stereo and speakers removed, while others have full carbon-fiber bodywork with shells that mimic the basic shape of the original bodywork.
Some have suspension pieced together from cruiser catalogs while others have Öhlins components front and rear.
Some projects have $20,000 budgets, while Travis Wyman’s turbo-charged Trask Performance Harley-Davidson Road Glide is valued at $150,000.
Many of the motorcycles are making in excess of 130 horsepower and 130 lbs.-ft. of torque, while Wyman’s machine is said to be making around 200 horsepower.
Alex Fox, owner of SlyFox Performance, said the Harley-Davidson Road Glide he built for Cory West to ride is 250 pounds lighter than the streetbike.
In addition to engine modifications for more power, some tuners have spent a lot of time on improving cornering abilities, starting with ground clearance. Most bikes have been raised with taller suspension and aftermarket swingarms. Some builders have beveled the bottoms of their side cases, even though most side cases have been raised with the rest of the motorcycle. The primary drive cover on the left side of the Harley-Davidsons, however, continues to be an area of concern for some, especially the dip at the apex of Turn Six.
In the first King of the Baggers session, Qualifying Practice One, Tyler O’Hara dominated on his S&S Indian Challenger, roaring over Turn One on the gas and diving deep into Turn Two on the brakes, but word has it O’Hara and his factory-backed team have tested much more than anyone else.
The King of the Baggers field will have two more Qualifying Practices on Friday, a warm-up sessions mid-day on Saturday, and the eight-lap Drag Specialties King of the Baggers race is scheduled to run at 4:45 pm local time on Saturday.
The race can only be watched via MotoAmerica’s Live+ video streaming subscription service.
As for the future of King of the Baggers, MotoAmerica is considering hosting three similar races in 2021, possibly at Barber Motorsports Park, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.