Stepping out of an elder sibling’s shadow comes with its own set of pressures. For Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle rider Travis Wyman, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Heading into the final round of the 2022 King of the Baggers (KotB) season, the Motor Company looks to the Las Vegas, Nevada-based racer to retain its number one plate—a crown that currently belongs to Wyman’s older brother and teammate, Kyle Wyman.
With just one year and 11 months separating the pair, Travis and Kyle are close in age but even closer on the racetrack. Joining the Screamin’ Eagle team midway through the 2021 KotB season, Travis played a key role in Kyle’s championship campaign, acting as a wingman and seizing a podium in the process. Now, number 10 looks to his elder sibling for similar assistance in the season finale at the New Jersey Motorsports Park on September 11, 2022.
Only three points separate Travis Wyman from Mission Foods S&S Cycle Indian rider Tyler O’Hara after six races. While Kyle Wyman still mathematically factors into the championship equation, the Bar and Shield’s best shot at back-to-back titles rests on the younger Wyman’s shoulders. Can Travis step up to the challenge and step out of his brother’s towering shadow? We recently sat down with the Harley-Davidson rider to find out.
Harley-Davidson's Road Glide Special and Indian’s Challenger are vastly different machines. What are the Road Glide’s strengths on the racetrack and how do you, as a rider, offset the Challenger’s strong suits?
I’d say, where we’re at in the season, the Indians are actually a little bit stronger in top-end speed. And, then the Road Glide has got a better platform and a better chassis to navigate some of the tighter, technical parts of the racetrack.
So, it’s track-dependent, but it’s also sector-dependent too. When we were racing at Brainard (Minnesota), there’s a long straightaway where the Indian was strong, but then we would make it up in the second half of the racetrack. So, it would equal out lap times.
That track made it somewhat even. Whereas a track like Daytona, which is pretty much wide open, it seemed like the Indian had a little advantage on us. We make up our time in the switchbacks and tight corners, where it seems like (the Indian Challenger) wants to move around when they’re making these fast transitions from side to side. Our bike’s pretty settled.
You've developed Harley-Davidson's KotB bike alongside the Factory team. How has the project evolved over the course of the season and where do you see the team taking it in the future?
The biggest gain we made this season was in the transmission. The first couple of races at Daytona (Florida) we struggled with the transmission keeping the bike in gear. The bike was getting false neutrals and popping out of gear at times and we were creating a lot of wear and tear on the transmission.
So, the team changed to a different transmission setup, and it improved the reliability and gear changes. Now that the transmission is super precise—and again, reliable—we can push the bike a lot further into the corner.
We definitely found some horsepower from Daytona until now, but other than that, I think the biggest improvement is the amount of seat time I’ve had on the bike this year. We’ve done a lot of testing between the races to improve my comfort on the bike.
Something I definitely think that’s possible in the future is a (bi-directional) quickshifter system. That would save quite a bit of time on the tracks where you’re going from second gear to fifth and all the way back to second in multiple places. There are definitely tenths of a second there.
Then, the most limiting factor from going any faster on these bikes right now is still the lean angle. The bikes are tall enough right now that we get a lot of lean angle out of them. If we went taller, we would be able to get more lean angle, but if we went taller, Kyle (Wyman) and I wouldn’t be able to touch the ground.
They say the most important man to beat is your teammate. It’s a little different when your teammate is your brother. How does that relationship differ from your past teammate experiences and do you two still have a friendly sibling rivalry?
Yeah, I’d say so, but we’re going to work together to beat our competition. Right now, the goal is to have Kyle help me win the championship at New Jersey (Motorsport Park) like I did with him last year.
We definitely help each other out. When we were testing at Jersey, we were unsure of what gearing to run. He tried one way, I tried the other way, and we came to the best solution. We’re still working together on some things, but we both want to win.
You have been the epitome of consistency this season with one victory and four podium finishes. They say you win championships on your worst days. How have you been able to minimize those mistakes in just your first full KotB season?
I’m just more comfortable on the bike. I think that was my big disadvantage last year: I didn’t get a whole lot of seat time. It takes a lot of time to understand these bikes, to be able to push it to the level that we’re at.
I’ve qualified toward the front just about every race so far, so that makes it easy. I push to a certain extent but I also feel like I know the limit of these bikes too. It’s a strange thing when you’re riding them at the limit; it’s that the limit is kind of vague.
With a sportbike, you get warnings from the tires, and warnings from the bike when you’re starting to break traction. It just seems like, with these bikes, there’s really no warning before they let go.
I’ve had a pretty good year. I’ve been pretty fortunate to not have a lot of bad luck like some of these guys have. Hopefully, I can keep that going through the last round.
How confident are you heading into the championship-deciding round? You have a solid Stock 1000 record at the New Jersey Motorsport Park, capturing fifth place in 2021 and fourth place in 2020. How will you draw on that experience to help you finish the season at the top of the standings?
You know, Jersey’s not really my favorite track on the calendar, but I was fortunate to spend a lot of time there last month. I did two days of testing with the (Tytlers Cycle Racing) BMW team and two days of testing with the Harley team. I sit here at home on my driving simulator and do a ton of laps of Jersey so it’s just mentally getting yourself focused and in the right frame of mind for it.
I’m confident that I can go out and wrap up the championship there given that I’ve actually beaten Tyler (O’Hara) in every race that I haven’t had an issue at. He beat me in the first three rounds and we had transmission problems, and I had brake issues at Atlanta. Every race since then I’ve actually come from behind him and passed him to beat him.
So, my confidence is high, knowing that I have the potential to do it. But anything can happen in these races and he’s definitely not going to make it easy on me. Knowing that I finished in front of him the last three races and the time I’ve been able to spend at Jersey in the last month, I think that’s going to play to my advantage.