Back in July, 2020, Indian Motorcycle first talked about fielding a lone Challenger against a field of 13 Harley-Davidsons at the inaugural King of the Baggers event at Laguna Seca. The spectacle—originally scheduled to take place in July—was rescheduled to take place at the end of October.
Now there are two Challengers challenging—both each other, and also all the Harleys that will make up the rest of the field. Indian originally teamed up with S&S Cycle’s Paul Langley and his team to build out their entry. Over the summer, however, it pulled Roland Sands Design into the mix to build out a second competition bike, as well.
As you can see in this video, the two Indian Challenger teams have two very different approaches to their builds—at least, on camera. Two former racers, strategizing and building baggers to race against each other and all other comers at a particularly difficult track—it was bound to happen, honestly.
“My reaction when I first heard that they were gonna race baggers at Laguna Seca was, ‘why?’ I didn’t understand it at all,” Roland Sands offered, as dry as the Mojave.
“I mean, coming from a road race background, and having my first AMA 250 GP National win at Laguna Seca, it’s not an easy track. It’s maybe one of the worst tracks to ride a bagger at, because I think you run out of lean angle really quick, in really weird places. There’s a lot of flat corners that are very high-speed there, stuff goes off-camber and does weird stuff. It’s just, all of the sudden, you’re leaned over, and you run out of ground clearance,” he snaps his fingers for emphasis.
Sands and his team offer up the broad strokes of what they’re doing in this video, and they’re all things you’d expect. Their Challenger is losing some weight, they’re working on ground clearance, suspension, big brakes, lightweight wheels—you get the idea. Cruiser has a few more details on the build, including that it uses a race-tuned S&S exhaust, makes a claimed 122 horsepower, and features a hydraulically adjustable Fox x RSD rear shock.
Meanwhile, Paul Langley is all about how happy S&S is to be there, how happy they are to be competing, and how they can’t wait to crush the rest of the field with their build—including, of course, Roland Sands. The team talks a bit about some key mods, including custom adjustable triple clamps that work with the fork from an FTR 1200. They also created a cut-off clutch cover to give their bike much greater lean angle than it would otherwise have.
Who’s riding these machines in the big event? Tyler O’Hara will be on board the S&S Challenger, while Frankie Garcia will pilot the RSD Challenger. Indian Motorcycle lists this video as Part One in a multi-part series on the event, although we don’t yet know how many behind-the-scenes glimpses we’ll get in total. It’s part of MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest at Monterey from October 23 through 25, alongside a full roster of races. Will either Challenger reign victorious? We’ll just have to find out.
Sources: YouTube, Cruiser