The 2020 King of the Baggers invitational was a big hit for MotoAmerica. The spectacle of 900-pound bikes duking it out on the tight confines of Laguna Seca raceway was such a draw that the race organization expanded the series in 2021. Not only did MotoAmerica add four additional rounds, but they opened KOTB to any Joe Schmo with a bagger and a (massively) enterprising spirit.
Transforming a touring motorcycle into a race machine may be a daunting task for most, but S&S Cycle took out the guesswork by revealing the secrets behind its race-winning #29 Indian Challenger. Piloted by Tyler O’Hara the S&S Cycle-prepped bike easily captured the top step of the KOTB podium. Now, they’re putting the know-how in everyone’s hands as the first 2021 race approaches.
A bagger’s ceiling is its scant ground clearance and the folks at S&S knew they needed to raise the Challenger’s ride height to keep hard parts from touching down. Starting with the floorboards, the team bolted on rearsets to tuck O’Hara’s feet up behind the primary drive. With the pegs high-up, the primary case and exhaust were next to scrape. S&S machined a beveled primary cover to accommodate the aggressive lean angles. A new timer cover also allowed the designers to mount the exhaust higher and closer to the engine.
Gallery: S&S Cycle #29 Indian Challenger
An adjustable suspension linkage at the rear added critical inches to the cornering clearance while also improving handling. The team even retuned an FTR1200 front-end to handle the Challenger’s weight and new triple clamps steepen the rake for swift direction changes. A set of 17-inch wheels enabled the S&S to fit race slicks while also making the Challenger quicker to steer.
S&S Cycle is known for its Harley-Davidson engine upgrade kits and the Milwaukee-based brand lived up to its M.O. with the #29 Challenger. After a mild head port and a stage 2 camshaft upgrade, the Power Plus 108ci V-twin was ready to charge the first corner at Laguna Seca. The addition of a K&N air cleaner and 2-into-1 exhaust only helped the liquid-cooled engine roar to the head of the pack.
Of course, all that power is nothing without brakes and the team increased bite with a Brembo radial master cylinder, upgraded Brembo calipers, steel-braided lines, and Galfer rotors and pads. The rear gets a similar treatment but sticks with the stock Brembo binders. Though the team added a lot to the build it also removed heaps of weight.
Carbon fiber hard bags and fenders are easy on the eyes and the scale. A small-volume, aluminum fuel cell and carbon fiber shell drastically lighten the load and titanium/aluminum fasteners replace the OEM steel fasteners. Last but not least, Klock Werks Kliphanger handlebars and a custom Saddleman seat morphed the Challengers relaxed ergonomics into an aggressive race stance.
We’re all excited for the upcoming King of the Baggers season and we hope the races are even more competitive in the five-round series. With a little help from S&S Cycle, maybe more Challengers will be on the grid in 2021.