The hardest half about driving Indian’s King of the Baggers Challenger goes gradual. Tucked in behind a photograph automotive it feels agitated and anxious. The bike lunges and hesitates in an uncomfortable sequence, subtly reminding you that Indian Bike Racing didn’t construct this bike for pageantry. This can be a racebike and it was made to go quick—as a racebike ought to.
Indian is not any stranger to constructing race-winning machines. The corporate was based by racers who developed America’s first motorized bicycles and it’s been racing for 122 years—though not constantly. Indian swept the Isle of Man TT in 1911 with a bit of luck and a few moderately forward-thinking (for the time) improvements; Burt Munro set land velocity data; and the unique Indian Wrecking Crew (Ernie Beckman, Invoice Tuman, and Bobby Hill) tallied 14 AMA nationwide wins between 1950 and 1953. Seventy years later and Indian Bike Racing has added one other feather to its cap by successful championships throughout three extensively various lessons, together with King of the Baggers (KotB), Super Hooligan Nationwide Championship (SHNC), and American Flat Monitor SuperTwins.
Asking Indian to decide on a favourite amongst these titles is like asking a mother or father to choose a favourite baby. They’ll lie and say there aren’t any favorites, however there’s all the time one. Sorry, child. Within the case of those championships, it’s onerous to think about Indian not feeling greater than sentimental concerning the King of the Baggers crown that it’s pried from Harley-Davidson’s arms. Rivalries—particularly those who have lasted greater than a century—have that impact.
Associated: Why King of the Baggers Racing Is So Popular
To win on this class is to showcase the capabilities of the bikes individuals are shopping for. “The highest-selling bikes in America are baggers, and that’s what we’re racing,” says Gary Grey, vice chairman – racing, expertise, and repair for Indian Bike. “In case you go to a race, like with Laguna Seca the place everyone parks down within the bowl, 10 or 15 years in the past it was sportbikes, however that’s not what folks trip anymore. They trip baggers. So it’s actually cool to get this heavy iron on the market and present folks what it’ll do.”
The bikes that Indian is rolling out, along with S&S Cycle, are a far cry from what anybody anticipated to see when the primary King of the Baggers exhibition race was introduced for 2020 and the bundle has solely developed since then. Look carefully and also you’ll discover the bones of a manufacturing bike, however that picture is rapidly blurred by a throng of race elements and production-based (so Indian says) items which are so closely modified they’re nearly unrecognizable.
Throughout a latest preseason check at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, we had the prospect to speak to the Indian Bike Racing workforce concerning the venture earlier than throwing a leg over Tyler O’Hara’s 2022 championship-winning Challenger. Maybe the perfect reminder of how particular this bike is: The fairings wore signatures from Tyler and the workforce. Nerve-wracking? Sure.
Fears of binning Indian Bike Racing’s pleasure and pleasure vanish rolling out of sizzling pit, although it takes a minute to really feel really comfy behind the large OEM-ish fairing that serves as a visible reminder of the bike’s measurement. Indian is utilizing the passenger footpeg mounting holes because the mounting level for the S&S foot controls, and whereas it admits to wanting to maneuver the rider ahead on the ‘23 racebike, these ergos work properly for the unacquainted. Take into account them a center floor between racy and roomy; pure and on the identical time, not. Mockingly, it solely takes a couple of corners to overlook the baggage are there.
Practically each second on the Challenger is like weaving out and in of two vastly completely different worlds. Using the bike appears like a balancing act; push in some locations, ease off in others.
There’s so much much less easing off once you’re Tyler O’Hara, and to Indian’s credit score, it’s constructed an unbelievable bundle across the inventory body, modified just for extra cornering clearance. Propped up on an Öhlins TTX 36 shock, modified FG 8603 fork from a Ducati Multistrada (!), and closely braced OEM swingarm, the bike transitions back and forth with an sudden sense of urgency. Of all of the issues we anticipated to be startled by on this check day, delivering too early was not certainly one of them. And but that was the case as we rolled by the tight left-right transitions at Chuckwalla on our first flying lap. It’s stunning how nimble and sporty the Challenger feels at velocity.
The bike has a barely completely different character when banked over in lengthy, sweeping corners with the throttle partially cracked or off, and it takes time to develop into comfy with how a lot the bike wallows whereas on its facet—a delicate reminder that this chassis was not constructed for racing. Somebody like O’Hara rides proper by that, whereas our greatest answer was to ease up and let the bike transfer because it wished. We’re in no hurry right here. Vital to say is that we examined the bike on Dunlop This autumn rubber, however slicks are spooned on for racing duties. That additional grip would possibly enhance general composure, although Indian riders admit that there’s all the time been a little bit of chassis flex.
Effectively-developed Öhlins suspension and a stout braking bundle that includes race-spec Brembo calipers are well-integrated into the platform and a sign of the wonderful work Indian has accomplished to show this Challenger right into a racebike. The suspension doesn’t really feel harsh like a superbike would possibly, however presents nice assist when hammering on the brakes or driving off a nook. The bike weighs 620 kilos, per MotoAmerica guidelines, and when you’d anticipate that mass to overpower any elements you throw at it, that undoubtedly isn’t the case with these bits.
Talking of weight, Indian has reduce a lot meat off the bike that it really must run 10 to fifteen kilos of ballast on the bike to fulfill minimal weight necessities. “We’ve moved it everywhere, however more often than not we’re racing with it down within the bellypan,” says S&S’s chief engineer Jeff Bailey, a important participant within the venture.
Indian is regularly engaged on the design of the adjustable billet triple clamps and fine-tuning the geometry, as a result of in racing you’re by no means really happy. Even nonetheless, the setup we rode provided an unbelievable quantity of confidence at nook entry. By some means, dropping anchor after which trail-braking right into a nook doesn’t really feel misplaced. You’re by no means struggling to get the bike towards the apex, or really feel prefer it’s in cost. A generously sized thumb brake helps the bike steer even tighter based on O’Hara, whereas additionally stabilizing the chassis and minimizing the aforementioned flex.
Nook exits are proof of the strong work Indian has accomplished with the engine, which is making one thing like 160-plus horsepower. There’s ambiguity in that assertion as a result of this can be a racebike, and race groups don’t usually need anybody figuring out precisely what they’re working with. What we do know is that Indian is utilizing 110mm big-bore pistons and cylinders, CNC-ported cylinder heads, and camshafts with greater carry and extra length. Crankcase foremost bearings are locked in place and billet guide lash adjustment rocker arms (machined from a strong chunk of metal) are used for sturdiness. The compression ratio is 13.0:1.
It wasn’t all the time simple to make that 160 hp, and it wasn’t till earlier than Daytona final 12 months that the workforce “discovered a couple of issues.” Massive adjustments embrace a transfer away from the dual oval throttle our bodies and inventory airbox, which is definitely a part of the Challenger’s body. A big, 78mm throttle physique from automotive aftermarket firm BBK was the answer, and the outcomes converse for themselves. The consumption on the bike we rode was partially tucked beneath a barely modified tank, whereas a new-for-’23 setup makes use of a less complicated design with an extended runner positioned simply outdoors the tank. An added good thing about the brand new system is that it helps make energy within the rpm vary the Challenger will now be racing in; MotoAmerica has lowered the rev restrict to 7,700 rpm for the 2023 season. “We have been a couple of hundred rpm over that earlier than,” Bailey says. “We stored extending the rev limiter for sure corners at sure tracks to save lots of a shift every so often, however peak energy is round 7,700 rpm.”
Powering out of a nook on the Challenger feels akin to being strapped to a Boeing 747 at takeoff. You may really feel the burden earlier than momentum picks up and instantly you’re consuming up tarmac in such fast trend you possibly can’t assist however be impressed. An abundance of torque makes the bike really feel nearly simple to trip, and but all the facility Indian discovered means the bike retains pulling proper as much as the rev limiter. Tapping stated limiter whereas leaving pit lane served as a clue to all the time be watching the shift lights on the high of the AiM TFT sprint show. The collection of inexperienced, yellow, and pink lights come rapidly.
Large torque and really massive, single throttle physique could make for a difficult-to-control bike, particularly at something lower than 50 % throttle opening, thus a whole lot of time was devoted to tuning the throttle map. The addition of a MaxxECU enabled Indian to take the following step in tuning. In its present state, the throttle feels sharp, however not overly aggressive. You need to have as a lot really feel as potential when cracking the throttle on a 620-pound racebike with an astronomical quantity of torque, and on this newest system Indian appears to have achieved that—one more testomony to the effort and time this workforce has put into creating this bike. Even whether it is onerous to trip at photograph speeds…
One other fascinating a part of the powertrain is the transmission—it’s inventory. And it really works exceptionally properly. Humorous sufficient, this is likely one of the issues we got here into the check most involved about. Touring bikes aren’t recognized for having essentially the most seamless transmissions, and reviews coming from media assessments on Harley-Davidson’s Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide racebike—together with Cycle World’s personal Michael Gilbert—urged that the transmission was a giant weak level for H-D. Luckily for Indian, that isn’t the case. Including to the expertise is a bidirectional quickshifter that’s tuned to absolute perfection.
Glowing as all of those feedback is likely to be, it’s essential to say that that is nonetheless a really tough bike to hustle round a racetrack. Not due to any efficiency limitations, however due to how really distinctive it’s and the mindset you have to be in to push it to its most. We didn’t come anyplace close to that restrict in our quick time with the bike, however on the tempo we rode, it was a genuinely enjoyable expertise. What Tyler O’Hara, Jeremy McWilliams, and everybody else on the King of the Baggers grid is ready to do on these bikes is astonishing.
Credit score additionally goes to the Indian Bike Racing workforce for persevering with to push the bounds seeking sooner lap occasions. Their dedication to the venture exhibits by in each half that was engineered, raced, and reengineered. How far this venture goes is but to be seen, however even in its present state, it’s clear that Indian’s constructed a real racebike. A really quick and really succesful racebike.
Curious about experiencing the bike for your self and have a moderately huge chunk of change sitting round? Following our check, Indian introduced that it will likely be promoting the Challenger RR, a race replica Challenger with nearly identical build sheet to Indian’s racebike. All yours for “simply” $92,229…
Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
Race go well with: Rev’It Apex
Gloves: Rev’It Apex
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R