The hardest half about using Indian’s King of the Baggers Challenger goes sluggish. 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. It is 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 luck and a few reasonably forward-thinking (for the time) improvements; Burt Munro set land velocity information; 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 broadly 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 select a favourite youngster. They’ll lie and say there are not any favorites, however there may be all the time one. Sorry, child. Within the case of those championships, it’s arduous to think about Indian not feeling greater than sentimental concerning the King of the Baggers crown that it’s pried from Harley-Davidson’s palms. Rivalries—particularly people 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 persons are shopping for. “The highest-selling bikes in America are baggers, and that’s what we’re racing,” says Gary Grey, vp – racing, expertise, and repair for Indian Bike. “When you go to a race, like with Laguna Seca the place all people parks down within the bowl, 10 or 15 years in the past it was sportbikes, however that’s not what folks journey anymore. They journey 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 package deal has solely advanced 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 virtually unrecognizable.
Throughout a latest preseason take a look at at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, we had the prospect to speak to the Indian Bike Racing crew concerning the venture earlier than throwing a leg over Tyler O’Hara’s 2022 championship-winning Challenger. Maybe the very best reminder of how particular this bike is: The fairings wore signatures from Tyler and the crew. Nerve-wracking? Sure.
Fears of binning Indian Bike Racing’s delight and pleasure vanish rolling out of scorching pit, although it takes a minute to really feel actually snug 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 effectively for the unacquainted. Contemplate them a center floor between racy and roomy; pure and on the identical time, not. Paradoxically, it solely takes just a few 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. Driving the bike looks like a balancing act; push in some locations, ease off in others.
There’s quite a bit much less easing off once you’re Tyler O’Hara, and to Indian’s credit score, it’s constructed an unbelievable package deal across the inventory body, modified just for further 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 surprising sense of urgency. Of all of the issues we anticipated to be startled by on this take a look at day, handing over too early was not one in all 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 surprising 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 grow to be snug with how a lot the bike wallows whereas on its aspect—a refined reminder that this chassis was not constructed for racing. Somebody like O’Hara rides proper by that, whereas our greatest resolution 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 may improve total composure, although Indian riders admit that there’s all the time been a little bit of chassis flex.
Properly-developed Öhlins suspension and a stout braking package deal that includes race-spec Brembo calipers are well-integrated into the platform and a sign of the superb work Indian has achieved to show this Challenger right into a racebike. The suspension doesn’t really feel harsh like a superbike may, however gives nice help when hammering on the brakes or driving off a nook. The bike weighs 620 kilos, per MotoAmerica guidelines, and whilst you’d anticipate that mass to overpower any elements you throw at it, that positively 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 satisfy minimal weight necessities. “We’ve moved it in every single place, however more often than not we’re racing with it down within the bellypan,” says S&S’s chief engineer Jeff Bailey, a essential participant within the venture.
Indian is frequently 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 actually happy. Even nonetheless, the setup we rode supplied an unbelievable quantity of confidence at nook entry. Someway, 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 in line with O’Hara, whereas additionally stabilizing the chassis and minimizing the aforementioned flex.
Nook exits are proof of the strong work Indian has achieved with the engine, which is making one thing like 160-plus horsepower. There’s ambiguity in that assertion as a result of it is a racebike, and race groups don’t typically need anybody realizing 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 increased carry and extra period. Crankcase most important bearings are locked in place and billet handbook 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 yr that the crew “discovered just a few issues.” Huge modifications embody 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 an easier 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 just a few hundred rpm over that earlier than,” Bailey says. “We stored extending the rev limiter for sure corners at sure tracks to avoid wasting a shift from time to time, 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 load earlier than momentum picks up and out of the blue you’re consuming up tarmac in such fast style you possibly can’t assist however be impressed. An abundance of torque makes the bike really feel virtually simple to journey, and but all the facility Indian discovered means the bike retains pulling proper as much as the rev limiter. Tapping mentioned 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 sequence of inexperienced, yellow, and purple lights come rapidly.
Huge torque and really giant, single throttle physique could make for a difficult-to-control bike, particularly at something lower than 50 p.c throttle opening, thus plenty 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 completed that—one more testomony to the effort and time this crew has put into growing this bike. Even whether it is arduous to journey at photograph speeds…
One other attention-grabbing a part of the powertrain is the transmission—it’s inventory. And it really works exceptionally effectively. Humorous sufficient, this is likely one of the issues we got here into the take a look at most involved about. Touring bikes aren’t identified for having probably the most seamless transmissions, and experiences coming from media exams on Harley-Davidson’s Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide racebike—together with Cycle World’s personal Michael Gilbert—recommended that the transmission was a giant weak level for H-D. Thankfully 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 vital to say that that is nonetheless a really troublesome bike to hustle round a racetrack. Not due to any efficiency limitations, however due to how actually distinctive it’s and the mindset you should 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 crew for persevering with to push the bounds looking for sooner lap instances. 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.
Focused on experiencing the bike for your self and have a reasonably large chunk of change sitting round? Following our take a look at, Indian introduced that will probably 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 swimsuit: Rev’It Apex
Gloves: Rev’It Apex
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R