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RSD X King of the Baggers

Oct 22nd 2020

The King of the Baggers was intense. It seemed like an extraordinary idea from the jump. Our friend Rob Buydos of Parts Unlimited fame, who’s always down for a good time, crafted the crazy concept with the intention of firing up the performance bagger scene while also getting bike builders and product creators a little inspiration to get their knees down on a bike entirely not built for it. K.O.B. set the stage for what was to be history in the making at one of the most daunting tracks in America, Laguna Seca. Roland won his first 250 GP A.M.A. National in 1998 at Laguna Seca, so the bar was set for a true transformation and challenge for the team at RSD. and the Indian Challenger they would be converting. Built in 4 weeks at RSD shop by the RSD crew with help from industry friends, including Indian racing, S&S, Dunlop, Fox suspension, Airtech carbon bodywork, G.P. suspension, Saddleman, K&N filters, Motul oils as well as Sig Zane, who assisted with the unique Hawaiian-print graphic design. The RSD team transformed the Indian Challenger, a bike specifically developed for long street and highway excursions, into a legit track machine in a very short time.

With only one day of testing with rider Frankie Garcia in the books, we learned what we could. Back at the shop with the race looming only a week away, we fitted the remaining parts, including an S&S primary and exhaust modified by chief Mechanic Aaron Boss to increase ground clearance. Lightweight RSD race wheels were installed with Fresh Dunlop GP 4 supersport tires along with brand new one-off RSD riser kit equipped with Kraus bars and Renthal grips. ZLT graphics were applied to the Airtech carbon bodywork with Specbolt faster kit keeping everything in place and rounding out the mods. Saddleman delivered a modified seat and tail combo just in time for the team to get the bike in the race rig for a Thursday arrival at the track. There was a lot of talk and side bets on how much weight we could actually shed. In the end, we were able to lose more than 250 lbs. from the original weight of 840lbs fully loaded.

Getting the baggers on the track for the first time was mind-melting. It took a couple of laps to wrap your head around what your eyes were actually seeing. It was still a bit cold the first session, and putting your trust into the front tire on a freshly built machine, and one that ways upwards of 600lbs or more, is a daunting task for any rider, even the ones as skilled as who fielded the grid for the inaugural K.O.B race. Practice for many of the performance baggers seemed more like shakedown runs with quite a few riders unable to post times or posting times far off the leaders. It was clear who’d worked out the kinks and who had to find time. Fortunately for Frankie, the Indian Challenger adapted to the racetrack far better than the Harley’s. With a stable chassis and decent ground clearance, even the stock motor seemed to pull its weight against far more powerful machines. Sitting 3rd fastest after the first practice, we felt good looking at the backs of two current Moto America pros, Tyler O’hare on the S&S Indian Challenger and Hayden Gillim on the hella fast Factory Harley.

As qualifying got underway, it was clear the Indians were holding an advantage. Frankie quickly secured himself a P2 starting position for Saturdays main, posting an impressive 1:40 fastest lap time, while Hayden was a few tenths behind him with a low 41. Outside of Hayden Gillim, who’d rolled into the pits, the Two Indians set clear of the other bikes by a significant margin. Ben Bostrom was tailing Hayden as the second non-factory Harley by nearly 3 seconds.

 This was when shit went sideways. Frankie set out behind Tyler to see if he could get a tow and break into the 1:39’s. Having not done a practice start, yet he worked to get a good launch under the iconic bridge on the front straight. With an extremely grabby clutch and sticky Dunlop tires, the unexpected and unthinkable occurred with a complete flip of the bike at less than 5mph. The 600lb+ motorcycle landed on Frankie crushing his legs and landed wheels up on the handlebars like when you change your tires on your BMX bike. Frankie crawled from underneath the bike, looking more like a driver exciting a rolled racecar, and laid down in the pit lane while the RSD crew and track workers attended to him and the bike. It didn't look good, both for the bike or Frankie.

 Sometimes when things go really bad, they actually go pretty OK. Sometimes the race GODs smile in your favor, and this thankfully turned out to be one of those situations. While Frankie had large indentions in his legs and was winded, he was up and walking within a few minutes and got himself to the medical car. The vibe in the pits was one of great concern for Frankie, and the teams all offered assistance to get the bike to running condition in case Frankie was in a state to ride, but it was all very touch and go.

It all came down to the morning of the race. We were missing a few critical parts to get the bike going, and Frankie still hadn't been cleared to race yet. With only a few minutes before the first practice on race day, the parts arrived, and Frankie was cleared. The team scrambled to get the bike ready, and Frankie achingly stretched his race leathers over his bruised and swollen legs. As a battered Frankie and Challenger exited the paddock, the entire pits cheered for him before going out on the track. In 40 years of going to motorcycle racers, Roland had never seen anything like that happen.

The race?.... well, watch for yourself.

"The tune on the Fox shock was damn near perfect and with ground clearance being a major concern, Aaron fabricated an adjustable linkage for adjustable and increased ride height." - ROLAND

Frankie went from loop out Larry to Holeshot Harry, leading over turn one heading into two! It was a triumphant moment and enough to solidify Frankie’s riding chops, and forgiving the previous day's misstep. The elation didn't last long as he was out motored by Tyler on the S&S Indian Challenger and Hayden’s factory support Harley. Tyler had his bike and the track dialed even after having a moment and a big off-track excursion through the sand trap and finding himself back to third. Tyler soon found his way back by Frankie who held onto his tail as long as he could. Gillim's team must have found some magic in the Harley, as he was able to pick up a few seconds from the previous days qualifying. Still, it wasn’t’ enough to keep Tyler Behind him on the Challenger who passed him sliding heroically sideways, dropping into the fabled Corkscrew in what was a truly iconic moment in American road racing. Tyler stretched the lead with Hayden following behind, and Frankie making a valiant effort to keep them both honest chasing in third. Travis Wyman and Corey West rounded out the top 5, respectively.

 To say it was an epic weekend was an understatement. The Baggers did indeed prove they belonged on the track lapping with very respectable times. The stage is set for future bagger road races, and the results and experience will absolutely benefit fans and customers of baggers, bagger racing, and Motorcyclists in general. Race on Saturday, Tour on Sunday?

Roland Sands Design Roland Sands Racing Dakar Hat

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Roland Sands Design Roland Sands Racing Dakar Windbreaker

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Roland Sands Design Roland Sands Design Racing Dakar Collection

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TEST DAY

Our idea for this project and race was to get out with the boys and have a good time and see how inexpensively and quickly we could shave 250 or so lbs off a touring bike while raising it up for ground clearance and throwing high performance parts at it including big brakes and lightweight RSD wheels as well as high performance parts from our friends at S and S cycles. It’s pretty much what we do everyday with all our projects, so this is no different outside of the fact that you can actually drag a knee with bags on the bike, which is a first for an American Vtwin project for us.

Take a look behind the scenes as the teams at S&S Cycle and yours truly test our customized Indian Challengers before taking on a field of Harley-Davidson Road Glides at the King of the Baggers invitational at Laguna Seca Speedway.

Take a look behind the scenes as the teams at S&S Cycle and Roland Sands Design customize 2 Indian Challengers to take on a field of Harley-Davidson Road Glides at the King of the Baggers invitational at Laguna Seca Speedway. May the best V-twin win.

With only one day of testing with rider Frankie Garcia in the books, we learned what we could. Back at the shop with the race looming only a week away, we fitted the remaining parts, including an S&S primary and exhaust modified by chief Mechanic Aaron Boss to increase ground clearance. Lightweight RSD race wheels were installed with Fresh Dunlop GP 4 supersport tires along with brand new one-off RSD riser kit equipped with Kraus bars and Renthal grips. ZLT graphics were applied to the Airtech carbon bodywork with Specbolt faster kit keeping everything in place and rounding out the mods. Saddleman delivered a modified seat and tail combo just in time for the team to get the bike in the race rig for a Thursday arrival at the track. There was a lot of talk and side bets on how much weight we could actually shed. In the end, we were able to lose more than 250 lbs. from the original weight of 840lbs fully loaded.

The build

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