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A Harley-Davidson badge is shown on a Harley-Davidson Road Glide for sale.

MotoAmerica’s King of the Baggers and the Limitless Pursuit of Speed

Our insatiable need for speed and the pursuit of more power is everywhere you look, from our search for the fastest cars to motorcycles like the Harley-Davidson Road Glide for sale. But doesn’t that seem counterintuitive? Isn’t the Road Glide a long-distance tourer designed for comfort?

The Road Glide delivers the signature Harley-Davidson rumble, but it also showcases our penchant for performance and efforts to eke more power out of even the most unassuming behemoths. We see this firsthand in the availability of Screamin’ Eagle Performance parts, but more so in the newly introduced MotoAmerica King of the Baggers race series. The series gives the Road Glide a well-deserved place in the spotlight, showcasing its need for speed and propensity to deliver against long-time rivals from Indian. It’s a match made in heaven, and motorcycle enthusiasts can’t get enough.

The Debut: MotoAmerica Introduces King of the Baggers

Motorcycle racing has held a coveted place in America for decades, but hit a major setback in 2008 when the economy crashed. Americans faced significant financial crises that left them with gaping holes in their wallets, and no extra money to spend on luxuries or hobbies like riding. The repercussions were widespread, affecting the world’s most iconic motorcycle brands and even the AMA road racing industry that so many adore.

AMA did everything possible to reignite interest in racing, ultimately handing operations over to the Daytona Motorsports Group. However, the transition was disastrous, with significant changes leading many manufacturers to rethink their participation. It marked the downward spiral of a once-beloved pastime in America as major motorcycle brands streamlined their racing divisions, focusing solely on retail. The interest and passion for racing were seemingly gone for everyone, or so most people thought.

Fortunately, a group of investors, motorcycle enthusiasts, and veterans in the racing industry refused to accept the end of an era. They teamed up to create MotoAmerica, and dedicated themselves to breathing new life into road racing in North America. In 2015, the first part of that vision came to life when they took over the AMA Superbike Series. Since then, MotoAmerica has expanded racing to appeal to more riders, adding classes for women, entry-level riders, and the exciting Super Hooligans and King of the Baggers racing series.

Setting the Stage: Harley-Davidson Takes on Indian

MotoAmerica recognizes one of the most essential components of road racing is to entertain. Entertainment comes in a variety of forms, but for motorcycle enthusiasts it’s rooted in the shock-and-awe factor. We want to see jaw-dropping power in the most unexpected places. That’s the inspiration behind the King of the Baggers race series, pitting long-distance baggers against one another to see who’s the fastest and most agile.

The King of the Baggers debuted in 2020 as a single race at Laguna Seca, just to test the waters for the possibility of a future series. It was wildly successful, with Indian taking the win. Harley-Davidson doubled down for the three-round series that debuted in 2021. It left spectators standing and cheering excitedly as Kyle Wyman took the lead on his Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special against Tyler O’Hara in the saddle of an Indian Challenger. Wyman’s victory was all too sweet, with his souped-up Road Glide Special drawing its warrior heartbeat from a Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight 131 Performance Crate Engine. The powerhouse and Wyman’s incredible skills made history, setting a new class lap record at 1:31.983 seconds and beating O’Hara by 4.388 seconds at the finish.

“I just wanted to give one lap of absolutely everything I had and see where that put me,” Wyman said of the race. “And I saw plus-one after the first lap and put my head down again. The Harley-Davidson team has given me such an amazing motorcycle, and this is a dream come true for me. I grew up in a Harley-Davidson dealership but have been road racing all different brands. I never thought I’d race a Harley again after the XR1200 series, and here we are, King of the Baggers champions.”

MotoAmerica Hits Gold: Extending the Series

The 2021 King of the Baggers garnered widespread attention, with MotoAmerica reporting over 19 million impressions, 1.1 million views on YouTube, and a social media engagement of 1.2 million for the three-race series. The entertainment factor was official, and enthusiasm for road racing in North America was finally reestablished. Fortunately, MotoAmerica responded in kind, extending the King of the Baggers race series to six events in 2022 and adding two new tracks: the Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota and New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Once again, Wyman and O’Hara took the spotlight, with O’Hara ultimately taking the King of the Baggers title for 2022 on his Indian Challenger. However, Wyman and his Road Glide Special made history for a second consecutive year, setting new records and securing three first-place finishes in the series. As the first and only rider to achieve such a feat, Wyman finished the King of the Baggers with a different type of victory. These records and the Wyman/O’Hara and Harley-Davidson/Indian rivalry set the stage for the highly anticipated 2023 King of the Baggers series, with the winner yet to be determined as the series wraps up in September.

Behind the Handlebars: A Look at the KOTB Road Glide Special

For many, it’s hard to imagine a Grand American Touring bike like the Road Glide Special bringing the heat on the track. However, Harley-Davidson proves anything is possible with Wyman’s souped-up Grand American Touring icon. With a seat height of 36.4 inches, flat bars, and adjustable peg locations, the KOTB Road Glide Special immediately differentiates itself from a stock tourer. Of course, its Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight 131 Performance Crate Engine helps matters, roaring to life as it delivers over 150 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel for incredible power throughout the entire rev range. For Wyman, that range averages a mere 6,000 RPM.

As a bagger, Wyman’s Road Glide Special weighs north of 600 pounds and, as required, is equipped with fairings and saddlebags. However, Harley-Davidson does everything possible to enhance the bike’s handling, heightening everything from its brakes to its lean angles. Wyman even made a special request for the racer, asking for Brembo master cylinders and Accosato calipers, a familiar setup used on his MotoAmerica Ducati racer. As for the angles, the Road Glide Special can’t avoid the bulk of its Screamin’ Eagle engine or exhaust, but does its best and offers a 55-degree lean angle, which is incredible for a fully-equipped bagger.

King of the Baggers: What It Means Beyond the Track

Road racing nearly met its demise in the mid-2000s after economic crises and poor handling left many unenthused. Fortunately, that’s changed as MotoAmerica reinvigorates the industry with series like the King of the Baggers. With Wyman and O’Hara going head to head, Harley-Davidson and Indian take the spotlight and showcase their talents in delivering jaw-dropping and entirely unexpected powerhouses. It’s entertainment at its finest in the motorcycle industry.

Yet the King of the Baggers race series does something else equally important. It gives Harley-Davidson the opportunity to satiate our need for speed beyond the track. Years ago, road racing was inspired by riders customizing their stock bikes in their garages, hoping to glean more power and bring their dreams to life in the saddle. These riders and their souped-up bikes laid the foundation for racing, and it’s the same for the King of the Baggers.

Today, Road Glide owners can share the thrills of the King of the Baggers series beyond the track with a growing number of performance components like the Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight 131 Performance Crate Engine and various four-stage Screamin’ Eagle upgrades. These modifications showcase how the King of the Baggers unites motorcycle manufacturers like Harley-Davidson with enthusiasts in the saddle. Riders are constantly searching for more power and finetuning performance, and the King of the Baggers publicizes that pursuit and makes it accessible to more riders for a relationship that benefits everyone.

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