The Motor Company Reenters Factory Racing
A few years ago, our friend and noted custom engine builder Kevin Baxter predicted, “The next wave in custom motorcycle builds will be performance baggers.” Combining both touring comfort with dramatically increased power, the custom bagger craze took hold in Southern California, then made its way east across the country. Starting with a standard, large displacement touring “bagger” (hard mounted bags, elevated handlebars, large fixed or batwing fairing) then “hopping up” the engine, tranny, and suspension while trimming the bags and increasing ride height for better ground clearance, custom high performance baggers have begun to displace the “big wheel bagger” and “fat tire chopper” trends of the past decade or two.
Kevin’s prediction has now come full circle. MotoAmerica, the AMA and FIM sanctioned American motorcycle road racing series, introduced a one-off exhibition race last year at the fabled Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca track in October. Dubbed King of the Baggers, the spectacle was a resounding success with fans and race teams alike, and Road Dirt had our own Ryan Nolan on hand to experience the roar of open-throated, American V-Twin Baggers thundering around the course as well. Expanding on that for 2021, MotoAmerica decided to up the ante to a three-round series, and opened the competition to all AMA license holders, with championship points being tallied at each race round, and a national champion being crowned at the end of MotoAm race season.
King of the Baggers debut last October at Laguna Seca. Photo by MotoAmerica
We reported last November that Harley-Davidson was withdrawing from factory racing support in AMA, NHRA, and AFT. Now, however, the Motor Company has decided to reenter the factory racing arena, by putting up an official Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle race team in the 3-round King of the Baggers series this year. From what we’ve learned, they are preparing a Road Glide Special with a race-modded Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee Eight 131 “Performance Crate Engine”. This is the most-powerful street-compliant performance engine offered by Harley-Davidson. Built from the bottom up in Milwaukee, the street-tuned, 131-cubic-inch (2147cc) Screamin’ Eagle crate engine delivers 131 ft-lb of torque to the rear wheel as soon as the throttle is cranked, and actually can be installed in all 2017-later H-D touring bikes. Beast of a bagger.
“Competing in the King of the Baggers series gives Harley-Davidson an opportunity to showcase our Screamin’ Eagle performance products in the heat of competition,” said Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president, and CEO Harley-Davidson. “Nobody knows more about building Harley-Davidson performance than our Screamin’ Eagle engineers. Harley-Davidson created the first factory hot rod baggers, the Road Glide Special and Street Glide Special models, for riders craving performance and touring comfort.” In addition to its factory team effort, Harley will offer a nearly $30,000 cash contingency program for qualified H-D racers competing in the three-race King of the Baggers series.
Wyman and crew testing at Laguna Seca. Photo by Harley-Davidson
MotoAmerica pro racer Kyle Wyman has been tapped to pilot the Harley factory build in all three race rounds. Wyman, 31, from Macedon, N.Y., formed Kyle Wyman Racing at the age of 21 to compete at the highest level of professional road racing in the United States. He started racing Harley-Davidson XR750s in flat track at the age of 15. Wyman was a contender and won six races in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson XR1200 series, he won the Daytona 200 in 2019 and placed seventh overall in the 2020 HONOS Superbike series, the premier MotoAmerica road racing class.
“I am very excited and honored to be the rider of the Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide Special,” said Wyman. “To be a factory rider for Harley-Davidson is something I’ve dreamed of since I was little, watching my hero Scott Parker win Grand National Championships on the Harley-Davidson XR750. I look forward to our first race at Road Atlanta and competing aboard this amazing machine.”
Kyle Wyman, Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Factory wrist. Photo by Harley-Davidson
We’re glad to see MotoAmerica offering the expanded King of the Baggers series this year, happy to see Harley-Davidson reenter the factory racing world, and we think they picked a hot wrist in Kyle Wyman. Should be a crazy season of racing, not only in the Baggers series, but across the MotoAm race classes. By the way, the specific Baggers events will be featured at the opening round of Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta (April 30-May 2), Road America in Elkhart Lake WI (June 11-13), and Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca (July 9-11). Tickets are available now for all race rounds.
For the full slate of MotoAmerica races this season, click here:
For more on Harley-Davidson, click here: