Racing drives purposeful design that every enthusiast can benefit from.
What started as a wild idea to race Harley-Davidson and Indian V-twin touring platforms at the racetrack has blown up into an industry-wide craze, reaping benefits for the entire bagger community.
As the pinnacle of MotoGP pushes the boundaries of what was once possible for consumer-purchasable sportbikes, the highest levels of bagger racing—the MotoAmerica King of the Bagger series and the Bagger Racing League—have followed suit. These race leagues have pushed the boundaries of V-twin performance while offering trickle-down technology and influence for the entire community to enjoy.
In this article, we explore the beginnings of high-performance American V-twin racing, where it is headed, and how the bagger community has benefited from its massive impact on the motorcycle industry.
The MotoAmerica King of the Baggers Series - Where Bagger Racing Began
Only a few short years ago, the MotoAmerica King of the Baggers was nothing more than a one-off exhibition race, taking place at the iconic Laguna Seca in October 2020.
The following year, the series expanded to three race weekends across the existing MotoAmerica championship. Then, finally, in 2022 it expanded to a six-round nationwide championship, spanning from the high banks of Daytona International Speedway to the top-gear straightaways of Wisconsin’s Road America, right out the backdoor of the Harley-Davidson factory.
The eyeballs on the MotoAmerica series are surreal. Each event is streamed via several channels, including the MotoAmerica Live Plus app and Youtube, not to mention aired on live TV nationwide. On-site fan attendance at MotoAmerica events has been up since the introduction of KoB, too, with many fans admitting that they only came to watch the baggers!
At the inception of the series, Kraus, along with industry-leading suspension company Öhlins, was trusted with the development of motorcycle geometry and suspension layout to harness the power of the Screamin’ Eagle 131 Performance Crate Engine. This engine was famously utilized in Harley-Davidson’s factory effort and eventual title charge toward the 2021 King of the Baggers championship.
As the series continues building, so does the OEM involvement. The Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle team and respected superbike riders of Kyle and Travis Wyman represent Milwaukee’s factory involvement. On the other side of the fence, factory-backed Indian Challengers ridden by Tyler O’Hara and Jeremy McWilliams take on their competitors. In addition, several other heavy-hitter brands, like Vance & Hines, line up weekly.
The MotoAmerica King of the Baggers series is leading the charge of high-performance V-twin development, and it’s bringing big attention with it. Kraus is honored to be part of the series, supporting several teams with components while furthering development for even better results.
Introductions of OEM Performance Baggers
Speaking of factory involvement, these OEMs have recognized the shift toward high-performance baggers and created their own build platforms. The Harley-Davidson Road Glide and Street Glide ST models are the prime example, as is the Low Rider ST. Each is packed with performance upgrades, including the Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-twin powerplant and performance-minded aesthetics, such as these road glide T bars.
To the invested high-performance bagger enthusiast, the upgrades may seem minor. However, they represent the recognition of the trend and hint at what may come from Harley-Davidson.
At Kraus, we see these as the platforms for aftermarket builds. It’s our goal to combine the aggressive feel with well-developed parts that represent an extension of the OEM offerings for a clean, effective high-performance bagger.
We strive to enhance the riding position for improved control and feedback and partner with aftermarket companies to co-develop products for well-rounded performance.
The Scrutiny of the Racetrack
If there’s one thing we know for sure about flogging a V-twin around the racetrack, the demands on the motorcycle scrutinize every aspect of performance and strength. Simple. The rate at which these bikes are run at the races is extraordinarily higher than on the street, meaning the demands on the equipment are also much higher.
That’s why Kraus prides itself in developing components in the strict confines of the racetrack, where performance can be pushed and repeatable. As a result, everything from ergonomics to suspension and geometry is critical regarding lap time and safety.
Racing at the Grassroots Level
Aside from the MotoAmerica King of the Baggers, there’s V-twin racing all around the country. Associations like the Bagger Racing League or various clubs like Chuckwalla Valley Motorcycle Association offer a friendly community of like-minded bagger enthusiasts to compete against one another on their home-crafted machines. These races allow riders to experience the same glory with fewer costs and a more relaxed environment. FLH touring platforms, Dynas, and Sportsters are all welcome.
Racetrack Meets the Road
The beauty of V-twin bagger racing is that the benefits of countless hours of development and the push for fresh ideas benefit the road-going consumer. You don’t have to be on the Screamin’ Eagle Factory Harley-Davidson or even at the racetrack to experience the rewards.
Our efforts to dial in an in-command yet comfortable riding position and optimize suspension performance and steering geometry are equally welcomed on the street. In fact, you could argue more so, as the variables and outside factors of the street are more dangerous than the racetrack. So take advantage of performance gains without taking away the traditional V-twin experience.
American V-twin bagger racing has only been here briefly but has greatly impacted the market. As a result, Kraus has emphasized development to lead the charge of the high-performance bagger trend and act as a foundation for future builds. However, seeing how far it has come makes us wonder how far we can take it.