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Indian Challenger RR ‘King of the Baggers’ race bike test

BikeSocial Road Tester



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To celebrate winning the MotoAmerica King of Baggers race series, Indian Motorcycles and S&S Cycle have done something insane: they have produced a limited edition run of 29 exclusive Challenger RR races bikes, exact copies of the beasts on which Tyler O’Hara won the 2022 Championship (and Jerry McWilliams won the dramatic Daytona race in the same year). Yes, you can buy this super rare monster – but you'll need £90,000. And just 1 has been earmarked for the UK market.

This isn’t a watered-down version of a race bike with all sharp edges sanded down for public consumption, but instead a ready-to-race replica. That means years of track development with completely new suspension, wheels, braking, and chassis. Plus, a big-bore 60-degree V-twin taken up from 1768cc to 1834cc.

And it is a phenomenal motorcycle: one that weighs some 281kg yet reaches speeds on the Daytona banking of over 180mph and is able to lap within a few seconds of the top runners in AMA Superbike. All this, despite being based on Indian’s Challenger, one of the most laid-back baggers on the planet, complete with 6.5-inch speakers for blasting tunes as fellow tourers along Route 66. In fact, the transformation of 361kg of prime American beef designed to run on a 19-inch front wheel and 16 rear into a crazy-fast track tool is beyond genius or comedy or reason. The result is beyond compare.

The original MotoAmerica King of Baggers race that ran back in October 2020 wasn't meant to be too serious; converting laid back American baggers into race bikes was meant as a fun idea and a one-off spectacle. But the best-selling bikes in the USA are baggers, car parks are littered with them, while sports bikes relatively thin on the ground these days. And that first race was a huge success, creating a social media storm as videos emerged of a grid full of faired and bagged V-twin behemoths thundering into Turn One.

It was an obvious decision to run a full series the following season, since when the King of the Baggers race series has grown each year, gaining in popularity, attracting new sponsors as well as world-class riders and, perhaps most significantly, rekindled the historical battle between Indian Motorcycles and Harley-Davidson. It could be argued that bagger racing is one of the most exciting and interesting race series in the USA right now.

But converting a road-going bagger, which is essentially a big American V-twin cruiser with panniers, into a race bike is a mammoth task, not only testing the teams' skills and ingenuity but also the depth of their financial resources.

Indian Motorcycles Racing and S&S Cycle have decided to celebrate winning the King of Baggers Championship in 2022, their second on the trot in the hands of Tyler O’Hara’s by producing this hand-built replica. Production is limited to just 29 units, and it is priced at £90,000. And we’ve ridden it, at Anglesey in North Wales!


What’s the Indian Challenger RR race bike like to ride?

We sent Chad to Anglesey to ride the King of the Baggers race machine. It makes no sense on paper but get it on track and watch it fly!


Indian Challenger RR – From Road to Racetrack

Converting a roadgoing sports bike into a race bike is a hard task. BMW produces an excellent S1000RR yet is still to achieve World Superbike success with it in 2023, so transforming a laid-back American cruiser into a race bike is monumentally difficult, and into a race-winner is trickier still. The standard road bike complete with that stereo is so far removed from the needs of the racetrack yet, incredibly, some of the road-going parts remain on the championship winning bike Challenger.

The race bike's main frame is stock while the swing-arm benefits from added bracing. The race fairing is a copy of the road bike – the rules require the same dimensions and to silhouette– but headlights, music players and road clutter can be removed. The gas tank, sorry, fuel tank is the same, and despite the V-twin's increase in power, the large radiator is also stock. The core of the engine remains stock, including the transmission and gear ratios.

Essentially the largest problem the engineers face is getting the Challenger to handle, and this means improving the brakes, suspension, tyre grip and, of course, limited ground clearance – which is why the bike has been so dramatically lifted.

The 19-inch/16-inch wheel combination of the standard bike has been replaced by lightweight forged-aluminium 17-inch rims on Dunlop slick rubber. The front brakes are completely new and uprated to Brembo M4 calipers and 330mm rotors, sorry, discs. Suspension is bespoke, produced by Öhlins, and fully adjustable. The bagger's footboards are gone, replaced by S&S rearsets and a quick-shifter kit. Then there are the really trick parts by S&S: billet adjustable triple clamps and clutch cover, chain drive conversion, automatic chain tensioner.

The 60-degree V-twin also gets a significant overhaul, though power and torque figures remain a closely guarded secret (even Jeremy McWilliams wouldn’t reveal to BikeSocial even after a few post-test few beers). The standard 1768cc capacity is up to 1834cc; stroke remains the same at 96.5mm but bore is up to a whopping 110mm from 108mm. There are CNC ported heads, S&S camshafts, a completely new air intake system and a huge 78mm throttle body to feed that huge motor. An S&S two-into-one race exhaust makes it sound like the end of the world. Meanwhile, the rev limiter is set to a lowly 7500rpm because this motor is all about torque.

The minimum weight is set at 620lb (281kg) by the rules, which is relatively simple for Indian to achieve and why there isn’t any carbon fibre onboard aside from the huge bags (and you won’t find any titanium, either). These are carbon to minimise the likely instability caused by hard luggage at 180mph. And while the racing Challenger remains a ludicrously heavy machine for the track, it is some 100kg lighter than the bike it's based on.

The wheelbase is around the same as the standard bike, but rake and trail are steeper and shorter to help the brute turn. But the most dramatic change is to the seat height which has leapt up from 672mm to 889mm, which is higher than BMW’s R1250GS (870mm) and even KTM's skyscraper 1290 Super Adventure (880mm). This is one long, wide, heavy and tall motorcycle, yet one that at some tracks is only three to four seconds slower than a AMA superbike, and at Daytona hit more than 180mph. Truly, the Indian technicians and S&S Cycle team have worked magic.



Indian Challenger RR – The Ride

I ridden bikes on a professional basis for close to 25-years, but nothing prepared me for this. Like most of you, I’ve watched bagger racing on YouTube and knew the bike would be a beast – but in the flesh it is enormous and wildly intimidating too. To add to the sense of dread, even as it’s being warmed up it sounds like it wants to kill you.

Problem number two: at just 172cm I’m on the short side and can’t get anywhere near touching the floor and need two technicians to hold the bike as I get onto it, and to catch me when I come back down pit lane. McWilliams reported that he once stopped for a practice start, didn’t plan accordingly, toppled over and couldn’t pick it back up.

Brilliant. So I’m about to ride a monster of a race bike of unknown ferocity, that I need help to get on, that weighs as much as two Moto2 machines and is number 3 of 29 to be built... and worth £90,000.

Once onboard, with some help, it feels like a building. The tall hard race seat is met by bars that are very wide, while the bodywork's acreage seems immense.  My right leg sits just behind the huge air filter and as I take control of the bike from my helpers the RR gets angrier with every deafening blip of the throttle.

I nudge up on the S&S race shift, give it some angry revs, let the clutch out as an Indian technician pushes me for the first few meters like a child taking their first ride without stabilizers, and this mountain on wheels trundles down pit lane, the exhaust’s aural secretions reverberating against the Anglesey pit wall. Now it’s just me, an empty track and a very unusual race bike – like nothing I have ridden before.

Thankfully Indian had laid on an FTR1200 to get me familiar with the Welsh track (basking in perfect conditions) so there were no excuses: it was time to unleash the beast. Jeremy McWilliams had advised me to use the torque – ‘don’t bother with first gear,’ he said – so I short-shifted into second, then third.  

The drive is immense, the slightest touch of the throttle opening the floodgates to a wave of torque like no other race bike I have ridden. The RR revs out at 7500rpm, where most race bike start making their power, and all my focus is on managing the V-twin's mid-range muscle.

There’s no time to dawdle; I’m on scrubbed and pre-heated Dunlops and need to maintain their heat. However, I also have to remember there are no electronic rider aids like traction control – and the throttle is very direct.

Into turn one for the first time and it's in with the clutch as the quick-shifter only works on up changes, and back to second for the long wide hairpin. The brakes are surprisingly strong considering the bike's weight and the steering isn’t bad either. Already, I’m riding the Challenger RR like a conventional race bike, hanging off the inside, but it’s comical how tall it is, how far my knee is from the track below. I make a mental note: plenty of grip and ground clearance, just try harder.

On the back straight, which is actually a long banana of a curve, and it’s time to unleash the V-twin. I tap the smooth shifter into third, fourth, and even grab fifth. I’m only tickling the throttle but acceleration is dramatic as one wave of torque after another shovels the bike forwards. I tuck in, like you would on a conventional race bike, but realise with such a huge fairing there’s no need.

Up to the second and third gear complex towards the end of the lap and again the steering and braking are direct and responsive in a way you simply wouldn't expect on a 281-kilo wildebeest. I’m trying to keep everything smooth and wide, use a tall gear to allow the bike to flow, not stop-start or use any of that modern, squaring-off nonsense. Rolling down through Anglesey's ‘corkscrew’, I’m amazed by the Indian's deceptive lightness and fluidity. You’d never guess this was a nearly 300kg bike, not a chance.

As I hit the home straight, I know the Indian crew are watching so it’s time to put my head down. This time into the harpin it’s back two gears but you have to be careful on down changes as there’s so much torque and, rather old-school, you have to use the clutch.

The huge Brembo stoppers are up for the job, and this time as I roll the RR into the turn my knee hits the Welsh racetrack for the first time. The seat is taller than BMW’S R1250 GS but the grip developed by the Dunlop race rubber and the extra clearance engineered into the bike means there is plenty to come. I’m hanging off mid-corner but nowhere near the limit of the bike. Elbow down, by the way, is not an option.



Out of turn three (taken in third gear) I open the throttle hard and the drive is off the scale. A force like no other. This bagger just wants to take off. And under such hard acceleration the rear goes vague and lets me know that this isn’t a thoroughbred race bike developed from a sports bike, but from a lazy, laid-back cruiser.

This happens every lap as I ask for all that torque to be laid to the ground and wonder if the RR's combination of immense grip and torque are somehow overwhelming the chassis' ability to harness all the energy it creates.

Once the power is laid down, and you have force running through the shock and chain, stability isn’t bad. But on the initial pick up of the throttle, the rear can feel vague, either chassis flex, anti-squat, or both.

I doubt I was ever at 100% throttle during my ride on the Challenger RR, probably not even at 90% in actual fact, and certainly didn't witness the shift lights as there's simply no need to rev it hard. It’s tricky to estimate just how much torque is being churned out as it’s so different from any race bike, but there's no doubting it's quick under acceleration. Super quick.

But it’s not all about the engine. What the Indian technicians and riders have done in terms of handling is a minor miracle. The front end is stable with braking able to consistently slow 290kg plus rider from potentially 180mph. In fact, you can ride the front end like a 150-kilo race machine.

The last section of the lap is technical and taken in third gear, allowing the bike to flow (the fuelling and snap from the throttle is a little too snatchy in second gear) and a real test of the accuracy. The Indian performed admirably, holding a line, hitting its apexes perfectly while hiding its weight and finding a natural flow.

Each lap it encouraged me to get more into the flow, albeit at my relatively low speed compared to McWilliams'. Get the chain tight, then dial in the torque. Brake later, then let go of the lever and carry the corner speed with lots of vertiginous lean angle. Then it's back on the throttle and time to be deafened again by the rudest of race exhaust systems.

On my way back to the pitlane I remember to plan my stop carefully. As I roll up to my Indian technician in neutral, I desperately try to get one secure foot down. Yes, my lack of hight is a little embarrassing but I’m just pleased to have the bike back in one piece. The Indian Challenger RR is not as difficult to ride as I was expecting, not as intimidating as it looks and sounds, but does require skill and a different style of riding – way above my level. I can see why some riders click with the bagger racing and some don’t. I rode in perfect conditions and alone. God know what it must be like on tricky fast track, in the wet, elbow to elbow with others!


Jeremy McWilliams, Bagger Racer: “it’s far quicker than anything I’ve ever ridden”


“It’s a bit overpowering when you first see it and you’re not sure what to expect, and when you get on it all kinds of emotions go through your head. The first time I rode it we were trying to run with a 1:1 throttle, and they’d just increased the performance, so that was pretty scary! Once we’d got the throttle map sorted out, it was kind of learning how to ride it. It’s not a sportsbike but ride it for what it is. It takes a bit of a different style – you’ve got to use way more rear brake, a lot of body position off the side of the bike, and you’re sitting rather high because we need ground clearance, so you feel like you’re a long way away from the floor. Even with the rider ergo, we had to change it quite a bit to try and get the balance right and the rider more on the front wheel because obviously it was never designed to go on a racetrack. We made things super stiff on it, like the swing arm. They are actually stiffer wheels on it now. Triple clamp too, just beefier everywhere to help stabilise the bike a little bit.

“We don’t get brake fade but we do have abnormal tyre wear. This year Dunlop have put us on exactly the same rubber as the superbikes and that’s improved it. The shorter races we can use the soft tyres, and medium for the longer ones. We just limit the revs to 3,500rpm for the first few metres at launch because if you run it any higher it goes into full wheelie mode. The launch time is incredible, we go from 0-100 in about 2.5s which is quicker than anything I’ve ever ridden.

“Improvements in suspension and learning how to use the torque and build a better throttle map have helped. It has twice the torque of anything I’ve ever ridden which can destroy tyres or tie the chassis in knots.

“When you ride it you feel like you’re riding it 110%, trying to find the laptime is hard but once you’re there you can maintain it over the weekend. It takes a little bit of time and adjustment to get up to speed.”



Indian Challenger RR – Verdict

I obviously wanted more laps, and it would be great to test the bike again at a faster-flowing track like Donington Park, but I did get a real flavour for what this bike is about and what it must be like to race a bagger. Just to dance with the devil, poke the tiger in the eye and get away with it was an experience.

Converting a road-going sports bike into a race bike is an uphill task but converting a bagger into a race bike is astronomical is like climbing Mount Everest in flip-flops. They’ve made the Indian Challenger handle and go around a racetrack in a time not a million miles away from an AMA superbike. The transformation is incredible, arguably one of the toughest and greatest in two wheeled racing today. Hats off to the Indian Motorcycles Racing team.

Numbers are limited, but if you want one – run to your local Indian dealer now…



Indian Challenger RR Specs

New price

c.£90,000 ($92,000)



Bore x Stroke

110mm x 96.5mm

Engine layout

60 degree V-Twn

Engine details

4v per cylinder, liquid-cooled


Top secret


Top secret


6 speed, chain final drive, quickshifter

Tank size

22.7 litres



Front suspension

Öhlins FGR250 inverted forks, 43mm, 130mm travel

Front suspension adjustment

Fully Adjustable

Rear suspension

Öhlins monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

Fully Adjustable

Front brake

330mm discs, Brembo M4 four-piston radial caliper

Rear brake

300mm disc, two-piston caliper

Front wheel / tyre

120/70-17 Dunlop slicks

Rear wheel / tyre

200/60-17 Dunlop slicks



Seat height



620lb (282kg)



MCIA Secured Rating