Harley and Indian on the track? No problem, with Brembo


 The success of the American championship for baggers - gigantic bikes but with a supersport brake system


To be successful in racing competitions, it’s vital to minimize the vehicle weight and obtain the best aerodynamic efficiency. But these principles go completely against the philosophy of baggers - cruiser bikes equipped with panniers and an oversize windshield. 

After all, we’re talking about a bike designed to clock up the kilometers (or rather the miles, given their U.S. origin) thanks to their huge tanks, with an extremely low seat to guarantee a comfortable journey, the possibility to carry luggage, and even to listen to music on the stereo system. ​


​So it was a big surprise when, during the last round of MotoAmerica in October 2020, the Laguna Seca circuit hosted a competition called Drag Specialties King of the Baggers. Thirteen bikes took part - 11 Harley-Davidson Electra Glides and two Indian Challengers.

Despite the different set-ups of the bikes, it was an incredible show, especially in the next-to-last lap. Entering the corkscrew bend, Tyler O’Hara slammed on the brakes to put his Indian into a controlled skid, overtaking Hayden Gillim’s HD and taking the lead which he then maintained right to the end. ​

An unthinkable maneuver for a bike of that size, and what’s more in a place famous for the episodes where Valentino Rossi overtook Casey Stone, and Marc Marquez overtook Rossi himself during the MotoGP races, thanks to the bravery of the riders themselves and also their Brembo braking systems. 

There were no winners and losers at the 2020 King of Baggers because everyone looked happy, including Wayne Rainey, President of MotoAmerica, who declared “It went better than we could ever have imagined. It was insane just how popular the event was. Our videos of the debut have been seen by millions of people; we know there are loads of bagger fans out there.”


In 2021, the number of scheduled King of Baggers events (that only single-cylinder and two-cylinder bikes can take part in) rose to three, and performance levels on the track improved considerably: the Laguna Seca pole position was obtained with a 4.4 second reduction in the time trial, and the overall race time of the winner, over the same 8 laps, was cut by 50 seconds. 

Thanks to the success that year, in 2022 there will be 6 events, with a total of 7 competitions, the first two that already took place during Daytona Bike Week: 11 Harleys and 7 Indians on the starting line, with the latter racing to victory. The first race was won by O’Hara, the second by Jeremy McWilliams (winner of the 250 category of the 2001 Dutch GP with Aprilia and Brembo brakes - his companions for his 2 podium placings in the 500 category in 2000 as well). ​



And it’s precisely Brembo brakes that were the major new entry in this year’s Baggers. The bikes had previously adopted standard braking systems on the track, sometimes with aftermarket components, but the braking results weren’t ideal. How they’re used on the circuit, in fact, and how they’re used on the road, are two different things, and that’s even more true for bikes of this type that are usually ridden in wide open spaces where braking is smooth and less frequent. 

To overcome the problems of overheating and poor effectiveness, the teams turned to Brembo which, after analyzing the weight of the bikes (down from the 288 kg of 2021 to the current 281 kg, due to the regulations) and their structural characteristics, along with lap times, race duration and operating temperature, defined the following package. ​


The bikes are now fitted with GP4-RR one-piece radial calipers inspired by the calipers used in MotoGP. Totally machined from solid with the aid of the latest CAD-CAM technologies, they optimize the weight-rigidity ratio, improving the bike’s agility during acceleration and when changing direction. Each caliper has 4 titanium pistons with a differentiated diameter of 32/36 mm, and takes the Z04 brake pads also used in the Superbike and Supersport championships.​



​These calipers act on the PISTABASSA brake discs (330 mm diameter) which, as their name suggests, have a low braking band and are therefore lighter than discs of the traditional height. The band and housing are coupled by means of 8 T-pins that ensure radial and axial float, thereby increasing thermo-mechanical stress resistance, above all during the extreme use they encounter in these races.​​



Everything is driven by the RMC BilletGP brake pump which, being at the top of its range, is employed in all the most important motorcycling championships of the world. Machined from solid, it guarantees optimum response and excellent linearity between the force applied by the rider on the brake lever and the reaction of the braking system.​​



Compared with this combination of elements adopted by the official Indian and Harley-Davidson teams, the private teams have gone for upgrade M4 calipers (again with Z04 brake pads), Supersport discs 5.5 mm thick (less than the 6.75 mm of the PISTABASSA) and the RCS CorsaCorta pump, again all with the Brembo name. 

When it comes down to it, you can have fun on the track even with bikes that aren’t exactly lightweight or streamlined, as long as they use Brembo braking systems .