In 2021, I attended California Superbike School, looking to sharpen my road-riding skills. As my class took to the track for the first time, I was surprised to hear the unmistakable rumble of a big V-twin above the wail of so many sport-bikes. Moments later, I had my first glimpse of the unlikely source: a giant crimson Harley-Davidson Road Glide. Afterwards, as we waited for our assigned coach to share his post-track debrief, I ventured to ask the Harley’s equally big and imposing owner, Doug Ramey, why anyone would bring a Road Glide to racing school? He fixed me with an unnerving eye, and flatly replied, “Because I wanna go bagger racing.”

We followed Doug Ramey's endeavor to realize his improbable quest to compete in the equally improbable sport of professional bagger racing.

An Age-Old Rivalry on Absurdly Inappropriate Machinery

Conceived as a one-off event for lightly modified American V-Twin motorcycles equipped with fairing and saddlebags, the King of the Baggers (KOTB) started life as a showcase prelude to a MotoAmerica Superbike race held in October 2020. Like two ancient armies going to war, the House of Harley-Davidson and the House of Indian lined up their bravest knights, an eclectic group of road-racing veterans, to do battle on 700-pound motorcycles around historic Laguna Seca raceway.

RELATED: Harley-Davidson Wins Second King Of The Baggers Race

It proved to be an irresistible spectacle. MotoAmerica’s president and three-time world Grand Prix champion, Wayne Rainey, said the race “blew up” social media, garnering 9.6 million video views across Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. The King of the Baggers racing series was born, and the Harley Factory Team would win the inaugural title. The astonishing success of the KOTB has led MotoAmerica to extend the series to six races in 2022, debuting at Daytona Bike Week. It also spawned a rival, The Bagger Racing League (BRL), which held the first race of its Battle of the Baggers series at Utah’s Motorsports Campus in 2021, and has even influenced Harley's design choices, including the 2022 Harley-Davidson Road Glide ST.

Ramey set his sights on racing against professional riders in BRL’s second fixture, to be held just six months later at Sonoma Raceway, and his visit to California Superbike School was the first step in realizing that dream.

Born To Race Baggers

 1940 Harley-Davidson Flathead Bobber
Via: Logan Ramey

Ramey was still a boy when his parents and grandparents relocated from the Bay Area to Carson City, Nevada, where he recalls helping his grandfather, “a big Harley guy,” adjust the valves on his V-twin. Motorcycles were in the blood, and Ramey and his buddies spent their formative years modifying and racing whatever they could lay their hands on, ripping around the back roads of rural Nevada and competing at flat-track events.

After serving 37 years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ramey returned to Carson City as a qualified engineer and founded a business overhauling commercial janitorial equipment. He devoted his spare time to his burgeoning collection of motorcycles and modifying muscle cars for friends. As Ramey's reputation for skilled automotive engineering spread, he soon found he could convert his boyhood obsession into his new livelihood.

2004 Road King 127ci
Via: Logan Ramey

“We only go around once in this world,” Ramey said, “and I like to spend my time meeting and talking with people who have a passion for this stuff.”

Ramey currently owns five motorcycles. His first and most treasured is a slightly bobbed 1940 Harley-Davidson Flathead 45ci, which he bought while home from a deployment. When spirited riding is called for, he swings a leg over his “hot rod,” a heavily modified 2004 Road King 127ci, and for easy cruising with Mrs. Ramey, he uses his 2019 Indian Chieftain, the “put-put.” Ramey also owns a 128ci Harley Freewheeler that he showed at the 2021 Street Vibrations Rally in Reno. And, finally, the crimson 2020 Road Glide he brought to superbike school.

The Road to Sonoma

2019 Indian Chieftain
Via: Logan Ramey

An old motorsport mantra is that racing costs the same today as it always did; every penny you have. Competing as a privateer is an expensive hobby, but Ramey is confident his mechanical knowledge and resourcefulness will help him manage the costs. He also credits the support of Battle Born Harley-Davidson in Carson City.

“I’m blessed to know a lot of good people who share my passion,” Ramey told me. “They’ve been real supportive.”

“We’re trying to ease the pain,” said Battle Born’s General Manager, Craig Berry, of his efforts to help Ramey. “You can’t help but love the guy. When he starts a project, he always sees it through.”

Doug Ramey working on his Harley Davidson Road Glide
Via: Logan Ramey

Riders competing in the BRL must first qualify for a racing license, and Ramey booked his place at a licensing meet held at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, leaving just a few weeks in which to strip the Road Glide of its heavier parts and fit a slew of new racing components before the test.

The upgraded suspension includes 49mm alloy lower fork legs with 25mm GP cartridges and Legend springs with a Revo Arc Remote Reservoir for the rear. A stronger crankshaft and modified swing arm help deliver increased power, and a Beringer braking system helps to harness it. The bike also received a new handlebar and controls, and new 17-inch, forged wheels were ordered, and delayed. The team also installed rearsets, only to find that their positioning required a frame modification to mount the new exhaust system, forcing them to reinstall the OEM footboards before heading to Chuckwalla.

RELATED: The Best Performance Parts For Harley-Davidson Bagger Models

But Ramey doesn’t let the inevitable setbacks get him down. “You can’t get discouraged,” he said, “You just have to keep moving forward.”

When Ramey took to the track, grinding his footboards through Chuckwalla’s tight turns, sparks flew, to the delight of the younger sport-bike crowd, and became the inspiration for the team’s new name: Wicked Grind Racing. He also met other would-be bagger racers, who demonstrated the camaraderie common to racing and shared their advice, knowledge, and encouragement. And contacts, including SMT Machining, the only shop Ramey could find willing to promise timely delivery of the vitally important 17-inch lightweight racing wheels.

Wicked Grind Goes Racing

Road Glide in the Paddock at Sonoma Raceway
Via: Logan Ramey

With the racing license taken care of, Ramey paid his entrance fee for the Bagger Racing League’s second meet at Sonoma and spent the remaining few weeks refining and testing the bike, no easy task for a privateer with no budget for racetrack rental.

Racing carries more than just financial risk and is generally considered a sport for the young. I asked Ramey what motivated him to start racing now, and after a palpable pause, he related how it had been his solemn duty to lay two of his fellow soldiers to rest. “I’m riding for the soldiers,” he said.

RELATED: How "The Fastest Ever Female Road Racer" Patricia Fernandez Preps For The King Of The Baggers

Race prepared Harley-Davidson Road Glide
Via: Logan Ramey

Ramey and his Wicked Grind Racing team arrived at Sonoma on a cool and cloudy December day. The Pro Stock Bagger class would pit them against such riders as multi-time AMA Pro Supermoto Unlimited Champion, Benny Carlson, and Hooligan Enduro winner, Michael ‘Arnie’ Wells.

“When I finally got on track, I was real nervous. It was cold, and we didn’t have much time to get warmed up before qualifying.”

Doug Ramey in the paddock at sonoma raceway
Via: Logan Ramey

Nonetheless, Ramey qualified eighth out of fourteen riders, and would eventually finish a highly respectable seventh overall. Empowered by this result, he plans to run the crimson Road-Glide at the KOTB’s inaugural 2022 race at Daytona, with a hired professional in the scary seat. But don’t assume our man will be sitting in the paddock while all the action unfolds on track. He has already laid out plans to further modify his 2005 Road King. Ramey's new steed on which to do battle against the House of Indian in the 2022 BRL series. Hooah!

You can follow Doug Ramey's adventures at his JRS Motorwerks Bagger Racing blog.

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