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RSD Chief – Hail to the Chief in Racer Form

The RSD Chief : Rapid Roland’s Renovated Racer for the Other Cruiser-Based Racing Machines

It is not surprising that the popular King of the Baggers Challenge spawned a new racing league. There are only limited dates in the 2022 Bagger Racing League calendar, but this is probably wise considering the non-traditional racing category may outlive its novelty. Still, if the success of a racing league was dependent on the percentage of the riding community to own one of said bikes in its original form, then the BRL indeed may hold the winning ticket. 

There are several classes in the BRL and two of them don’t require a set of saddlebags in order to attack the chicanes allowing for the lightest, stripped down “cruisers” to engage in battle. 

To perhaps help in that end, Indian Motorcycle completely overhauled the Chief for 2021. The bike lost its strictly touring focus, a considerable amount of weight, and arrived with a lower MSRP. Indian had other models to fill the touring role so the Chief could become a straight up cruiser, closer to the intent of the original Chief. In truth, this brought the bike into more direct competition with offerings from Harley-Davidson. 

But was the new Chief a racer? That was never part of the plan aside from the occasional impromptu street race. The bigger Challenger had proved its mettle in the King of the Bagger races but now the Chief gets it turn in the spotlight in a subclass of this most recent sideshow. 

There are a couple of ways of looking at the Heavyweight category in the BRL. It does assure the competition is American brand versus American brand: Harley-Davidson vs Indian. With Harley-Davidson withdrawing factory support from flat track, Bagger racing is practically the only venue for this form of nation-specific competition.

On the other hand, the class does lose some of its unique flavour—part of the joy of watching baggers battle on the track was that it looked so freaking awesome. The bikes were hugely modified for the series but with their fairings and bags attached the spirit of the bagger was still in evidence. To reference the previous story, it was like watching whales water ski.

the red chief in side profile

The RSD Chief Transformation – From Heart Cruiser to Lighter Racer

Roland Sands Design is fielding a team in the “Big Twin” class. The ride is one of the new Indian Chiefs but to get the bike into a competitive position required a lot of modification. The first step was stripping the RSD Chief of everything that wasn’t needed on a race bike: fenders, bodywork, stock exhaust, stock rear sub-frame, lights—there were ample extras to jettison that immediately reduced weight by 100 pounds.

With everything gone, RSD began replacing only what was necessary to make what was once a cruiser go around the track quickly. The rims were switched out to a RSD racing variety, a new underslung exhaust was fitted that required some very creative bending and routing of exhaust tubes. The swapping out of the Chief forks with a set from the Indian FTR along with long Fox shocks provided the required suspension and ride height upgrades. 

The rear sub-chassis was replaced by an adjustable sub-frame supporting a new race specific seat. To stop the bike a set of Brembo rotors and brake calipers were installed. The engine received a big bore and stage one and two kits. The handlebars were replaced by a lower, narrower set and the pegs moved from the front to the back and, underneath it all, a belly pan. The transformation was complete.

red chief front angle

The question now comes down to what makes a cruiser a cruiser? The engine and drivetrain remain but the RSD Chief is now more akin to an older Ducati Monster and because V-Twin air-cooled streetfighters aren’t rare, the bike doesn’t look particularly odd. However, its interesting how far the Chief can be transitioned from it original purpose without excessive re-engineering.

the red chief on the trackStudying the RSD Chief, the engine, frame and the rear suspension are obviously still in place.  The most difficult bit of engineering was rerouting the pipes. The cushion on the tanks is odd but necessary. The hump was manufactured by Saddleman Seats, the same company that did the saddle. It’s there because it is necessary on the track when the reconfigured bike is leaned hard into a corner. The rider needs something on which to brace himself while leaning far off the machine—something he would not be doing on a stock Indian Chief.

The RSD Chief rebuild was a success. The bike won the “Big Twin” class with Rennie Scaysbrook riding. The bike might also be a success if Indian built a factory street-legal version.

Race on Sunday, sell on Monday.

Canadian Biker Issue #357


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