Bagger Insanity: Saddlemen

Team Saddlemen converts a 2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide into a beast

Vitals:

2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide

Rider: #87 Michael Woolaway

Finished: DNF

Words by Mitch Boehm, as told by Saddlemen’s David Echert
Photos by Brian J. Nelson

Thunder Press:Your initial thoughts on KOTB, and why did you participate?

David Echert: I said, “This sounds amazing…where do we sign up?!” We are a competitive company filled with competitive individuals, so as soon as we heard about it, everybody at Saddlemen wanted to get involved.

TP: Which Harley or Indian model did you start with? And why?

DE: A 2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide…and mine, actually. I’m always ‘all in’ for our brand, so it was a pretty simple decision to use my own bike. 

TP: Your team’s angle going in?

DE: We didn’t have much to win or lose by participating because we are a seat company. Saddlemen is full of riders, and a lot are younger guys who’ve been building their own personal performance V-Twins over the last few years. So when word got out that we could put the biggest V-Twins to the test in a legitimate race sanctioned by MotoAmerica, it was game on!      

With its wild, multi-section exhaust, sporty graphics, abbreviated shorty saddle, billet swingarm and Ohlins suspension front and rear, the #87 Saddlemen Road Glide racer looked particularly rad at Laguna. A Bennett’s Performance engine with plenty of Feuling parts helped make it pretty rapid, as well.

TP: The thinking behind your choice of rider?

DE: During our brainstorming sessions we all threw out the same name – Michael Woolaway. ‘Wooley’ has been a friend of our company for many years, and everyone here has a great respect for his fabrication and riding skills, so he was the first rider we asked. It ended up being the perfect choice because from day one he was as excited about the project as we were. 

TP: What chassis modifications did you make, and why?

DE: A custom, chrome-moly subframe, and chrome-moly engine mounts for weight reduction. A billet swingarm for lightness and stiffness. Ohlins suspension front and rear, with Kraus triple clamps. Brembo calipers squeezing Braketech rotors. Marchesini wheels with Kraus custom brake hangers and hubs

TP: What engine modifications did you make, and why?

DE: A Bennett’s Performance V-Twin with lots of Feuling stuff: HP+ Performance M8 Pushrods; Endurance Beehive valve spring kit with titanium retainers; Race Series oiling system; High Flow cam plate; RS Oil Pump and cam plate fasteners; vented dipstick; air cleaner; piston and cylinder kit; Branch & Okeefe cylinder heads; HPI throttle body.

TP: Who was on your crew?

DE: Michael Murphy as Crew Chief. Also, Osvaldo Gutierrez Jr., Kris Echert, and John Sanders.

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TP: How much (if any) pre-race testing did you do, and what did you discover?

DE: We had a track day at Laguna Seca and two days at the Thermal Club. Laguna allowed us to work on the suspension and shifter issues, and Thermal vetted a brake issue.  

TP:Biggest surprise (or surprises) for you and your team?

DE: We were humbled by the amount of work and effort it took to build a race bike and a race team. Hat’s off to all the privateer teams. They genuinely support the sport!

The Saddlemen team seemed to play as hard as it worked during the KOTB event, dishing out BBQ and refreshments to teammates and industry colleagues all weekend long while tweaking their custom Road Glide so rider Michael Woolaway could do his thing.

TP: How’d the weekend go? Results, problems, realizations, etc. 

DE: We had an amazing time despite our rider receiving a false black flag near the end of the race. Our bike looked good and ran flawlessly without any mechanical issues, and our team worked together as if they’d been doing it for years. And between practice sessions we were cooking barbeque and lending additional hands to our friends and fellow competitors! Overall, we were really excited to participate in this historic event and there were non-stop smiles.   

TP:What would you have done differently if you had the chance?

DE: Other than the obvious desire to stand at the top of the podium, we wouldn’t change a thing. We built a bike our team is proud of. We enjoyed the entire process, as it was a great extracurricular activity for our staff. And probably most importantly, we helped bring more awareness to the performance capabilities of the big V-twins.   

TP: Will you be part of the KOTB next year?

DE: Saddlemen is always 110% on board to support the industry and we love racing, so there’s no doubt we will be involved. Just depends on what MotoAmerica and Drag Specialties decide to do in 2021.

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