Monday, March 30, 2009

The RAAMinator

Last summer, I crewed on the Race Across America (RAAM) for my friend, Jeff Bauer. He and Kevin Kaiser rode across the country on fixed-gear bikes -- coast to coast with no coasting -- from San Diego, CA, to Annapolis, MD, in eight days, four hours, and 21 minutes.

It was a unique experience -- inspiring, exhausting, challenging, and breathtaking. I learned a little more about what human beings are capable of doing, with sufficient determination and preparation.

The preparation part really appealed to me. Jeff made me his crew chief, and I spent a lot of time modifying my Toyota Sienna mini-van so that it could properly support Jeff and his support team as we crawled across the country at 15 mph. It was an organizational and logistical challenge, and that's a part of randonneuring that I love almost as much as the actual riding.

In the course of this, the Sienna morphed into a new creature. It became ... the RAAMinator.

On the outside, the RAAMinator looks mostly like a normal Toyota Sienna. I've added three cross-bars on the roof rack to hold Thule bike trays, Thule wheel holders, and a Thule cargo carrier. We only had to worry about one spare bike and a couple of spare wheels for RAAM, but I've since modified the rack and gotten enough stuff that I could fit five bikes on the roof, with one of them being a tandem.

Also for RAAM, I bought a hitch for the rear and borrowed a two-bike rack from my friend, Bill Glass. For Heart of the South, I replaced that rack with a four-bike rack from Saris. I installed the rack this past weekend, and then used it to tote the Randowife's bike and mine out to a ride Sunday morning. This has got to be the sweetest rack around, and will make our exchanges in the race super-painless.

Since I could now carry four bikes on the back of the RAAMinator, I spent Sunday afternoon moving things around on the roof rack. This roof will now hold two bikes -- and both of them could be singles or tandems. There are six wheel holders up there now, and the cargo box. I even screwed holes in the end of one of the rails so I can now bolt on the speaker for the P.A. system (very important when crewing so you can yell stuff at your rider).

So, let's sum up. The RAAMinator can now hold six bikes -- four on the back and two on the roof. Two of those bikes can be tandems. You have to remove the front wheels from the ones on the roof, but not the ones on the back; thus, the six wheel holders give me room for four spare wheels. And the cargo box gives me room for everyone's luggage, spare parts, etc.

I could now tote eight cyclists (four of them on two tandems) and all of their stuff for a long weekend excursion, if I only had seating inside the RAAMinator for eight cyclists. I can fit seven, but some of them have to be small people or very cozy.

Next post, I'll tell you about the inside of the RAAMinator.

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