Friday, April 3, 2009

The Belly of the Beast : Inside the RAAMinator

As promised, here's the second posting about the RAAMinator. This vehicle is to me what the Batmobile is to Batman. It may not shoot flames out the back (or, at least, it's not supposed to), but it carries more bicycles like Batman's belt carried batarangs. I would say it's analogous to Batman's utility belt, but the utility belt of Randoboy is the various bags that I carry on the front and back of my bike, and that's a whole other list.

First off, let me describe one of the great features of the Toyota Sienna. As a minivan, it has three rows of seats. The middle row is actually two separate seats that can be entirely removed. By doing this, you open up a giant work area in the middle of the van, where you can fix tires, fix sandwiches, or lie down to sleep. And you still have the bench in the rear of the van for someone to just sit.

On RAAM, we left the bench down and pulled out one of the middle row seats. I then built a platform "bed" with sliding plastic bins underneath, and installed this down one side of the van. The bins were our main storage area for Jeff Bauer's clothes, tools, embrocations, etc., when he and Kevin Kaiser rode fixed gear bikes across the country in eight days, four hours, and 21 minutes.

For Heart of the South, we're going to try the "no middle row with big staging area" approach. I'll let you know how it works out, but it was great on the training ride.

The other cool thing about the bench seat on the back row is that you can leave half of it down. By doing this, you make it easy for somebody to get behind the other part of the seat, which now has a well behind it. (The well is the place that the seat folds down into when not in use.)

For Heart of the South, we will be using this well for coolers, and the seat back will make a nice little low wall, so people can duck behind it to change into and out of cycling clothes.

Elsewhere, the RAAMinator has lots of bungee cords strung about, so people can hang up wet clothing. The bungees are also good for holding rolls of paper towels, which you use a lot of on this kind of ride.

The RAAMinator also has lots of bins built in, and cup holders galore. I've hung other storage things on the back of every seat, so there are lots of places to put things like flashlights and tools and extra batteries and tissue paper. I've also got a full toolkit and lots of spare stuff in a big Thule storage unit that goes in the middle of the staging area.

Up front, the driver has easy access to a thermometer, to see how cold or hot it is outside, and a race clock. There's a laptop tray for the navigator, and a power inverter under the seat to power the laptop. The navigator also has easy access to the cue sheet, rules, and PA system.

I'll let you know next week how all of this works out on Heart of the South this weekend.