I’m a racecar driver, which means I refuse to run. In my opinion, the moment the internal combustion engine was invented they should have cancelled the Olympics. Who cares who can run the 100 yard dash the fastest? That’s just inefficient movement now that John Force can cover the quarter mile in less than four seconds.
Now, even though I absolutely refuse to run, there are situations as a member of a racing team where somebody needs to move quickly: a dead battery in a spotter’s radio right before the green; a car sitting in grid needs a 12 millimeter wrench to tighten something crucial; or the beer cooler needs ice. There are situations where somebody on the team needs to get from point A to point B with haste. Instead of running, I suggest another method of rapid transportation around the paddock.
One of the easiest and inexpensive methods for paddock travel is a bicycle. Yes, I know, it is missing the key component to most things cool: an engine. But having a bike at the track is a real asset. My first choice for paddock travel is a golf cart (see “Toolshed Engineer” March 2015 SpeedNews), but that is a big and expensive thing to bring to the races every weekend. In most cases golf carts require a second tow vehicle and they price out between $2,000 to $5,000 bucks, which at the high end is the cost of a Honda Challenge car. So, for obvious reasons, a bicycle is a much more economical alternative. They are inexpensive, easy to store in a trailer or in the back of a pickup, require little to no maintenance and they can get you around a facility relatively quickly.
There are a few options you can add that can make a basic bicycle a better paddock vehicle to help support the team. Recently, our team upgraded our paddock bike after years of beating the hell out of a Huffy, which we embarrassingly left at Thunderhill after a race. Nope, lost-and-found didn’t find it. Our bike vanished into thin air. Since we needed new wheels, we decided to build a bicycle that would suit our needs at the track: form, function, and some fun too.
We started with a base model beach cruiser from Huntington Beach Bicycle Company. We prefer beach cruisers because they have comfortable seats, one speed, and they are easy to maintain. A paddock bike doesn’t need 15 speeds and shocks on the front forks. Forget all that nonsense. HBBC sells cool looking beach cruisers for $289. We ordered ours with orange wheels to match the livery of our Honda Challenge car for Double Nickel Nine Motorsports.
With the base model we added a few things at the bike shop to make the bike functional at the track. First thing: a basket. The debate here is front basket, rear basket, or both. I’ve run a lot of years around the paddock using a front handlebar basket and I have found that once you put too much weight up there, the bike is hard to ride and won’t park on the kickstand. End result: bicycle down and road rash. For our new bike we moved to a rear basket setup because it can carry a bigger load and the bicycle dynamics are less affected by the weight.
For the “fun” factor we added piston valve stem covers, orange grips to match the wheels, and a drink holder to the handle bars because once the racing is over it is beer-30 at NASA. After we left the bike shop, we headed to the hardware store to make a few more modifications because we are generally never satisfied with stock. First thing we added were some color matching bungee cords to the rear basket so we could hold stuff down as we cycled through the paddock. We didn’t like the length of the bolts on the rear basket so we decided to trim them and then add plastic bolt covers to keep hands from getting cut while loading and unloading the bike. We also added a Bluetooth speaker, which hangs under the seat to play our favorite songs while we cruise around the infield at the racetrack: first up on the playlist is The Black Keys. Of course, we had to heat gun off the HBBC decals and add our team name to the frame of the bike to match the racecar.
And the most important part of the paddock bike: a bottle opener hung off of a carabineer. IPA craft beers require a bottle opener. Only garbage beers have twist offs. So if you are sitting in grid and you hear the distinct sound of a bicycle bell, please get out of the way. I’m trying to get some cold Tactical Ops Brewing beer to Ryan Flaherty as soon as possible.
To read more from Rob Krider or to contact him go to www.robkrider.com.