The Search for the Perfect Bike Car

It was the perfect bike car, with “was” being the operative word. But that came to an end on September 23 in Williamsport, Pa. when a truck dropped a water container, at speed, in front of me and I hit it hard. The car was totaled.

RAV4 parked near Tipton, Pa.

My 2002 Toyota RAV-4 had removable rear bucket seats. It was not a large car as there was only room for a small amount of luggage behind the two rear seats.

Toyota RAV4 with DIY Bike Rack

But the seats were removed quite easily and since I had floor to ceiling room, I installed a fork-mount rack that I could carry two bikes – upright. I just rolled them right in and the wheels sat neatly on the support for the removed seats – a built-in wheel chock.

DIY Rack for two bikes – Toyota RAV4

We have another RAV-4, this being a 2012 model. But I cannot roll the bikes in that one. It has fold-down seats that are not quite the same as removable seats as there is not as much clearance from floor to ceiling.

Bike packed. Let’s roll! RAV4

New or used? I started looking at used cars, beginning my search at CarMax. I looked at the Honda CRV as the most compatible. I could squeeze my bikes in there if I leaned one over to clear the back and then set it upright. The saddle would press or rub against the ceiling and I never took my DIY bike rack to see the effect of raising the fork to the attached bike would do. I feared it would be worse.

Toyota RAV4 – 334,285. The end of the line.
(538,000 km)

I almost bought a new CRV in Woodbridge. But I felt like I was settling with that car. My search continued.

RAV4 on Mount Washington

I looked at trucks. I loved the Ford Ranger. The Super Cab model gave me the 6′ bed. The Super Crew model gave me a 5′ bed. And I needed a cap. I ended up at Ourisman Ford in Alexandria looking at trucks. The Super Cab with the longer bed featured two jump seats in the back that folded down, had about 12″ of knee clearance, and sat upright (90º). It was unworkable and the Super Crew’s 5′ bed wouldn’t work.

RAV4 totaled. Repair was estimated at $3500 which was more than the value of the car

The salesman and I were walking in the truck section when I saw the Ford Transit Connect.

2020 Ford Transit Connect

The Transit Connect was there by itself, a van in a sea of trucks. I asked about it, at first thinking it was a new vehicle. We opened the rear cargo doors to see lots of room but fold-down seats. I looked at the mounts, willing to remove the third-row seating to carry my bikes. I folded down the seats. I looked closer and told the salesman that I thought the seats would disappear. He knew nothing about that and brought out a van salesman from the dealership.

2020 Ford Transit Connect

The van salesman did show us how the seats disappeared. And with the there was enough room to carry my bikes. The van was used but looked new. And ultimately I negotiated a price I was happy with.

2020 Ford Transit Connect – 11,250 Miles Used

It took a slight modification to my DIY bike rack to put it in the Transit. Because of the much longer interior, I can carry bikes without having a wheel next to my shoulder which I had to in the RAV4.

Testing to see if the bike fits. Ford Transit.

It can carry two bikes although once carried three, and has a split second seat. With that, I can carry one or two passengers in the second row along with the bikes.

2020 Ford Transit Connect

In 2020 I needed CarPlay which it has. And the gas mileage is 50% better than the RAV4. While I was disappointed in losing the RAV4, for me, the 2020 Ford Transit Connect, is the perfect bike car.

A Virtual Yellow Wristband

Those yellow bracelets. Launched in May 2004 as a fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (Livestrong), they took the cycling world by storm. And indeed, a lot of the world. The majority of riders in the peloton in the 2004 Tour de France wore them.

It would be personal what the band meant to each wearer. Generally, it would mean, “I support people with cancer” or “Cancer research” or “Cancer awareness.”

I joined the masses and had one but wore it sporadically. But when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, I slipped it back on and wore it full-time, 24/7. Ironically, over the course of 11 years, the only time it wasn’t on my wrist was when I was fighting cancer. When I was being treated at Johns Hopkins I could not wear anything. Johns Hopkins had their own tubes and wrist bands for me.

In June 2013 I was in Durango, Colorado, where I met Bob Roll. Eight months earlier, Lance Armstrong had admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. So by 2013, most users had thrown their yellow bands away.

Barry with Bob Roll

The yellow band represents Livestrong – the cancer-support organization. It does not represent Lance. But for most people, the yellow bands became a lie. Some believe that it was all a shame. Lance was a fraud. Livestrong was a fraud. And those bands ended up in the trash.

I continued to wear mine. And at Ride the Rockies, where just one year earlier most riders would be wearing one, now they were much less popular. But Bob Roll was still wearing one and I commented to him about it. He said he would never remove his. By last year on the Tour de France broadcasts, I saw Bob was no longer wearing one. (And maybe earlier than that too.)

I posted to our group, Cyclists Combating Cancer. I asked them if they still wear them or when they stopped. Most (who responded) still wear them. But two answers stood out.

Peter Collins

Peter Collins stopped wearing them as they broke. But he added that (cancer) “no longer defines me. I am always ware of it but it is no longer in the forefront of my life.”

And a couple feel like the organization is a fraud. Jerry Kelly summed it up:

Jerry alleged that the CEO (Doug Ulman) and the Board lied about what they were doing with donations.

I hold no animus towards Lance Armstrong. Only he knows in his heart what was behind the creation of the Lance Armstrong Foundation (the nickname became Livestrong and the organization later took that name, erasing Lance’s name from the organization). And only Lance knows what was behind the creation of the yellow bracelet. It was alleged that this was to take pressure off him for doping allegations. One great big yellow distraction.

Lance Armstrong and Ron Kiefel

In June 2016 I was in the audience at Ride the Rockies in Aspen as Lance addressed the crowd. Moderator, Ron Kiefel, was selecting people to ask questions. He just called on raised hands with no idea what the question would be. I was not picked.

I wanted to have everyone stand if they ever wore the Livestrong bracelet. And then have everyone remain standing if they were still wearing it. And then ask Lance to address all those people who just sat down.

I would like to know. And what does Lance think of those of us who still wear that yellow band?

I hate cancer. I wish I never had cancer. I am a survivor. But I will not let cancer define me. And after 11 years of wearing this, I began to think I was being defined by cancer. My grandchildren have never seen me without the yellow band.

Today was to be the Livestrong Challenge in Austin. It was changed to a virtual event. And when the event went virtual, my band just went virtual.

I support cancer research. I support Livestrong and a number of other cancer-fighting organizations. But it’s time to turn a new leaf. I will wear my virtual band. You just can’t see it.

The Sea Gull – Backwards


All my events and rides for 2020 have been canceled. When the Sea Gull Century announced their cancellation about three months ago, I decided I would do the ride anyway.

I came down yesterday and met Chey Hillsgrove in Bethany Beach. We went for a nice 25-mile late afternoon ride.

Breakfast at the hotel

My plan was to stay in an Ocean City hotel rather than Salisbury. I checked in and no mention was made that the sign which stated “Breakfast Served Daily 6:30 – 9:30” didn’t actually apply. I would discover that in the morning when the nice young lady said they don’t serve breakfast “because COVID.” She handed me a bag with a mini-muffin.

Rolling out of the hotel in the morning

This was not good. I needed those hotcakes or waffles. A muffin would not hack it but it would have to.

Country roads

There would be two major differences about today’s route. First, I was starting and finishing in Ocean City rather than Salisbury. And second, I decided to ride the normal route backwards. I did that to see the route from a different perspective and it would also let me see who was on course today. Was I the only one or would there be groups of riders today?

Chicken Farms everywhere

Some allowances would have to be made on my ride because this was not an official event with SAG support and rest stops. There would be no water or Gatorade on course. No fruit or cookies. No port-a-johns.

Newark, Maryland

I decided that because I knew where most of the country stores or gas stations were, I could stop and get water and food on the route. As far as port-a-johns, the route traveled through lots of forests. I could do this.

An unofficial rest stop in Newark

It was gray when I rolled out at 7:38 a.m. And it was windy too. I never did get a handle on the wind direction. Being a loop course, sometimes it was a headwind, sometimes it was a tailwind, and the rest of the time it was a crosswind. But there was always wind. Always. And the sun shone for about 15 minutes.

On the road

In Newark, I passed what was normally one of our rest stops and saw a group had set up a tent. I passed and said hello then went back to talk to them. Although the tent was for Mid-Shore, from Salisbury, the volunteers were from Virginia Beach. I asked them who they were supporting and one guy said “any cyclist who comes by.” They offered me something but I was only 17 miles in and hadn’t really started drinking so had nothing to replenish. I declined.

Snow Hill, Maryland. A pretty little town.

I was expecting hundred of riders but probably didn’t see more than 100. I saw some women yesterday from the Major Taylor Cycling Club which I assumed was Columbus or Dayton. But I see there are Major Taylor Cycling Clubs all across the country so dang me for not asking them where they were from.

Snow Hill, Maryland – drawbridge over the Pokomoke River

It was perhaps a mistake by me not to carefully retrace the route backward. In building my course RideWithGPS seemed to follow some previous routes that I had done. I never checked the details. The first instance where I went off-course was in Newark. I recognized I was going to cross the dangerous tracks the course used 3-4 years ago where there were lots of falls. I made it through OK but there wasn’t a legal way to cross US 113. But I’m on a bike and I can do anything.

The Pokomoke River in Snow Hill

I had made myself a deal that I would stop near Snow Hill at the Assateague Bay. Except the route I was following never took me there. I knew there was a port-a-john in the park there so having missed it, I would have to improvise. I also hoped that I would follow the perimeter of the Salisbury Airport but rode past the entrance. There may have been a detour in place though so it worked out.

Irrigation in a corn field

But the biggest change was in the town of Berlin. In the regular route the ride returns through Berlin. It is routed through a residential area before hitting the country roads. Going backwards today, my Wahoo took me right into the downtown. And what a charming, beautiful place Berlin, Maryland is. What a great discovery. And I also understand why the organizers would not want to send 8,000 cyclists through here.

Peleton that had passed me

In Salisbury, I stopped very briefly at a Royal Farms, store and gas station. Should I replenish or not? I check my water levels. I had eaten just one of my gels at that point and was 57 miles in. I ate the second and through away the wrapper. I decided I was good to go, and if not, could stop near Assateague.

Thanks for the draft!

The winds were brutal at times. Approaching Berlin I was overtaken by a tractor. I was riding at 21-22 mph and wasn’t sure he could go much faster. But her did. Once he passed I sped up to 28 mph and was sitting in his draft. I thought I could ride all day at 28 mph in his draft but probably only got a half-mile of draft before he turned off.

Berlin, Maryland

The groups never really materialized. I did see a peleton of about 40 irdes going in the opposite directions outside of Berlin. And turning onto Assateague Road I was passed, then integrated, with a group of cyclists. They were a group from D.C. (or near D.C.). We only had three miles to the Assateague parks and they went into the state park and I went to the National Park.

I rode with this group for three miles

I have a lifetime pass to U.S. National Parks. I thought my chance of spotting a wild horse on Assategaue Island was better in the National Park. I saw lots of horse poop but no horses. I don’t remember seeing a seagull either.

Assateague National Park – the water is the Atlantic Ocean

The line to enter the park was enourmous. Seemed to be at least one mile long. But there was a bike path so I rode on the path. As I approached the ranger station the path went away from the station and into the park. Although I have my pass there was not place to present it. Not sure if it’s intended but it looks like you can bike into the national park for free.

Veranzanno Bridge at Assateague Island

I wanted to do a six-hour century. I never checked my time but figured that I would get back to my car around 2:00 p.m. A six-hour century requires one to average 16.7 mph. I wasn’t sure if I could but needed only to look at my past rides here. In 2016 I averaged 17.1 mph. In 2018 I averaged 17.3 mph. In both of those I was pulling for some slower riders.

I was pretty excited to see that I averaged 17.9 mph today. While it was my best ever, it wasn’t appreciably better. But what was different was I was solo the entire ride today, except for a brief interlude behind a tractor and with a cycling group. So I am pretty happy with this ride. Very happy.

Distance: 105.4 miles
Average: 17.9 mph
Weight: 174

I have really mixed feelings about my performance on this ride. At first I was pretty happy with the average but upon review, it’s in the ballpark with other rides I’ve done here. It was only 0.2 faster than last year and I didn’t ride in any groups last year although sometimes just being around others and you pick up the speed.

The wind? In a loop course, if the wind remains steady all day then some is headwind and some is tailwind. Then just a little protection by riding with others is helpful. But does it even out? I suspect not, much like a flat ride over 50 miles will be faster than a mountainous ride of 5,000′ of gain and 5’000′ of descent. There is something about the energy used in climbing that you don’t get back with the descent. And maybe riding into the wind takes more out of you than riding with a tailwind gives back.

Losing 35 pounds has been very helpful on rolling or hilly courses. But maybe it makes not difference on the flats, especially when it’s windy. I felt at times I was getting shredded by the wind yesterday – maybe a bigger me wouldn’t have been as bad.

It wasn’t going to be a day of PRs because I rode the course backward. No baseline to measure me by. But I did PR on the one “climb” of the day – the Assateague Bridge Climb. So maybe shedding weight helped there. I could have gone faster – much faster – but would have to be a jerk and pass riders on that narrow bridge. Still, 4th all-time age group.

Total time was 6:14 with just 20 minutes stopped. There was a chat with the tri-guys in Newark and offloading trash in Salisbury. A few photo ops. A couple of stoplights. One break au natural. Last year I was stopped for 1:14. In 2018 it was one hour even. In 2017 it was a more reasonable 35 minutes (and also a 17.9 average). In 2016 it was a ridiculous 1:33 (I joined with three riders from Blair Cycling Club – one had a flat which we stopped and waited to repair).

My other decent time – 17.9 – was three years ago. On that day I did form up with some others and was in a group a lot. So today was a solo effort.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, there was nutrition. Or lack thereof. The hotel did not offer breakfast as advertised. No rest stops meant no snacking on the ride. And no water. I rode with two water bottles and three gels. Surely a little more fuel would have helped.