What does it feel like to complete Race Across America? “3,067 miles, 180,000 feet of climbing over 7+ days,” was the response of Kyle Coon, a rider on Team Sea to See. We all kind of chuckled at the very literal response to the race announcer’s question, because there truly aren’t words to describe the grueling experience. Especially, moments after finishing this event. Words like “hard” and “exhausting” are about the best one can muster up.
David and I woke up at 4 A.M. that morning in order to drive into Annapolis, MD to see Team Sea to See finish this monumental journey. Watching the sunrise as we drove over the Bay Bridge, I felt exhausted just from my early wake up call, but I had to keep telling myself not to say anything about that around the RAAM team and crew. I can usually feel the effects of one night’s interrupted sleep, but it’s nothing compared to the sleep deprivation accrued over a 7-day trans-America crossing.
So why Race Across America? A few hundred people do it each year to test their abilities and live an adventure. The race has a legacy for being hard and brands itself as the world’s toughest bicycle race. It attracts individuals looking to push their limits. Team Sea to See was comprised of 8 team members on 4 tandem bikes. With accomplished athletes in triathlons, Ironman’s and Ultra-cycling, but with 4 blind stokers they had a different vision for completing RAAM that exuded selflessness. The team’s mission centered on advocating for the blind.
Team member’s Dan Berlin and Jack Chen — both blind athletes and accomplished professionals — came together nearly two years ago to discuss using RAAM as a platform to spread awareness about the 70% unemployment among blind educated Americans. Blind men and women are all too often dismissed as applicants, because those in hiring positions frequently do not understand the capabilities of those who are vision impaired or blind. Team Sea to See puts those capabilities front and center. Whether or not you are blind you can still complete as an athlete, finish Ironman triathlons, work as lawyer for Google, own and operate your own business, work for the Department of Justice, or in corporate operations. The team showcased an amazing collection of people, but their success depended on collaboration and problem solving skills.
No one person can build a rocket ship that will take you to the moon. One big human brain, no matter how smart, can not accomplish that of a determined community of humans working together. It’s our ability to collaborate and learn from each other that sets us apart from other species. It took thousands of people, thousands of years to collectively accumulate the knowledge necessary to send a person to the moon. Amazing things happen when people are able to leverage their strengths and push forward as a collective. Not only did Team Sea to See finish RAAM because they could solve complex problems together as a team, but they also won the 2018 RAAM Lee Mitchell Cup for best crew based on their ability to work together, follow the rules (a 50-page book of them) and maintain positive attitudes over 3,067 miles, 180,000 feet of climbing and 7+ days with hardly any sleep.
Watching Team Sea to See finish Race Across America that June morning was emotional for us. Not only was a tandem that we built going to finish it’s cross country journey, but an enormous dream for so many people was about to be realized. As bike designers we loved designing Dan Berlin’s RAAM time trial bike, but to help Dan and ultimately Team Sea to See realize their dream is beyond words.
Dan’s bike (pictured above with all eight riders of Team Sea to See standing behind it), was designed and built for Dan and his ambitious goals. For Race Across America, the bike has comfortable triathlon-inspired aerodynamic positions for Dan and his pilot. Both riders have aero base bars for minimizing drag from extraneous handlebar parts and elbow pads for comfort in their streamlined positions. In the front, Dan’s pilot SRAM eTap wireless shifters on the aerobars as well as the base bars. The chains both run on the right side of the bike for optimal efficiency, while the chainrings were all selected with aerodynamics in mind. Braking duty for the 380lb combined weight is handled by TRP Hy/RD cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes with 203mm floating rotors. RAAM is a long endurance effort, not a sprint. The 650b wheels and 38mm tires on Dan’s bike were selected for comfort and low rolling resistance on any sort of pavement. After the race, Dan’s bike will get a makeover with road drop bars and relaxed road positions for Dan and an assortment of pilots from 5’3″ to 6’0″. Dan’s bike is also equipped with couplers for air travel; and rack and fender mounts for touring with world.
The picture on the right shows Dan and his pilot, Charles Scott, crossing the official finish line for Race Across America. The team then parades to the city dock in downtown Annapolis, MD.