Friday, January 17, 2014

Promoting - Trailer Thoughts

I've been stressing about Bethel for a bit now, for a number of weeks really, hence the scarcity of posts.

One thing is that a few things have changed in terms of the businesses in the area. The parking lot we used before, at 7 Francis J Clarke Circle, will basically be off limits to the racers. The racers, the finish line trailer, the finish line tent, anyone warming up, all that needs to go away from that particular parking lot.

This means moving everything relating to the race - the finish line, registration, the portapotties, even where racers congregate before they stage for their race. Without that the race really can't happen, hence my stress over the last 6 or 8 weeks.

The main goal will be to move things to Turn One. By keeping racers closer to that intersection they'll be, by default, somewhere other than 7 Francis J Clarke. It'll be close enough to the finish line, which will move down the hill a bit for 2014, and it still allows people to walk over to watch the finishes.

The first thing will be to ask the town for a town of Bethel "detour" sign on Second Lane, the other road that leads to the four way intersection at Turn One. Oddly enough, since Francis J Clarke Circle is a lollipop-shaped road, FJC Circle has the distinct privilege of having three of the four branches of that intersection.

By controlling traffic on Second Lane, and forcing any FJC Park tenants to use the main FJC entrance, we'll deal with traffic coming from just one direction. This will allow us to better manage the cars heading through the race course.

We'll move the portapotties to the old spot, pending landowner approval. If that works then the portapotties will be by Turn One also.

Next, because Second Lane should be closed to through traffic, we can use a bit of the shoulder near the four way intersection to hold registration.

In the old days we did it using tents and primitive propane heaters. We sometimes lost a tent to wind and we only stopped losing them when we anchored them to our own cars. Stuff got wet, it wasn't fun, and it's something I want to avoid, especially for the people working registration.

In the past I've mentioned the idea of a trailer for registration. It would be some kind of trailer with windows on the side, like a concession trailer. For Bethel it needs to be somewhat sheltered from the weather, maybe have some heat (details to be discussed below), and bring more than just "it won't blow away" to the table.

With a trailer I could set up registration much earlier than normal, like Saturday. When I say "set up" I mean actually set up - set up the computers, printer, monitors, everything. It would be all ready to go, in the trailer. If I could do that then I could just drive up to the course, open the concession windows, power up the generator, and be ready to go. I imagine this would take all of 5 or 10 minutes, mainly dealing with parking the trailer.

This is, of course, dealing with an ideal trailer. Most enclosed trailers out there are meant to be used simply for transporting things like cars or motorcycles. They have a big ramp door in the back and a smaller door up front. No concession windows, and typically no plugs or other things associated with, say, an office.

As someone pointed out, if I got a normal enclosed trailer then I'd have a compromise trailer, one that isn't exactly what I want for the job. I joked that I would get the "real" trailer later.

Of course when I say stuff like that it really means that I'll never get the "real" trailer and that I'm really just going to deal with the compromise for a long, long time.

Well, said person asked if a custom trailer would make sense for me.

Custom trailer?

Well, heck, I got myself a custom frame, and now I'll never look at another factory frame again. The custom frame is totally functional - it's not custom because I wanted fancy lugs or a classic steel bike, it's custom because I wanted a frame that fit me.

For kicks I configured a custom trailer. I went all out - the idea is that I can eliminate things if I want, but at least I have an idea of the pricing. The configurator doesn't show prices until you select something so it's easier to select a lot of stuff and scratch some stuff off rather than select a few things and then wonder how much such-and-such would cost.

The custom trailer ended up a bit pricey, at least in terms of my initial expectations.


I'd have to have a few years of Bethel just to break even on the thing, and I wouldn't want to spend that kind of coin unless I really thought it would make a big difference. Heck, the thing would cost more than the tow vehicle.

With the custom trailer option now defined I started thinking of how the other choices could work for me.

For example, if I got a "compromise" trailer and took a Sawzall to the walls and put in some primitive concession windows…

Okay, never mind. That would just be a disaster.

Nevertheless I priced some used trailers. This is how you do it, right? You figure out your options and you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

So the used trailers… No concession windows, no power plugs, no nothing, just a big box on wheels. It seems that $5k or so gets one in the size I'm looking for, although right now it seems there are none actually available (no one has returned any emails so far). I'd have to register it and stuff, so I lose a day there, and then I have a trailer that has no warranty, no assurances that something weird isn't happening with the thing, and no place to go if I have a problem. I'd have to outfit it as I need, which, for Bethel, really means loading it up and trying to figure out how to get registration done without putting the registration people out in the cold.

I'd have a used compromise trailer.

I also priced a new trailer. I was looking at the $7k-8k range. This was a bit better in terms of me feeling comfortable with the trailer. I'd get the towing stuff (the ball, pin, some bar thing, and the brake controller, plus all installation) on the house, they'd register the trailer for me, so I could drive over, pick it up, and drive it home. No days lost and the dealer is about 30 minutes away from the house. Easy peasy.

This would leave me with a new compromise trailer.

I'd have a place to go if I had questions or something weird happened with the thing. I'd have a warranty. But I'd be dealing with no concession windows, no power stuff in the trailer (except an extension cord passing through an open door), etc. I'd be dealing with the same issues as far as how to set up the trailer and such.

Plus, at that price, I might as well get the custom trailer.

Sort of the trailer I'm looking at; they call it a "car hauler".
No custom options I want are included in the picture.
There are custom options I don't want, like the alloy wheels.
I think this trailer is longer also, it might be a 24' trailer.

The $10k is a fully loading, to the max trailer. It would have 12 feet of concession windows, minimum.  The smallest window is 6 feet wide and 4 feet high - it only gets bigger from there - and I figured two windows would make sense, one for pre-reg, one for day-of, and for big races two for pre-reg or something like that.

I skipped AC and heat, and I'll get to that in a bit.

I added a spare tire because it seems that whenever I see a trailer on the side of the road it has a flat tire. Okay except the few times I saw the whole shebang (tow vehicle + trailer) on their side in the median after the driver lost control of the massive trailer.

I added extra lights on the outside because I don't want to start making a left turn and then have someone drive through the trailer.

I added an awning because when it's raining people want to wait in shelter, not in the rain. I still have two 10'x10' tents, and I'll probably use them if necessary, but the awning would be awesome. 18 feet long so it would be huge. The only thing is that I'm not sure it would work with the concession windows. If it doesn't then I'll save a lot of money or I'll put a smaller one up or something.

I added a 110v system. It works like a house backup thing - you get your generator, use the 30 amp plug, and plug the thing into the side of the trailer. Then on the other side you have your outlets and distribute as necessary. This works perfectly for a registration gig - run the generators outside, wires run in, it's all good. UPS and surge protectors on the inside and we're good to go.

This is where the AC and heat come into play.

Registration for a bike race draws very little power. A couple laptops, a wireless broadband connection, a printer, and charging some radios and phones. When it's really cold I'll use an 800w microwave to reheat coffee or even food from home. I suppose I could put in a dorm fridge in it - they run pretty low wattage, like 150w or so, and in the summer some cooler drinks would be nice.

An electric heater wouldn't do very much when you consider that there would be at least 12 feet of windows opening directly in front of the registration folks. It would pull a LOT of energy, 1500 watts or more, and it would really tax the generators. I'd be using a total of 3200w for the generators, a pair of  small Hondas running in tandem.

I think that with such an open set up (ramp open in the back or at least cracked open, front door cracked, and the sides open) we could set up a propane heater somewhere without asphyxiating ourselves. If it came down to it we could plug in an electric heater if the trailer was all closed up for whatever reason. Therefore I think I don't need to pay for a permanent one in the trailer.

Likewise a roof mounted air conditioner would require maintenance, a little more care when dealing with low clearance stuff (ever see YouTube clips of low clearance bridges?), and attract a thief's eye. I'd rather do one that sits on the floor and has a tube going to the outside. I could remove it when I don't need it and then it's not a hundred pounds I'm driving around in, say, the first weekend of March.

Finally, when working registration at summer races, I never had a super oppressing day. An air conditioner would be great but I'll get it if and when I need it.

So right now I'm eyeing the custom trailer. It would be a huge commitment for me. I'd have to finance it otherwise I'd totally blow myself out of the water money-wise for 2014. This means I would be relying on having another, say, 3 years of Bethels and the one day gigs I do for other promoters simply to pay for the trailer.

If I fail to do that I'd have a really expensive trailer that only another race promoter would want to own. The market for such trailers is really non-existent as far as I know. I guess a race car guy might want one so they could show off their car without pulling it out of the trailer.

Yeah, right.

So it's about commitment to the race series. Commitment to doing registration gigs, and significant ones at that. Commitment to trying to put on new races. It's all stuff I want to do, for sure. The trailer represents commitment in a concrete (or metal, as it were) form. Getting it would mean I'm committed for a minimum number of additional years.

I haven't taken the plunge yet but if I do it'll be very, very soon.

Six weeks until Bethel. Yikes.


Anonymous said...

Think outside the box. The trailer can also be used for the finish line. Set your camera/cameras on top, use the door as a entrance for officials to go and review the finish on the computer. Transfer the data to the registration computer for the results. Results in 10 minutes max. Rather than running back and forth to make changes.
Any licensing issues can be done by just turning around and looking out the door to the officials. Most of these trailers are so portable, that yeah, set-up is about 5-10 minutes at the most.

Aki said...

Ideally that's how I'd use the trailer. I was even thinking of some kind of enclosed box up on the roof so the camera is "indoors", i.e. we can review it from inside the trailer.

The only thing with Bethel is that I need to keep everything away from the finish line area, at least they way I'm planning it (with the finish on the hill), so registration would need to be in a different area (i.e. Turn One, so about 150 yards away).

The ideal ideal would be a periscope type thing that goes up through the roof for the finish line camera, registration inside, results available almost immediately.

Anonymous said...

Have you thought of something like a used RV or small camper? They may have everything you need already.

Aki said...

I considered an RV but they're not optimized for doing business through a window, at least not the ones I've seen. If they were similar in price I might have considered it but they're about 2x as expensive and would require a lot more upkeep than a glorified box on wheels.

Anonymous said...

Aki, couldn't you offer to rent the trailer to other race promoters for race day (and make some extra $$$s)?


Aki said...

I could but the chance for damage etc would be there, and right now I don't know what the deal is in terms of liability/legal stuff for me to rent out a trailer. Until I feel comfortable renting it out I'm going to stick with me driving it to somewhere, using it, and driving it back.

Actually in the last week or so I've had some good communication with promoters that used Carpe Diem Racing's services already as well as potential new people. I made the commitment to the trailer before I had anything "in the bag" but I feel that it will end up justifying itself in the long term (of course, else I wouldn't have ordered it). Oh, right. I ordered it. I haven't yet said that in a new post but I'm scrambling right now to get stuff finalized for Bethel, so I haven't been working on any blog posts.

Anonymous said...

Your commitment to the sport is unparalleled! As you know, the Spring series is such a big part of the racing season for a lot of us, we can't imagine ever not having it! Well done! Looking forward to another great training series in hopefully a little warmer weather!