GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Barry Wray

Tuesday Toolbox: Barry Wray

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 | 4:25 PM
Tuesday, April 28, 2020 | 4:25 PM

Barry Wray is a fifty-nine-year-old father of two and college professor. He is also longtime motorsports and bicycle enthusiast, who has recently gotten into the GNCC eBike scene. Though he only did a handful of races last year, he came out swinging in the Master’s class – he won the first round, which makes him the current points leader. He plans on pursuing the full Specialized eMTB GNCC National Championship Series, depending on what the schedule looks like once we get back to racing again.

Ken Hill

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live by the coast in Wilmington, NC so I am currently a “flat lander” but I am originally from the mountains of Franklin County, Virginia (the moonshine capital of the world). I am 59 years old, divorced, and have two fantastic sons.

When I sent over the questions, I saw your email address ends in .EDU; Do you work for a university?

Yes, in 1985 I decided to go back to graduate school and ended up getting a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech. I have been a Professor of Business Analytics at the University of North Carolina Wilmington since 1991. I teach statistics and absolutely love my job! My personal webpage is:

It looks like you had a great start to your season, with a solid win over the reigning Master’s class champion. Take us through your race.

The first eMTB race for 2020 was really good for me. The GNCC team put together an excellent course for us to race on. Colin Dierman [The reigning Masters class champion] has been really good, so I knew I needed a good start to be able to compete with him. I came out about fourth or fifth after the first turn then put my head down and worked my way up to Colin who was out front. I found a little space between a couple of slower riders and snuck into the lead before we hit the finish line for the initial lap. Then I just tried to put in some smooth strong laps for the first 30 or 40 minutes. I knew I would not be able to ride the entire race without conserving my battery power so I spent the last 20-30 minutes trying to turn my assist level down anywhere I could. It slowed me down a little and I barely made it to the finish but it all worked out. I guess I need one of the bigger batteries the new Specialized 2020 Levo models have! (laughs)

Ken Hill

What eBike do you currently race?

Specialized 2019 Levo Comp Carbon.

Do you come from a motorsports or bicycling background?

I have exclusively raced mountain bikes the last 10 years, but I still consider myself a motocross guy. As a young kid I read about BMX and dreamed about racing but there was nothing remotely close to me so that never happened. Then I convinced my parents to buy me a motorcycle. I destroyed the first few I had because they were small on/off road bikes and I rode (and jumped) them into the ground. One Sunday my friends convinced me to race my on/off road 125 in the 100cc class at the local motocross track. I stuck a number plate on it and used some black electrical tape to make a number 7 and I was ready. To my surprise I finished second in both motos! However, I left before the trophy presentation because even though my bike had far less horsepower and suspension than the motocross bikes I was racing against it was still illegal! (laughs) But after that first race I was hooked. Somehow, I convinced my parents to buy me a real motocross bike! They bought the bike on a Friday and I won the 125C class at Lake Sugar Tree on Sunday. I think I won 4 of my first 5 races and moved to the 125B class where I spent some time and won 3 or 4 races before moving up to the A class. The A class was different! The skill, fitness, time, and money needed to compete with those guys required total dedication. By that time, I was in high school and playing stick and ball sports so motocross took a back seat. By my senior year I was done with racing and moved on to college. There I played baseball and ran track. During my senior year in college I quit baseball and cashed in all my savings bonds I had been getting every year for my birthday. Instead of buying an Apple 2+ computer and going into the programming business I bought a Yamaha YZ250 and spent the spring of 1983 practicing motocross. I tried to qualify for the 250 A class at Loretta’s and did OK in the first race but threw the chain and busted my engine case in my second race. I didn’t have the money to fix it so that was the end of my motocross career! I did race some hare scrambles and finished second in the 250 class in the inaugural year (1984) of the VCHSS. I was definitely the fastest in the class but finished second overall because I didn’t race enough events. I still regret that. I didn’t throw a leg over a motorcycle for the next 12 years until getting back into it for fun. I raced some Vet A motocross events, a couple of hare scrambles, and a few GNCC races before all the aches and pains convinced me to sell my motorcycle and start racing mountain bikes.

Who got you started riding, and what was your first bicycle and motorcycle?

My first racing bike was a 1976 Yamaha YZ125C (still my favorite motorcycle I have ever owned). I would have to say it was my mother and father who got me started because they paid for it!  As far as mountain biking…I bought a Schwinn Cimarron in 1986. Still have it today! 

Ken Hill

How did you get involved with GNCC eBike Racing?

Since I’ve been racing mountain bikes for about ten years now, I have a great relationship with the local Specialized dealer, Bike Cycles in Wilmington, NC. The owner, Shawn Spencer, knew I came from a motorcycle background so one day he told me about a new electric pedal assist mountain bike Specialized was making. I was very skeptical at first because I didn’t know anything about Ebikes. Then he told me about a class for these bikes at GNCC races and I was intrigued. I made some calls and found Steve Brunton and Gear Bicycles. They were at the GNCC races and had some eMTB bikes to rent so I made arrangements to rent a bike to race the John Penton event in 2019. When the week finally came it rained. Then it was raining again on Friday and I just didn’t want to drive all the way to the event and get rained out so I didn’t go. Ditto for the Tomahawk race in NY. So, I was all set up again to rent a bike and race the Snowshoe event. Unfortunately, strike three! I went on a road bicycle ride the week before and was in a drafting line when the guy in front of me crashed and I went flying over him and onto the payment at 22 mph. Broke my left hand and severely injured my right thumb. This time I at least went to watch the race at Snowshoe anyway and was so excited by what I saw I decided to go ahead and buy a Specialized Levo and get ready for the race at Loretta Lynn’s.

I saw you only did two eBike races last year. Given that you are the current points leader, do you plan on doing more rounds and trying to win the class championship?

Well…I was really looking forward to racing as many events as I could in 2020 to try to win the class championship but with the COVID-19 pandemic who knows how many races we will have and where they may be but I am still trying to race all of them if possible.

Of the three GNCC eBike tracks you’ve ridden - The General, Loretta Lynn’s and Mason-Dixon, which was your favorite and why?

They were all fantastic! The Loretta Lynn’s race was super cool because every motocross rider who has ever watched a gate drop in front of them has dreamed about one day racing at the Dude Ranch! For anyone who has never been (and last year was my first time) you NEED to go! It is a surreal experience just being there. I have to admit I felt a little unworthy because I didn’t have to qualify like all the moto racers who earned their way there for the week. But after winning my race it still felt great when Rodney called me over and put the mic in my face and started asking me questions. I could hear my voice echoing around the hills of Hurricane Mills! My voice! It was beyond cool!

Ken Hill

What do you enjoy the most about eBike racing?

Everything. The eMTB class is unique in that it is a perfect blend of technical bike handling, strength, and fitness necessary for motorcycle racing and the aerobic fitness and endurance needed for mountain biking racing. When I see GNCC legends like Charlie Mullins and Barry Hawk along with bicycling hall of famer Nat Ross on the starting line you know eMTB racing is something unique and special. Then I look beside me and I see my friend and former factory mechanic Charlie Benton and beside him I see the 8 time National Enduro Series Champion Dick Burleson (one of my teenage heroes and still in GREAT shape!) and I can’t help but be excited about just being there! But I think the thing I like the best about GNCC eMTB racing is the friendly, family atmosphere you feel as soon as you enter the front gate at a race.

Who would you like to thank?

I would like to take this opportunity to go all the way back and thank my dad for teaching me how to work on my bikes! Both my mom and dad for their financial and moral support at the races. My sister for driving me to the races. Currently, I want to thank Shawn Spencer and everyone at Bike Cycles in Wilmington, NC for all the help and support over the years. I also want to thank Gear Bicycles Sales in Grove City, PA. Ohlins USA Advanced Suspension Technology. Specialized bikes for their great support. George Willetts and Lupine Lighting Systems for allowing me to build an eMTB course on his land. Charlie Benton of Cycle Dynamics for all his knowledge and friendship. Steve Brunton for all his support at the races and great racing stories. All the guys I ride with here in Wilmington. And my two boys, Juan and Victor.