Author: castro (page 2 of 5)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Erin Kasprzak

by Erin Kasprzak

My first bike - look at that trackstand!

My first bike – look at that trackstand!

Even though I was not a super athletic kid, I always loved riding bikes. Though not much of a rider himself, my dad was brand-loyal to Schwinn, and to our LBS, Denny’s Schwinn, in East Lansing, Michigan. I am pretty sure my first two-wheeler (the pink Schwinn pictured) was heavier than my current bike with its steel frame and SOLID tires. At least once, I rode it off a little ramp the neighbor boys had set up to jump their BMX bikes and I crash landed. Hard. But I didn’t stop riding. After the pink bike, I graduated to a bigger Schwinn, still a single-speed with coaster brakes, and when I was in eighth grade I got my first multi-geared bike, a red Schwinn Mesa Runner mountain bike. I remember that I had gone to the shop wanting a “ten speed” (which was what everyone called a drop-bar road bike) but the guy at the shop steered me and my dad toward the mountain bike.

In high school, I spent most of my time hanging out with the drama geeks and I didn’t ride that mountain bike all that much. I sometimes wonder if I would have ridden more if I had gotten the ten speed I wanted in the first place.

I didn’t ride much in college either, spending my spare time inside at the college radio station, and I clearly missed a real opportunity in grad school. I was at Indiana University, home of the Little 500, and I can probably count on one hand (definitely two) the number of times I rode my bike anywhere.

I moved to Chicago in 2001, and bought an aluminum Fuji hybrid with plans to commute, which I did occasionally but didn’t make a regular habit. After several years following the Tour de France, and under the influence of my cyclist brother and cousin, I bought my first road bike in 2009 – the steel Jamis I still ride. I enjoyed solo riding, but never got too serious about it until last January when a college buddy sent me a link for AIDS/LifeCycle (a weeklong 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles) and said “This is what we’re going to do.” I didn’t hesitate before telling him I was on board. I looked at a couple of different training plans, dusted off my trainer, and started pedaling.

After two long months of slogging it out on the trainer alone, I was ready for some company. I knew about the Spidermonkeys because I’d had my bike serviced at Roscoe Village, and I’d seen the orange and black paceline fly by while I walked my dog on Damen.

I was so nervous riding down to that first group ride, my heart rate spiked like crazy and I almost puked. But then I met you. Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging, and I had such an amazing time, I joined immediately. Best. Decision. Ever.

RidingWith friends, Kevin and Tom, AIDS/LifeCycle 2013 with a team made me look forward to my training rides, and even after a pretty bad crash in April, I didn’t stop riding because I wanted to get out with the group again. I found out I really like going fast. And even though I knew the physics of it, I was still amazed to see for myself that drafting is AMAZING.

I am super proud that I was totally prepared for the ride from San Francisco to LA. In fact, I was faster than the two guys I rode with. I was also super proud to wear my Spidermonkey kit when I crossed the finish line, and I just wanted to keep riding. Well, not that day. That day, I wanted to sleep in a real bed. But after that, I was so excited to have people to ride with when I got home.

At the finish line in LA (after 545 miles, with a smile on my face)

At the finish line in LA (after 545 miles, with a smile on my face)

The best part of being on a team is that teammates have your back. Teammates who helped me after I crashed in April, who loaned me their gear for the California ride, and who gave me a friendly push to help me get out of the wind and onto the wheel in front of me on the second day of the MS ride.

Nearly all of my best memories of 2013 involve my bike, and all of those were possible because I’m a Spidermonkey.

In 2014, I’m resolving to:

  • get dropped more (because I will come out on Wednesday nights)
  • drink more 312
  • have at least as much fun as I had last year

I can’t wait to see what happens this year! Caw caaaawwww!!

Spidermonkey of the Week – Dave Donnelly

by Dave Donnelly

Richards Riders-smThroughout my childhood, teens, and adulthood I’ve had a ton of experiences with sports in one form or another. None of them turned out well…

My first attempt with sports was in grade school. I think the whole class signed up for football. I was abnormally tall, which was often mistaken for “big”, so I was immediately drafted and put on the front of the offensive line. My first game I was knocked over by a kid half my size right away and literally pushed about twenty yards behind the rest of my team… So there went football.

Next was basketball. Again, due to my abnormal height, the coaches were all over me. After repeatedly tripping over my own shoes, making baskets for the other team, and other comedic mishaps I decided enough was enough. I told my coach that basketball was interfering with my piano lessons, which was true but I’m sure you can guess how that went over.

I loved soccer but never seemed to be able to control the ball. Had a blast playing lacrosse but hated checking people. Enjoyed tennis but once again, not so good. Sailing made me seasick. The guys in crew at my school were just jerks.

The only athletic endeavor that has always kind of stayed with me has involved bicycles.

When I was six I got my first bike. The Schwinn Bantam. Coolest bike on the block. I rode that thing everywhere.

kid pic with cutlaskid pic with the dog

Next up was my Schwinn Thrasher. It was a sleek, blue, bmx bike and definitely upped my cool points in the neighborhood. Growing up on Northwestern University’s campus was especially great at this point. They were constantly demolishing buildings and leaving huge, empty mud pits. With a little imagination and the right group of buddies these mud pits turned into the perfect offroad, bmx course.

When I outgrew the Thrasher my parents introduced me to my next two-wheeled friendship. This time in the form of a Schwinn 12 speed. I rode everywhere, until my interest in bicycles went on hiatus.

In the decade that followed I got back into music, went to school for sound, joined a punk band, toured, put out albums, broke up the band, started a new band, fell in love, moved to California, joined a motorcycle gang, ran a record store, got engaged, got unengaged, joined another punk band, moved back to Chicago, ran a motorcycle shop, caused some trouble, moved to Wyoming..

punk

Then I bought another bicycle. It turns out living in a tiny town way up in the mountains in Wyoming was a difficult place to make friends. Mountain biking turned out to be a great solution. I could get on a great path right outside of my back door and be in the middle of nowhere in half an hour.

After a little over a year I returned to Chicago with a rekindled love of bicycling. My first year back I commuted by bike, even most of the winter. In the spring I started to get tired of being passed by road bikes and started thinking about a change. That decision was made for me about a day later when my clunky mountain bike was stolen.

So I built a really neat road bike with parts recommended by cyclist friends. Riding escalated from commuting to rides to the botanical garden with some friends, to the Apple Cider Century.

I was ready to up the ante a bit and wanted to do something charity driven. A friend introduced me to the Ride for AIDS, Chicago. This was really good for me because it had great training and really helped with my cycling (it’s 200 miles!). It was also a great charity and I felt really good about raising money for them. I even captained a team of 60 for a few years.

rfac

So after the second year of the 200 miles a few of us decided to do the Northshore Century together. It was kind of chilly and threatening to rain but we decided to go for it. About twenty miles into the ride we were passed by this huge group of rowdy, exciting, super fast riders. I asked myself if I thought I could do that. I started pedaling as fast as I could to catch up and reached them at a light. I super nervously asked if I could try and join. A guy near the back said sure, just stay towards the back and hang on. I rode with them for about thirty miles and it was a blast!! So much energy and fun! I hung out at the half way point with them a little but was too shy to strike up a conversation. All of a sudden someone yelled “Spidermonkeys! Let’s roll!” and they all mounted up and left.

I hung out at the stop and waited for my friends to catch up. The second they arrived all I could talk about was how fast we went and how nice they all were and how much fun it was. I told myself that I was going to learn to ride like that and join that team some day.

In my thirties I’ve learned how to throw a pretty good spiral, become a relatively good basketball player, and even tried soccer again (I still suck). And yet, my favorite athletic accomplishment of my thirties was riding the Northshore Century with the Spidermonkeys. I can’t tell you enough how excited I am to be part of a team with so many amazing, encouraging, and talented people. And I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

ns cent

Spidermonkey of the Week – Emily Beswick

by Emily Beswick

2005ragbraicelebrationSag wagon, bicycle shop, repair vans, shower guys, and medical assistance were all foreign words as I began my cycling career during Ragbrai (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa) 2005. I decided the route was starting 15 miles from my hometown, Sioux City, Iowa and I would bandit the ride for 1 day; after all it was only 65.5 miles.

As I pulled out of LeMars “the ice cream capital of the world,” I thought I was prepared with my free green Huffy that I won at my college health fair and my Camelback hydration pack. The first half of the ride was fairly easy with stops for food/drinks every 6-8 miles. As the temperature was pushing triple digits, and I made the turn north for the last 20 miles I ended up getting a flat tire without a tube or CO2 cartridges. The fun turned into tears. Even after I had help fixing my tire I was exhausted. My first big ride had me pedaling and crying all the way to the end.

Once I arrived in Sheldon a huge smile was on my face and a feeling of accomplishment overcame me. I couldn’t wait to celebrate with a beer.

How powerful a spell does RAGBRAI cast over the first time rider? After a few hours on the road I was hooked and promised to be back for the entire week next year.

2006 was the year I officially signed up for Ragbrai, it was 444 miles of adventure. I decided to experience it the real way and tent the whole week rather than stay in hotels/friends homes along the way. I also decided to upgrade and get my 1st real bike. I purchased a Specialized Rockhopper. My mileage/training was riding the mountain bike trails of Stone State Park and I couldn’t understand why I needed more than 1 bike much less a road bike. I thought at that time every bike was created equal. Now, I was ready for the journey with my foot cages, upgraded water bottles, and bike jersey/cycling shorts. Starting early Sunday morning I embarked on my journey with 30,000 other cyclists of all shapes, ages, and sizes. I began my ride with the long tradition of dipping the front tire in the Missouri River at the start of the ride across Iowa and again the back tire at the conclusion in the Mississippi River. The highlight for me at the time was riding on the same road as another Ragbrai virgin, Lance Armstrong.

ridingwithlance 2006ragbrai
2006ragbraifinish

ironman

In October 2008 I moved to Chicago. Once I completed my list of bucket items to being a “true Chicagoan”, Sears Tower stair challenge and the January bikini polar plunge with water temps in the low 30’s; I thought that finding a cycling team would be a good way to meet friends and also be less life threatening. I joined a newly formed women’s downtown team that was close to my work/home. We didn’t ride everyday but I enjoyed the long ride camaraderie and the mileage helped me to complete Ironman Wisconsin on 9/11/2011 as I was now a true “roadie” with my Specialized Roubaix.

After a few years with this team I was sick of being dropped on the “no drop” Saturday ride by the 4 boys that rode and frequently was the only girl. I started looking for teams during the Gapers Block Crit races this year. The 1st night I had inquired with Half Acre and found them to be cult/sorority like in their team selection. Night 2 I was packing my things into the car and Kelly Clarke/Michelle Moore were next to me. I saw the Spidermonkey kit and asked “how hard is it to find a team to join in Chicago that likes to ride bikes and drink beer?” She stated the next team ride was on Saturday and we exchanged numbers. A few weeks later we were riding a century up to Frank’s Diner in Kenosha, WI.

franksdinercenturyride

I am so grateful I asked them that question that day. I love being a Spidermonkey!! The numerous options to ride every day of the week and the variety of paces/miles is great. My favorite rides are Tuesday morning girls ride and the fast pace Wednesday nights (each week as the season progressed I was proud I made it further in the ride before getting dropped).

Furthermore, I love the social aspect and having beers with the team. What’s not to like about a Goose Island Dock party and various special beer release parties!!??!!

mondaymorningrideI’m looking forward to a great 2014 season with the Spidermonkeys. My first Vegas trip will be this year and Tour of Galena is on the calendar again. As I look back I am proud of my journey as a cyclist and I am grateful to ride amongst the best in Chicago who are on our team.

I am also proud that I’ve expanded my vocabulary to consist of saying….all I want for Christmas are size 42 Mavic Zxenon cycling shoes, a Seven Axiom SL, and a bike fit with Get a Grip Cycles (and actually know what that means)!! :)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Lauren Wissman

by Lauren Wissman

10

A year ago I was riding my bike to get to-from class and to pick up dried mango at Trader Joes.  I don’t think that’s called anything besides some frump who rides her bike to get groceries.  Now I’m a commuter and I guess an amateur cyclist. BAM.  Funny what cleats, some carbon, and a bike posse can turn you in to.

Don't get in my way

Don’t get in my way

I’ve always had an obsession with all things sports related.  Growing up I didn’t have cable or X-Box and barely listened to music (before I discovered Simon & Garfunkel around age 10). Most all of my time was spent outside or participating in some athletically driven endeavor: learned to ski at 3, then figure skating, softball, and volleyball, until I started playing basketball and soccer competitively.

04

X-mas lists included rollerblades, footballs, Tracy McGrady TMAC 6s (which I never got and still want), and giant dog stuffed animals.  I did get a bike for x-mas one year (this is where my saga becomes relevant). There was probably 8-10 in. of snow and the roads were covered.  I remember having to be stealthy getting out of the house.  At the time, my left humerus was still healing from a recent fracture after hitting a plank of wood off a golf cart path jump on a plastic snowboard.

A soccer career/broken leg/torn ligament/onset ankle arthritis later, I was advised to find a different sport.  It was winter 2012.  Thought!!!! Cycling!!! Group rides!! Outdoors! Chicago… So after some extensive googling I found PWP and emailed Kristen to ask if I could get involved.  I did.  I liked it; mostly because I’m ok with self-inflicted physical suffering (the fun kind), but also because there were Christmas lights and RAD jams and I was sandwiched between KMesh and Kelly ‘the masher’ Clarke.  I went to a team event (which involved beer no way) and before I knew it I had signed up for the Gapers Block crits as an almost-monkey.  And there you have it.

06

Although I’m pleased with the results I’ve gotten this past race season, being adopted by Spidermonkey and having the opportunity to meet so many impressive and positively awesome people in the cycling community has really been the highlight of my intro to the sport.  Nine months ago I barely knew any of you; or the difference between clinchers and tubulars, a criterium and cyclocross, SRAM vs. Shimano; and I won’t pretend like I have it figured out now.  Cycling went from 10% of my life to 80%, 98% on weekends.  And I’m 120% happy about it.  Sunday I spent 8 hours in the snow watching grown men ride around/through/over sledding children for a chance to win Lagunitas and a Pepper Palace variety pack; “you’re one stop shop for hot sauce, BBQ sauce, salsa, pickled items, jellies and jams, beef jerky, and more!”  And it wasn’t strange to me at all.

07

 

08

I tell the friends I have left who aren’t cycle-crazy about our team and tomfoolery.  My parents now ride regularly (Carole just got a Cannondale Synapse roadie and my dad wants to commandeer my CX bike so he can start racing), my aunt is hopping back on a bike for the first time since she was a kid, and I get updates when friends complete big rides, get their first pair of bike shoes or see a Spidermonkey riding on the street…if you hear a CAW CAAAW from an unknown source, carry on.  This thing we do is contagious and I’m truly honored to be a part of it, especially with SM.  So officially, I want to say, YOU GUYS ARE GREAT AND I LIKE YOU A LOT A LOT.

A

Spidermonkey of the Week – Stuart Janssen

I didn’t come to cycling until I was already in my 20’s. Of course I had bikes when I was a kid, but my use thereof was mostly around our cul de sac or on the occasional family trip.

familyMost people I meet are surprised to find I was overweight most of my life. I just didn’t take to sports that were popular with other kids; I was signed up for – and subsequently hated – both soccer and t-ball by my parents when I was in elementary school. I was too confused for football and too uncoordinated for basketball. I had a brief fling with hockey when I was in middle school, but I think most of my enjoyment was from my already-adult stature finally having a practical use, namely bowling over the pipsqueak kids who made fun of me at school.

I tried body-building in high school, but my weight didn’t change much. The day I graduated from high school I think I weighed in around 255.

It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year of college in Philadelphia that I started riding a bike. I had developed psoriatic arthritis and walking to and from campus had become more painful than I could deal with so a bike seemed an ideal way to get there. The bike was some heavy hunk of junk from Target, but it did the trick. I rode to school the whole summer, even after my parents’ insurance finally agreed to pay for the medication that alleviated my symptoms. I started going out for longer rides along the Schuylkill River on the weekends.

Halfway through my junior year of college said hunk of junk was stolen from the bike rack in front of the gallery I was interning at, which nicely coincided with a trend that I had noticed all the cool kids picking up on: fixies. I got a cheap steel single speed, and kept riding. After a few months I got tired of the frame flexing under me (I was still fluctuating 10-15 lbs a year) so I sold it to build up my first real bike:

two wheelsets, 3 sets of pedals, 4 sets of tires, countless chains and g-d knows how many crashes and its still going

two wheelsets, 3 sets of pedals, 4 sets of tires, countless chains and g-d knows how many crashes and its still going

I rode (and still ride) this thing everywhere. Fast forward a year and one of my fraternity brothers got the cycling bug and we started doing 50-60 mile round trips 2-3 times a week, him on a converted hybrid, me on my fixie. I started eating healthier and the weight started falling away.  Right after we graduated we did a metric century, and despite two flats, I still finished 45 minutes after him.

I was hooked. As soon as I got home I called my parents and told them I wanted to split the cost of a roadbike for my graduation present. I even started shaving my legs and wearing lycra.

Lycra!

Lycra!

riding
shhh, don’t tell

shhh, don’t tell

I figured I’d give racing a try, thinking that if I could keep up with “roadies” on my fixie, I could probably outpace them on a real road bike. As I suspect is the case with most beginning cyclists, this proved to be 80% hubris and 20% actual leg power. I sucked, but I found I didn’t care that much- I’d finally found a sport that I enjoyed, even if I was finishing nearly dead last most of the time.

When I moved back to Florida to work on my grad school applications, I kept racing and with more free time to train, it turned out I wasn’t half bad (I just wasn’t half good either).

7 out of 17 I think? To be fair, half the field ate it on the first lap

7 out of 17 I think? To be fair, half the field ate it on the first lap

This was the race in Orlando where I separated my right shoulder going over a log

This was the race in Orlando where I separated my right shoulder going over a log

thumbs

I moved to Chicago in August 2012 to pursue a masters degree in arts education, hoping that I’d be able to find a friendly team to ride and train with, and to continue improving as a newly minted cat 4.

After riding with XXX a few weekends in a row and trying unsuccessfully to ride with Half Acre, I happened upon the Spidermonkey website and showed up for a Sunday ride where I met Geoff. I went on a Saturday ride later that month and met Drew and Roxanne. After only two rides, I knew I wanted to be part of this team- the people were friendly and the kits were cool. The past year has been busy but awesome, thanks guys.

VQ

racing SMC

CX SMC

People to ride with and “improving” as a cyclist; one out of two ain’t bad

 

 

Spidermonkey of the Week – Kirsten Swanson

by Kirsten Swanson

I guess you know you are officially a cyclist when you have five bikes and can’t bear to part with any one of them, especially the 1972 blue single-speed Schwinn with coaster brakes.  Or that you’re a chic with 5 pairs of cycling shoes and no stilettos.

5 Years Old!

5 Years Old!

I’ve always loved cycling, whether it was following my cousins over jumps at age 5 trying to get some good air or at age 35 following professional mountain bikers in Fruita, Colorado over jumps and trying not to fall at least once so the photographer could get a good photograph of me.  At the end of the photo shoot the photographer said, “I can’t believe you kept going off that jump and trying to nail it.”  My response was “Wow, I guess since I was the model I didn’t think I had the option to say, ‘Forget that.’”  Turns out that’s when I went into Pearl Izumi headquarters I saw a huge seven-foot banner of myself in the lobby.  When I asked why they chose a photo of me wiping out rather than when I nailed the jump, they said they liked the wipeout because I was smiling.  In fact I wasn’t really smiling, I was gritting my teeth and thinking, “Shit I have to do it again.”  Thanks to all the wipeouts that day, I have a nice scar from my pedal on the back of my right calf.  When new friends ask what it is from I say that I was attacked by a mountain lion when I lived in Colorado.  It’s unreal the amount of people that have actually believed me.

Model for Pearl Izumi

Model for Pearl Izumi

When friends have asked me if I was a mountain biker or roadie, I’ve never hesitated to say roadie.  There is really nothing I’d rather be doing on a beautiful summer day than riding my bike on a quiet country road going up and down hills.

I joined a cycling team in 2009 so that I could try to get faster so I would be able to complete the bike portion of an Ironman distance race in California in the allotted time.  In 2010 I undertook the most difficult cycling challenge of my life by riding the L’Etape du California mountain stage from Claremont to Mt. Baldy.  Before I left for the trip a reporter called to ask me if she could interview me.  I asked her why she wanted to speak with me and she said she thought it was amazing that a woman from the flatlands of Chicago would attempt such a ride.  I declined the interview because honestly, I was afraid that I would not be able to complete the ride given the 91 mile route and 11,322 feet in elevation gain.  I am very proud to say that I was one of the few women to attempt and finish the ride and that only about 65 percent of the riders were actually able to finish.  I’d love to do another mountain stage ride, but I haven’t found anyone else that is willing to attempt it with me.  Perhaps it’s because I tell them we have to ride Alpe D’Huez at least once a week on the computrainer.

I feel very grateful that I now have an amazing team that I can continue to share my love for the road with and don’t forget to let me know if you like climbing.  I’m not so fast, but you can count on me to make it to the top without whining.

My Favorite Beer (after 312 of course)!

My Favorite Beer (after 312 of course)!

Spidermonkey of the Week – Jenny Lynch

by Jenny Lynch

Jenny Lynch and Lindsey Fahey

Jenny Lynch and Lindsey Fahey

@Ken Dorado – I see your Big Wheel® Night Rider and raise you a Cabbage Patch Kids Big Wheel®.  Nothing screams “badass” like a purple and teal “bike” with flower stickers and a basket for your toys.  (Side note: Anyone who has seen my current bike may notice that my style has not changed much over the years and I still tote around just as much luggage).

Cabbage Patch Kids Big Wheel

Cabbage Patch Kids Big Wheel

Growing up on a small cul-de-sac in Chicago provided an excellent training ground for riding.  My routine consisted of going around in small circles over and over and over and…..  I looked forward to the time when I could take on the wild yonder past the end of the block.  When I was finally able to graduate from my Big Wheel to the big leagues (i.e. a Huffy), I was ecstatic.  My first “real” bike was a lovely shade of neon pink.  It was, of course, adorned with handlebar streamers and spoke beads, a natural continuation of “badassness.”  Every 4th of July the kids in the neighborhood would decorate their bikes and form one large crazy train that rolled throughout the hood.  I remember thinking that life could not get any better.

4th of July Kids Parade

4th of July Kids Parade

(I’m not this old, but I found this picture online of my neighborhood walk/bike parade from back in the day.  Cool to think of how far back it has been a tradition!)

My next big bike milestone came when I outgrew the neon pink machine.  My parents got me another Huffy (nothing like building brand loyalty at an early age).  It was purple with neon pink accents and a neon pink paint splash effect on the frame… much more sophisticated than its predecessor.  This bike also had the potential for pegs.  Yes, pegs, the ultimate bike accessory!  My peg dreams were quickly quashed by my parents (and in retrospect… probably for the best).  I loved my pegless bike in all its glory for many years.  I even loved it after I unsuccessfully tried to stand up AND let go of the handlebars at the same time [fail…scars].

Come junior high, my purple bike with neon splashed paint was not as cool looking as I remembered.  It was even rejected by a bike thief in the neighborhood (three bikes unlocked and out in the open, only two were taken… hmm, was it that bad?!  How rude…).  When I started high school, I retired from my amateur bike career and sadly there was a long hiatus before my love for biking was rekindled.

Mountain Biking!

Mountain Biking!

Fast forward many years and, on a whim, I purchased my first road bike.  Similar to my Big Wheel, there was some amount of purple and flowers involved.  After a couple more years, Lindsey Fahey decided that it was time to be legit with this bike thing (reference Fahey SMOTW).  After much trepidation, I joined her and a lovely group of ladies on a Tuesday morning ride.  Despite having no clue what I was doing, I was so drawn to how friendly everyone was and how accepting they were of such a flaming amateur.  The more I went on SM rides and met people, the more I grew to love the team and the whole underground bike culture that I had previously evaded me.

Two monkey years later, I have learned a ton, I am still NOT “so pro”, but overall I have had a wonderful time and look forward to many more years pedaling away.  When I sat down to write this I was flooded with amazing memories from my childhood that involved bikes, fun, and friendship.  Reflecting on the past few years and my time with Spidermonkeys, that continues to be the theme.
wind farm

Spidermonkey of the Week – Ken Dorado

by Ken Dorado

Hi, I'm Ken

Hi, I’m Ken

My fondest memory on a bike was when my dad would take me on a ride. Placing me in the child seat on the back of his mountain bike. Family and bikes – that’s what it’s all about. Riding through the streets near our house, feeling the wind and the rush of speed gave me the feeling of freedom and all that I was exposed to during those early summer days. I was lucky to realize early on that this was a healthy escape. I was in nirvana in a kids bikes seat.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had some form of human powered transportation. My first ride was the special edition Big Wheel® Knight Rider™. Since then I’ve been addicted ever since.

My original ride

My original ride

After wearing off the plastic tires on my Big Wheel®, I graduated up to a red BMX bike in my teens. There, I learned to do my first wheelie.

Diamondback Zetec

Diamondback Zetec

After graduating high school, I moved onto college at Purdue where I learned the real meaning of owning a bike. Getting to class in a lot less time than on foot. Every minute counted for much needed rest. I enjoyed riding around with my Diamondback Zetec.

After college… I had it all… a travelling full-time job, a girlfriend and an overweight frame to show how “happy” I was. For some reason, I didn’t feel fulfilled and so I ditched the first two (tried to get rid of the third) and found a new religion – amateur racing.

I was first introduced to racing by my friend Ted Ramos and I had the honor of riding with him on Team Get-A-Grip. He’s a great coach at Well-Fit and dear friend. This is where I did my first set of mountain bike and Xterra races. If you’ve never done an Xterra race you need to. Xterra racing consists of a small tight-knit community and you are so close to nature. Nothing beats adventure endurance racing when combined with swimming, mountain biking and trail running. I’ve had my ups and downs with endurance racing, especially from my first triathlon. As easy as a doing a triathlon sounds, getting towed in by boat mid-swim was definitely a reality check and game changer for me. At the end of the day it added fuel to the fire.

Xterra World Champion Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz and I

Xterra World Champion Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz and I

If you thought it couldn’t get better than that, enter the world of Chicago Cyclocross (CX). Better known as the ChiCrossCup. What better way to train during the off cycling season with fun races!? I found CX as a great way to find release and decompress from a long year of hard criterium racing and triathlons.

Jackson Park - Date: 2009

Jackson Park – Date: 2009

Indian Lakes - Date: 2010

Indian Lakes – Date: 2010

After a year or two of racing with Get-a-Grip I ended up rolling with Team Iron Cycles. Although these guys were way more hard core than I, hanging with this crew made me a better all around cyclist. Here, I ended up taking on more road races seriously, especially criteriums. Although I wasn’t big into travelling to races at the time; I’ve really enjoyed going to the Tour of Galena. It’s the trifecta of road races. You get the opportunity to race a time trial, road race and criterium all in one weekend and take in the views of a gorgeous town.
This also happened to be my first experience hanging with the Spidermonkeys.

Tour of Galena - Criterium - Date: 2012

Tour of Galena – Criterium – Date: 2012

I ended up rooming with Spidermonkeys like Sara Rice, Peter Monko and Hayes Sanborn. There was an air about their demeanor which was down to earth but when they brought their game into the race their performance was nothing short of epic.

After getting to know some of the Spidermonkey’s I knew this was a special crew. I had to join them. Not only because of their diverse membership, which consists of volunteers to racers. The Spidermonkeys magically checked all the boxes of what I was looking for in an cycling group:

✔ – Vision

✔ – Great leadership (Dean & Vanessa – You rock!)

✔ – Strong relationships with members

✔ – Support for social causes

✔ – Tight-knit cycling and social community (Never miss a group ride or outing)

✔ – Humor (Hey, it goes a long way)

✔ – Great partnerships

But what they most represent to me. An extended family – ✔

Goose Island Dock Party - Date: 2013

Goose Island Dock Party – Date: 2013

Spidermonkey of the Week – Bailey Hatch

by Bailey Hatch

Two cyclists, with the last name Hatch!

Two cyclists, with the last name Hatch!

For thirteen years,

Swimming was all I knew.

Pruney fingers,

And chlorine perfume.

 

After a season of D1,

And 25lbs gained,

I was feeling tired,

And rather drained.

 

So my dad bought me a bike,

And some padded shorts to match,

There were now two cyclists,

With the last name Hatch!

 

An avid cyclist,

He taught me to ride,

Though on our first one,

I nearly died.

 

“Try harder” he said,

As he left me in the dust.

I tried to hang on,

But my ass was bust.

 

Eventually I could keep up,

And I rode more and more.

(Despite the 3 crashes,

And time I sailed into a door.)

 

I joined Illini Cycling,

And met three silly boys,

We’d drink and I’d listen,

While they talked about bike toys.

Illini Cycling!

Illini Cycling!

The cycling community,

Was so supportive and great.

And when my dad got sick,

They stepped up to the plate.

 

Riders reached out,

To offer love and support.

Because as we all know,

Cycling is more than a sport.

 

It’s a lifestyle shared with friends-

Fellow crazies on tiny seats.

Riding hundreds of miles,

All through the streets.

 

He passed away,

In February 2011.

Peacefully, around friends,

He went off to heaven.

 

I think of my dad,

Every time that I ride

And being his daughter,

I take much pride.

 

I looked for a club team,

When I moved here last year.

“Join Spidermonkeys!” said Eric Landahl.

“There’s bikes and there’s beer.”

 

So I joined the team,

And got really fast!

Accomplished my first century,

And had a blast.

 

Thanks for being awesome!

I’m a much better rider.

So proud to be a monkey,

That looks like a spider.

Baby SMC Jersey

Baby SMC Jersey

Spidermonkeys of the Week – Sarah and Eric

by Sarah Rice and Eric Landahl

Eric_Sarah_GoldenGateBridge

Biking together in California

Sarah Rice
My first time….

Riding a good bike. June 12, 1982, my 9th birthday. My parents got me a gorgeous blue 5-speed Schwinn. I hit the brakes too hard going down a hill, endo’ed, and crashed head first into a parked car. The bike was so messed up that the handlebars touching the seat. My right leg had a 250-stitch gash, and I still have an awesome permanent scar instead of a Cat5 tattoo.

Visiting Chicago. May 25, 1986- “Hands across America”. Heading back to Wisconsin on the Kennedy, I stared longingly at the skyscrapers from the car sick seats in the back of my family’s Pontiac Grand Safari. My parents asked how I liked Chicago and I replied, “I will come here as soon as I can and stay for the rest of my life”.

Athletic Training. Summer, 1987. I read the legend of Milo of Kroton, who trained by carrying a bull calf each day until it became fully grown. Thinking that was B.S., I trained until I could do 18 underwater pullouts in the lake without surfacing. The neighbor kid recruited me to the high school swim team.

Romantically kissing. November, 1991. My dorm room next door neighbor and I were talking and hugging in his room. Then we kissed. It was both of our first serious romantic kiss. Can you imagine trying something for the first time and liking it so much that you had no desire to ever try anything else? That’s what happened. We dated 5 years and then got married.

Our 2nd date, December 1991.

Our 2nd date, December 1991.

Getting an important result. December 1998. Nariman and I were doing a late night experiment that gave us exactly the wrong answer. I erased the “expected results” from the chalkboard and drew up the real results. Then I realized that our experiment had told us how the cell’s transporters walk. The walking mechanism was simple and obvious, and everyone was going for it but no one had thought of it. We hugged each other, jumping up and down and yelling. That experiment led me all the way to Northwestern.

Running a marathon. Chicago 2004. I got hooked and ran 5 marathons before my first serious injury, a torn hamstring. Unable to run and a little burned out, I started triathlons in 2008. I didn’t miss running because riding my bike (something I hadn’t done much before) was really, really fun.

Racing a criterium. In May 2010 I bought the Cervelo R3 now known as Charlie. Ken Mitchell fit me on the bike and told me about the ABD practice crits in West Chicago. First time winning an omnium: June 12, 2010. First time starting in an NRC stage race: June 12, 2013. My 40th birthday.

Laughing beverage up my nose during a race. Lincoln Park, 2013. Spidermonkey teammates were drinking and cheering us on. They were so raucous and funny that I lost it after hearing, “Get off the course you bag o’ dicks!” I can’t wait to return that favor at Montrose in December.

Life has a lot of “firsts” by the time you’re 40. The important ones hit like lightning and stay with you forever. Cycling was an instant obsession for me, and thanks to the camaraderie and support of my Spidermonkey Cycling teammates, it’s gonna stay.

 

Eric Landahl
My first time…

I’m usually not very good at things the first time.  The first time I went out for an athletic team I got cut (from a swim team at age 7).  The first time I took algebra I flunked it.  And the first time I introduced myself to the gorgeous redhead in the college dorm (the one with the incredible leg muscles!) she told me to go away and slammed her door in my face.

Luckily I’m really stubborn.  I still swim competitively, and I managed to learn algebra eventually–although I did end up staying in school until I was nearly 30 years old.  The redhead is still around as well.

I don’t recall riding a bike for the first time; it was pretty much how I always got around the southside neighborhood where I grew up.  After driving a half-million miles as a Silicon Valley engineer and a government scientist I got rid of my car a few years ago.  Life as a University Physics professor encourages several eccentric behaviors: in my case this includes Divvying around Lincoln Park wearing a coffee-stained corduroy jacket carrying an obscure textbook under one arm with the bits & pieces of some demonstration lashed to the front basket with bungee cords.

Remarkably, my first time riding with Spidermonkey Cycling was a success.  My friend Grace introduced me to Dean at a Universal Sole run.  I had been itching to try something new after a hard triathlon season, so I came out the next Saturday.  I really enjoyed the challenge and camaraderie of the team’s group ride.  The only thing missing was the redhead; my stubbornness won out and she joined up a few months later.

My first time riding a new Surly Pugsley fat bike was two days ago.  I had been on the bike for less than five minutes before I endo’d and ruined the fork and disk brake.  Not many people can destroy a 35 lb bike and walk away from it!  I took this as a good omen.  As soon as I got home I immediately signed up for a winter bike race across northern Wisconsin…

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