Author: drew

Spidermonkey of the Week – Wendy Rigterink

Imagine a cool mid-summer weekend day, with a potential storm on its way but two bikers itching for miles.  Given the weather, they abort the original plan to venture somewhere new “with cars” and instead agree to the Lakeshore trail.  Little did they know of the many obstacles to come…but that it would all be worth it because it would ultimately lead them to the Spidermonkeys:

– A flat tire…before one pedal stroke; with the help of strangers, it appears fixed.

– The 5k Gay Pride run…rainbow costumes and big hair are fun…for the first 10 feet…then it gets old

– Hunger Walk…hundreds of very, VERY slow moving walkers

– The flat returns…the partner in crime attempted to help with a very old cartridge; gaining some pressure until an irrational concern overcame them, that the cartridge is actually a live grenade that they quickly toss onto the ground (a deadly combination of an over-active imagination and no flat tire clinic!)

At this point, they cry “we give!” and walk to a bike shop (and brunch next door).  With full bellies they pick up their bikes and learn of the infamous Spidermonkey cycling group.  [”They” is yours truly and my good friend, Carin… “you know, like ‘car-in’ the garage” :))

To back up to the beginning, I grew up in a family that biked around the block on summer evenings.  We put streamers on our bikes and road them in our neighborhood Memorial Day parade.  I excelled as an expert tag-along.  In one picture, you see my grabbing a free ride on my dad’s bike.  Growing up in Michigan, we would rent tandem bikes at Mackinaw Island and I would sit in the back…and pedal when my dad or older sister would turn around to make sure I was pedaling.  It’s not all that different than me drafting behind folks in recent years…bike “smarter” has been my motto (especially when biking with stronger people).  My family has gotten even with me – I get not only my niece on back of the tandem with me, but also at least two of the youngest in the burley as well.  Fortunately no incidents with horses to-date!

Dad & WR_cropBiking played a bigger role in my life when I was told in high school that biking will strengthen and minimize my knee problems.  It became a break away activity while living at home during the summers in college.  When I moved to Washington, D.C. for my first job, with too much time on my hands, I hit the Capital Crescent trail most evenings and biked into Georgetown and the monuments.

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I did my first MS ride – 65 miles – in the Virginia foothills.  My goal was to finish.  I was ecstatic when I completed it…that feeling lasted for about 2 minutes, right up until the volunteer said “Congrat’s…did you just finish the century?”.  Ugh.  Little then could I have imagined that I would ride a century (IL MS) AND up and out of Hoover Dam!  In Minneapolis, I rode the MS 150-mile, a 2-day event, from Duluth to Minneapolis and fell even more in love with the sport and the greater community who enjoyed biking for a cause and encouraging non-bikers.  I was adopted by various teams and did training rides with a group that developed over the years.  It was during this time that a good friend chuckled when they overheard me explaining that I was a casual biker versus a “cyclist.”  Somehow I missed the metamorphosis that had taken place…first the spandex, then bike gloves…helmet, road bike, clips, and lastly the jersey…out popped a cyclist!

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And finally I came to Chicago…  I was spoiled with great paved trails in Minneapolis, so I started off clinging to the Lakeshore trail, early in the morning.  One Saturday I decided to be brave and headed north on city streets.  I saw a huge pack of bikers on Sheridan (guess who??  a striking orange was the predominant color).  They reminded me of how much I missed riding with others.  Shortly thereafter, I met Carin and we started biking together and plotted our first Spidermonkey ride.  I have never felt so included, exhausted, and giddy (that I survived) all at the same time. :) I feel so lucky to have found such a great group of amazing people!  From the intro talk at that first Saturday ride (flats are not catastrophic!), to flat tire clinic, girl rides, end of the season bash, observe blizzard cyclo-cross race, VQ, Roxanne’s spin classes, Vegas, 312 events, IL MS ride, hot orange pants…you all inspire me to be a better, stronger biker while also accepting me into the “family” exactly as I am.  I still get excited when I see the orange and am sure to holler out the “caa-caa”…wondering who I just spotted.  You all have made Chicago feel very quickly like home and I’m excited for the many adventures yet to come.  Thank you all so very much. :)

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Spidermonkey of the Week – Kelsey Phillips

Kelsey Picture 4 Track

I was riding home from work last winter. Knobby tires on to fight the snow and ice that were covering the lakeshore path north of Ohio St. It was coming down pretty hard but I felt fine, I had been riding through the winter for years now. But like every winter, I was spacing out and didn’t see the huge patch of ice 3 feet in front of me, and lost control and yard-saled.

A few yards away from me, another cyclist was fighting for control on the ice. I can’t remember if she fell or not, but I remember getting up and looking over at her. It was the middle of winter, so all I saw was cycling gear, not a discernable person. But then she asked if I was ok, and I heard the voice. It was Sarah Rice, a faculty member at my university, scary-smart biophysicist, and overall badass. I knew who she was, but she certainly didn’t know me. I was just a lowly grad student.

We exchanged “are you ok?”s and dusted ourselves off. I said something along the lines of “Oh, you’re Sarah Rice”, and she said something like “Ya, who the hell are you?”. I explained that I was a graduate student at Northwestern. And as we got back on our bikes and rode north, we started talking a bit about school, but mostly about bikes. I remember her looking at my winter beater bike and saying “that’s a funny lookin’ bike…” (it was).

As she turned off the path to head west and go home, she mentioned her cycling team, Spidermonkey. She asked if I had ever considered racing my bike. I hadn’t really. I had done plenty of running races before, but cycling? I had always ridden my bike as a hobby. As a way of clearing my head. As a way of getting everywhere. But racing? I said I’d shoot her an email.

I did shoot her an email. It took a while to actually get the gears (sorry) moving, but eventually the idea started to grow on me. I had heard of races happening in the Chicago area. I started to look at them more closely. Finally, I asked Sarah when the next race was. It was Montrose, the last race of the Chi Cross Cup. It was cylocross.

What the hell is Cyclocross?

I had asked a friend that I knew was into racing. She put me in contact with her friend that races cross. She posted on social media about a new girl needing a 53cm bike for Montrose. About 15 ladies responded, throwing their bikes at me. I would be hooked up just fine.

I showed up that Sunday morning with a six-pack for whoever ended up loaning me that bike. I found the Spidermonkey tent and saw people running in and out, throwing clothes on (or off), shoving food in their mouths. I think I saw a man (who I now believe to be Trent) chugging a beer at 9:30 in the morning.  It looked like a tent I could hang out in.

Some of the Spidermonkey ladies tossed me advice here and there as we got ready for the Women’s 4s race. I don’t know if I listened but somehow I was on the line, in the back, with a number and a cross bike, ready for whatever. The whistle blew and I just, kinda, raced I suppose. Tried to survive is probably more accurate. I was very out of my element. I was mostly just trying not the break the bike I was riding. But I had a blast doing it.

 

When I finished, and got back to the tent, and had a beer, and I think a waffle or two, I was hooked. I was gonna race bikes. I was gonna do it with Spidermonkey. It was thrilling.

Over the following months, the Spidermonkey team members started helping me out here and there. I signed up for PWP. I got my butt kicked by Kristen. Kelly Clarke showed up and lent me her other trainer. Lauren “Space Jam” Wissman laughed with me and made me feel welcome. Slowly I started to meet these women, and started to feel like I was becoming a part of a family.

I started going on group rides when March rolled (sorry) around. I met Dean and Vanessa. They made me smile for 3 hours straight even when I was fighting back breakfast as I sprinted to keep up with the group. I met Michelle Moore, whose wheel I always tried to get behind on rides because I knew that thing wouldn’t wiggle an inch. I was getting faster, and I could feel it.

Gapers Block crit series was coming up, and Kelly said it would be a great first crit race for me. Sarah insisted I start drilling corners so I’d be ready. She took me to the Lincoln Park Zoo parking lot at 7:00am on a Friday and basically made me take corners at speed for an hour. She rode my wheel too close, bumped my back wheel at speed, elbowed my ribs, everything that could happen in a race, she made me ready for. I rode up to the line for Gapers feeling safe and feeling confident. I wouldn’t have felt that way without Spidermonkey.

Kelsey Picture 2 Gapers Kelsey Picture 3 Gapers

After that, the crit season went into full force. And then track. And then cross again. I could go on for days about all the amazing moments I had with this team. Cramming 10 people in a 2-bedroom house for the Lacrosse Omnium, getting lost on a training ride in the hills of Galena, and even my first big crash that ended up injuring two of my fellow female racers.

Kelsey Picture 4 Track Kelsey Picture 5 Track

Good and bad memories alike, Spidermonkey has been there with me the whole time. Getting me back on my bike to finish those terrible races, cheering me up Snake Alley even when I was walking my bike, being so supportive and helping me become the best cyclist I can. I’m so thankful for this team, and every teammate on it. It’s made me a better cyclist, and a better person, as cheesy as it sounds. I’m just glad that I ate in on the ice last winter, and that Sarah Rice was there to laugh at me.

 

Spidermonkey of the Week – Ian Hughes

I would like to start off by saying I am absolutely thrilled and honored to be the Spidermonkey of the Week!  While I have always been what I thought was a huge cycling advocate, my love affair with bikes is only in its infancy when compared to everyone else on the team.  I now know that I have only just seen the tip of the iceberg and that by drinking the Spidermonkey Kool-Aid, I am opening up the floodgates to all things awesome.  I have been absolutely humbled through my experiences with those of you I have met so far on the team, and have been deeply inspired in reading all of the other SOTW posts.  Because of you, my goal for 2015 is to become a stronger and more skilled rider and make you all as proud of me as I am to be a Spidermonkey!

That being said, here’s a little about the guy that may be sucking your wheel at the start of this year’s rides.  I was born in New Mexico and bounced around between there, Texas, Ohio, and Los Angeles before moving back to Ohio for college and my first grown-up job in Cleveland.  As with most kids, bikes were a big part of my life growing up but two memories vividly stand out- learning how to ride and going on bike tours with my parents.  My Grandma Joan sat me on my first bike that I received for a Christmas present in Las Cruces, NM and literally shoved me down a hill repeatedly until I could stay on without falling.  Fortunately I got the hang of it before I ended up breaking something!  As for the bike tours, they became a family tradition while I was in grade school after my parents got into riding.  They started bringing me along on 20+ mile country rides around Carey and Columbus, Ohio and it always made for awesome family time.

Ian Hughes Picture 1  Ian Hughes Picture 2

Six years ago I moved to Chicago (chasing my then girlfriend, now wife, Kelly) and left behind my beloved Ohio after 13 years of fun.  When I first got here, I absolutely hated it.  I found myself very frustrated with the noise, concrete everywhere, seeming lack of outdoor opportunities, and most of all the traffic.  For sanity’s sake I stopped driving, took to public transportation and that made things a little better, but after 2 years I was completely over it.  In the spring of 2011, I finally had a moment of clarity while we were sitting in a mess of rush hour traffic in our car- a small group of cyclists effortlessly cruised past us with smiles on their faces.  I wanted (and needed) that freedom and happiness, and later that week I bought a bicycle and took to the streets.

Ian Hughes Picture 3

What started off as a means of getting to and from work quickly turned into my escape from all of the things I didn’t like about Chicago.  All of a sudden I was happier, healthier, and felt a meaningful tie to the concrete, traffic, and noise that used to drive me crazy.  These feelings grew deeper when I began bike commuting year round and really learned to appreciate everything that all of the four seasons throw at us.  The only problem I came across was that my commute was only 6 miles each way, and I wanted more!

Ian Hughes Picture 4      Ian Hughes Picture 5

When I left my job as an Environmental Consultant and went to work for Goose Island Beer Company three years ago, I had the unique opportunity to take this newly found passion and grow it further through sharing it with my new coworkers.  Goose Island was already a strong advocate in the Chicago biking community through supporting the Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago Bike to Work Week, and of course sponsoring the Spidermonkeys, but we had some opportunities for improvement internally.  In the last three years the Green Goose team and I have made some great accomplishments to encourage our employees to ride- we started the Honking Peloton (once a month we ride to a local brewery), improved onsite bike storage, purchased maintenance supplies, and started offering employee tune up days.  Our efforts have resulted in an increase in bike commuting and have also led to Goose Island receiving a Bicycle Friendly Business Silver Award through the League of American Bicyclists.

Ian Hughes Picture 6

Ian Hughes Picture 7     Ian Hughes Picture 8

It was only a matter of time until I got to meet several Spidermonkeys at a dock party and a few other Goose Island beer release parties.  At one of these events (after geeking out over a few beers of course) I received a challenge from Fred Wu to come join the team for a Saturday ride.  Once I realized that there weren’t any Geese currently riding with the Spidermonkeys, I knew I needed to accept the challenge, represent the brewery, and roll with the team up to Highland Park.  After one ride, followed by a delicious gyros sandwich at Budacki’s, I was hooked!  Despite a busy travel schedule for work I managed to hit several other rides last year including a couple treks to Willow Springs and a very ‘spirited’ Wednesday night ride.  I am looking very forward to being even more involved this year, riding my first century, and diving into my first CX race this fall- hopefully I won’t be riding in Fred’s Divvy bike basket!  Here’s to all of you and here’s to a great year with Spidermonkeys! Cheers!

Spidermonkey of the Week – Kurt Breitenbucher

Kurt - Picture 1

Like many others, bikes for me were just a form of transportation, a method to get to where your friends were. I checked all the boxes for endurance sports in high-school, cross country running, track, and nordic skiing. Despite my height I was never very coordinated unless on snow and ice (thanks viking ancestors), so I never really got into other team sports. Most Spidermonkeys know of my love for bikes that are way too small and do not really fit me. My first “real” bike was a 2000 Schwinn Frontier, I used that bike from 2000 until 2008, when I nearly died riding it.

Kurt - Picture 2

My transition from a runner to a dirt-bag did not take place overnight. My first year of college did not go well, I had tried to be a walk on for our schools D2 running team. In our first race I missed a course marker in the woods, and my first collegiate 8k race became a 25k. After this, I took two years off of school and coached a high-school nordic ski team and cross country running team. The head coach, an engineer, convinced me that there were bigger and better things, and in 2008 I went back to school to become a civil engineer. When I returned, I took my 1999 Schwinn on some trails meant for downhill mountain bikes. I came around a corner with too much speed and hit a jump I was not expecting. The crash split my helmet clean in two, I had a pretty terrible scar down the middle of my face, I had to endure people calling me “the boy who lived” my first months back, but I was hooked. I spent the next year with bike lust, working for the school and saving up to buy a new mountain bike.

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I was lucky enough to live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for 6 years. We were fortunate to have world class mountain bike trails right outside our door, a five minute pedal up the hill and you could be deep in the woods, not another person around. When others spent their breaks between classes in the library or eating at the union, we were rushing back out to grab our helmets, packs, and bikes to get another ride in. I’m sure 90% of the other students hated us, coming into class covered in mud, smelling ripe, and bleeding all over from a thousand cuts on our shins.

Kurt - Picture 4

I used to believe that cycling, especially mountain biking, was a very solitary sport. In graduate school, afraid of the impending real world, I became active with our collegiate cycling team and club. For many of us mountain biking was a labor of love and much of our time spent off the bikes was building trails, jumps, and advocating for more funds to pursue our passion.

Kurt - Picture 5

I have hopes that mountain biking will become bigger in Chicago and the Midwest in general, I’m particularly excited about the Big Marsh Project. Some of my fondest memories come from seeing how many bikes/people you can fit in a truck and hit the trails.

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I moved to Chicago for work in January of 2014, I attended a few Spidermonkey events (Goldsprints for MS!) before officially joining at the Lacrosse Omnium in May. I’m fairly new to road cycling, to me it was always something to do to keep fit. I love the Spidermonkey group rides, the camaraderie at races (especially during cyclocross). Through the coming year I’m hoping to compete in longer distance events (Barry Roubaix/Dirty Kanza), some endurance mountain events, and WORS (Wisconsin Off-Road Series).

Photo Credits to Jayloo Photography.

 
 
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