Category: SOTW (page 1 of 7)

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Corey Schumacher and David Fox

Is it really our time to be featured on Spidermonkey Spotlight?  We thought we would have a couple more years to come up with some cool stories but we’ll see what we can do.

Corey David MS Ride

Corey David MS Ride

Corey:  I didn’t grow up participating in any sports, unless you count the family bowling league.  My first bike as a child was a Powder Puff Racer. I rode it to my best friend’s house, passed a group of teenagers who mocked it and probably never rode it again. When I was in my early 20s and still living in Indiana, I bought a beach cruiser, which I also rarely used. I lugged it to Chicago with me in 2005, locked it up in the basement of the apartment building and let the tires go flat. Then, I met David.  After changing the tires for me, he told me to ditch the cruiser and get a “real” bike.  It took me a few more years before I did buy a real bike but even then it was a hybrid – which I still own and ride.  The first time I rode a road bike was in 2011 when David and I were on vacation in California wine country, where we rented bikes to ride around to wineries.

Corey Coppola Winery pre-crash

Corey Coppola Winery pre-crash

I know what you’re thinking: Don’t rent the road bike when you’ve never ridden a road bike, to ride around to wineries all day! I almost made it all the way back to the bike rental shop after a day of drinking, but crashed a couple miles away. I’m not sure what happened. One second I’m enjoying life and then next someone is asking me if I know who the president is.  That’s how I hurt my left shoulder.  Eventually I recovered mentally and bought a road bike of my own.  If David was feeling generous, he’d go on a ride with me on the lakefront path.  He’d pull the entire way and I’d curse him from behind. How is he going so fast? Is he even sweating? It wasn’t fun for either of us.

Sometime during all of this silent cursing at David I met Roxanne at the Y. This is where the story gets familiar. Does everyone meet Roxanne at the Y? Is Roxanne like Kevin Bacon, where you can always find a connection within 6 degrees?  One day we were talking about bikes and she encouraged both of us to try a group ride. My first group ride was a Girl’s Tuesday morning ride, because who doesn’t like to wake up at 4:45 AM? That first ride was lovely! I practiced a pace line! I drafted! I got dropped after the sprint on the way back! No one made fun of me for wearing gym shoes!  I came home and told David how much fun it was. We eventually both tried a Saturday morning ride where the ride leader had to sweep me off the back and Dean did make fun of my gym shoes.  After a couple of years of riding sporadically, Roxanne asked if we wanted to join.  I asked her if she was allowed to invite people into the group. She laughed at me.

Last year I increased the amount of riding I did.  We signed up for the MS ride and completed the 100 miles on the 1st day (and slept in the 2nd day). I participated in my first “old school” ride and bonked.  I started riding to work more often. On June 30th I was doored while riding home on Lincoln. That’s how I hurt my right shoulder.

Corey Nacogdoches TX

Corey Nacogdoches TX

If I’m being honest, I’m sure I wouldn’t have done any of this if I hadn’t joined Spidermoney Cycling. No matter how often I struggle, there is always someone to encourage me.  You give me tips, let me draft off your wheels and even after I bonk, you tell me that I did a good job.  You will likely never see me enter a race but I will be there cheering you on, as you cheer me on during any random Tuesday, Saturday or Sunday … but never a Wednesday night, because I would die.

David: Bikes have always been a big part of my life. My dad is an avid cyclist, but I was the one who taught myself how to ride when I was 6 or 7, rolling myself into the grass and tipping over until I didn’t. Soon enough I was hopping curbs in the cul-de-sac. My family and I lived on the top of a hill in the outer suburbs of Los Angeles at that time (and this was an actual hill, none of this Midwest stuff). My dad showed me how to cut my own switchbacks, veering from one side of the road to the other, so I could make my way up. It turns out that going down is actually the more difficult part, and I have the scars to prove that, but boy did I have fun bombing down that hill.

A couple of years later we moved to Northern California and I traded hills for the BMX track and dirt jumps (BMX is kinda like Cyclocross except you can catch some sweet air). I rode a chrome GT Mach One that fit me like a glove and I don’t think I could ever love another inanimate object like that again. I learned how to bunny hop, pop a wheelie, roll the doubles, jump the doubles, and fall. I fell a lot.

I’m glad I got most of the falling out of the way early. I moved to Chicago in 2001, and it wasn’t too long until I had picked up a battered, early 90’s Fuji from Working Bikes, stripped it down to a single-speed and started tearing up the streets urban style (Urban cycling is kinda like Cyclocross except you can catch some sweet… err… doors? Insults?).

David Nacogdoches Texas

David Nacogdoches Texas

I’d never ridden in a pace line until 2013. That’s where the Spidermonkeys come in. Corey and I had been working out at the YMCA for a few years and I’d frequently see this guy come in and work out in a sleeveless t-shirt, proudly flaunting what I thought was an epic farmer’s tan. That’s before I knew what “pro” was. I had no idea I was supposed to be jealous. Anyway, this guy and another taller, more freckled guy were often working out and chatting, and I “overheard” them talking about bikes (is it ever “overhearing” when it comes to Scott?). I finally struck up a conversation with Dean and he invited me out to a Saturday ride. Around the same time, Corey was training with Roxanne and tried out a Tuesday ride. We finally tried out a Saturday ride and I was immediately hooked.

I participated in rides sporadically until 2015 when I resolved to ride more. I had grown bored with triathlons after realizing I hated (and sucked at) swimming and was a mediocre runner at best. But biking, as ever, was a blast. Corey and I did a bunch of rides, including a few Sunday rides, and at some point that summer, we were offered the chance to become Monkeys officially. Of course we accepted, because you guys rock.

Last year I learned the joys of road cycling by getting my ass handed to me at a few Wednesday rides and completing my first century ride (Road cycling is kinda like Cyclocross except… alright, I give up). I also did my first Cyclocross race!

David cyclecross

David cyclecross

I can’t wait to kick off the 2017 season with ya’ll. Corey and I are so lucky to have found such a welcoming and diverse group to hang with, and I look forward to acting like an adult-sized kid with you guys whenever I can.

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Zach and Gina (Ugo) Neff

You’re getting a two-for-one with this Spidermonkey profile, but I’ll (Zach) be doing the “talking” here.  Gina is far too modest to brag about herself adequately. She also attended Indiana University for four years, so she’s not that strong with the written word. I’m a Purdue graduate (hence the obligatory IU ribbing) with an engineering degree.

IMG_4718Gina graduated from Indiana University, but that was only the beginning for her. She also has a Master’s degree and a Physician’s Assistant degree from Chicago-area colleges. Gina works at Rush as a Physician Assistant and I’m a 19-year employee of Sonoco Products Company as an International Engineering Manager. We have two dogs, no kids, and we live in Bucktown. The boring stuff is over.

This is a couples profile, so I’ll start off with the non-cycling action first. Gina and I met here in Chicago back in 1999. Her roommate was dating my roommate. Gina and I got along well enough when we were all together, so they thought they would try and hook us up on a blind date that was rife with lies and deception. Gina’s friend told her that I wanted to go out with her. My friend told me that Gina wanted to go out with me (a wildly optimistic idea to this day). Gina and I figured this all out in the middle of our first date during the intermission at Phantom of the Opera. Either way, it was funny and it worked.

We dated for about a year before I was transferred through my job to Southern Indiana. The long distance relationship begins here. We really weren’t that serious at the time, but she cried when I left….so that’s something, right? I was down there on my own and the roads are absolutely amazing for cycling.

Zach as a child (tri)cyclist

Zach as a child (tri)cyclist

I had been on bikes a lot growing up in the mountains of Asheville, N.C. Where I lived as a kid, you can’t get anywhere without a car or a bike and I was far too young to drive. If you want to go and hang out with friends after school, then you ride up or down very steep hills to get there. I had a 45 pound, Columbia mountain bike and my parents were into road biking (old school, 1978 Univega’s, since you asked). I bought a decent mountain bike when I moved to Indiana in 2001 and quickly realized how inefficient they were for the roads when I was passed routinely by a pack of road cyclists. They waited up for me one day and encouraged me to get a road bike. They told me it would change my life. That was a true statement.

My trusty steed

My trusty steed

I bought a really nice road bike and started out on my own. I had a lot to learn. It wasn’t long before I ran into that same group of riders. When I say, “ran into”, I mean they were passing me. They waited up again and they let me tag along for 20 miles. Over the next few months The Southern Indiana Wheelmen taught me the hand signs, the etiquette, the safety, and the beautiful addiction of road cycling. They treated me like a brother immediately and I’ll never forget it. I gradually started improving and learning how to pace myself on the steep ascents of the area. Then, when they thought I was ready (I wasn’t) they invited me to the Wednesday night drop ride. I asked, “What does that mean….drop ride?” My new friend said, “Well buddy, you need to know the way home because these boys are on a hammer fest and they won’t be waiting for anyone who gets dropped.” I did that ride with them every Wednesday for an entire season. There are zero stoplights, which means there is zero chance you will get back when you leave that last wheel. Fact: It wasn’t until the last month of that first year that I was able to hang on and complete the entire ride with the team.

Zach (again) as a child cyclist

Zach (again) as a child cyclist

Here is where Gina comes into the mix. We got married after a long-distance engagement when she was in school in Chicago and I was working in the hills of Southern Indiana. She moved in with me and she was quickly interested in my addition to riding bikes. We bought her a decent Fuji road bike and I started teaching her the ropes. What I didn’t tell you about Gina is that she’s extremely athletic, extremely driven, and extremely competitive.

Focused on her next pitch

Focused on her next pitch

I forgot to mention that she was an All-American, 4-year, full ride pitcher at I.U. (see beast mode picture). She was amazingly good and she has a Big Ten ring to prove it. You don’t know that because she is too humble to talk about it. Anyway, she HATED it when I rode past her up a hill. She HATED it when she got dropped. None of that lasted long. She got strong super quickly and it didn’t take her long to get comfortable with the new road bike. We rode every chance we could down there and we loved it. To us, it’s a blessing that we have something like cycling that we enjoy doing together. Special thanks to The Southern Indiana Wheelmen. It’s a great group of people down there and they put some serious miles in.

So, after a 2-year transfer in the U.K., Gina and I relocated back to Chicago in late 2008. We were looking for people to ride with when we bumped into Charlie Jollis one morning. Gina and I were taking donations and handing out candy for Misericordia on Fullerton and Damen. Charlie was at the stoplight headed south after the Saturday morning ride all kitted out in orange. We asked him where he came from and who he was riding with and the rest is history. Gina and I showed up the next week we quickly realized we had met the right group of people for us. We rode with the Spidermonkeys just about every week for the entire season from that point forward. We were asked to join the team late that year and we are so happy to be a part of it.

Teaching people road cycling is a gift, and it’s free. Those guys in Southern Indiana didn’t have to slow down and talk to me. They didn’t have to teach me the ropes when I got my road bike. Spidermonkeys did the same for us in Chicago. Gina and I truly appreciate the openness and friendliness of this group of people. Thanks for having us on your team.

North Shore Century 2014

North Shore Century 2014

MS Ride

MS Ride

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Sach Diwan

If at first you get dropped, try, try again.

coverI was born in Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra (not far from the state capital known back then as Bombay). My folks were cancer researchers and we ended up moving to (of all places) Bar Harbor, Maine. Yes from India to Maine …talk about culture shock! Luckily my brother and I were toddlers so it was easy to adapt. Some of my earliest memories were watching Boston Bruins hockey, the Lawrence Welk show and Capital Wrestling (now WWE). Trust me there wasn’t much else to do during the Maine winters in the early 1970’s.

When I was 7 we moved to Virginia. I remember getting my first Banana Seat Schwinn and riding it to the mall every day to play video games with my friends.

Fast forward to the mid 90’s for my first group rides. I was living in Kansas City at the time and joined a local bike group. I loved getting out of the city especially the ride out to Leavenworth and experiencing the big sky sunsets. When I first moved to Chicago in the late 90’s I did a little group riding but nothing significant. A few year later I found myself living in Hyde Park in an old fixer upper Victorian, with a wife and two kids … so riding gave way to diapers and Teletubbies.

I took up riding again about 5 years ago when I signed up for the North Shore Century with Team in Training. That was a great experience and rekindled my love for group rides.

WNR sometime in 2014

WNR sometime in 2014

My 1st time with Spidermonkey Cycling (SMC) … while everyone remembers their first time, it often does not go as expected. Such was the case with my first SMC ride. I was looking for a local group ride and found the SMC link on the Roscoe Village Cycles website. Feeling a little cocky (and fresh off my triumphant race at Steelhead 1/2 Ironman) I came out to a Wednesday night ride. Even though it’s a team ride, Dean must have taken pity on me and let me try.

Yeah, not such a great outing.  Epic fail is probably a more fitting description, as I dropped off about 1/3 of the way along the route.  Lucky for me, one of the ladies decided to drop off as well (I think she wasn’t feeling well). She took pity on me and showed me the ropes and encouraged me to keep coming out. In hindsight I’m 99% sure that was Michelle Moore. We managed to meet up with the rest of the group for beer and Doritos.

My first Cyclocross Race

My first Cyclocross Race

While some people would get discouraged and give up, not me … I’m way too stupid! After that first experience I was hooked. Due to working in the suburbs, I’ve only come out to a few WNRs, but now that I’m working downtown I plan to come out a lot more next year.

Some of my favorite SMC moments have been the brewery ride to Two Brothers (especially the ride through the west side), the MS Rides, and my first cyclecross race.

My first MS Ride

My first MS Ride

The past two years I’ve been largely MIA because I’ve been training for Ironman Wisconsin. After successfully completing the challenging course twice, I’m done with triathlons and want to get back to SMC rides. When I’m not running, riding or doing triathlons, I have two teenage daughters, Sarita and Sonali who are my pride and joy.

IMOO 2015

IMOO 2015

My Boos

My Boos

 

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Monica Freiband

I wish I could say I was one of those people who found cycling at an early age and fell in love with it. However, aside from my favorite tricycle when I was 3 years old, I don’t hold  too many early memories of biking.

First bike

First bike

I began commuting via bicycle my senior year of high school on an old Cannondale road bike I had found while dumpster diving in Minneapolis. This bike became my sole means of transportation, and I was quick to pack it up with me when I moved to Chicago for college.

10400262_1087585511560_4212980_n

I knew a few people in the cycling community from commuting over the years, and slowly became a regular at Johnny Sprockets due to the wear and tear Chicago weather takes on a bike. However, before long, I experienced what every bike commuter fears: being hit by a car. I had been in a few minor incidents before this, but nothing to scare me off of commuting before. This time was different. I was rear ended and sent flying into an intersection, resulting in road rash, 3 broken ribs, and a no-longer-rideable bike. This was enough to scare me off of a bike (not to mention at this point I didn’t have a working bike anymore anyways).

A few months later, I decided to run the 2014 Chicago Marathon, which was rather inevitable having come from a family of marathon runners. I had been having some knee pain, and was told that cycling was a great way to relieve some of the stress on the body. This was a scary thought, but I went over to BFF bikes, and Annie Byrne introduced me to my new bicycle, Walter, a Giant Liv Avail, and it was love at first sight. I also started to take spin classes at the YMCA, and met Roxanne Bowens. She turned into my “fairy bike godmother” as I call her, and introduced me to the Spidermonkeys (and just as important, she introduced me to Fireball).

I began to enjoy cycling more and more with all the Spidermonkey spins.  Before long, I met Michelle Moore and Kelly Clarke. They convinced me to try racing. I will never forget my first race. To give an idea of what a great team the Spidermonkeys are, a whole group of girls came out to Gapers Block the first night to encourage me. I was visibly nervous and hyperventilating…this all resulted in the patented “deer in the headlights” start line photo.

First race!

First race!

The whistle blew, and I quickly heard a girl from Half Acre say “Monica, get on my wheel and don’t let go!” So I did. I managed to stay in the entire race without getting dropped, which was more than I had anticipated. I got off my bike, turned to Michelle and Kelly, and said “THAT WAS SO FUN LET’S DO IT AGAIN!” I was hooked.

Monsters at the Midway 2015

Monsters at the Midway 2015

That first season of racing, I spent every single weekend racing, and every single week preparing to race. I quickly found myself wanting to spend every waking moment on my bike racing with my teammates.

I had never been so passionate about anything before. After living in Chicago for 7 years, I can safely say that becoming a Spidermonkey and learning how to race has been the highlight of my time in Chicago. It gave me new confidence, new energy, a new breath of life. For two years now I have worn a Spidermonkey kit with pride. No matter where in the world I am, I know that there is an amazing group of people who changed my outlook on cycling, a group of people who became my second family.

First WIN!

First WIN!

Snake Alley, my favorite race!

Snake Alley, my favorite race!

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Brandon Hall

I stood in the parking lot of Big Shark Bikes in St. Louis at 7 am on a Saturday. I had my vans, athletic shorts, a white tee shirt and my Schwinn World Tour Bike at my side. This was my first group ride. Surrounded by everyone in cycling clothes, kits, and carbon bikes, 40 miles lay in front of us. 5 miles later, despite some well needed pushes from other riders I couldn’t keep up on the false flat heading out of town. The summer of 2009 was full of learning experiences – learning to ride in a group, learning to clip in and out of pedals (I still have the scar to prove it), and learning that with my Schwinn I needed to carry two 16 mm wrenches to change a flat (one SOS call later). Still, there was something amazing about being on that bike and riding in a group – I was hooked.

My graduation present from College was my first real road bike – a Cannondale Caad 9. I also moved to Connecticut to start Grad School… So the transition from the rather flattish Midwest to hilly Connecticut was a big adjustment. While my fitness wasn’t great during my time at school I appreciated the escape from school and the ability to be on good riding roads within 5 minutes. There, a classmate also told me about an organization called Bike and Build. I did some fundraising and spent 2 weeks during the summer after my first year of grad school riding up the East Coast stopping along the way to work at build sites in 3 different cities.

Bike and Build

Bike and Build

I subsequently took the year off school and took my bike to Denmark. I really enjoyed the bike infrastructure throughout Copenhagen and throughout the country, as two friends and I spent three days riding West – from Copenhagen to Esbjerg on the Western Coast.  During my time in Denmark I also had the opportunity to ride in Majorca and in Switzerland, which were both incredible in different ways.

Coming back to school I started getting more involved with the cycling team and tried my hand in a couple of crits and a time trial. While I learned that getting into shape for the March collegiate racing scene was impossible for me, I enjoyed the adrenaline that comes from racing.

Trying out a crit race

Trying out a crit race

Pastries!

Pastries!

Moving back to Chicago my coworker John Castro convinced me to go for a ride with him, and promptly had me suffering and holding him back. I still do that now, but his encouragement led me to start riding the Spidermonkey Saturday ride and eventually join the team. I appreciate the way the team rides – safe and steady, and have really enjoyed getting to know such a fun and passionate group of people.

Last season I started racing cyclocross, and was immediately hooked. This season I’m looking forward to competing in most of the Chicago Cross Cup, as well as TrekCX and Jingle Cross. In the meantime, this season I have eaten donuts at Pastry Brest Pastry, gotten Grumpy at the Grumpy Grind, struggled through the Alpine Valley WORS Race, persevered through the Lumberjack 100, met my limit at the Leadville Stage Race, and sweat through Relay Cross, all with my SMC teammates at my side.

I <3 CX

I <3 CX

Leadville Stage Race

Leadville Stage Race

Grumpy Grind

Grumpy Grind

When not on a bike I can be found shopping for bike parts, drinking beer, dreaming of the next race, or working on the Wanda Vista Tower.  CAW CAW

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Carin Nelson

Ice cream rides with friends are some of the best rides!

Ice cream rides with friends are some of the best rides!

It wasn’t until well into (alleged) adulthood that I really discovered the joy of riding.

Sure, I rode bikes here and there as a kid – I have vague memories of a Strawberry Shortcake two-wheeler with training wheels that was probably what I learned to ride on, and then there was that time at my grandma’s when I was playing bikes with my cousins, fell on the gravel road and needed stitches in my one knee (which I still have a scar from) – but growing up in the country living on what was essentially a highway didn’t afford me the same opportunities to develop a relationship with bikes as the kids who lived on quieter streets or in town.  As a competitive swimmer, I spent most of my time in the pool anyway so I’m not sure I knew what I was missing.

Fast forward to my post-college years where, like many young Chicagoans who are semi-athletically inclined, I thought running the Chicago Marathon would be a good idea.  Numerous times on training runs, the conversation would bring about the fact that I had been a swimmer, and the question that would usually follow was “Why aren’t you doing triathlons? As a swimmer you’d have a really good foundation for it…” My response?  “Well, yeah… but there’s this whole biking element that I’m not too sure about…”

Yes. The bike was the leg that kept me from even considering doing a triathlon.  I didn’t own a bike and it just seemed like a big (expensive) commitment.

I ended up not running the Chicago marathon on account of a fractured tibia, but the thought of maybe doing a triathlon stuck with me.  Over a dinner conversation one night, I met a new girlfriend who had just done her first triathlon.   She also had a swimming background and had bought a bike in order to do a triathlon and had had a ton of fun… and convinced me to give it a shot.  Not long after, off to the LBS we went.  With her as my “guide,” I checked out an entry level road bike (and had to ask how to shift gears before I took it for a test ride!).  It was ok, but $600 seemed like a lot of money for a bike. (Oh what little did I know…)

I ended up getting an entry level Giant from Johnny Sprockets.  While taking it for my first spin down the LFP, I remember my thoughts alternating between “Whee!!” and “OMG, this is great!” and “This is so much better than running – look at how much more stuff you can see!” How had I not done this before??

After completing a triathlon or two and starting to try to figure out options for riding routes other than the lakefront path, Wendy (yes, our Wendy!) and I met at random (that’s a fun story on its own) and started riding together.  She was new to Chicago and I was new to riding so we started exploring together.  She’s already recapped the day we learned about SMC so I won’t rehash…  but a few weeks after that fateful day, she explained the basics of “riding a wheel” to me, and we showed up for what was my first group ride.  Echos of the thoughts from my first ride danced in my head again in concert with Rox’s encouragements being shouted from behind me – “don’t let that gap open up! Hang in there – you can do it!”).   SO. MUCH. FUN.  I was hooked then and there and it turned out that this was just the start of a progression of firsts and various milestones… (and yes, it turned out that the sales guy was right!)

I rode regularly that first summer and the next…  Pedals, shoes and wheels all got slowly upgraded…  I put many more miles on that first bike that it was intended for and the shifters gave out…  Ken was able to track down replacements for me to keep it rideable but I started shopping for a new bike…  When I finally settled on one, it was a major upgrade.  On a whim I jumped into the beginner crits hosted by Half Acre that spring… a one-day racing license was quickly upgraded…  I won a prime, and just a few weeks later found myself unexpectedly on a podium… this racing thing was FUN!!!

I officially announced my retirement from triathlon following the Tour of Galena last year (without a doubt, the crit that weekend was THE. MOST. FUN. I HAVE HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE – you can read all about it here) because why bother with triathlons when I don’t really enjoy swimming or running and can just ride my bike??  Duh.

I’ve since added a third bike (cross) to my stable and hope to be spending some quality time on it this fall.  I’m sure it won’t be the last (N+1 right? J).  Looking back, I don’t think I could have even imagined how much I would learn and experience in just a few short years – or that I would go from someone who had to ask how to shift a bike to someone is approached by co-workers for advice on buying a bike.  I also can’t believe that I had no idea that such an awesome community of people existed and am so glad that the Spidermonkeys adopted me as a part of the group.  The support and camaraderie are like nothing I’ve ever experienced – like many, I feel like I “found my people” and I look forward to many, many more miles of smiles!!

Yay bikes!!!

 

My first “real” bike

My first “real” bike

First week of racing and first prime! (and my new road bike)

First week of racing and first prime! (and my new road bike)

 

 

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Andy Schumacher

sandy twizz

Sandy Twizzler Photo by Jayloo

by Andy Schumacher

Traffic is what got me into cycling and Fireball got me to be a Spidermonkey. There’s not much else to know but I’ll back up a bit.

Like most kids, I biked a lot as a kid until I was 15. Then there was a brief cycling hiatus until I was about 30 when I moved to Chicago. I was previously living in the metro Detroit area where I got everywhere by car and I had no problem with it. I even worked for Toyota as a design engineer.

Moving to Chicago completely changed my perspective on cars. Stop-and-go traffic and searching for 20 to 30 minutes for parking were now part of everyday life and I was pissed off every time I got into the car. Within a few months, I got a commuter bike and instantly felt free again. I was no longer subject to traffic and was only limited by how fast my legs could pedal. I wanted to go faster so I bought a road bike and I loved it.

Taiwan Post Ride Recovery

A couple years after moving to Chicago, I joined SRAM as a design engineer. It’s been an amazing place to work and has taught me a lot about cycling culture. SRAM group rides were great but I didn’t have the experience of the other riders so I felt a bit out of place. I started doing some Saturday group rides with different clubs and found a good fit with the ‘Monkeys. They’re great people with different cycling backgrounds and are all very welcoming. Maybe more importantly, they like to have fun and that’s something I really appreciate. Some of the best friendships are forged over a bottle of Fireball, and Spidermonkeys drink a lot of bottles of Fireball. For the record, I don’t like Fireball but very few people will turn it down when offered. Fun fact – Did you know that you can put anything you want into a coffee cup and drink it in public? Sorry, I’m getting distracted.

andy cross

Speaking of drinking, did I mention I love cyclocross?!? There’s something special about the combination of mud, pain, heckling, and having a 10 year old stuff cookies into your jersey pocket after you faceplant in the sand that makes for an awesome experience. One of these days, I hope to learn how to bunny hop correctly.

Weightlifting

Andy getting swoll

Andy just hanging out

Andy just hanging out

I have always enjoyed staying active and trying new activities. Last year, I started working out at Goose Island Crossfit during the off-season. I was hooked pretty quickly by the great coaching and I still work out there regularly – unfortunately, sometimes at the expense of riding. I’m still working on balancing activities but it has also gotten me to try some other new things like trapeze and Olympic weightlifting. I love trying new activities and look forward to a new challenge, but I really look forward to doing a lot more Spidermonkey group rides this year… and maybe sharing a High Life or three with the team at PK’s.

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Vincent Calabro

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Vincent Calabro

Who is Vincent? Is he that guy that lives with Brandon? I thought Corbin lived with Brandon? What do you mean there are three people on the team who work with John Castro? Should we test JPC?

Vincent is the Spidermonkey formerly known as Brandon’s roommate.

JPC BH and VC

JPC, BHall and Vincent at the MS Ride

Ok I’m more than just Brandon’s former roommate and John’s co-worker, so here is my tale told through six bikes:

The Bright Red Raleigh:
I grew up on the fringes of Cleveland with two brothers. The first bike I remember having was a bright red Raleigh. My brothers and I spent countless hours riding bikes in circles on our driveway. When this got boring we played a form of dodgeball on bikes but instead of inflated balls we’d chuck buckeyes at the person whose turn it was to ride the gauntlet. Near the end of the summer, when the weeds next to our house were tall enough, we’d venture out with golf clubs to carve out what amounted to a kid’s version of a cyclocross course. We’d create winding paths with obstacles along the way. The most treacherous was a 1’x1’ pit with broken glass that we placed a board over. Oh the joys of unsupervised childhood.

The Mongoose:
When I was in my early teens I got a Mongoose BMX bike. The Mongoose is notable for only two reasons:

1 – I won it from a raffle at the local Dick’s Sporting Goods.
2 – I thought I was hot shit on that bike.

Therefore in an attempt to impress the girls who lived in my cul de sac I rode the bike as fast as I could down my hilly driveway and leaned to turn onto the street. Sadly the Mongoose had other plans. The tires gave out and I slid across the street. Road rash clearly got all the ladies knocking at my door.

Helmet Test

Helmet Test

Clueless

Clueless

The Bianchi:
When I was 20 years old I worked as an intern in New York City. I was young, poor and wanted to soak up every bit of the city. I determined to take the little money I saved and to buy a bike rather than a monthly Metrocard. This is when I discovered the LBS. I visited them all and I wanted all the bikes (I still do). In a hipster bike shop in the Meatpacking District I met my first love, the Bianchi Pista. It sang soulful opera to my Italian roots. I only realized after walking out to the streets of Manhattan that I had no idea what a track bike was or why my new bike didn’t have any breaks. But as John Castro always tells me, you ride what you have. I rode that bike everyday to work, rain or shine. Nights and weekends were spent sprinting through Time Square and through Central Park. I even rode it on some longer rides like the 5 Boro Ride and Montauk Century. That bike carried me through New York, Philadelphia, New Haven and now daily on the streets of Chicago.

The Allez:
So much hope! So much promise! Then it got stolen out of my basement in Philadelphia. Renter’s insurance is great, but I didn’t have it.

The Surly:
In 2009 I got accepted into graduate school for architecture. As a last hurrah, two of my friends and I decided to do a bike camp from Seattle to San Francisco, and thus the purchase of the Surly. The first three days of our trip, it just poured. If you ever want to learn about the kindness of people, show up soaking wet with all your stuff strapped to your bike. But as soon as we hit the coast it was some of the most beautiful riding and camping.

Gravel and bike camping on the Surly!

Gravel and bike camping on the Surly!

The Fuji:
This is the bike most of you have seen me on. I got this bike during a summer in graduate school. It had one great summer of riding and then sat longing to be ridden. Years passed and I moved from New Haven to San Francisco and finally to Chicago. That’s when I met John Castro. He brought me out to my first Saturday ride and from there I was hooked. I feel so lucky to be able to ride with a team full of such welcoming, friendly, funny and talented riders. The occasional free beer also helps.

Sadly in June I’m relocating to San Francisco with The Minjy (not a bike, a person, specifically my girlfriend). Other bikes might might come and go in my life but I’ll always be a Spidermonkey. Soon Spidermonkey Orange will grace the climbs of Marin County.

P.S.this is an open invitation to join me any time you’re out that way.

To quote the great Cal Naughton Jr. : “we go together like cocaine and waffles”

Vincent and Trenta MTB'ing

Vincent and Trenta MTB’ing

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.

Kurt - Picture 3

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.

Kurt - PIcture 6

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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