|Where’s my beer??|
The moment that I first knew I loved cycling was when I “borrowed” my younger brother’s Schwinn Predator and jumped it over a pretty decent double at a nearby park in Michigan. I still remember being mid-air and completely uncertain if I was about to bust my ass or ride away clean. Luckily it was the latter and I was hooked.
The single most influential person to my cycling would have to be my dad nicknamed “Jeffe”. He was always riding his Schwinn World Sport to work (about 10-15 miles each way) just for fun and constantly bringing my family on bike rides. No matter if I was playing hockey, racing, or wrestling, he was there to cheer me on and support me when I lost. To this day if he is in town, he will be the first to my races or the lone fan in the stands at a hockey game. I couldn’t ask for more.
As a very active (and short) teen, I left soccer/baseball/wrestling/hockey for more “alternative” sports like snowboarding, skateboarding, and eventually bmx racing. I wasn’t very good because I enjoyed the jumps and practices more than the races themselves, but I did pretty well for myself coming away with only a separated shoulder and a small trophy.
Fast forward to college where I sold my car and moved to Chicago to pursue a degree in graphic design. My bmx bike was still with me at this point so I rode when I could and used it to save cash not taking the CTA. I also picked up a 70’s Motobecane Mirage that I converted to a single speed after realizing how terrible commuting on a bmx bike was. This 30lb single speed would be the catalyst that was about to hurl me to the world of road cycling.
When I met my fiancée, she just started working for the American Diabetes Association and was helping out with their Tour de Cure cycling fundraiser. My friend and I wondered if it were possible to do the 62-mile route on our single speeds being as they were the only bikes we had at the time. Before we signed up, we hit the lakefront path just out of curiosity and cranked out a 40-mile ride without clipless pedals, bibs, drop bars, gears, or any idea how to draft.
In what seemed like no time, we were halfway through the Tour de Cure and it hit me how much ground I was covering under my own power. The most impressive part of cycling to me has always been unrivaled freedom it gives the rider. It was a pretty enlightening feeling while hearing nothing but the hum of tires on the road and being able to hear every breath. I’m certain I looked like an idiot because I was smiling the entire time. Occasionally we would ride along a few other riders and the rolling bond that developed is what left me wanting to find a group.
In April of 2011 I did a google search for Chicago bicycle “clubs”. When I stumbled on the Spidermonkeys, they seemed fun and relaxed. Then I saw the 312 logo and things got urgent. I emailed Vanessa and came to a group ride, thanks to Fred who helped me get back to the group after dropping my only bottle, rookie mistake. That year alone I raced the Monsters of the Midway Criterium, Tour of Elk Grove, completed 3 Centuries, and a 200-mile 2-day Chicago-Michigan ride with a friend of mine. My hockey team won our Championship over the summer and I got engaged earlier this month, pretty packed.
In addition to the inexpensive sport of amateur cycling, I enjoy the other wallet diet that is amateur photography. Since I don’t ride a lot of BMX anymore, shooting it is a great injury-free way of enjoying it without riding. Being a graphic designer means that I often wear a lot of hats around the office and I guess the photographer cap just comes with the “cyclist” hat by some sort of hipster nature. My cycling/photography/food blog is here.
I just want to express my gratitude to Dean and Vanessa and all the other monkeys who make this group what it is. Not only are we lucky enough to have the opportunity to enjoy cycling, but we have found a group of incredible people to share it with. What more could a cyclist want?