Spidermonkey of the Week – DJ Ryan

Yes, my name is DJ Ryan.

My very first bike was an iconic Schwinn Sting-Ray.  One of the many things I wish I could have preserved from my childhood, but back then to me, it was simply a refurbished hand-me down from my brother.  With a brand new sparkly yellow banana seat and training wheels I was ready to ride all up and down the block.  I don’t remember too much about the bike other than it weighed a ton and I was the last kid on the block to get rid of my training wheels.  By the time the 80’s rolled around I couldn’t wait to get rid of that thing.

By the time I got my next bike, around the sixth grade, I knew exactly what I wanted.  Nothing less than a Schwinn Predator Chromo would do.  After refusing a kickstand (opting to only rest it upside down), and removing the front brake, I was ready to rock.  I was the envy of the neighborhood, I truly loved that bike.  Riding less and less as I got older, one day in high school, my Dad came home with a pair of Schwinn Sprint 10-Speed’s (can you say brand loyalty?).  It was completely out of nowhere.  Preparing to get my driving license, I inquired why I was being giving a bike.  He replied “well your sister needed one and you need to stop riding that little dirt bike”… Other than the color (red) and the 80’s sponge-grip handlebar wrap, I didn’t care for that Sprint 10-Speed much.  I couldn’t go off-road with that thing, plus nothing could replace my Predator… that is until I could legally drive.

I’m on my red bike ..

Fast forward 20 years, I’m in a job that I cannot stand and realize that it may not last long.  I take a lunch with Dean, who’s got this shit-eating grin as if he’s received an invitation to the Playboy Mansion or something.  Without the slightest hesitation, he tells me about this cycling team he’s starting and that I should check out a bike across the street and think about joining.  Immediately, I can see the sales pitch is on (by Dean, Alex was just showing me the bike).  Yes, it’s red and pretty and all, but given my situation “I don’t know” …  Turns out there was a freak mild day that January in 2008 and I returned to Roscoe Village Bikes to claim my first real road bike.  As I figured, I soon was “let go” by that stupid company and now I had the time I wanted to figure some things out.

You looking at me

Fresh off a tough breakup and my firing, I was out riding long before the snow melted.  Which was a good thing, because I had never ridden a bike with clipless pedals and needed tons of practice.  So with time on my hands and a mission in mind, I headed up to the North Branch Trail and rode, and rode, and rode!!  Before I knew it I had essentially ruined the rear derailleur and shoe clips.  Between the snow, ice, and the learning how to clip-in and out the hard way, I would fall a couple of times per outing.  As dreadful as it may sound I was having a blast…

Spidermonkeys, past and present were so helpful:  little pointers here and there, gracious drafts/pulls, and loads of encourage.  It was nothing but positive energy.  So the 2009 season rolls around and I decide to test my abilities at the Trek 100.  I stayed awake through the night because I had to DJ the night before and the event was nearly 3 hours away… I thought a lot about backing out, because the weather was terrible for early June.  However, I thought about the money I had raised and figured I couldn’t let those that contributed down.  I had several flats (mainly because I was too impatient to do it right) and lost the group early on… but I’ll never forget the applauding children with cancer thanking me as I crossed the finish line.  Having completed a (metric) century, all I could think about was completing a full century.

Spidermonkeys = Awesome

I continued riding, enjoying every summer day to it’s fullest… until I woke up one Sunday morning in July with chest pains.  This didn’t make any sense, I was only 37 and in the best shape of my life… sure I smoked and partied too much, but I was working out and biking 100-200 miles a week.  I don’t remember ever being so scared.

I had suffered what is clinically known as a Spontaneous Pneumothorax (my right lung had collapsed).  They assured me I’d make a full recovery, but I was going to be out of commission for the foreseeable future.  After the first surgery in the ER, my lung re-inflated well enough, but the bleb that had burst causing the collapse wasn’t hailing.  So the surgeon informed me that I’d have have another surgery to fold over and stabilize the top of my lung.  Honestly, I didn’t care what they did, I just wanted to get back on the saddle again.

I spent two weeks in the hospital… I had lost 15 lbs, and my physical activity was limited to walking my dogs.   A few weeks later, I was given a clean bill of health, and I immediately went home and climbed back on my bike.   Six weeks after my lung collapse I rode that first century (North Shore Century).  It wasn’t too fast, and I was dropped several times, but I made it.

By the time the 2010 North Shore Century came around, I was determined to show myself that I could really do this with out being dropped.  I succeeded and followed several other Spidermonkeys on a burger run the following day.  Feeling quite proud of myself I took up a friend’s dare to run the Hot Chocolate 15K.  After completing that run in a very respectable time, I started to wonder what else I could accomplish…

2011 I turned 40 years old, and to celebrate I set out to do at least one event for each month of the year:  NYE 5K, Hustle Up the Hancock, Shamrock Shuffle, Cinco de Miler, MS Ride, Dash Peddle Dash, North Shore Half Marathon, North Shore Century, Chicago Half Marathon, Chicago Marathon… finishing nearly all of them amongst the top 20%, not bad for a kid who was once scared to get rid of his training wheels.

I can run too.

I tell this long winded story not to brag (well, maybe a little), but to show others that with a little encouragement and hard work anyone can do anything.  That’s what Spidermonkey Cycling has taught me.  Spidermonkey Cycling has been a life altering experience for me, the cycling and life lessons learned and/or reinforced are too many to count.  I literally owe at least a part my life to Spidermonkey Cycling.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
DJ Ryan

2 Comments

  1. Inspiring. Makes me want to ride a bike, run up some stairs, and put on some skates. Just keep moving. Very well written. Good luck Hustla'! -Amanda C.

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