Spidermonkey of the Week – Kelly Clarke


What’s up Monkies?! Last week I wrote an article for a contest that explains how I got involved with Spidermonkey Cycling (Pretty. Fast.), so rather than rehash that I thought I would use this space to talk about what I’ve learned from a year of being a Spidermonkey.

I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. One of the websites I frequent between designing or programming is Tenspeed Hero. It’s based in Chicago, and I enjoy the smart, sometimes off-kilter humor. But at first, the name of the online journal really bothered me. Are you calling yourself a hero? How pompous! It just recently occurred to me what the Tenspeed Heroes were doing. In fact, it occurred to me yesterday at Indian Lakes, during the 4B cyclocross race, when I yelled out to Batgirl, “You’re my hero!” as she passed me right before a grueling incline. (Batgirl is Catherine Watkins who rides with Higher Gear. She wears a batman costume when racing in the 4Bs.) Batgirl is not the first person I’ve called my hero this year. I’ve said it a lot since becoming a Spidermonkey. I even felt a tinge of guilt when I called one person my hero in earshot of another proclaimed hero. Can you have more than one hero?


At first I used the word slightly in jest, to indicate that I was proud of someone’s awesomeness. “Hero” is a strong word. Labeling someone with such a descriptor for something as benign as riding a bike is like talking about if you want kids on a first date – too much, too soon. But in a way, I mean it very seriously. There are heroes that do incredible things in different places and different times that I know are amazing, but they aren’t within my realm of personal experience. It inevitably affects your pathos more to see people you know, in a similar experience as you, achieving personal growth, undergoing pain, or doing something that someone outside that experience might view as small. Because you compare it to your own experience and understand the effort it took, you understand the acts of these familiar people to be extraordinary.


The word “suffering” is often synonymously used with cycling. That word also is and isn’t too strong of a descriptor. We aren’t suffering in that we aren’t starving, in the same way that we aren’t heroes wearing capes (well, some of us…). Cycling is an arduous love affair, though. We aren’t changing the world, but we are changing ourselves – learning from the struggles presented by cycling. On a grand scale, we see this exhibited by people like Johnny Hoogerland. On a personal level, we see this in our teammates – riding faster, gaining more watts, changing a flat tire faster, and pushing themselves in new ways. If there was no suffering or sacrifice, there would be no heroes and we could not become greater.

To answer my question, you can have more than one hero. I have many. To name a few:

  • Anna Loosli for racing cyclocross on a MOUNTAIN BIKE
  • Justeen McNett for starting the season not wanting to do the 70 mile Easter ride, then finishing the season with a windy and rainy century! (Justeen, the improvements I’ve seen you make this year have been astounding)
  • Katie Isermann, Trent Williams, and Kim Brokhof for making the correct decision to NOT race when they really wanted to, but knew they shouldn’t due to injuries
  • John Castro and John Lyon for taking me mountain biking – going slower than they needed to, waiting for me on the trails and having tons of patience to help me learn.
  • Vanessa Schilling for raising an incredible amount of money on behalf of our team for the MS ride
  • Everyone that did a marathon, triathlon, and the crazies that did an Iron Man (Fred Wu)
  • Everyone that volunteered their time at the Chicago Marathon, Bike The Drive, Bike To Work Week, ect.
  • Josh Green, Mike Meyers, Dean Okun and anyone else who stayed behind when I fell off the pack and helped me catch up
  • Stewart Chapman for finishing the Burnham Racing Spring Super Crit and racing cyclocross this year
  • Kristi Hanson for getting 6th place in a cyclocross race when hungover
  • Grace Chappell for getting 4th place in a cyclocross race in Wisconsin AFTER crashing in that race
  • Peter Monko for having no fear on the dance floor
  • Monica Pencz for owning the audacious ascents of California numerous times
  • Geoff Scott, Ken Mitchell, Matt Daniel, and Mike ‘Butters’ Berman – our liaisons at Get A Grip, for hosting classes on bike maintenance and being incredible supports on rides and at races
  • All of our group ride leaders for extending their experience and skills, allowing us to have fun and safe rides

I could go on, but this has already become saccharine. A year ago, I didn’t know any of you. Over the past twelve months, I’ve been impressed by this group as a whole, and if I’ve gotten to know you at all, chances are that you’ve weaseled your way onto my hero list somehow, maybe even more than once.

I don’t think the Tenspeed Heroes are being egotistical in their namesake at all. It’s a nod to their friends and fellow cyclists with humility and reverence. Thank you, fellow Spidermonkeys, for inspiring me and letting me learn through your efforts. (Even though I am still unsure how you’re meant to pluralize Spidermonkey when referring to the team and not the animal).

1 Comment

  1. WWKCD? I want you all to memorize this: What Would Kelly Clarke Do?

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