by Lauren Wissman
A year ago I was riding my bike to get to-from class and to pick up dried mango at Trader Joes. I don’t think that’s called anything besides some frump who rides her bike to get groceries. Now I’m a commuter and I guess an amateur cyclist. BAM. Funny what cleats, some carbon, and a bike posse can turn you in to.
I’ve always had an obsession with all things sports related. Growing up I didn’t have cable or X-Box and barely listened to music (before I discovered Simon & Garfunkel around age 10). Most all of my time was spent outside or participating in some athletically driven endeavor: learned to ski at 3, then figure skating, softball, and volleyball, until I started playing basketball and soccer competitively.
X-mas lists included rollerblades, footballs, Tracy McGrady TMAC 6s (which I never got and still want), and giant dog stuffed animals. I did get a bike for x-mas one year (this is where my saga becomes relevant). There was probably 8-10 in. of snow and the roads were covered. I remember having to be stealthy getting out of the house. At the time, my left humerus was still healing from a recent fracture after hitting a plank of wood off a golf cart path jump on a plastic snowboard.
A soccer career/broken leg/torn ligament/onset ankle arthritis later, I was advised to find a different sport. It was winter 2012. Thought!!!! Cycling!!! Group rides!! Outdoors! Chicago… So after some extensive googling I found PWP and emailed Kristen to ask if I could get involved. I did. I liked it; mostly because I’m ok with self-inflicted physical suffering (the fun kind), but also because there were Christmas lights and RAD jams and I was sandwiched between KMesh and Kelly ‘the masher’ Clarke. I went to a team event (which involved beer no way) and before I knew it I had signed up for the Gapers Block crits as an almost-monkey. And there you have it.
Although I’m pleased with the results I’ve gotten this past race season, being adopted by Spidermonkey and having the opportunity to meet so many impressive and positively awesome people in the cycling community has really been the highlight of my intro to the sport. Nine months ago I barely knew any of you; or the difference between clinchers and tubulars, a criterium and cyclocross, SRAM vs. Shimano; and I won’t pretend like I have it figured out now. Cycling went from 10% of my life to 80%, 98% on weekends. And I’m 120% happy about it. Sunday I spent 8 hours in the snow watching grown men ride around/through/over sledding children for a chance to win Lagunitas and a Pepper Palace variety pack; “you’re one stop shop for hot sauce, BBQ sauce, salsa, pickled items, jellies and jams, beef jerky, and more!” And it wasn’t strange to me at all.
I tell the friends I have left who aren’t cycle-crazy about our team and tomfoolery. My parents now ride regularly (Carole just got a Cannondale Synapse roadie and my dad wants to commandeer my CX bike so he can start racing), my aunt is hopping back on a bike for the first time since she was a kid, and I get updates when friends complete big rides, get their first pair of bike shoes or see a Spidermonkey riding on the street…if you hear a CAW CAAAW from an unknown source, carry on. This thing we do is contagious and I’m truly honored to be a part of it, especially with SM. So officially, I want to say, YOU GUYS ARE GREAT AND I LIKE YOU A LOT A LOT.