by Dean Okun and Vanessa Schilling
At the end of every year, Dean and I look through our videos and pictures to gather a kick ass selection for the end of year video. Every year, looking at these pictures, we have the same overwhelming feelings of happiness. We don’t even know where to start explaining how exciting Spidermonkey has been for us but we’ll try to scratch the surface.
When we first started this adventure 6 years ago, it really was just a few of us and the idea that we would ride together, have cool kits, and most importantly, call ourselves the “Spidermonkey’s”. That was the extent of our thinking. Needless to say, the first kit was not that cool and there were a lot of other unexpected side effects coming our way.
With some unbelievable luck, we got involved with Goose the week that we decided to officially start a team. It was a perfect match, we love beer and they love cyclists! We have built an incredible partnership with them and have met some terrific people throughout the years.
Turner also stepped into the picture right away, they were excited for what we were building and wanted to help us make something happen. They strongly agreed with our motto of “It’s about completion, not competition”.
We also knew we wanted to do something extraordinary and get involved with a charity. Bike MS was a natural fit and once we got involved, they saw what a fantastic group we were and decided they wanted to build a partnership with us. To date, we’ve raised close to $100,000 to help fight MS. Holy crap!
Throughout the years, we’ve gained some incredible sponsors who have become our friends. We feel very lucky.
In the first two years, we exploded so quickly that we had to close membership, we couldn’t handle anymore new people! This year, we capped our membership at 100 and are closed again. It has always been important to us that we keep the intimacy we have with the group.
From the beginning, we went to the races and a few of us even raced. It was and still is so exciting to cheer “Go Spidermonkey!” Now, we have an incredible group of hella strong racers and one of the nicest, down to earth pro cyclists on our team! It thrills us to think of all the people involved in growing this team into what we have now.
We can’t count the number of people who have come out on our rides and knew nothing about group riding. We love watching the team pitch in to help and encourage these new riders! We’ve even watched some of you go from falling at a stoplight clipped in to turning into terrific riders…and even ride leaders. Now, when we ride together, we’re like a well oiled machine! It’s so impressive to watch and be a part of. It’s one of the things we are most proud of.
Then, other things happened. We started going on cycling trips together as a team. We started training together over the winter at VisionQuest. Spidermonkey’s started racing cyclocross…and loving it! Awesome people started meeting other awesome people. It affected people’s relationships. It affected our relationship. We started dating. People started dating. People fell in love. Roomates happened. Strong friendships formed. Babies happened. Wedding’s happened. Dean officiated Spidermonkey’s Brandon and Justeen’s wedding and now Dave and Kristi’s upcoming wedding. People moved to other states, we go visit them! We continually meet people who truly inspire us and others. All of this through Spidermonkey. This is what overwhelms us with happiness.
We are extremely grateful for all the help we’ve had throughout the years from all of you. Even after years of riding with the same people, we still hear encouraging comments within the group: “Wow! Nice job on that sprint!”, “Get on my wheel!”, “Nice pull!”. We never ever would have guessed that we would know so many amazing people and have so many amazing friends! It’s true, that we meet the most incredible people while riding our bikes. Just think…Dean and I met on a Saturday morning group ride…the rest is history!
At the end of every year, we ask, “how will next year possibly be better than this year?” And every year, somehow it is.