Tag: cx (page 1 of 2)

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Andy Schumacher

sandy twizz

Sandy Twizzler Photo by Jayloo

by Andy Schumacher

Traffic is what got me into cycling and Fireball got me to be a Spidermonkey. There’s not much else to know but I’ll back up a bit.

Like most kids, I biked a lot as a kid until I was 15. Then there was a brief cycling hiatus until I was about 30 when I moved to Chicago. I was previously living in the metro Detroit area where I got everywhere by car and I had no problem with it. I even worked for Toyota as a design engineer.

Moving to Chicago completely changed my perspective on cars. Stop-and-go traffic and searching for 20 to 30 minutes for parking were now part of everyday life and I was pissed off every time I got into the car. Within a few months, I got a commuter bike and instantly felt free again. I was no longer subject to traffic and was only limited by how fast my legs could pedal. I wanted to go faster so I bought a road bike and I loved it.

Taiwan Post Ride Recovery

A couple years after moving to Chicago, I joined SRAM as a design engineer. It’s been an amazing place to work and has taught me a lot about cycling culture. SRAM group rides were great but I didn’t have the experience of the other riders so I felt a bit out of place. I started doing some Saturday group rides with different clubs and found a good fit with the ‘Monkeys. They’re great people with different cycling backgrounds and are all very welcoming. Maybe more importantly, they like to have fun and that’s something I really appreciate. Some of the best friendships are forged over a bottle of Fireball, and Spidermonkeys drink a lot of bottles of Fireball. For the record, I don’t like Fireball but very few people will turn it down when offered. Fun fact – Did you know that you can put anything you want into a coffee cup and drink it in public? Sorry, I’m getting distracted.

andy cross

Speaking of drinking, did I mention I love cyclocross?!? There’s something special about the combination of mud, pain, heckling, and having a 10 year old stuff cookies into your jersey pocket after you faceplant in the sand that makes for an awesome experience. One of these days, I hope to learn how to bunny hop correctly.


Andy getting swoll

Andy just hanging out

Andy just hanging out

I have always enjoyed staying active and trying new activities. Last year, I started working out at Goose Island Crossfit during the off-season. I was hooked pretty quickly by the great coaching and I still work out there regularly – unfortunately, sometimes at the expense of riding. I’m still working on balancing activities but it has also gotten me to try some other new things like trapeze and Olympic weightlifting. I love trying new activities and look forward to a new challenge, but I really look forward to doing a lot more Spidermonkey group rides this year… and maybe sharing a High Life or three with the team at PK’s.

Montrose Big Marsh Fundraising – Do It!

#PutARingOnIt #BuildBigMarsh

#PutARingOnIt #BuildBigMarsh

#PutARingOnIt to win at Big Marsh – Spidermonkey Cycling is challenging ALL Chi Cross Cup teams to put your money where your heart is to build Big Marsh!

Spidermonkey Cycling invites all teams to compete for donor rings and bragging rights – and an exclusive party at SRAM – by raising the most money as a team by December 6’s state championships to build the park at Big Marsh.

The contest starts TODAY. To enter, go to bigmarsh.causevox.com and register your cross team. Add your team members, then use your personalized fundraising page and e-mail tools to ask your fellow crossers, your friends, your training partners to support the park with a donation. You can watch your progress and check in on other teams.

Raise $500, and your team gets its own permanent donor chain ring installed on the donor wall at Big Marsh. Raise $1500, and your team receives a larger donor ring for display. Raise the most money of any team, and enjoy an exclusive team party at SRAM’s new headquarters!

Rings are also available for individuals giving $500 or more. For more information, contact friends@bigmarsh.com. Get the hole shot – sign your team up at bigmarsh.causevox.com today!

Spidermonkey of the Week – Kurt Breitenbucher

Kurt - Picture 1

Like many others, bikes for me were just a form of transportation, a method to get to where your friends were. I checked all the boxes for endurance sports in high-school, cross country running, track, and nordic skiing. Despite my height I was never very coordinated unless on snow and ice (thanks viking ancestors), so I never really got into other team sports. Most Spidermonkeys know of my love for bikes that are way too small and do not really fit me. My first “real” bike was a 2000 Schwinn Frontier, I used that bike from 2000 until 2008, when I nearly died riding it.

Kurt - Picture 2

My transition from a runner to a dirt-bag did not take place overnight. My first year of college did not go well, I had tried to be a walk on for our schools D2 running team. In our first race I missed a course marker in the woods, and my first collegiate 8k race became a 25k. After this, I took two years off of school and coached a high-school nordic ski team and cross country running team. The head coach, an engineer, convinced me that there were bigger and better things, and in 2008 I went back to school to become a civil engineer. When I returned, I took my 1999 Schwinn on some trails meant for downhill mountain bikes. I came around a corner with too much speed and hit a jump I was not expecting. The crash split my helmet clean in two, I had a pretty terrible scar down the middle of my face, I had to endure people calling me “the boy who lived” my first months back, but I was hooked. I spent the next year with bike lust, working for the school and saving up to buy a new mountain bike.

Kurt - Picture 3

I was lucky enough to live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for 6 years. We were fortunate to have world class mountain bike trails right outside our door, a five minute pedal up the hill and you could be deep in the woods, not another person around. When others spent their breaks between classes in the library or eating at the union, we were rushing back out to grab our helmets, packs, and bikes to get another ride in. I’m sure 90% of the other students hated us, coming into class covered in mud, smelling ripe, and bleeding all over from a thousand cuts on our shins.

Kurt - Picture 4

I used to believe that cycling, especially mountain biking, was a very solitary sport. In graduate school, afraid of the impending real world, I became active with our collegiate cycling team and club. For many of us mountain biking was a labor of love and much of our time spent off the bikes was building trails, jumps, and advocating for more funds to pursue our passion.

Kurt - Picture 5

I have hopes that mountain biking will become bigger in Chicago and the Midwest in general, I’m particularly excited about the Big Marsh Project. Some of my fondest memories come from seeing how many bikes/people you can fit in a truck and hit the trails.

Kurt - PIcture 6

I moved to Chicago for work in January of 2014, I attended a few Spidermonkey events (Goldsprints for MS!) before officially joining at the Lacrosse Omnium in May. I’m fairly new to road cycling, to me it was always something to do to keep fit. I love the Spidermonkey group rides, the camaraderie at races (especially during cyclocross). Through the coming year I’m hoping to compete in longer distance events (Barry Roubaix/Dirty Kanza), some endurance mountain events, and WORS (Wisconsin Off-Road Series).

Photo Credits to Jayloo Photography.

Spidermonkey of the Week – Drew Randall

Growing up I must have enjoyed riding my bike a lot because I still remember the bikes I had. My favorite bike of them all was a Huffy (nothing fancy, just a kid’s bike) with a neon green and purple paint job.

I still can remember barreling down the hill on my street with the wind whistling past my ears, then slamming on reverse pedal brake (if that’s the correct term) to peel-out as I arrived at my driveway just to see how far I could go. Not too far, maybe 2-feet…

Needless to say the excitement of biking wore off in middle school and completely vanished in high school. Soccer was a big part of that. I have played soccer since I was 6 and really haven’t stopped. I got the opportunity to play soccer at a small college in Kentucky, which was one of the best experiences of my life. This was partially due to the lifelong friends I met on the team. College soccer only lasted a year and, long story short, I moved to Louisville, KY to continue my studies at the University of Louisville.

Here I met the single reason I came to Chicago, my most amazing girlfriend Alina. We met during her senior year, my junior year, in the civil engineering program. It’s weird, right? Two engi-nerds. She pushed me to become more competitive outside of team sports. We started running together, because that’s what she did for fun, and well, it kept me in shape for soccer. Running short races led to running longer races (half-marathons), then to triathlons, which became a passion of mine for a short while.

My first 5-mile race with Alina and friends.

My first 5-mile race with Alina and friends.

My first Olympic distance triathlon.

My first Olympic distance triathlon.

Getting into triathlons required me to get a new bike, my first road bike to be exact. It was a KHS Flite 300, the same bike I still do my road biking on today. I remember the first day I got on the new bike, I was so shocked at how squirrelly the damn thing was. To my surprise, it didn’t take too long to tame the wild steed. This became my mode of transportation to and from school on good weather days.

A year later Alina graduated and moved to Chicago. The following year, 2011, I followed once I finished my degree (seems how it works for most guys). I already knew the long distance thing sucked!

Alina and me (Company Dinner)

Alina and me (Company Dinner)

Moving to Chicago with no friends, I initially spent a lot of time at work or doing my own thing (i.e., lifting weights or swimming). Alina introduced me to some of her running friends including Brian Feyereisen who became a good friend and cycling buddy.

In the summer of 2012, Brian and I started checking out Chicago cycling teams. The first team we rode with was super intense and not really my cup of tea. A couple weeks later Brian suggested that we check out the Spidermonkey’s because Megan Kuzydum (now Megan Feyereisen) had so many great things to say about them.

Needless to say that’s how it all started…….

Brian and me at the Spidermonkey End of the Year Bash 2012

Brian and me at the Spidermonkey End of the Year Bash 2012

I started riding with the Spidermonkey’s and after about three weeks or so, decided to take the plunge and become an official member. I felt that this team was the perfect match for my personality (fun, accepting, social, and driven) and I knew after joining the team things would only get better.

Anxious to start the 2013 season, I was hoping to bike 2,000 miles and try out cyclocross. I started chiseling the mileage off at our first ride of the year in March and tried to stay consistent. I went to Spidermonkey Training Camp in Galina, IL where I met a lot of new people on our team, and was able to find myself as a cyclist. In Kentucky the rolling hills never ended and I thought Galina hills would be just like good ol’ Kentucky hills. Boy was I wrong. The hills were RIDICULOUS. I remember two full days of having to pull every last once of energy to attempt to keep up with the team and summit each hill. As I look back on it, it was one of the best things I could have done to become a stronger rider.

In keeping up with my goals, I found a cyclocross bike through craigslist while visiting friends in Lafayette, IN. It didn’t take long to join the cyclocross practices and sign up for my first race partnered with Lindsey for the co-ed and Nate for the men’s race relay. With the first race I was hooked. I signed up for the race at Dan Ryan Woods and placed 12th in the 4/5’s race.

Team Sloppy Joes at Relay Cross

Dan Ryan Woods CX

Dan Ryan Woods CX

Next was the two-day race in Indian Hills and a weekend in the suburbs with the team. Saturday’s race went great as we tackled mud, wind, and rain and I came in 19th place. Sadly, a huge storm rolled through Sunday morning and all races were cancelled so I signed up for the Racin’ Basin in Melas, IL to make up for it. I finished the season at Montrose in the snowy cold. Or so I thought.

A friend talked me into one final, non-CCC race at Douglass Park, the After-Glow. This race was a true cyclocross event and we finished completely caked in mud. The mud made the course very slippery and challenging, but I managed to grab a few fire ball shots (hand-ups) along the way to keep my spirits up. To say the least, it’s been a great season and a great couple of years with the Monkeys and I can’t wait to get riding again!

Afterglow at Douglas Park

NORGE Ski Jump 2013


by Peter Monko

The leftover turkey was still moist, the parking lots at the malls were all full, and all the Black Friday deals were already sold out but I did not care one bit. No, I had an appointment with Dr. Pain that afternoon. Unfortunately his office was all the way out in Fox River Grove at the bottom of a ski jump. I loaded up the car and made the hour long trek with Lindsey Fahey and her delicious pumpkin bread to Norge CX put on by Rob Curtis and his PSIMET crew.

This was the 3rd year of the race and my first time out there so I had no idea what to expect other than some hill climbing. We got there just in time to see Lucas Seibel speeding away to victory in the Single Speed race. After getting my number and pre-riding a bit, I saw that this was going to be a difficult race. The course had a variety of surfaces and in pure Rob Curtis fashion, this course had no flow to it at all. The east side of course was in a field that was bumpy, muddy, with deep gravel/sand in certain corners and even turkey sized boulders lying around. The west side of the course included a gravelly climb, some tricky off camber turns and 2 uphill forced dismounts.

Fresh off his win in the SS race, Lucas lined up in the pole position in the Cat 3 race and I lined up behind him in the 2nd row. It turned out to be the right wheel to follow as Lucas got the hole shot while the rest of the field got held up in the first tight turn. We crossed the road and made our way to the backside of the course where my troubles began. Due to the muddy run up after the barrier, I had trouble clipping in and lost a few spots. People started crashing left and right in the technical off camber turns that were starting to get a bit greasy. I avoided most of them but on the 2nd lap I had my own misfortune. Going into the second barrier I had trouble unclipping and crashed right over 2nd set of barriers. I crashed so hard that my rear wheel would not roll anymore. I lost about a minute and at least 10 spots as I realigned the wheel. I chased hard which led to some more bobbles and a dropped chain on the east side of the course. After a while I stopped counting how many times I crashed and lost track of the leaders. I ended up in a banged up and bruised 14th place while Lucas won his second race in a row. Way to represent Lucas!

I raced one more time that afternoon with Trent Williams and Hayes Sanborn in the Cat 1/2/3 race. The course was really tore up and slick by this point so I took it a bit slower in the technical sections. Turns out I took it a bit slower for the entire race but was only lapped once by the winner, Pro CX racer Brian Matter of the Trek Collective Team. If you’ve never seen a ski jump or raced Norge, I highly recommend making the trek out to Fox River Grove next Thanksgiving weekend.

Photo by digitalcane

A Snapshot of Woodstock

by Kyle Kershasky

As I sit here writing this report with a bruised thumb and a some cross cough after racing in Woodstock at PSI-clocross for Life this weekend, I sometimes think of reasons why I like to race cross. The usual cliché answers come to mind. Gives me something to train for. Work on my bike technique. Cross train. Opportunity to invest in different kinds of tires, rims and body heat cream that randomly turns itself on when least expected. All legitimate cocktail conversations.

This past weekend I remembered the real reason why I like the cross season. You always, always learn something new. This time it was the hiz to the hoes, wait for it…..wait for it….. SNAPCHAT!!

And boom goes the dynamite.

Okay, so it’s not the ONLY or specific reason why I like cross. Meaning if you took away Snapchat there would be something else that would metaphorically take its place. Like white tigers being thrown across a sand pit or circus themed costumes and handups. For today though, Snapchat was the fun factor of choice.

Snapchat goes with cross like:

Twisted goes with Sister

Like Mack goes with Daddy

Like Taffy goes with Cinnamon


A very rough idea of a Snapchat photo

And for the purists, yes cross is fun on its own. No question. Woodstock’s course had a ton of fun obstacles. Like a big sand pit where you can post pictures with the Kid Rock lyrics “GET IT THE PIT AND TRY AND LOVE SOMEONE.”

There was also a toilet bowl section. Screaming down hills through the woods on rough terrain. A hill that takes you within feet of going directly into a pond. A barrier with a hill immediately after it where I used my Tim Johnson cyclocross camp tips and ran like Moses while shouldering my bike. Add it all up and it’s a long and challenging course.

For those of you who are still wondering what Snapchat is, let me sum it up in one sentence. One mature sentence. One G rated sentence. One day you will just have to see for yourself. But you have to trust me the sugar is just plain funny, okay? Trust me for 10 seconds. Or 1 second, depending on the Snapchat masterpiece.

To recap my race, the day was about putting an exclamation point on my week. When you’re having fun you really don’t care about daily troubles and stresses. I also didn’t really care if I would start out 70 and finish 42 like the previous week. Or if I hypothetically crash on the last lap and even though I would hop right back on with my chain off and have 10 people pass me. Okay so that sucked. However, if I didn’t have two Twizzlers in my mouth while giving some phenomenal Snapchat photo opps, then maybe, big maybe, then maybe I would have finished a few places higher up. However, I like to remind myself not everything can be perfect. Everything can be fun.

Of course being fast is always fun as Lindsey and Sophia proved by getting on the podium for the Cat 4s at Woodstock. But having their own paparazzi getting a Snapchat photo opp? How fun is THAT?!


Snapchat paparazzi

My favorite fun factor race is very soon on the weekend of December 7th at Montrose. As you know Spidermonkeys are sponsoring the race. Will you be there to volunteer? Will you be there to cheer? Will you be there dressed up in costume and cheering paraphernalia and make some Montrose Madness? I guarantee you’ll have a freaky fun time whether you are racing or spectating. Exclamation point, Snapchat!

After last weekend I decided to actually download the app Snapcaht. My username is KyleMobileKyle. And if you want to join but can’t think of a username I heard CoolCatYourName is kool. For a sneak peak of fun, check out this video I made at Montrose a few years ago.

Have some fun!

Cracking the Code: Tim Johnson’s Cyclocross Secrets

Tim JohnsonSpidermonkey Cycling presents – Cracking the Code: Tim Johnson’s Cyclocross Secrets

Saturday, August 24
Chicago (exact location coming soon)

Learn intermediate and advanced skills from 3-time cyclocross national champion and last year’s top American at the World Championships Tim Johnson. With curriculum designed by USAC coach and former pro Pete Webber there will be two tracks: a 3-hour version for those newer to racing (i.e. Cat. 4 at least one year) and an all-day more advanced clinic working on things such as high-speed cornering and bike handling.

  • Beginner (i.e. Cat 4s with at least a season of racing): 9:00 am – Noon, $75
  • Intermediate/Advanced (i.e. Cat 3s and above) 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, $175

Both tracks will include sweet schwag bags and giveaways as well as drinks. All-day clinic also includes lunch. And this being a Spidermonkey event there is a strong possibility of cracking open a 312 with TJ at the end of the day. Each track is capped at 30 participants so sign-up sooner rather than later.

More information and registration.

(Rumor has it that the two are considering racing a certain Relay Cross the next day.)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Katie Kolon

Lincoln Park Crit Photo by Burnham Racing

Lincoln Park Crit
Photo by Burnham Racing

by Katie Kolon

I grew up riding bikes for a number of reasons. I grew up in a tiny rural town in Southwest Michigan, so there was an abundance of nice roads with little traffic and beautiful scenery. One of my main influences has been my dad, who has always biked a lot: taking week-long tours every summer that I’ve known him, riding 50-100 miles to commute to conferences, and riding long distances regularly with his friends. Growing up, he and I would bike 10 miles to the next town over to get ice cream and then bike back. I also used my bike as a mode of transportation to my friends’ houses in the country so I wouldn’t need a ride—ah, the independence!

I completed my first organized distance ride when I was around 15. I remember the part where my friend and I missed a turn and ended up riding much more than the 35 miles we signed up for. Despite the early start, I have yet to ride a century (though I’ve signed up for two, both of which were thwarted by unforeseen events).

My dad and me on the left on a 4-H Bike ride

My dad and me on the left on a 4-H Bike ride

Group photo of another 4-H Bike ride

Group photo of another 4-H Bike ride

I continued riding my bike while in college, but mostly as a means of transportation, though I would occasionally venture out into the country for a ride. Once I went mountain biking on a winter day with a friend and found delight in bombing down a slippery snow-covered hill. (I have since rekindled this flame some 15 years later with the Barry-Roubaix, see below)

I commuted by bike over the years in California, Washington DC, Florida, New Jersey, NYC, and Illinois as, over time, it became less of an oddity in the eyes of the public. I moved back to the Midwest, to Chicago specifically in 2010, and commuted to the loop from Rogers Park a couple times a week. I met a lot of people through the social biking scene such as critical mass, midnight marauders, tweed rides, and neighborhood bike tours.

Halloween Midnight Marauders, I’m a jellyfish

Halloween Midnight Marauders, I’m a jellyfish

I also got involved with West Town Bikes, where I built my commuter bike (including building the wheels), which is pictured below. I currently volunteer there helping to organize and promote the weekly Wednesday night Women and Trans Open Shop from 7pm-10pm.

Ladies, come work on your bike with the guidance of experienced women bike mechanics!

See how much she holds!

See how much she holds!

At the end of 2010, I was already thinking of trying road racing but didn’t know where to start. I just knew I needed to ride more and that I liked going fast. I went to the Afterglow and thought, “I want to do that.” So next year, I did. I raced in 6 cyclocross races after buying my Fuji Cross Comp, finishing with the Afterglow. It was tough. I liked the technical aspect, but I was not very strong and I didn’t have a team to support me so finding a team became my next goal.

I started riding with the Spidermonkeys on the “girls” rides in May 2012. I still remember the exhilaration I felt the first time I pulled on the pace line and the first time I hit 25 mph on a flat. Throughout the summer I became stronger and waited with anticipation for cross season to see how I had improved. I did the relay cross and the first race in Jackson Park and then life happened and I stopped riding my bike.

This is me after the Jackson Park race sitting next to the main reason I didn’t race after that. His name is Remy.

This is me after the Jackson Park race sitting next to the main reason I didn’t race after that. His name is Remy.

I started doing the winter “girls” rides and Vision Quest in preparation for my new goal: complete the Barry Roubaix. As I had done zero outdoor riding over the winter prior to the Barry this year, I had no idea how in shape I was going to feel once I got on the road. I did not treat the Barry as a race, but I pushed myself to ride hard and stay warm.  I stopped to take a few pictures and spent some time riding with my dad. I was surprised with how strong I felt and I loved the thrill of riding on ice and gravel. Towards the end of the ride I was getting pretty worn down so I made a promise to myself that I would not walk up a single hill. This required gaining as much speed going down the icy declines as I could. I was speeding down one long hill towards the end when I saw a giant pothole in my path. I knew I couldn’t maneuver around it because the road was too slick and there were potholes on all sides. I told myself the only thing to do is bunny hop it. And I did! At least, I think I did. My thoughts weren’t all that clear by the end of the race. Another highlight was when two guys riding fat bikes, one ladened with growlers attached to his forks passed me going up a hill and one said to me, “I’m coming up on you like a Spidermonkey, Chip!” We laughed and talked for a while until I left them behind on the descents. They informed me the beer wasn’t working as well as they had planned.

[Picture of the road conditions at the Barry-Roubaix]

Picture of the road conditions at the Barry-Roubaix

Me after completing the Barry-Roubaix

Me after completing the Barry-Roubaix

After completing the Barry, I returned to Chicago and rode my first criterium at Gapers Block. I was very nervous and my goal was to hold on as long as I could. I was certain I would be lapped. Turns out, I finished mid-pack. I couldn’t get enough of cornering and riding fast in the pack. I immediately got off my bike and professed I’m over cross racing and only want to do crits. I had discovered a new love. I raced all four days of Gapers Block and got my best place on the last day when I was the most tired. I think I must have learned something about conserving energy. I have since raced the Spring Super Crit (where I got dropped due to a derailleur malfunction), Lincoln Park (I could do hairpin turns all day!), and Cobb Park (won my first prime!). I am looking forward to more crits and I plan on giving cross another try as well. But mostly I’m happy to have friendly people to ride with.

Lincoln Park Crit Photo by Burnham Racing

Lincoln Park Crit
Photo by Burnham Racing

Joining the Spidermonkeys has made all the difference in my training. I am so lucky to have such an inclusive encouraging bunch of people to push me towards my goals and offer a 312 at the end. I appreciate and respect the diversity of interests represented in the group—that some race, some will never race, and some do triathlons or have other fitness goals—and could not picture myself with any other team.

Spidermonkey of the Week – PJ Cavoto Jr

PJ .. and SuperGirl

Hey gang! I have gotten to know so many of you over the course of the last year and it’s been tremendous.

Here’s my journey:

I joined the team right around the Elk Grove Criterium last year. My friend and one of triathlon training partners, Paul Halupka, talked me into trying my 1st road race event. I had already gone on several training rides with the Spidermonkeys and was just starting to get exposed to local road racing. Hearing others talk about the upcoming races and realizing I can keep up with some of these guys started to build my confidence and I decided to give it a try. Perhaps jumping the gun, but being very inspired from the group rides, I declared Spidermonkey Cycling as my team at my first race. Later that week an email was forwarded to me sent out by Dean asking who the hell is Peter Cavoto?? I quickly responded to Dean letting him know it was me, PJ. He obviously informed me that I can’t randomly put that down unless I am an official member of the club and I may get myself and the team in trouble. I am pretty sure the next group ride I put a check in Dean’s hand.

PJ and Paul – Photo by Jen Groen

Besides following my passion of art, I have always relished in individual competitive sports. I grew up a swimmer and dabbling in running for conditioning in between winter and summer seasons. However, I always seemed to come back to the bike with great interest and enthusiasm. This may have started as a small boy when I was notorious for taking things apart and putting them back together, convincing only myself that I improved it somehow. Trust me; there were many times that my dad had to complete the reassembly (including my sister’s bikes) several times. My graduating gift after high school was a brand new Giant (3×8) road racing machine. My parents were certain that I would parley into the world of triathlons with my background in all three disciplines. I choose the road of being an official party-er and within a year sold the machine for cash. A few years later, mountain biking was starting to become all the rage and my love for engaging with nature got me into trail riding. It was rough going with having to cut our own trail systems out in forest preserves of the northwest suburbs, where we would often get chased out by rangers. And in those days, suspension forks were just starting to make an appearance (yeah, I’m that old). The rigid mountain bikes I rode took a beating every time out and I found myself having to make repairs daily. I finally started investing into new machines and my love for mtb’ing took off.

Just some Spidermonkeys at Galena post Crit, PJ gets 3rd! – Photo by Jen Groen

In ‘98, I moved to the city to complete my BA at DePaul and discovered that the easiest transit in the city was by bike. My love for mtb’ing dwindled due to the difficulty of traveling to get to a trail system and I felt a little out of place riding around on the grass on the lakefront (no cyclocross scene yet). I started taking old mtb frames and re-purposing them into commuters. Up to that point, I considered road riding boring in comparison to mtb’ing. As I grew to love the challenge of riding everywhere in the city, 365 days a year, my passion grew. Not to mention the challenge and rush of fighting for a piece of the road with automobiles. Over the last 14 years, I’ve had more car-bike contact in this city than I care to share.

In the early 2000’s, I was introduced to triathlons with the Chicago Tri being my 1st. I was hooked. I competed in more than a dozen tri’s through 5 years. I did well at them … and was most proud of my overall win at Lake Delavan in 2007. Injuries caught up to me and I had to take a year off. I came back to the sport, but my enthusiasm was only sparked by a small contingent of training buddies. If you have every competed in tri’s prior to belonging to a team, you know that it can be a little on the lonely side. You don’t really engage much with other racers and tend to race and train on your own since your competition is the clock. So as you all have figured out, having the support and companionship of the Spidermonkeys makes a world of difference regarding the fun factor.

Carpentersville CX! – Photo by Bill Draper

I have also been fairly involved in Chicago’s social cycling community for over 5 years. This began with a ride group called Midnight Marauders. I have co-chaired on the council for the last 3 years now. If you have never heard of us, we consider that a good thing. We try remaining somewhat of an anonymous underground group ride that explores the city, getting started after midnight and riding till dawn. The group helped the Chainlink get off the ground since we had over 100 members at that time. We now have grown to 367 members and are still the largest monthly ride group listed on The Chainlink. Our monthly ride participation can range anywhere from 10 to 200 riders any given month. We do push the boundaries of Chicago law (being in the parks after close), but we ride respectfully and just want to enjoy the city under the stars. Our club motto is we are a “drinking club with a biking problem”. A similar group I roll with often, FBC – Full Moon Fiasco – also posted on the Chainlink. Both are a lot of fun and usually involve a little liver abuse, but you can engage at your own tolerance (we do have many participants that don’t drink). Come join, if you’re so inclined.

In close, I love bikes. I build them, ride them hard, and often break them. I consider them my band of horses and treat them as such. So it has been tremendous to ‘gallop’ with such an enthusiastic, supportive group of riders. I can’t say enough good stuff about how amazing this last year has been and how awesome it is to be part of the Spidermonkeys! Thank you all for such a warm welcome into the group. Let’s go ride!

Peter J Cavoto Jr

Spidermonkey of the Week – Anna Loosli

Wow, after reading the amazing posts by Kelly and Paul, I feel like I’ve got a lot to live up to! Many of you may not know me – I haven’t been on a lot of team rides this year and only got to know the Spidermonkeys at the end of last season – and between grad school and internships and work, I felt like I hardly had time to ride this year! I’m going to make up for it next year, though, so look out for me then! In the mean time, here’s a history of my relationship with two-wheeled transport.
First Bike. At the age of about 4 or 5 years, my older sister got a red and black BMX bike for her birthday; it was so bright and shiny I immediately determined I would get a bike of my own, even though I did not know how to ride. I got her hand-me-down, with training wheels, which I didn’t mind because they meant I could go wherever I wanted without fear of falling or knee scrapes! My sister was of a different mindset – and after having to ride around the park with me a few times she couldn’t handle the noise, and refused to ride anywhere with me again unless I took them off. My next bike memory is being pushed down a grassy hill – toward the street – by my sister.
            Hitting the Slopes. Luckily the story must have ended well, because the training wheels were never put back on, I didn’t wind up in the hospital, and my next major bike memory is getting a mountain bike in junior high. Red and black, like my sister’s old BMX, I think it was a Trek and it made one major, but memorable, excursion to the early June mud of Teton National Park before it got stolen. My best friend and I had decided we would simply strap our snowboards to our backpacks and ride our bikes up to the snowpack, hike, and ride down. We sadly overestimated our biking skills and never made it to the snowpack, let alone rode down it on snowboards!
            Many years later, working in Portland, OR, I decided it would be brilliant to get a new mountain bike so I could explore the major metropolitan forest preserve, and hopefully parts of Mt. Hood. I got to know Forest Park fairly well, but soon moved to the East Coast where the bike fell into disuse (pavement makes nubby tires sad), and I took the subway more often than wheels. New York was too much city for me, and being underground was claustrophobic, so I got myself a cheap steel frame off E-bay and began adventuring the main roads of Manhattan to get my adrenaline fix. Riding the streets of New York was amazing, so when I relocated to Chicago for grad school in 2009 the first major purchase I made was a little mixte commuter from Working Bikes. Once spring rolled around I got myself a road bike.
Road Bike. Mmmmmmm…  I knew absolutely nothing about bicycles when I bought that bike. I just knew I wanted it, and there were no mountains around so I had to find something to do with myself outdoors. Over my first summer in Chicago, we made friends. I rode my bike a LOT, and decided I would do the North Shore Century on it, just because. My bike was awesome. It needed to do something important!
I trained and rode alone most of the summer because I didn’t know anyone else I felt comfortable riding with. By the end of July, though, I was getting worried about the ride – I’d never done a century before. Were there rules to riding in a group? How would I know how to do it? How would I be able to keep going after mile 75? What if I crashed??
            After asking around with a couple of friends who raced, I found out about the Spidermonkeys, contacted Vanessa, and decided I would at least “try” to keep up during their last Saturday morning training ride before the century. I was slow. And I got dropped. But it’s a no-drop ride, so John was nice enough to hang back and try to coach me through the last mile or so to Highland Park, using terms I’d only heard on television and concepts I’d never applied to riding a bike before.  It was very kind, but it didn’t really help me get there any faster. I pretty much decided that even though I loved my new bike, maybe I needed more practice; maybe I wasn’t ready, or maybe I should just give up and do the century next year…
            But by the following Sunday, I had changed my mind back and figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I could always turn around at the metric century point, and I was determined to at least make an effort since it had been a goal all summer. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t even know anyone’s name, I just looked for the Spidermonkey jerseys in the parking lot and got up the courage to walk over and introduce myself. I asked if I could tag along, and never expected to keep up past the first rest point, let alone the entire ride. THANK YOU! To everyone who was so supportive! Vanessa, Dean, John, Kristi, Grace, Geoff (particularly when we got lost before the last checkpoint), and everyone else who rode with the group last year – I managed not only to keep up with the group that day, but LOVED it! It was way more fun than I ever expected and, even though I got dropped (before the last checkpoint) I managed to finish with some Spidermonkeys towing me along. In sneakers. And mountain bike shorts. (I do NOT recommend the latter, lesson learned!)