Tag: Girls Ride

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.

Spidermonkeys of the Week – Megan Kuzydym and Brian Feyereisen

End of Year Bash .. Megan and Brian!

End of Year Bash .. Megan and Brian!

by Megan Kuzydym and Brian Feyereisen

Megan:  Instead of telling you I knew, at age 5, that I would be a lifelong cyclist, I’m going to tell you the truth: I don’t really have many bike memories. My driveway was much too small to ride around and I lived in a lakeside community, which meant the traffic in the summertime looked similar to traffic on LSD when the President comes into town. So obviously, my parents were convinced my sister and I would be run over. Especially me since I’m clearly not large enough to be well-noticed.

Brian:  Growing up on a small lake in Central Wisconsin involved waterskiing and wakeboarding all summer and ice hockey in winter.  Skateboarding was much more popular than biking in the small village of Random Lake.  Thrasher magazine, mullets and field parties were my main interest.  My Huffy Rock Rhino mountain bike was purely used as a mode of transportation to baseball and soccer practice.

Megan:  I went to Indiana University, home of the infamous Little 500 bike race, but chose to spend my college years determining how close I could get to the really drunk/sick line without crossing over it. I also learned some stuff too. The thought of training for the Little 500 by riding through the hills of southern Indiana (Hilly Hundred, anyone?) wasn’t at all enticing.

Brian:  After graduating from UW-Milwaukee, I refused to grow up.  I worked some random jobs to fund my real passion, bar league softball, which I participated in up to six nights a week.  Eventually I realized I couldn’t turn my softball passion into a career so I decided it was time to grow up.  Growing up involved the beginnings of my current career as Commercial Director for an energy company, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners.  My career has involved three year stints in Charleston, SC, Houston, TX and now Chicago for the last four years.  My job involves a lot of travel and dinners with clients several nights a week.  I realized if I wanted to continue wearing the same size jeans as I did since high school, I was going to need to begin exercising.  Since running shoes were easy to travel with, running became my new passion.  I signed up for my first marathon, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in the fall of 2007.  Nine marathons later with a PR of 3:21 I was burning out.

L: The extent of our bike riding in 2010 – Vail Pass in Colorado
R: Yes, we are wearing sandals riding our bikes around Chicago in 2010

Megan:  When I moved to Chicago after graduating, I swore off dating for a while. That same weekend, I met my new boyfriend (Brian). He was really ridiculously good-looking (and active). Running, cycling, snowboarding, water-skiing – you name it, he was good at it.  I decided, about 6 months after we met, to try being active too. I bought a hybrid Specialized but it was too heavy to keep up with Brian and his fancy road bike. So I took up running and ran through October 2011 when I got sick. My condition caused my leg to swell and running became extremely uncomfortable. So instead, I hopped on a spin bike. I loved spinning and the effort it required. I bought a fancier bike, hoping I’d enjoy riding outside as much as spinning.  I went for some solo rides, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as I’d thought.

L: The Nashville Marathon in 2011
R: The Fox Valley Half-Marathon in 2010

Brian:  After completing the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in the spring of 2012, I knew it was time to try something different as marathon burn out had fully set in.  While running the Lakefront trail I noticed a lot riders in black suits (I know now these are called kits) that said xXx,  I thought they looked cool so I looked them up online and decided to join one of their Saturday morning group rides.  I showed up with my freshly polished 2003 Specialized Allez that I hadn’t ridden in well over three years (other than to the grocery store).  I was decked out in my mountain bike helmet and the finest mountain bike jersey I owned.  xXx turned out to be a great group of RACERS who welcomed me, but the sprints to Highland Park and back weren’t quite what I had in mind.  That was when my amazing fiancée, Megan rode the Tuesday morning Girl’s Ride with a new group she discovered called the Spidermonkeys.  She returned from the ride glowing about this wonderful group of girls who helped her on her first successful group ride.  By this time, I had decided it was time to buy a new road bike and trade in my mountain bike gear for some new road gear if I wanted to take this whole cycling thing seriously.  I started to ride the Spidermonkey Saturday group rides and I was immediately hooked.  I found exactly what I was looking for with the Spidermonkeys; a great group of friends who all happen to enjoy cycling.  You’re pretty quick too!

Megan:  At this time, Brian had been on some xXx group rides and talked about being part of a team – which appealed to me.  Not too much camaraderie in spin class. I  went on a Chicago Cycling Club Beginner’s Ride – which was not for beginners. I got dropped in Skokie, called Brian crying and he told me to pedal myself back the way I came (what a sweetheart ;-) ).  Riding back home alone gave me time to think and I became stubbornly convinced that I was going to figure this whole cycling thing out.  I searched online for a women’s or beginners ride and came across the Tuesday Morning Girl’s Ride.  I contacted Vanessa who was so welcoming right from the start.  Rebecca stayed with me at the back on my first ride and I returned home with a sense of accomplishment.  I was hooked.  I convinced Brian to go on a Spidermonkey Saturday ride with Drew Randall and we never looked back.

North Shore Century

After completing the North Shore Century – Megan looks happier than she was! (I was so cold!!)

Both:  We can’t say it hasn’t been hard (hellloooo North Shore Century), but it has definitely been worth every second.  We’re so excited for 2013 and all the new experiences including Vegas and the MS 150. We couldn’t have asked for a friendlier, awesome group of people to spend multiple hours with every weekend.  And when JPC asked us to be the SOTW couple, well, we knew we’d finally found a cycling home.

Caw caw!

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