When John Castro asked me if I wanted to be the next SOTW my first thought was that I should remove his email address from my spam filter and my second thought was how can I be SOTW? There must be some mistake. SOTW is an honor bestowed on only the highest Spidermonkey team members who piss excellence and all that.
Like Trent, for example.
But then, after some reflection I realized I had a story to tell so here goes.
I was into dirt. Not like, sniffing or smoking it, but riding on it. I thought those who didn’t have fat tires and fat frames were lame and they didn’t Get It. I was 19 and in college and thought I knew everything. I rode mountain bikes and they were heavy and sturdy and cool and hip. Of course I wasn’t heavy or sturdy but I thought I was cool and hip and that’s what mattered. Roadies, who needs ‘em, amIright?
Nice tights man.
Several years later my father-in-law [2]invited me on a ride of about 35 miles. There was no dirt involved in any part of the 35 miles, he informed me, but I thought it was no problem because I’m cool. We headed out – him on a Trek steel frame with skinny tires and me on my Specialized Hardrock with a RockShox Judy. 20 miles later I seriously thought I was going to die, not realizing that the worst was ahead of me. I didn’t eat right, I didn’t drink right, I didn’t know how to conserve energy, I didn’t know how to draft and I sure as hell didn’t have the right gear. To add insult to injury, this old man was kicking my ass all over central Illinois and hardly breaking a sweat. But something happened that day. I don’t know if it was divine intervention or just gas from the breakfast egg casserole, but I was completely hooked on road cycling.
As luck would have it my cousin Pete was moving and handed down to me his Screamin’ Yellow Trek 8000 with deep blue frame and wheel accents. It had suffered a few crashes and the crank was a bit bent, but it was free and it was my first road bike. I didn’t know it at the time but this would be the beginning of a very serious, deep, expensive and time consuming habit [3].I then set about learning how to ride properly on the road. Drafting, pulling, pacelines, etiquette and the all-important Snot Rocket were all things that as a mountain biker I never properly learned. I made PLENTY of mistakes and embarrassed myself MANY times (still do), but it prepared me for the summer of 2010, which I will now relive for you in exquisite detail.
SCENE: Chicago, Elston, heading southeast.
TIME/DATE: Approximately 8am on a Tuesday, or a Wednesday.
It’s a beautiful, sunny, mild-temperature morning in late August, without any breeze to speak of. It’s one of those days that make you say to yourself “I would live in a city with 8 months of winter for days like this” and “maybe I’ll just keep going past my office, no-one will notice. Hmmmm. Lunch at 3 Floyds would be terrific. I’ll call in sick from Indiana.” Because of the awesome weather I had ditched my commuter [4]for my #1 and was going full gas because I could [5]. I caught up with a woman who was also hammering and at a stop light we started talking. It went exactly like this:
Her: Nice wheels.
Me (removing ear buds): Oh, thanks!
Her (after giving me an up and down): You race?
Me: No.
Her: You ride with a team?
Me: No.
The light turns green and off we go. A few miles later we come to another light and get right back in the conversation where we left off. It went a little something like this:
Her: You heard of Spidermonkey Cycling?
Me: (stupid ear buds) No. But I’m not really into the whole team-thing. They all seem like dicks.
Her: I know what you mean. Spidermonkey is different. It’s a cool group. We ride Saturday and Sunday mornings up to Highland Park and back, leaving from the parking lot of Costco, 8am. You should come check it out sometime.
Me: Cool.
The light turns green; we roll off to our respective offices where I proceeded to get minimal work done and instead spend most of the day googling routes to Munster, Chicago bike team websites and more specifically, Spidermonkey Cycling. The very next morning I run into the same woman and we continue the Spidermonkey conversation, this time with me asking the questions and her politely answering.
I owe being a Spidermonkey to Lil V. She’s a huckuva good salesperson and can absolutely hammer [6].
I have an incredibly smart, beautiful and supportive wife. When I told her about the Spidermonkeys and the invitation to ride she demanded that I give it a shot. So I started to show up at Saturday rides and was impressed with so many things like how gracious and welcoming Dean and Vanessa were. How the group was very friendly, but if I didn’t feel like being a chatty Kathy I could hang back and be dark and brooding. How safety was a priority but the pace gets going with a quickness once we get farther north. How pedestrians look at you differently when you’re in a pack of 30 cyclists. How drafting can save energy but pulling gives you a great feeling of accomplishment. And, eventually, how great my ass looked in the kit.
But ultimately what impressed me most about the Spidermonkeys was the myriad of opportunities Dean and Vanessa work so hard to push out to the group. It seems like almost every other week (even in the winter) there is something going on – and it’s not just about racing. The coolest part about this is that even if you’re someone like me who would like to do EVERYTHING, but can’t because of various reasons [7], its ok if you don’t. More importantly, Dean and Vanessa have chosen MS as the Spidermonkey charity of choice and to me, that’s the most impressive thing about Spidermonkey Cycling. Having a philanthropic focus is a huge deal and having that kind of foresight, responsibility and maturity is something we all should be proud of.
So because of Lil V, Dean, Vanessa and Spidermonkeys near and far, I’m now a certified Roadie. I still have a mountain bike, but it doesn’t get much love these days. Especially when my #1 frame happens to be the color that occurs between red and yellow in the visible spectrum at a wavelength of about 585-620 nm and has a hue of 30° in HSV color space [8].
The Roadie.

[2] A Roadie
[3]Y’all know what I’m sayin’.
[4]The aforementioned Trek 8000, now modified to a single speed with bullhorn bars.
[5]You get me.
[7]Trying for my 4th straight Father of The Year Award and my 13thstraight Husband of The Year Award.
[8]The bike came first, really, it did.