So, I would say that I am an artist with a side of cyclist. This path that I have chosen has given me somewhat of a migratory life and at the moment I find myself here in Chicago riding with a bunch of Spidermonkeys.
Anyways, bikes have always been apart of my life, but in the beginning it was more on a casual level, the occasional commute here to there or a stroll along the local bike path. I really didn’t think twice about cycling. Mainly because back in high school I saw myself more as a skateboarder, snowboarder, into the punk/indie rock scene, and oddly enough a golfer. Yes I know that is quite the mix and I was definitely an anomaly on the golf course, but having the competitive side that I do, I was actually pretty good. And back then, the only encounter I had with cyclists was the BMX riders that would show up occasionally at the newly hot skateboarding spot. So the idea of serious riding didn’t enter my life until a good decade later.
So then I went off to college and really put my focus on art and pretty much dropped the majority of my side endeavors, as it seemed like I spent more time in the studio than at home. To be honest I still put the studio first. After I graduated, I spent my time traveling, attended a 2-month artist residency, moved to Tennessee for a year, and had some serious life stumbles before I decided to return back to school and refocus the path I was taking. This was also the time where cycling entered my life a little more as I started riding/commuting almost daily. Soon after, I received my first masters degree and was awarded a full ride and stipend to an MFA program at Michigan State University.
In the summer before I started my MFA, 2008, I met this avid road cyclist/racer and my interest in cycling soared. At the time I was riding a Trek Hybrid style bike, a heavy beast, and this guy decided to take me out to the Black Hills to ride 30 miles on Needles Highway. If I remember correctly that was going to be my longest ride and first in that kind of terrain. We started near the top of Needles so what goes down must come up, right? Well, I was definitely not prepared, hadn’t eaten enough, ran out of water and ended up barely being able to walk the last mile or so up to where we parked near the top. It was one of my best rides even though I was physically and emotionally exhausted. This experience definitely set the hook. A couple of weeks after this trip I left for Michigan and was dating this guy. While residing in the Mitten, I began riding more on my own aiming for one 20-30 mile ride a week as well as commuting everyday to the studio/school. I know it’s not much but it was what I could give to cycling while in grad school. The time spent in the saddle was great for thinking. It gave me the opportunity to leave the studio and contemplate the direction of my work. At this time, I also became self-competitive about cycling by trying to bring my average speed up with each ride. Then in 2009, my guy upgraded his bike and I acquired the carbon road bike he was previously riding. And with a couple of necessary changes it fits like a dream and I love it.
Needless to say by the time I graduated in 2011 I was on my own again, but with a really great bike and off to Kansas for a year as an Artist in Residence at Kansas State University. I was excited for the new terrain and adventures of the Flint Hills and hoping to give a little more time to cycling. While there I tried riding with a local group but they were not quite my niche, I was too slow for the fast rides and thought the other ‘no drop’ rides as too slow for me. So I was back to riding on my own again with the occasional ride with a good friend.
Then spring 2012 came along with a job offer in my field/medium here in Chicago and by June I was living in a new city. Being use to the open country roads and riding without stopping Chicago cycling became quite the adjustment. And honestly I was frustrated. This led me to look into the various cycling groups around here and that’s how I found the Spidermonkeys. Since I have joined them, I have met some really great people and accomplished my first century. This time I remembered to eat and fill up my water bottle and I didn’t have to walk the last mile or so. So where my adventures will lead to next? I’m not sure. Though I am curious about cyclocross and possibly looking into racing, but it all depends on the studio.
Ann Marie Martens