Tag: Schwinn

Spidermonkey of the Week – Erin Kasprzak

by Erin Kasprzak

My first bike - look at that trackstand!

My first bike – look at that trackstand!

Even though I was not a super athletic kid, I always loved riding bikes. Though not much of a rider himself, my dad was brand-loyal to Schwinn, and to our LBS, Denny’s Schwinn, in East Lansing, Michigan. I am pretty sure my first two-wheeler (the pink Schwinn pictured) was heavier than my current bike with its steel frame and SOLID tires. At least once, I rode it off a little ramp the neighbor boys had set up to jump their BMX bikes and I crash landed. Hard. But I didn’t stop riding. After the pink bike, I graduated to a bigger Schwinn, still a single-speed with coaster brakes, and when I was in eighth grade I got my first multi-geared bike, a red Schwinn Mesa Runner mountain bike. I remember that I had gone to the shop wanting a “ten speed” (which was what everyone called a drop-bar road bike) but the guy at the shop steered me and my dad toward the mountain bike.

In high school, I spent most of my time hanging out with the drama geeks and I didn’t ride that mountain bike all that much. I sometimes wonder if I would have ridden more if I had gotten the ten speed I wanted in the first place.

I didn’t ride much in college either, spending my spare time inside at the college radio station, and I clearly missed a real opportunity in grad school. I was at Indiana University, home of the Little 500, and I can probably count on one hand (definitely two) the number of times I rode my bike anywhere.

I moved to Chicago in 2001, and bought an aluminum Fuji hybrid with plans to commute, which I did occasionally but didn’t make a regular habit. After several years following the Tour de France, and under the influence of my cyclist brother and cousin, I bought my first road bike in 2009 – the steel Jamis I still ride. I enjoyed solo riding, but never got too serious about it until last January when a college buddy sent me a link for AIDS/LifeCycle (a weeklong 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles) and said “This is what we’re going to do.” I didn’t hesitate before telling him I was on board. I looked at a couple of different training plans, dusted off my trainer, and started pedaling.

After two long months of slogging it out on the trainer alone, I was ready for some company. I knew about the Spidermonkeys because I’d had my bike serviced at Roscoe Village, and I’d seen the orange and black paceline fly by while I walked my dog on Damen.

I was so nervous riding down to that first group ride, my heart rate spiked like crazy and I almost puked. But then I met you. Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging, and I had such an amazing time, I joined immediately. Best. Decision. Ever.

RidingWith friends, Kevin and Tom, AIDS/LifeCycle 2013 with a team made me look forward to my training rides, and even after a pretty bad crash in April, I didn’t stop riding because I wanted to get out with the group again. I found out I really like going fast. And even though I knew the physics of it, I was still amazed to see for myself that drafting is AMAZING.

I am super proud that I was totally prepared for the ride from San Francisco to LA. In fact, I was faster than the two guys I rode with. I was also super proud to wear my Spidermonkey kit when I crossed the finish line, and I just wanted to keep riding. Well, not that day. That day, I wanted to sleep in a real bed. But after that, I was so excited to have people to ride with when I got home.

At the finish line in LA (after 545 miles, with a smile on my face)

At the finish line in LA (after 545 miles, with a smile on my face)

The best part of being on a team is that teammates have your back. Teammates who helped me after I crashed in April, who loaned me their gear for the California ride, and who gave me a friendly push to help me get out of the wind and onto the wheel in front of me on the second day of the MS ride.

Nearly all of my best memories of 2013 involve my bike, and all of those were possible because I’m a Spidermonkey.

In 2014, I’m resolving to:

  • get dropped more (because I will come out on Wednesday nights)
  • drink more 312
  • have at least as much fun as I had last year

I can’t wait to see what happens this year! Caw caaaawwww!!

Spidermonkey of the Week – Kirsten Swanson

by Kirsten Swanson

I guess you know you are officially a cyclist when you have five bikes and can’t bear to part with any one of them, especially the 1972 blue single-speed Schwinn with coaster brakes.  Or that you’re a chic with 5 pairs of cycling shoes and no stilettos.

5 Years Old!

5 Years Old!

I’ve always loved cycling, whether it was following my cousins over jumps at age 5 trying to get some good air or at age 35 following professional mountain bikers in Fruita, Colorado over jumps and trying not to fall at least once so the photographer could get a good photograph of me.  At the end of the photo shoot the photographer said, “I can’t believe you kept going off that jump and trying to nail it.”  My response was “Wow, I guess since I was the model I didn’t think I had the option to say, ‘Forget that.’”  Turns out that’s when I went into Pearl Izumi headquarters I saw a huge seven-foot banner of myself in the lobby.  When I asked why they chose a photo of me wiping out rather than when I nailed the jump, they said they liked the wipeout because I was smiling.  In fact I wasn’t really smiling, I was gritting my teeth and thinking, “Shit I have to do it again.”  Thanks to all the wipeouts that day, I have a nice scar from my pedal on the back of my right calf.  When new friends ask what it is from I say that I was attacked by a mountain lion when I lived in Colorado.  It’s unreal the amount of people that have actually believed me.

Model for Pearl Izumi

Model for Pearl Izumi

When friends have asked me if I was a mountain biker or roadie, I’ve never hesitated to say roadie.  There is really nothing I’d rather be doing on a beautiful summer day than riding my bike on a quiet country road going up and down hills.

I joined a cycling team in 2009 so that I could try to get faster so I would be able to complete the bike portion of an Ironman distance race in California in the allotted time.  In 2010 I undertook the most difficult cycling challenge of my life by riding the L’Etape du California mountain stage from Claremont to Mt. Baldy.  Before I left for the trip a reporter called to ask me if she could interview me.  I asked her why she wanted to speak with me and she said she thought it was amazing that a woman from the flatlands of Chicago would attempt such a ride.  I declined the interview because honestly, I was afraid that I would not be able to complete the ride given the 91 mile route and 11,322 feet in elevation gain.  I am very proud to say that I was one of the few women to attempt and finish the ride and that only about 65 percent of the riders were actually able to finish.  I’d love to do another mountain stage ride, but I haven’t found anyone else that is willing to attempt it with me.  Perhaps it’s because I tell them we have to ride Alpe D’Huez at least once a week on the computrainer.

I feel very grateful that I now have an amazing team that I can continue to share my love for the road with and don’t forget to let me know if you like climbing.  I’m not so fast, but you can count on me to make it to the top without whining.

My Favorite Beer (after 312 of course)!

My Favorite Beer (after 312 of course)!

Spidermonkey of the Week – DJ Ryan

Yes, my name is DJ Ryan.

My very first bike was an iconic Schwinn Sting-Ray.  One of the many things I wish I could have preserved from my childhood, but back then to me, it was simply a refurbished hand-me down from my brother.  With a brand new sparkly yellow banana seat and training wheels I was ready to ride all up and down the block.  I don’t remember too much about the bike other than it weighed a ton and I was the last kid on the block to get rid of my training wheels.  By the time the 80’s rolled around I couldn’t wait to get rid of that thing.

By the time I got my next bike, around the sixth grade, I knew exactly what I wanted.  Nothing less than a Schwinn Predator Chromo would do.  After refusing a kickstand (opting to only rest it upside down), and removing the front brake, I was ready to rock.  I was the envy of the neighborhood, I truly loved that bike.  Riding less and less as I got older, one day in high school, my Dad came home with a pair of Schwinn Sprint 10-Speed’s (can you say brand loyalty?).  It was completely out of nowhere.  Preparing to get my driving license, I inquired why I was being giving a bike.  He replied “well your sister needed one and you need to stop riding that little dirt bike”… Other than the color (red) and the 80’s sponge-grip handlebar wrap, I didn’t care for that Sprint 10-Speed much.  I couldn’t go off-road with that thing, plus nothing could replace my Predator… that is until I could legally drive.

I’m on my red bike ..

Fast forward 20 years, I’m in a job that I cannot stand and realize that it may not last long.  I take a lunch with Dean, who’s got this shit-eating grin as if he’s received an invitation to the Playboy Mansion or something.  Without the slightest hesitation, he tells me about this cycling team he’s starting and that I should check out a bike across the street and think about joining.  Immediately, I can see the sales pitch is on (by Dean, Alex was just showing me the bike).  Yes, it’s red and pretty and all, but given my situation “I don’t know” …  Turns out there was a freak mild day that January in 2008 and I returned to Roscoe Village Bikes to claim my first real road bike.  As I figured, I soon was “let go” by that stupid company and now I had the time I wanted to figure some things out.

You looking at me

Fresh off a tough breakup and my firing, I was out riding long before the snow melted.  Which was a good thing, because I had never ridden a bike with clipless pedals and needed tons of practice.  So with time on my hands and a mission in mind, I headed up to the North Branch Trail and rode, and rode, and rode!!  Before I knew it I had essentially ruined the rear derailleur and shoe clips.  Between the snow, ice, and the learning how to clip-in and out the hard way, I would fall a couple of times per outing.  As dreadful as it may sound I was having a blast…

Spidermonkeys, past and present were so helpful:  little pointers here and there, gracious drafts/pulls, and loads of encourage.  It was nothing but positive energy.  So the 2009 season rolls around and I decide to test my abilities at the Trek 100.  I stayed awake through the night because I had to DJ the night before and the event was nearly 3 hours away… I thought a lot about backing out, because the weather was terrible for early June.  However, I thought about the money I had raised and figured I couldn’t let those that contributed down.  I had several flats (mainly because I was too impatient to do it right) and lost the group early on… but I’ll never forget the applauding children with cancer thanking me as I crossed the finish line.  Having completed a (metric) century, all I could think about was completing a full century.

Spidermonkeys = Awesome

I continued riding, enjoying every summer day to it’s fullest… until I woke up one Sunday morning in July with chest pains.  This didn’t make any sense, I was only 37 and in the best shape of my life… sure I smoked and partied too much, but I was working out and biking 100-200 miles a week.  I don’t remember ever being so scared.

I had suffered what is clinically known as a Spontaneous Pneumothorax (my right lung had collapsed).  They assured me I’d make a full recovery, but I was going to be out of commission for the foreseeable future.  After the first surgery in the ER, my lung re-inflated well enough, but the bleb that had burst causing the collapse wasn’t hailing.  So the surgeon informed me that I’d have have another surgery to fold over and stabilize the top of my lung.  Honestly, I didn’t care what they did, I just wanted to get back on the saddle again.

I spent two weeks in the hospital… I had lost 15 lbs, and my physical activity was limited to walking my dogs.   A few weeks later, I was given a clean bill of health, and I immediately went home and climbed back on my bike.   Six weeks after my lung collapse I rode that first century (North Shore Century).  It wasn’t too fast, and I was dropped several times, but I made it.

By the time the 2010 North Shore Century came around, I was determined to show myself that I could really do this with out being dropped.  I succeeded and followed several other Spidermonkeys on a burger run the following day.  Feeling quite proud of myself I took up a friend’s dare to run the Hot Chocolate 15K.  After completing that run in a very respectable time, I started to wonder what else I could accomplish…

2011 I turned 40 years old, and to celebrate I set out to do at least one event for each month of the year:  NYE 5K, Hustle Up the Hancock, Shamrock Shuffle, Cinco de Miler, MS Ride, Dash Peddle Dash, North Shore Half Marathon, North Shore Century, Chicago Half Marathon, Chicago Marathon… finishing nearly all of them amongst the top 20%, not bad for a kid who was once scared to get rid of his training wheels.

I can run too.

I tell this long winded story not to brag (well, maybe a little), but to show others that with a little encouragement and hard work anyone can do anything.  That’s what Spidermonkey Cycling has taught me.  Spidermonkey Cycling has been a life altering experience for me, the cycling and life lessons learned and/or reinforced are too many to count.  I literally owe at least a part my life to Spidermonkey Cycling.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
DJ Ryan

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