by Erin Kasprzak
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.
Riding 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.
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!!