Author: castro (page 3 of 5)

Spidermonkeys of the Week – Dean and Vanessa

by Dean Okun and Vanessa Schilling

DeanAndVanessa

At the end of every year, Dean and I look through our videos and pictures to gather a kick ass selection for the end of year video. Every year, looking at these pictures, we have the same overwhelming feelings of happiness. We don’t even know where to start explaining how exciting Spidermonkey has been for us but we’ll try to scratch the surface.

When we first started this adventure 6 years ago, it really was just a few of us and the idea that we would ride together, have cool kits, and most importantly, call ourselves the “Spidermonkey’s”. That was the extent of our thinking. Needless to say, the first kit was not that cool and there were a lot of other unexpected side effects coming our way.

With some unbelievable luck, we got involved with Goose the week that we decided to officially start a team. It was a perfect match, we love beer and they love cyclists! We have built an incredible partnership with them and have met some terrific people throughout the years.

Turner also stepped into the picture right away, they were excited for what we were building and wanted to help us make something happen.  They strongly agreed with our motto of “It’s about completion, not competition”.

We also knew we wanted to do something extraordinary and get involved with a charity.  Bike MS was a natural fit and once we got involved, they saw what a fantastic group we were and decided they wanted to build a partnership with us. To date, we’ve raised close to $100,000 to help fight MS. Holy crap!

Throughout the years, we’ve gained some incredible sponsors who have become our friends. We feel very lucky.

In the first two years, we exploded so quickly that we had to close membership, we couldn’t handle anymore new people! This year, we capped our membership at 100 and are closed again. It has always been important to us that we keep the intimacy we have with the group.

From the beginning, we went to the races and a few of us even raced. It was and still is so exciting to cheer “Go Spidermonkey!” Now, we have an incredible group of hella strong racers and one of the nicest, down to earth pro cyclists on our team! It thrills us to think of all the people involved in growing this team into what we have now.

We can’t count the number of people who have come out on our rides and knew nothing about group riding. We love watching the team pitch in to help and encourage these new riders! We’ve even watched some of you go from falling at a stoplight clipped in to turning into terrific riders…and even ride leaders. Now, when we ride together, we’re like a well oiled machine! It’s so impressive to watch and be a part of. It’s one of the things we are most proud of.

Then, other things happened. We started going on cycling trips together as a team. We started training together over the winter at VisionQuest. Spidermonkey’s started racing cyclocross…and loving it! Awesome people started meeting other awesome people. It affected people’s relationships. It affected our relationship. We started dating. People started dating. People fell in love. Roomates happened. Strong friendships formed. Babies happened. Wedding’s happened. Dean officiated Spidermonkey’s Brandon and Justeen’s wedding and now Dave and Kristi’s upcoming wedding. People moved to other states, we go visit them! We continually meet people who truly inspire us and others. All  of this through Spidermonkey. This is what overwhelms us with happiness.

We are extremely grateful for all the help we’ve had throughout the years from all of you. Even after years of riding with the same people, we still hear encouraging comments within the group: “Wow! Nice job on that sprint!”, “Get on my wheel!”, “Nice pull!”. We never ever would have guessed that we would know so many amazing people and have so many amazing friends! It’s true, that we meet the most incredible people while riding our bikes.  Just think…Dean and I met on a Saturday morning group ride…the rest is history!

At the end of every year, we ask, “how will next year possibly be better than this year?” And every year, somehow it is.

 

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.

Spidermonkey of the Week – Jason Galles

Aliens?

Aliens?

Jason Galles here. I was born in Plano, IL, a small town about 60 miles west of Chicago.  It’s a place known for tackle boxes, agriculture, and most recently the set for the newest Superman revamp, coming this summer to a theater near you!

But long before it became Smallville, Plano was the perfect setting for a 5-year-old boy, tearing up the pavement on a Dukes of Hazzard Big Wheel, winning blue ribbons at Hometown Days celebrations.

If you’re looking for a build up, I have to disappoint you. I guess you could say I peaked early.   Yes, it’s all downhill from here (just how I like it).

I always had a high level of energy growing up, and my parents were always looking for a good outlet for me so they didn’t have to deal with my rambunctiousness firsthand.

Their solution?  Bikes.   It seemed every holiday I was gifted a new bike, because its predecessor had either been left in disrepair at the bottom of some woodland trail hill, or destroyed in a neighborhood “ghost-riding” competition for ice cream money. What can I say? I was a sucker for a Screwball.   I suppose you are what you…I digress.

Truth be known I wish there was some well-flowing narrative as to how I ended up loving all that is cycling. But the fact is, this all started with my feet on the ground. Before I found cycling I was an avid runner, competing in track and field events all throughout junior high and high school. I guess my only ‘claim to fame’, if you could call it that, would be reviving our High School Cross Country team after it had disappeared some 20 years prior. And by team, I mean myself, as my friend had come up ineligible due to poor grades and I was left to run alone. I still remember training for the regional as I ran around the schoolyard being called everything under the sun by the varsity football team but my first name. Good times.

running marathons

running marathons like a boss

This seasoned me into growing quite fond of self punishment, so I decided to take my running to the next level after school by way of half and full marathons. I had run Chicago a couple times and several other halfs and miles of other runs. However, at a point my knees were just not the same. A friend of mine started talking to me about the benefits and low impact of cycling, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I bought my rookie-ride, a Trek 2.1, and upon the first ride I was HOOKED!

Velodrome!

Velodrome!

It only took a couple rides before I had put the front wheel into a man-eating pothole and found myself considerably bleeding curbside on a city street, now with experience, I should have never been riding on to begin with.

Realizing that where was so much to learn about cycling (especially keeping the greasy side down), I knew I had to find a group of folks that could show me the ropes. So I did my research on Chicagobikeracing.com and came across Spidermonkey Cycling group rides about four years ago. I mean, how much research does one have to do past seeing a team with that name? Am I right?

From the first ride, Dean and Vanessa have never been less than welcoming and I’ve had nothing but great experience with any member of the team I’ve ever met. I dig the positive energy and culture that this team is built on. My cycling interests have taken me on experiences by way of century rides, velodrome racing, and the occasional crit (hopefully more in 2013). I look forward to the years ahead on two wheels!

The group is all together

The group is all together

I’m a landscape designer working for a design build firm on the north shore. I’m sure I’m still a stranger to many of you, as my career takes up much of my time when cycling season is in effect. However, I’m hoping to change this as we ramp up into this slightly delayed spring weather. I look forward to meeting many of you on rides and at events this year. If you’re lucky, I may just even race you for a Screwball! ;)

Cheers,

-JG

Spidermonkeys of the Week – Yvonne and Paul Tierney

Vegas 2013 with JT on the right

Vegas 2013 with JT

Hello Spidermonkeys,

We are the Tierney’s, Paul and Yvonne.  We are both from Galway, Ireland. We moved to Chicago for a year in February 1998 and have yet to go home.

We don’t have any cool bike stories like the rest of the SOTW, so we will fast forward to how and when we became Spidermonkeys.

We knew Dean through our gym, the YMCA.  We were also friends with the Bowens (Scott and Rox).  We did the MS ride with the Lakeview YMCA team back in 2010 along with Kyle, Scott and Rox.   The Bowens ditched us to ride with the Spidermonkeys, but I can’t say I blame them; we were on our commuter bikes after all.  That’s right; we did 75 miles on day 1 of the ride on our commuter bikes!!  Thank you I know that’s impressive.   I remember cursing every person that passed me on a road bike.  After that ride we realized we needed road bikes.   The very next day or week we paid a visit to Get a Grip, where Ken fitted us for two new Scott Road bikes.

MS Ride 2011

MS Ride 2011 with Roxanne

Before we continue the story, we need to remind you again that we have no experience whatsoever with riding or bikes or any of that stuff. …So now that we had these expensive bikes we needed to ride them.   We showed up to our first group ride at Element not knowing anyone except Dean.  Dean was kind enough to point out to the group that we made a horrible rookie mistake – our tires were flat!  Oops!  But aside from feeling completely embarrassed and stupid, we learned never take out the bikes without first putting air in the tires – So thank you Dean!

We did a few more group rides, the majority of them ended in pouring rain. We also did that North Shore Century that one year where it rained the whole time.  Paul did the whole ride with his bike shorts on backwards!!!   We were starting to feel like someone was trying to tell us something!   But with attending clinics at GAG, and listening to everything that people on the team told us along with the way, we were getting the hang of it.  Still PLENTY to learn but getting better with each ride.   Dean invited us as special guests to the end of year bash in 2011, and we officially joined the team in 2012.

We decided to go to spring training in Vegas in 2012 to get to know other team mates.  Again remember how little we know about riding, well we did the North Shore Century and didn’t ride again until Vegas.  We did it though and learned a ton.  I didn’t even know what a switch back was let alone ride my bike on one.   We had a blast.  Everyone on the team was so supportive, encouraging and helped us along the rides.   We decided to sign up for VQ to train in the off season.  We went to Vegas again this year and we surprised ourselves how much stronger we were.

Vegas 2012!

Vegas 2012!

We really are so happy to be a part of such a great team.    The great friends we have made and the new friends we make each and every time we get together with the Spidermonkeys.  This team is more than just a team; it’s like a big family.  We didn’t have any family in Chicago until we joined the Spidermonkeys. We can’t wait to ride in 2013!!

Caw caw

 

Spidermonkey of the Week – Derek Barnett

Representing SMC in Tennessee, Cherohala Challenge 2012 – one of my favorite rides

Representing SMC in Tennessee, Cherohala Challenge 2012 – one of my favorite rides

by Derek Barnett

Hey Monkeys,

Derek B. here and JPC thought it was time for you to learn a little more about me since I’ve been hanging out with the troop since summer 2011.  I will try to be brief, but there is much to cover as I feel blessed to have had many great experiences on two wheels, perhaps the best of which is meeting this outstanding group of people that share a genuine love of all things cycling.  So with that, here is a little of my story, I hope you dig it.

Some of my earliest childhood memories involve a bike.  I can still remember the day when the training wheels came off the kiddie bike.  What a rush it was getting to ride up and down the street at ever increasing speeds without the annoying aero drag of those little stabilizing wheels dangling off my ride.  Of course, that leads to my next memory which is a trip to the ER due to an inevitable bike crash.  I do not recall the details of the crash since I was knocked unconscious from my head bouncing off the street curb.  I came to in the arms of my older sister carrying me while running to the awaiting family truckster…seriously, it was a ’78 Pontiac Safari Wagon…google it…you’re welcome.  Yes, it was the late ‘70s in Arkansas and that’s how we rolled.  My sister’s rescue effort was a touching moment, no doubt.  We weren’t big on wearing helmets back in the day, but the upside of the ordeal is that I got my first gnarly scar…a nice head gash which is still visible today.  I soon recovered and continued to hone my riding skills, and before long I was riding full size BMX bikes, including some with banana seats and mag wheels.  Yes, that’s how you rolled in Arkansas in the ‘80s.  The boys and I were quite the terror around the neighborhood, including wheelie contests (I was Boss back in the day), jumping homemade ramps, and riding dirt.

As I reached legal driving age, however, my interest in pedal power predictably shifted to an interest in horsepower.  Thus, cycling was put on hold for a few years until I was off to graduate school.

The summer before I left for The Ohio State University, I picked up a hardtail Trek mountain bike for commuting around campus, for which it worked well, especially after putting on some road slicks (see below).  My interest in road cycling probably can be traced back to my advisor in grad school.  He was relatively young in age, but definitely an old-school roadie at heart that rode many thousands of miles per year on a local built, custom steel frame sporting 5- or 6-speed Campy, down tube shifters, and sew‑ups.  His ride was so vintage (insert yo mama style joke here) that by the time I graduated, he could only source replacement drivetrain parts from specialty shops that specialize in hoarding NOS parts.

I can recall July days in the lab, where he would repeatedly step out to get an update on the TdF via the web, especially when the riders were approaching a climb on a decisive stage or Lance was about to take the start of a TT.  I initially did not really understand the fascination with Le Tour or his love of vintage bikes or tires that are glued to the rim and seem like a royal pain in the ass when you flat.  However, over time I learned more about the sport and started to get it…the craftsmanship that goes into a handmade frame, the tactics that go into a successful attack, the solo effort required for a time trial, and the ability of the peloton to reel in a breakaway with 1 km to go with surgical precision (most of the time).  If one could look past the dark underbelly of the sport, or accept that things in life are not perfect, one would see that the sport could be quite romantic.  Anyway, I was definitely intrigued.

I was introduced to serious road cycling during this period via “the breakfast ride”, an approximately 60 mile round trip ride from campus to a breakfast spot in rural, Amish country.  My advisor had invited me to join the group one Saturday, and I figured this would be easy, right?  I mean I have always been a decent athlete and I have been riding all my life.  So, what’s the big deal?  I showed up on my trusty Trek sporting the original knobby tires (the aftermath of this ride prompted the switch to road slicks) and thought I was the bomb.  I think I led the group out popping wheelies and sprinting light-to-light as we left campus.  Needless to say, I barely made it to the restaurant stop, let alone home…but, I made it and I had a new respect for road cycling.

After the aforementioned switch to road slicks on my Trek, I became more serious about commuting by bike and road riding in general.  I believe I did “the breakfast ride” a few more times during my time at OSU.  I also refused to buy a campus parking pass for my car my last two years, choosing instead to commute everyday using my Trek, including during the Ohio winters (HTFU).  Unfortunately, my commuting did have some scary moments, including getting hit by a car one night (thankfully a minor incident) and a nasty crash one morning resulting in a fractured shoulder scapula, apparently usually reserved for high speed car crashes or falls from a significant height.  I narrowly avoided surgery, but got to wear a sling for 8 or 10 weeks.  I don’t recommend working in a chemistry lab with one of your wings in a sling.  This was my first broken bone, and like my first “gnarly scar”, it was compliments of my bike.  So, in a way, I viewed it as paying my dues and getting some street cred, especially since it could have been much worse.

Fast forward to July 2003, and I am moving to Chicago for a new job.  I have a couple of weeks before I start working and, by now, I am into cycling (sans road bike) and have Tour fever big time.  So, I reward myself for the new job by buying my first road bike and before long, I am exploring all things Chicago by bike, including rides on the lakefront and north on Elston to the bike path leading to the Botanical Gardens.  I would ride the lakefront in the mornings during the week before work and ride to the Botanical Gardens on the weekends.  I think my longest, unsupported solo ride back in the day was an 88 mile ride from Wicker Park to North Chicago.  Not long after, I did the North Shore Century (my first century)…then the Harmon Hundred, the Wheeling Wheelmen, The Apple Cider, and many more century rides in the area.

Then something cool happened…I discovered group riding, more particularly, group riding on the North Shore out of Plaza del Lago.  What a scene this place was on weekend mornings!  The rush of riding in the pack and looking down at your computer showing 28 mph and it felt like you were barely working.  Needless to say, I was hooked as evidenced by my early wake up calls on the weekend to meet the group to ride.  I rode with this group for a couple of seasons and during this time also discovered some great rides out of state in TN, CO, CA, HI, and AR.

Copper Triangle in Colorado – another one of my favs

Copper Triangle in Colorado – another one of my favs

On the Queen K in Kona

On the Queen K in Kona

Fast forward to summer of 2007 and I am moving to Milwaukee.  My riding was once again relegated to solo rides as I was still commuting to Chicago 4 days a week for work and finding time to connect with a group in Milwaukee proved difficult.  My “city loop” was a 40 mile ride that included riding to the coffee shop on the lakefront.  Then one weekend day, while riding the “city loop”, something truly amazing happened.  I randomly met someone on the ride who would quickly become one of my closest friends, and it was him that would later tell me about this cool group of cyclists in Chicago called Spidermonkeys.

The abridged version is as follows.  It was a weekend morning on the “city loop” and I was riding to breakfast.  I first saw “Jim” up ahead on an open stretch of road where I would normally sprint.  I thought to myself what a nice carrot to have in front of me…I can catch that guy.  Sure enough, I did and as I went by he hailed me down, “Hey!  Do you know the way to the ferry?”  “Sure, what’s up?”, I replied.  Well, it turns out Jim struck out solo at 4:30 am from the north side of Chicago on his way to Milwaukee to then catch the ferry over to Michigan for vacation with his family that next week.  Jim wanted to get in a solo century before vacay.  Needless to say, I was impressed and seeing how Jim was ahead of schedule, I invited him to join me for breakfast.  The rest, as they say, is history.

After breakfast, I showed Jim to the ferry landing and he was on his way across Lake Michigan.  Over the course of the next year, we stayed in touch, did a few rides together, and became good friends forming a friendship over all things cycling, but more importantly, over shared life experiences.  Fast forward to spring of 2011 and I am moving back to Chicago during a dark period on the personal front.  Jim was my biggest supporter during this time and helped me when I needed it.  I will always believe that our “chance” meeting on the road that random weekend morning had nothing to do with chance.  You know those impactful moments in life when special things happen and people enter your life and its course is forever changed?  This was one of those moments for me and it was made possible because of riding my bicycle.

Jim knew I was looking for a cycling group in Chicago, and he told me about the “Spidermonkeys”.  He had met Dean and Vanessa (Denessa or Vean ?) several years ago at the MS ride and thought they were the bee’s knees.  He had also seen the group at the Easter Ride and had ridden as a guest on one or two weekend rides.  He told me they were a great group and that I should look into joining.  I emailed Vanessa and showed up one Saturday at Element and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since that first Saturday group ride, it has been many group rides, the MS ride, VQ, Gold Sprints, happy hours, dock parties, off-off broadway theatre, and the year end bash.  I am even a “runner” now and will be doing my first marathon later this year!  Who knows I might be racing before this season is over or doing triathlons.  Oh yeah, don’t forget VEGAS!  This year was my first year making the trip, and what a fantastic time!  The riding was awesome and it was great getting to better know the group.  I am already looking forward to the trip next year!!

Needless to say, I have been inspired and truly impressed with the quality of people that I have met during my short tenure with the Spidermonkeys.  The support, camaraderie, and inclusive nature of the group is awesome and has been on display since my first Saturday group ride!  As silly as it may sound, I feel very fortunate to have found this group of awesome people who share a genuine love for cycling (and running…and swimming…and generally having a good time).  I am really looking forward to 2013 and getting to know more of the Troop.  I am soo excited!!!

Cheers,

Derek

p.s. e-craps anyone?

Ride with Levi Leipheimer in Sonoma - [ahem…he wanted some tips on his TT position]

Ride with Levi Leipheimer in Sonoma – [ahem…he wanted some tips on his TT position]

Lunch with Levi…[convinced him he should go with the preying mantis position]

Lunch with Levi…[convinced him he should go with the preying mantis position]

 

Pulling DJ Ryan around all day…except for the finish…thanks – 2012 MS ride, day 2

Pulling DJ Ryan around all day…except for the finish…thanks – 2012 MS ride, day 2

 

Spidermonkey of the Week – Aaron Byrnes

CX!

CX!

by Aaron Byrnes

Cycling has been important to me since my Senior year of high school when I moved to Los Angeles, Ca. I bought a nice used Trek 940 with a fork shock and started mountain biking. This was my first time I ever felt homesick and I spent a lot of time riding north along the coast from Venice.

Cycling has remained an important part of my life since then. It has been a source of adventure and bonding for family. In 1998 my father and I toured southern Ireland on MTB’s riding from town to town and glen to glen. We rode up the highest passes and all the way down to the coast.

Ireland!

Dingle, Ireland

After moving back to Chicago I found my bikes hanging on the wall and the pounds gaining on my ass. During a summer out of work after an auto accident, I was able to ride almost every day, usually alone or with my friend Sabin West. One Wednesday I bumped into a Spidermonkey WNR at Roscoe Village Bikes and joined in. I was drawn to the club’s friendly educational and safety-first approach to group rides and cycling.

JacksonPk2012-33

Jackson Park!

Since joining Spidermonkey Cycling about 2 years ago I have begun racing cyclocross most weekends and entered my first criterium race the following summer. I am currently a manager at Kozy’s Cyclery on Halsted. If you are in the area please stop in and say hello.

Ca Caw!

Guest Spidermonkey of the Week – Jim Twomey aka JT

JT and the Spidermonkeys!

JT and the Spidermonkeys!

by Jim Twomey

Prior to the Spring Invasion of Spidermonkeys in Henderson, NV, I was asked to share some background with the group.  As some of you know, I own and help run JT’s Bicycle. May 1st, we will be here 7 years.

But to back up some…  I grew up in New Jersey and one my favorite things to do was to go riding with my friends. We would ride until we were lost and then try to find our way home. Still a technique I enjoy.  Flash forward, I graduated from college in NJ and was supposed to teach high school English. I found that I liked teaching the students, but I couldn’t relate to the teachers (they were mostly much older than myself).  So I proceeded to fall into many jobs, too many to list. OK I’ll list the major ones:  school bus driver, taxi dispatcher, real estate salesman, studio photographer, x-ray equipment repairman, Marketing Director for a multi-national, Owner of an x-ray equipment & service company in New England, Professor teaching Small Business courses at Gainesville City College in Florida (along the way I had gotten my MBA), Program Manager for a Bio Tech Company (making parts from cadavers), RV salesman, District Manager for a major commercial air conditioning manufacturer and finally opened the bike shop I had day dreamed about for about 30 years.  The list is in correct chronological order. The important part of my history that I haven’t touched upon is Kathi Twomey.  My wife and I have been married 35 years counting the two times we have been married to each other (4 year hiatus about 15 years ago).  We have one daughter, one son-in-law and two grandchildren, all living in Las Vegas and a big part of our life.

My biking experience began with a trick knee cap that dislocated during almost any kind of sporting activity and it even dislocated once while stepping out of the car. My sports surgeon recommended that I take up cycling to alleviate the pain in my knee. I went that day to my local bike shop and bought a bike. I was in my mid- thirties and overweight and out of shape.  Needless to say it was work at first, but like millions of others, I was hooked.  I started riding out of a bike shop called Fat Dog Pro Cycle in MA. The owner was pretty “picky”.  You had to clean your bike before you brought it in for a tune-up. As a former racer, he taught me a lot about riding. I started riding with a group in MA called MAC, short for Mad About Cycling. Before I moved from MA to Florida, I spent two years as the president of MAC.  In Gainesville I rode with a very large and active club. Most weekend rides had 100+ riders. Outside Gainesville it was all tree farms and horse farms (no traffic). There was also some great single track along the Swanee River.

When my wife and I moved to Henderson from Florida, we took six months to travel around the  U.S and western Canada. We had a full size van with two road bikes and two mtb’s in back. We pulled a travel trailer behind the van and every town we stopped at we would visit the local bike shop.  Our standard question was “what’s good riding, mountain bike or road”.  I can say without any qualifications that this was the best 6 months of my life.  My wife would agree.

One of my favorite things to do is going on bike vacations.  I have done about a dozen of these all over the U.S. and Canada. My last one was Ragbrai, the oldest and biggest of them all. Two years ago I rode with a group from Henderson called Team Durkin.  We rode across Iowa along with 20,000 other cyclists.  One of my favorites (not too far from Chicago) was the Tour of Indiana.

RAGBRAI!

RAGBRAI!

The short history of the Spidermonkey training camps in Las Vegas begins with Dean and his dad coming to JT’s Bicycle about 4 years ago. Dean and I discussed the possibility of several Spidermonkeys coming to Henderson to do some spring training. I had recently begun renting bikes so it looked like a good fit. Dean asked me if there was anyone that could lead some local rides since the group would be unfamiliar with the area. I volunteered to act as guide, although it might be guiding from the back of the pack. I believe the first year there were 7 people (not exactly sure).  Fortunately, we had very good weather and the rides turned out well. Last year we had 16 rentals and 1 or 2 people brought their own bike. One day was windy and cold and all the locals were crying about the weather, but it was no big deal for the Spidermonkeys. Our last day, we rode the Red Rock Loop and the weather cooperated for a nice send-off ride. This year we have 18 rentals so far from the Spidermonkeys and I’m not sure if anyone is bringing their bike. I will be adding a few Bianchi bikes to my rental fleet and probably 4 or 5 of the Spidermonkeys will be riding brand new 2013 Bianchi bikes when they are out here.  I will post the Spidermonkey Rides on the Green Valley Cyclists club calendar and we will probably have a group of riders from the club join in. I know the locals that rode last year and the year before enjoyed the rides.  Personally, I have ridden with many different groups, but I think the Spidermonkeys are some of  the nicest of all time.

The City of Henderson is working towards the designation of “Bike Friendly Community” from the League of American Wheelmen. The City Manager bought a bike from me and he commutes to work every day.  The city has built both great paved paths and dirt trails. On March 9th there is a grand opening of a dirt trail called the McCullough Hills Trail. It starts just up the hill from our shop (about 4 blocks) and it is about 7 ½ miles in one direction. It was built by the City of Henderson and has a rest stop about halfway out. It is not technical but some good climbing. They will be building single track off the main trail in the future. We think that this area will become a very popular mtb area in the next few years.

Eric on Armagosa Trail

Eric on Armagosa Trail

I guess that’s about all I can think of to share. I’ve got my Spidermonkey jerseys ready to go and I’m hoping that you guys and gals haven’t had much chance to ride over  the winter.  I can always sweep.

 

Spidermonkey of the Week – Dania Lees

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by Dania Lees

I like to go fast…. I had my first date on a bike when I was in college at the University of Arizona.  I had pain in my knees with running, drinking too much beer (is that possible?) and had gained the “freshman fifteen” and then some.  I met a great friend who told me to buy a mountain bike. I went to the bike shop, fell in love with a purple aluminum Raleigh. Didn’t try it, didn’t rent it, just bought it… shoes, helmet and all. But NO spandex, that’s where I drew the line. Spent that night with the bike in the living room and my husband teaching me to clip in and out while he held the bike upright.  I showed up the next morning for a group ride.  The minute we started to pedal fast, my heart began to race, the adrenaline hit a level it had never been before… and I was in love.  I knew I had to keep up; otherwise I would be stranded in the desert in the middle of nowhere. Forty miles later, I finished the ride and the rest is history. I spent the rest of that year between graduating from college and starting medical school on a bike in Arizona, one of the best years of my life.

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The Chicago journey begins in the fall of 2000 when I began medical school at Loyola.  I wouldn’t see a bike or touch a bike until that following April.  Found myself getting the winter doldrums that happens in this town, so I decided to show up for a random group ride in April, meeting at the Clock Tower on the lake front.  Needless to say I had an exam to study for that night and needed to be back in a few hours, I was on a mission to go fast.  We didn’t go fast… it was a soft, mild pace at 13 mph up to the Botanical Gardens.  3 hours later we reach our turn around point where the ride leader says its time to go in and eat lunch… I said, “screw this” and flew home with 2 strangers that also shared that desire to go fast. Luckily, one of them had found another ride that met at Higher Gear in the city and we tried that ride the following week. I met a guy named Dean who seemed very friendly and started riding with that group throughout medical school and residency. We spent hours on the bike, chatting, goofing off, happy hours after a hot ride etc.  I was happy again…

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After residency and into my career as an Emergency Room Physician, Dean and Vanessa have this great idea to start Spidermonkey Cycling.  I of course jumped right in! However, one thing kept getting in the way…. I kept getting knocked up! I remember I would promise Dean and Vanessa “after this baby I am done, and don’t you worry, I will be back on the bike!” Meanwhile, I would read all the wonderful emails and watch the club grow into an amazing team.  Three pregnancies in three years, I missed a lot of rides.  Biking however took a whole knew meaning to me with a family. It was the way to recharge and I knew if I caught a group ride, I would be a better mom that day, a better wife, and a happier person.

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Our journeys have taken us to live up north in Glencoe, right off of Green Bay and Scott, the place I knew to be the last part of Green Bay where I usually was so excited, exhausted, but knew I had to push hard and once I turned left on Scott I could usually take a breath. We are just getting settled in with 3 kids under the age of 4.   Working as an ER doctor and a mother of 3, I may not get to be at every team event, BBQ, etc. But I am not going to give up riding. You may see some girl dressed in an old Spidermonkey jersey, soft pedaling on Sheridan on a Saturday morning, just waiting to be swept up in a sea of orange and black…… Because I still like to go fast!

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Spidermonkeys of the Week – Amy Ancheta and Jonny Kloppenburg

Amy and Jonny at the Hilly Hundred

Amy and Jonny at the Hilly Hundred

by Amy Ancheta and Jonny Kloppenburg

Hey Spidermonkeys!  It’s Jonny and Amy and we’d love to share a little bit about us, us cycling, and a few other things in between (really, we do other stuff besides ride bikes!). Let’s start at the beginning.  Join us as we step into our time machine and travel back 20-some odd years. C’mon, it’ll be fun!  [cue: harp music]

It’s Memorial Day, 1984 and little Jonny’s parents had (only recently) managed to divert his attention from operating light-duty yard maintenance equipment, long enough to learn to ride a bicycle.  It was a modest beginning, highlighted by non-inflatable, solid plastic, squared-off ‘tires,’ He-Man decals and NO training wheels for this guy!  Little Jonny really enjoyed cycling and to his parents relief, he gave up (briefly?) climbing to / jumping from eaves, ‘lighting off’ bottle rockets and leaving home for unsupervised midnight meanderings.

Jonny on the tractor

Jonny on the tractor

Little Jonny on his first bike

Little Jonny on his first bike

Moving on a couple of years, it’s 1986 and young Amy is riding around the driveway on the handlebars of her sister’s bicycle.  This isn’t just any bicycle guys, it has a pink banana seat and really tall handlebars deep enough sit in while her sister pedals.  They sing the “name game” song with the names of everyone in their family but always end on their dad’s name because it’s AWESOME and cracks them up!  “Caesar Caesar bo beasar banana fana fo feaser me my mo measer CAESAR!”

Little did little Jonny and young Amy know, their two-wheeled paths would cross and intertwine, many years down the road…

Flash forward to 2007 when Jonny’s cousin throws a party and invites him and all her best friends. They talk and Amy impresses Jonny with her knowledge of bicycles.  She asks if he has a Chrome Bag and whether he “winterizes” his bicycle for his commute to work when it snows (Jonny doesn’t have any idea what Amy’s talking about!).  Nevertheless, Jonny is intrigued and finds himself interested in Amy…

They end up spending lots of time together; this includes riding bikes and many other things.  If you ask Jonny, he’ll tell you he likes anything with wheels that goes around a track.  This can be translated into lots of things: Little 500, NASCAR, IndyCar, mountain biking, monster trucks, etc. If you ask Amy, she’ll say she’s pretty much cool with whatever.  She likes cooking (especially baking pies), yoga, drinking Old Fashioneds and entertaining.

Often times, their activities include any combination of these things but they usually include bringing bikes.  Don’t even ask how many times Amy’s car has broken down and been towed with bikes on the Yakima rack! One particular trip they enjoyed was to the Michigan International Speedway for the Sprint Cup (NASCAR).  While most spectators stay in their campers overnight and spend the day decorating Christmas Trees with ornaments expertly hewn from aluminum Miller Lite cans, Jonny and Amy rose early from their light-weight, 2-person tent and set out on a road ride into the beautiful Irish Hills.

NASCAR!

NASCAR!

Another great trip was the 10th Mountain Division Hut Trip snowshoeing with friends.  During WWII, the 10th Mountain Division constructed a network of backcountry huts while training for alpine combat.  These days, you can reserve, and hike to these remote and beautiful locations.  Most of the group brought backcountry survival gear, such as: avalanche beacons, food and clothing.  Not the case for Jonny and Amy; they hauled inflatable snow-tubes to the top of the mountain so they could sled 8 miles back to the car.

10th Mountain Division Hut Trip

10th Mountain Division Hut Trip

Yosemite backpacking!

Yosemite backpacking!

Banff backpacking!

Banff backpacking!

Apostle Islands sea kayaking

Apostle Islands sea kayaking

On to the important stuff!  How did they get here?

After a few years of long rides with Jonny, Amy had become comfortable with riding on someone’s wheel and learned the basics of cycling etiquette.  Most weekends, they would take their standard route up to the northern suburbs, through Ft. Sheridan, to St. Marys, to Buckley Rd, and past Abbott labs.  A couple of times on their way up north, they rode near a big group in orange team kits that took a similar route to Highland Park.  One day in early spring, they were out for a ride and stopped at a coffee shop in Highland Park (Perfect Blend) to have a coffee.  There were two cyclists at the table next to them talking about work and coincidentally turned out to work in the same industry as Jonny.  They got to talking and the girl (Vanessa) was really friendly and invited Amy to the Tuesday girls ride.  Amy had never ridden with a group and certainly never with a group of all girls. That next week, she mustered up the courage to go to the girl’s ride. When she got to the meeting point, everyone was really nice and welcoming and one girl (Katie Isermann) talked to her the ENTIRE way up to Evanston.  When they got to Sheridan just before the temple, Vanessa asked if Amy if she had ever ridden in a pace line.  Of course she hadn’t but Vanessa talked her through the basics and they were off!  Amy was so impressed by how strong and FAST these girls were!  That day Amy called Jonny and was so happy about having joined the ride, and SO impressed with this awesome group of girls.  Amy even told him how she took a turn in the “pull line” [which, BTW is known to everyone else as a pace line – I will never live that down…].

Amy's first MTB race (WORS)

Amy’s first MTB race (WORS)

Fried chicken at the Hilly Hundred

Fried chicken at the Hilly Hundred

After meeting the Spidermonkeys, our lives have totally changed!  We have enjoyed countless group rides with great ride leaders who always wait / pull you up if you get dropped (thanks Dean!), give you a push if you look tired (thanks Josh!), inspire you to be faster than you thought a girl could ever be (ALL the ladies!!).  It has been great to get to know the long time members and the new ones too.  Tuesday nights wouldn’t be the same without running stairs with Drew, Steph, and Tim.  Thanks to everyone who has been so welcoming (Castro, Captain Jack, Paul D., Trent, the Meyers, Kristi and Crushman, Scott n’ Rox, DJ Ryan, Wrigley, Fenway, and too many others to name).  Most recently, this past year got even better when a Belgian cycling team lent us their teammate.  Mountain and fat biking wouldn’t be the same without the one-and-only, Belgian Horseman, Jan!

Jan mtb'ing with Amy and Jonny

MTB’ing with Jan in the Kettles

By the numbers: 3 years of team rides, 1 year of club dues (Jonny), countless girls rides, muffins, espressos, 1 ugly jersey win, a dip in Lake Michigan after 3 Floyds, 1 season of ridiculously irritating spoke-beads-on-carbon, and 90+ friends later…we’re delighted to finally make it official.  Thanks Spidermonkeys for being such a great team, we are looking forward to 2013!

Spidermonkey of the Week – Marty Killeen

Marty!

Marty!

by Marty Killeen

Quick Facts:
Name: Marty Killeen
Place of Birth: Manchester, England
Cities lived in: Manchester, Nottingham, London, Chicago.
Nationality: Dual USA and UK

I was actually more of a skateboarder than biker as a kid, despite having a BMX I didn’t really ride it half as much as I would ride my Powell McGill skateboard. By my own modest admission, I was a pretty good skateboarder, one that could easily ollie a Coke Supercan – anyone remember those? It was a really tall can of coke!

I really got into cycling after deciding to sell my Vespa that I used to scoot around the streets of London on. I used the money from the Vespa to buy a  Marin Mill-Valley Hybrid, not only was this the catalyst for my love affair with bikes, but I also found it safer than weaving in and out of London traffic at 30 mph on a Vespa! Moving up the ranks from daily commuter to avid road biker was fun, I was even one of those guys that had aero bars on a commuter bike for my first century ride.

Living in London for 10 years, the cycling was awesome, the ability to be in the rolling countryside so close to a huge city is amazing. Cycling in London itself is also really good, especially early in the morning, along the River Thames to a park in London called Richmond Park. If anyone gets chance to ride the circuit  of this park and hammer it around the 8 mile loop you definitely should. It has great climbs, descents, all out flat sections and beautiful scenery to observe – Just watch out for the deer, you always come off second best when they run out in front of you…

Richmond Park Cycling during the Olympic test event

Richmond Park Cycling during the Olympic test event

English countryside riding

English countryside cycling

Moving to Chicago in early 2008 was an exciting time, I had a special wooden box made for my bike to be shipped across the Atlantic and I followed over the pond aboard the Queen Mary, seriously, just me and my dog. The wife was sensible and flew.

Not knowing the cycling landscape in Chicago, I gravitated to riding the LFP, but like most, got really bored of the crowds and needed to get out on the open road. In mid-2008, some of the guys at RVB suggested I should join up with the SM’s. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and improve my cycling ability, back in London I didn’t belong to a club I just used to cycle with friends (singular) – the thrill and excitement of riding in a group was and still is really enjoyable. In addition to both the openness of the team and seamless capability  to make new friends with similar interests, it’s the perfect motivator to drag your ass out of bed early on a Saturday and Sunday morning.

After a full year’s hiatus from cycling throughout 2011, due to an unhealthy obsession with golf, I joined forces with the SM’s again in 2012 – there was plenty of new faces and many old ones, but what was incredible was the growth of the club and the obvious hard work Dean, Vanessa and notable others put in to making the club the best in Chicago.

I can’t wait to kick off 2013 again….these winter months are killing me.

 

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