Category: SOTW (page 2 of 7)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Kurt Breitenbucher

Kurt - Picture 1

Like many others, bikes for me were just a form of transportation, a method to get to where your friends were. I checked all the boxes for endurance sports in high-school, cross country running, track, and nordic skiing. Despite my height I was never very coordinated unless on snow and ice (thanks viking ancestors), so I never really got into other team sports. Most Spidermonkeys know of my love for bikes that are way too small and do not really fit me. My first “real” bike was a 2000 Schwinn Frontier, I used that bike from 2000 until 2008, when I nearly died riding it.

Kurt - Picture 2

My transition from a runner to a dirt-bag did not take place overnight. My first year of college did not go well, I had tried to be a walk on for our schools D2 running team. In our first race I missed a course marker in the woods, and my first collegiate 8k race became a 25k. After this, I took two years off of school and coached a high-school nordic ski team and cross country running team. The head coach, an engineer, convinced me that there were bigger and better things, and in 2008 I went back to school to become a civil engineer. When I returned, I took my 1999 Schwinn on some trails meant for downhill mountain bikes. I came around a corner with too much speed and hit a jump I was not expecting. The crash split my helmet clean in two, I had a pretty terrible scar down the middle of my face, I had to endure people calling me “the boy who lived” my first months back, but I was hooked. I spent the next year with bike lust, working for the school and saving up to buy a new mountain bike.

Kurt - Picture 3

I was lucky enough to live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for 6 years. We were fortunate to have world class mountain bike trails right outside our door, a five minute pedal up the hill and you could be deep in the woods, not another person around. When others spent their breaks between classes in the library or eating at the union, we were rushing back out to grab our helmets, packs, and bikes to get another ride in. I’m sure 90% of the other students hated us, coming into class covered in mud, smelling ripe, and bleeding all over from a thousand cuts on our shins.

Kurt - Picture 4

I used to believe that cycling, especially mountain biking, was a very solitary sport. In graduate school, afraid of the impending real world, I became active with our collegiate cycling team and club. For many of us mountain biking was a labor of love and much of our time spent off the bikes was building trails, jumps, and advocating for more funds to pursue our passion.

Kurt - Picture 5

I have hopes that mountain biking will become bigger in Chicago and the Midwest in general, I’m particularly excited about the Big Marsh Project. Some of my fondest memories come from seeing how many bikes/people you can fit in a truck and hit the trails.

Kurt - PIcture 6

I moved to Chicago for work in January of 2014, I attended a few Spidermonkey events (Goldsprints for MS!) before officially joining at the Lacrosse Omnium in May. I’m fairly new to road cycling, to me it was always something to do to keep fit. I love the Spidermonkey group rides, the camaraderie at races (especially during cyclocross). Through the coming year I’m hoping to compete in longer distance events (Barry Roubaix/Dirty Kanza), some endurance mountain events, and WORS (Wisconsin Off-Road Series).

Photo Credits to Jayloo Photography.

Spidermonkey of the Week – Nate Miller

broWhen I was quite a bit younger, I enjoyed reading a book as much as I enjoyed playing outside. But I would also slowly ease into things, such as driving a go-cart at half speed so it wouldn’t spin out. With the go-cart, I just wanted to be careful, despite the fact that my brother, a few years younger, was doing just fine at full speed. Somewhere along the way, I outgrew some of that timidness and got into bike racing. Into biking, as in picking up road, track, and cross my first season.

My adventurous side started with rock climbing, but as I think back, both climbing and biking were there from the start. My family grew up in the beautiful countryside and farmland of Ohio enjoying the fine aromas of manure for the fields every spring. Fortunately, this also meant my brother and I had plenty of trees to climb and trails we could bike on whenever we wanted. I have to thank my dad for making sure we always had working bikes as we were growing up. He also inspired us with his tales of riding across the country with Wondering Wheels and with his ability to build bike jumps out of plywood and 2×4’s. I eventually headed off to college thinking of my bike as an essential part of life. It was a blast to ride and the fastest way to get to class.


YosemiteDuring undergrad at Miami University, I picked up rock climbing. But it was really my first trip to Yosemite a number of years later when I jumped into the deep end. One look at the walls of Yosemite Valley were enough to get me hooked. Year after year, I picked up more gear and climbed something more challenging, continuing to work toward the goal of climbing the walls of Yosemite. At this point I was in grad school in Baltimore, so while I worked around the clock in the lab, I did manage to fit in a little time for climbing visiting every piece of rock along the East Coast and then some. So coming to Chicago for med school was a little bit of a setback for my climbing, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bikes. After undergrad, as I mentioned I went to Baltimore for grad school. I decided to view to and from school despite riding through some of the roughest neighborhoods in B’more. Now whenever someone asks about bike commuting in Baltimore my answer is: I wouldn’t recommend it. But I had decided to bike and in probably didn’t know what I was getting into. And I just biked as fast as I could which worked most of the time. I rode like every car couldn’t see me, I dodged punk teenagers throwing rocks at me, and avoided getting run down by the 12 o’clock boys. Despite all of that I left Baltimore a dedicated bike commuter.

Once I came to Chicago I struggled with how to keep up my climbing. It got harder as med school intensified, so once the opportunity to jump into bike racing presented itself, I jumped in the deep end again. My first race was the Tour of Galena where I’m pretty sure I got close to last place, but I still had an awesome time. As road season faded out, I started to go into withdrawal, so I switched to getting my fix on the track. The pure speed and constant race strategy kept me hooked. But track season also ended, and along came the allure of mud, friends, and beer. My second season was dominated by surviving med school while my racing suffered. But near the end of my third year of med school, I decided my school could suffer and it was time to get serious about racing.

1380089_10201223755022223_212681686_nI started training at the track so I could cat up and race with the big kids on Thursday nights. Fortunately, this is where I met Lucas Seibel and found out the Spidermonkeys were really cool. Next thing I knew, I was going back to the tour of galena with a bunch of monkeys to ride the water slides and do a bit of racing. The weekend was a success, I did far better than my literal first time at the races. We also managed to eat a lot of hotel Belgian waffles and giant 2 pound hot pretzels. The deal was finally sealed, as far as I was concerned, a few weeks later at the gravel metric. After riding a grueling 4 hours of gravel, I was still in the middle of nowhere and starting to wonder if I had made a wrong turn. I was beat, but I thought I saw a rider behind me, so I just decided to wait for them. I had the good fortune of that rider being nobody less than Kelly Clarke. She was like, I eat gravel for breakfast; we’re all good. We figured out how to get back on track, and as I started to bonk and my knees stated to get cranky, Kelly pulled all the way home. That’s when I knew the monkeys were definitely awesome. As soon as I got around to making a team ride, Deanessa asked me if I wanted to join, and I instantly responded, yes!

In my first season as a monkey, I have had an unbelievable amount of fun. On the road, I got torn up by Lucas, and had a blast pushing the race pace with Monko and PJ. On the track, I formed a number of strategic team alliances, such as Team Homewreckers (Kelly, Rod, and I) where we relentlessly, unpredictably, and anti-strategically attack. Also Team Bonk Da Monkey with Jeremy and Justin from Bonkers, where we actually got some team tactics to work both on the track and on the road. Cross started out with two strong relay teams: The Sweaty Pretzels with Ann Marie and also The Kickin’ Kangaroos with Drew. Lindsey Fahey also allowed me to get my psychiatry practice started as I psychoanalyzed her cross performance. But basically hanging with you guys on and off the bike has been the best thing ever.

Team Homewreckers

Team Homewreckers

Bonk da monkey

Bonk da monkey

Sweaty pretzels

Sweaty pretzels

I’m finishing up my fourth year and about to see where I head for training as a psychiatrist. I sincerely had hoped that Chicago was going to be a top choice just so I could continue hanging with you guys. Buuuut, the West coast is looking like the ideal place to train. Also the rock climbing isn’t so bad, and they don’t have the polar vortex. So we need to talk about starting a west coast division of the monkeys. (I’ll find out for sure March 21st.) Regardless, I’ll always be a monkey at heart.

Call us, maybe?

Call us, maybe?

Spidermonkey of the Week – Gayle Stephens

7-04 020

My cycling goal?  Ride until I’m old, really old.

Since retelling a whole life story is of no interest to me and likely uninteresting at best for others, I decided to choose three cycling stories that taught me something.

First, that one can survive a bike crash, gracefully.  I never would have believed this before one June Sunday morning Spidermonkey ride.  I ended up in an ER with a dislocated elbow, endured the worst pain I had ever experienced, and my elbow required surgery.  Today I call it an easy-peasy recovery, one in which I was back on a bike in 10 days and returned to my massage therapy practice in 12 days.  The drugs were amazing and in a way, worth it.  After about four or five weeks, I was back on a team ride and noted at the end that my legs and lungs were the limiting factors, I had completely forgotten about my elbow.

Another story stands out because it helps me laugh at myself and be prepared. One Saturday night ages ago it seems, I agreed to do a local Sunday morning triathlon the next morning.  This was to be a fun family event with my experienced triathlete sister.  I was NOT a cyclist, nor a swimmer, only a little bit a runner.  All was going well Saturday morning.  She opted to begin with me in the next to last heat in a pool.  She left me in the first lap.  Still, I celebrated one leg down!  Next, I found my mountain bike and never made it out of the transition area … serious flat!  Zero air pressure after I rode a few yards.  Completely laughable and, to my surprise, a clear message that I should give it up. But, along comes a kind and generous woman who had already finished the complete event, and said to me with enthusiasm, “Here!  Ride my bike!”   So I did.  To me it was a super fancy Specialized road bike. I felt light and super fast!  In reality, it likely wasn’t as this was a Niles YMCA event, she was lending it to a completely thoughtless mountain bike cyclist/stranger, who failed at checking her tires at anytime before the race.  Lapped my sis on the three loop bike part of the event.  Huge reason to giggle as this was HER event after all.

My last story deepened my trust.  Before I even knew the Spidermonkeys existed, I rode one season on the Monday night Chicago Cycling Club rides whose purpose is paceline training.  One longer than normal ride, it seems we were still northbound and it was getting dark quickly.  Up to then, my only night riding was in the City under streetlights galore, so my wimpy blinky lights were all I had.  I figured out that being in front of a guy with beacon quality lighting was safe.  No noticeable adjusting the speed for darkness had me silently worried.  I could see enough to follow the wheel in front of me but what I couldn’t see were potholes, rocks, etc.  Trust became all I had.  I learned that if the wheels two up were smooth sailing, that was the specific path to follow.  Each block increased my trust and therefore the excitement and thrill.  It was like meditating to me. Trusting me, my bike, the road, the sounds, the skills of all the other riders.  I completely relaxed and gave into trust each moment.  After I was home safely, pure excitement was gushing through my whole being.  I felt my happy heart pounding and a wish to experience more of this.


It was in the retelling of this story to a friend who told me, “You need to date a cyclist!”   So, in a way, I credit her and the Universe for putting Charlie and me together. He’s not a Spidermonkey but rides sometimes with our group. While we met the old fashioned way via friends at a Chicago summer neighborhood fest, our second date was a ride and we’ve had many more since.

I ride just the right amount.  I’m getting to do other things like part-time parenting, my massage therapy biz, so although I don’t ride as much as many of you, I’m still getting to do pretty much exactly what I love pretty much most of the time.

When I’m not cycling, I visit offices and events offering on-site chair massages, making life better for people who work at a desk.  I also see clients privately in my massage space at Lincoln/Roscoe/Paulina, around the corner from Roxanne’s killer spin class.

Sixteen years ago, a friend offered to teach me a 15 minute chair massage routine and I have never looked back since.  The same year, a week long meditation retreat in Northern California deepened my decision to change careers.  I started working as a massage therapist with only three months of training and after a few more months of seeing clients, I began formal education to become a nationally certified practitioner.  I love helping people feel better in their bodies, helping people notice what a powerful resource the nervous system is.  Not just for the health of our approximate 100 trillion cells that make up one human body, but also for our thinking and how we view our experiences, all through bodywork. Life is an amazing and exciting gift. There is no need to suffer inside our bodies while enjoying this gift.


Oh, one photo is of Charles and me.  Another is of Charlie’s son and me, eagerly awaiting the Spidermonkey crew cycling by our Damen Avenue apartment. The last one is me working on a very exhausted Emanuele Bianchi at the Chicago Velo Campus during its construction.  He wrote to me, “Those were 36 very hard days and that massage was something really good for my body.”  What an honor!  And, more recently, I’ve had the honor and luck to work on several Spidermonkeys.


I have a serious interest in helping with Spidermonkey MS Ride efforts but haven’t figured out exactly what that looks like yet.  Stay tuned.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

Lastly, silver LeMond, smallish sized, that’s my bike and me.

Thank you Spidermonkeys for being such a fun and supportive cycling team!   You all are amazing and I can’t wait to meet more of you.





Spidermonkey of the Week – Colleen Klein

by Colleen Klein

Klein - My Cruiser

My beach cruiser!

As I was thinking of all of the words that best describe biking to me….I realized how much those words actually described ME and the way I look at life.

Let me explain, here are a few references to biking (B) and my Life (L) with some of those words:


B:     Every time I get on a bike, there is a sense feeling free and alive when that wind hits your face!

L:     Okay this one is a bit too easy… alive check!  But seriously, many things in life have made me realize we can’t take life for granted, I’m truly thankful for every day and blessed that I can live the life I do.


B:     I LOVE biking, rarely do I ever not get excited to go biking (minus VQ test days)

Klein - Half Ironman transition

Half Ironman Bike Transition

L:     I’m a pretty passionate gal; I love a lot of things….my job (for real), my friends, my family, music, good restaurants, good wine, traveling, etc.  I try to live in the moment and really be invested in time spent with others or anything I do.


B:     Always get back up and on the saddle, if it is on your first Saturday group ride and you can’t seem to clip out in time (not sure who would do that though ;-) ). I always like a good challenge and some healthy competition.  Which is why I started doing triathlons, joined a badass bike group, and continue to find ways to set new goals (a Century Ride, Vineman 70.3, and a bike race?! for 2014)

L:     I’m a sales manager so gotta hit those sales goals!  My parents always instilled an environment where we weren’t allowed to give up; if we committed to a team or activity we needed to be committed until the very end.  And if you are doing it, you might as well do the best you can!  With the right support and attitude it’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish when you stick with it.

Mountain Biking in Patagonia

Mountain Biking in Patagonia

Active/Adventure/Thrill Seeking:

B:     A new challenge, a new path, a new view and those darn stomach drops speeding down a hill keep biking adventurous and thrill seeking.   Cyclocross and Road races definitely terrify me which is exactly why I feel the need to try it….that and I’m dying to race in something where I don’t need to swim first. J

L:     No couch potato here…rarely will you find me sitting at home; I also love to dance (salsa anyone?!), kickbox, do triathlons, ski (or attempt to), hike, travel, etc, etc.  Some may say I do “too” much but I like to stay active and it keeps life interesting


Colleen on the right

Slightly blurry, but I’m on the right

B:     I still vividly remember the day I got my first bike with training wheels, the day they came off, the constant request of “mom – can we go around the block”, going everywhere in town with my twin sister and friends via my hot pink bike.   Getting on a bike today brings me back, makes me smile, and feel like a kid again!

L:     Never take myself too serious…which is why I also bought myself a beach cruiser too!  I don’t always need to be a hard core biker and it’s just SO fun to just cruise around…now I just need a beach where I can do it more often!

Always Learning:

B:     There is ALWAYS more to learn, I still consider myself a new rider even though I’ve biked all of my life and have done tons of triathlons.  However, I just started group riding this summer (thanks to SMs!) and although I’m a pretty strong rider,  I still have a lot to learn…still struggle changing tires, need to improve my bike handling, get better with bike maintenance and mechanics, continue to get comfortable in tight groups, etc, etc.  SO please be patient with me!

L:     I spend any spare money I have traveling, the more I travel the more I realize how small we are in this world and how much more there is learn and see.  Off to Asia in a few weeks, can’t wait!

Half Ironman Finisher!

Klein-bike quote

I love this quote, goes along with my bike/like comparisons!


B:     Umm…Spidermonkeys!!  I’m so glad that some Chicago Tri Club friends introduced me to the SMs, you guys are AWESOME!  This is the exact type of group I needed to improve my skills and hang out with some cool people that enjoy this sport as much as I do (beer sponsor helps too).  Venus de Miles sealed the deal to officially join the club this fall…yes, I’m the girl that is always ruining the pics with my non-SM gear but don’t worry I put my order in so soon enough I will be in the orange and black like everyone else.  Excited for that!!

L:     I’m a social little butterfly, and have a great network of amazing friends and family that I cherish a ton!

Spidermonkey of the Week – Tony Green

This picture below is almost my earliest cycling memory.


Up until that day, I’d been struggling to ride my bike without training wheels (we call them ‘stabilisers’ in Scotland) and even my younger sister was riding without them. My friends, out of a combination of charity and disgust took me aside one day and spent the whole day making me ride (and repeatedly fall) without training wheels until I could do it.

Funny then, that some 40 years later, as a member of Spidermonkey Cycling, I realize that the combination of friendly external peer pressure and internal “Please-don’t-let-me-f***-this-up” still works.

More on that later.

Incidentally, my Dad took the photo when he came home from work that day and I wanted to show him that I could ride on my own. And if you look closely, you will notice that I am wearing a tie. Apparently, I thought this quite a formal occasion.

I’ve noticed that many of these Spidermonkey of the Week posts tend to look back fondly (even romantically) on their early bikes. Not me. No way.

‘Course, now that I mention it… there was this one bike….


Ok, quickly then – Raleigh Tomahawk. Banana seat, bright red paint job, 3-speed lever mounted on the right handle bar (a slight step lower than the more upmarket Raleigh Chopper model, which had the 3-speed shift lever mounted on the top tube like the stick shift of a car). Man, riding around Glasgow with that bike, that was really… Ahem. Sorry about that – not sure what happened there.

All right, flash-forward several years to when I had a decent touring bike and my friends and I would go bike touring in Scotland for a week or so at a time. We particularly liked the lowlands of Scotland because there were plenty of Youth Hostels (where we could stay cheaply) and plenty of pubs (where we could drink cheaply.) There would be a general high level plan along the lines of “Let’s plan on being back home in a week. Roughly.” We’d look at the map, pick a Youth Hostel and ride to it. Have dinner. Go to the pub. Wake up the next day, look at the map, pick a youth hostel, ride to it and go to the pub. The freedom of being able to go anywhere with no deadlines or schedules was incredibly liberating.

[Tony’s Touring Tip: Take all the panniers and luggage off the bike before you go to the pub. It makes the bike lighter so you feel like you’re flying and you won’t have to worry about trying to get all that gear off the bike after you’ve had a few drinks.]

And that was all cycling was. Just a fun social thing. Nothing serious.

Until 1986. Which, besides being the statistical mean birth year of Spidermonkey Club members, is also the year I started to follow professional cycling. It was also the year that the Irish cyclist Steven Roche won the Triple: The Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and World Championship in the same year. A feat not repeated since. I was fascinated, started riding more, joined a cycling club in Manchester, where I was living at the time, started racing and was really enjoying the vibrant, energetic and growing cycling scene in the UK.

Then I moved to the US in 1989.

The cycling scene was completely different. Cycling in the US was almost underground compared with the UK. It was hard to get any cycling news at all. I craved the latest VeloNews (in print, people – no websites yet!) There were so few American racers in Europe, they were regarded as oddities. Of course one of them, Greg LeMond, did manage to win the Tour that year. Anyway, I found a cycling club, 2CC (which is still around) and rode and raced with them for many years. Saturdays were spent with 3-4 cyclists and bikes in one car happily driving 3-4 hours downstate for a 45-minute criterium and then driving home. I’m happy to say that one of the guys I rode with back then, Charlie Jolls, is a Spidermonkey.

Then one year, maybe 2004, I just stopped riding. I had just completed the Deathride (125 miles, 16,000’ of climbing in one day) in Lake Tahoe and had finally completed all 5 summits after 3 years of attempts. I entered the off-season and never came out of it. Don’t know why.


In 2009, my road bike was stolen. Then my mountain bike was stolen. Then I stole my mountain bike back. And finally, in2011, I bought a new road bike and started riding again. I ran into Jerry Ortega, an old 2CC buddy one day, and asked for a recommendation of a club to join. I knew that 2CC was still a racing focused club and I wasn’t interested in that anymore. “Yeah, there’s this club called Spidermonkey.”

Spidermonkey? Seriously?


I rode informally on Saturdays with the club in 2012, struggling to keep up but was encouraged by everyone. I don’t there’s anyone that was on a Saturday ride in 2012 or early 2013 that didn’t babysit me back up to the group at some point. You all know who you are.

This is only my 2nd official year as a Spidermonkey but I can’t imagine any club being a better fit for me. It’s a privilege to ride with such a great group. The two big events for me this year are the MS Ride in June and the Leipheimer Gran Fondo in California at the beginning of October. That’s a long season, with several thousand miles of riding in great company with Spidermonkey Cycling.




Spidermonkey of the Week – Drew Randall

Growing up I must have enjoyed riding my bike a lot because I still remember the bikes I had. My favorite bike of them all was a Huffy (nothing fancy, just a kid’s bike) with a neon green and purple paint job.

I still can remember barreling down the hill on my street with the wind whistling past my ears, then slamming on reverse pedal brake (if that’s the correct term) to peel-out as I arrived at my driveway just to see how far I could go. Not too far, maybe 2-feet…

Needless to say the excitement of biking wore off in middle school and completely vanished in high school. Soccer was a big part of that. I have played soccer since I was 6 and really haven’t stopped. I got the opportunity to play soccer at a small college in Kentucky, which was one of the best experiences of my life. This was partially due to the lifelong friends I met on the team. College soccer only lasted a year and, long story short, I moved to Louisville, KY to continue my studies at the University of Louisville.

Here I met the single reason I came to Chicago, my most amazing girlfriend Alina. We met during her senior year, my junior year, in the civil engineering program. It’s weird, right? Two engi-nerds. She pushed me to become more competitive outside of team sports. We started running together, because that’s what she did for fun, and well, it kept me in shape for soccer. Running short races led to running longer races (half-marathons), then to triathlons, which became a passion of mine for a short while.

My first 5-mile race with Alina and friends.

My first 5-mile race with Alina and friends.

My first Olympic distance triathlon.

My first Olympic distance triathlon.

Getting into triathlons required me to get a new bike, my first road bike to be exact. It was a KHS Flite 300, the same bike I still do my road biking on today. I remember the first day I got on the new bike, I was so shocked at how squirrelly the damn thing was. To my surprise, it didn’t take too long to tame the wild steed. This became my mode of transportation to and from school on good weather days.

A year later Alina graduated and moved to Chicago. The following year, 2011, I followed once I finished my degree (seems how it works for most guys). I already knew the long distance thing sucked!

Alina and me (Company Dinner)

Alina and me (Company Dinner)

Moving to Chicago with no friends, I initially spent a lot of time at work or doing my own thing (i.e., lifting weights or swimming). Alina introduced me to some of her running friends including Brian Feyereisen who became a good friend and cycling buddy.

In the summer of 2012, Brian and I started checking out Chicago cycling teams. The first team we rode with was super intense and not really my cup of tea. A couple weeks later Brian suggested that we check out the Spidermonkey’s because Megan Kuzydum (now Megan Feyereisen) had so many great things to say about them.

Needless to say that’s how it all started…….

Brian and me at the Spidermonkey End of the Year Bash 2012

Brian and me at the Spidermonkey End of the Year Bash 2012

I started riding with the Spidermonkey’s and after about three weeks or so, decided to take the plunge and become an official member. I felt that this team was the perfect match for my personality (fun, accepting, social, and driven) and I knew after joining the team things would only get better.

Anxious to start the 2013 season, I was hoping to bike 2,000 miles and try out cyclocross. I started chiseling the mileage off at our first ride of the year in March and tried to stay consistent. I went to Spidermonkey Training Camp in Galina, IL where I met a lot of new people on our team, and was able to find myself as a cyclist. In Kentucky the rolling hills never ended and I thought Galina hills would be just like good ol’ Kentucky hills. Boy was I wrong. The hills were RIDICULOUS. I remember two full days of having to pull every last once of energy to attempt to keep up with the team and summit each hill. As I look back on it, it was one of the best things I could have done to become a stronger rider.

In keeping up with my goals, I found a cyclocross bike through craigslist while visiting friends in Lafayette, IN. It didn’t take long to join the cyclocross practices and sign up for my first race partnered with Lindsey for the co-ed and Nate for the men’s race relay. With the first race I was hooked. I signed up for the race at Dan Ryan Woods and placed 12th in the 4/5’s race.

Team Sloppy Joes at Relay Cross

Dan Ryan Woods CX

Dan Ryan Woods CX

Next was the two-day race in Indian Hills and a weekend in the suburbs with the team. Saturday’s race went great as we tackled mud, wind, and rain and I came in 19th place. Sadly, a huge storm rolled through Sunday morning and all races were cancelled so I signed up for the Racin’ Basin in Melas, IL to make up for it. I finished the season at Montrose in the snowy cold. Or so I thought.

A friend talked me into one final, non-CCC race at Douglass Park, the After-Glow. This race was a true cyclocross event and we finished completely caked in mud. The mud made the course very slippery and challenging, but I managed to grab a few fire ball shots (hand-ups) along the way to keep my spirits up. To say the least, it’s been a great season and a great couple of years with the Monkeys and I can’t wait to get riding again!

Afterglow at Douglas Park

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 – Dave Donnelly

by Dave Donnelly

Richards Riders-smThroughout my childhood, teens, and adulthood I’ve had a ton of experiences with sports in one form or another. None of them turned out well…

My first attempt with sports was in grade school. I think the whole class signed up for football. I was abnormally tall, which was often mistaken for “big”, so I was immediately drafted and put on the front of the offensive line. My first game I was knocked over by a kid half my size right away and literally pushed about twenty yards behind the rest of my team… So there went football.

Next was basketball. Again, due to my abnormal height, the coaches were all over me. After repeatedly tripping over my own shoes, making baskets for the other team, and other comedic mishaps I decided enough was enough. I told my coach that basketball was interfering with my piano lessons, which was true but I’m sure you can guess how that went over.

I loved soccer but never seemed to be able to control the ball. Had a blast playing lacrosse but hated checking people. Enjoyed tennis but once again, not so good. Sailing made me seasick. The guys in crew at my school were just jerks.

The only athletic endeavor that has always kind of stayed with me has involved bicycles.

When I was six I got my first bike. The Schwinn Bantam. Coolest bike on the block. I rode that thing everywhere.

kid pic with cutlaskid pic with the dog

Next up was my Schwinn Thrasher. It was a sleek, blue, bmx bike and definitely upped my cool points in the neighborhood. Growing up on Northwestern University’s campus was especially great at this point. They were constantly demolishing buildings and leaving huge, empty mud pits. With a little imagination and the right group of buddies these mud pits turned into the perfect offroad, bmx course.

When I outgrew the Thrasher my parents introduced me to my next two-wheeled friendship. This time in the form of a Schwinn 12 speed. I rode everywhere, until my interest in bicycles went on hiatus.

In the decade that followed I got back into music, went to school for sound, joined a punk band, toured, put out albums, broke up the band, started a new band, fell in love, moved to California, joined a motorcycle gang, ran a record store, got engaged, got unengaged, joined another punk band, moved back to Chicago, ran a motorcycle shop, caused some trouble, moved to Wyoming..


Then I bought another bicycle. It turns out living in a tiny town way up in the mountains in Wyoming was a difficult place to make friends. Mountain biking turned out to be a great solution. I could get on a great path right outside of my back door and be in the middle of nowhere in half an hour.

After a little over a year I returned to Chicago with a rekindled love of bicycling. My first year back I commuted by bike, even most of the winter. In the spring I started to get tired of being passed by road bikes and started thinking about a change. That decision was made for me about a day later when my clunky mountain bike was stolen.

So I built a really neat road bike with parts recommended by cyclist friends. Riding escalated from commuting to rides to the botanical garden with some friends, to the Apple Cider Century.

I was ready to up the ante a bit and wanted to do something charity driven. A friend introduced me to the Ride for AIDS, Chicago. This was really good for me because it had great training and really helped with my cycling (it’s 200 miles!). It was also a great charity and I felt really good about raising money for them. I even captained a team of 60 for a few years.


So after the second year of the 200 miles a few of us decided to do the Northshore Century together. It was kind of chilly and threatening to rain but we decided to go for it. About twenty miles into the ride we were passed by this huge group of rowdy, exciting, super fast riders. I asked myself if I thought I could do that. I started pedaling as fast as I could to catch up and reached them at a light. I super nervously asked if I could try and join. A guy near the back said sure, just stay towards the back and hang on. I rode with them for about thirty miles and it was a blast!! So much energy and fun! I hung out at the half way point with them a little but was too shy to strike up a conversation. All of a sudden someone yelled “Spidermonkeys! Let’s roll!” and they all mounted up and left.

I hung out at the stop and waited for my friends to catch up. The second they arrived all I could talk about was how fast we went and how nice they all were and how much fun it was. I told myself that I was going to learn to ride like that and join that team some day.

In my thirties I’ve learned how to throw a pretty good spiral, become a relatively good basketball player, and even tried soccer again (I still suck). And yet, my favorite athletic accomplishment of my thirties was riding the Northshore Century with the Spidermonkeys. I can’t tell you enough how excited I am to be part of a team with so many amazing, encouraging, and talented people. And I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

ns cent

Spidermonkey of the Week – Emily Beswick

by Emily Beswick

2005ragbraicelebrationSag wagon, bicycle shop, repair vans, shower guys, and medical assistance were all foreign words as I began my cycling career during Ragbrai (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa) 2005. I decided the route was starting 15 miles from my hometown, Sioux City, Iowa and I would bandit the ride for 1 day; after all it was only 65.5 miles.

As I pulled out of LeMars “the ice cream capital of the world,” I thought I was prepared with my free green Huffy that I won at my college health fair and my Camelback hydration pack. The first half of the ride was fairly easy with stops for food/drinks every 6-8 miles. As the temperature was pushing triple digits, and I made the turn north for the last 20 miles I ended up getting a flat tire without a tube or CO2 cartridges. The fun turned into tears. Even after I had help fixing my tire I was exhausted. My first big ride had me pedaling and crying all the way to the end.

Once I arrived in Sheldon a huge smile was on my face and a feeling of accomplishment overcame me. I couldn’t wait to celebrate with a beer.

How powerful a spell does RAGBRAI cast over the first time rider? After a few hours on the road I was hooked and promised to be back for the entire week next year.

2006 was the year I officially signed up for Ragbrai, it was 444 miles of adventure. I decided to experience it the real way and tent the whole week rather than stay in hotels/friends homes along the way. I also decided to upgrade and get my 1st real bike. I purchased a Specialized Rockhopper. My mileage/training was riding the mountain bike trails of Stone State Park and I couldn’t understand why I needed more than 1 bike much less a road bike. I thought at that time every bike was created equal. Now, I was ready for the journey with my foot cages, upgraded water bottles, and bike jersey/cycling shorts. Starting early Sunday morning I embarked on my journey with 30,000 other cyclists of all shapes, ages, and sizes. I began my ride with the long tradition of dipping the front tire in the Missouri River at the start of the ride across Iowa and again the back tire at the conclusion in the Mississippi River. The highlight for me at the time was riding on the same road as another Ragbrai virgin, Lance Armstrong.

ridingwithlance 2006ragbrai


In October 2008 I moved to Chicago. Once I completed my list of bucket items to being a “true Chicagoan”, Sears Tower stair challenge and the January bikini polar plunge with water temps in the low 30’s; I thought that finding a cycling team would be a good way to meet friends and also be less life threatening. I joined a newly formed women’s downtown team that was close to my work/home. We didn’t ride everyday but I enjoyed the long ride camaraderie and the mileage helped me to complete Ironman Wisconsin on 9/11/2011 as I was now a true “roadie” with my Specialized Roubaix.

After a few years with this team I was sick of being dropped on the “no drop” Saturday ride by the 4 boys that rode and frequently was the only girl. I started looking for teams during the Gapers Block Crit races this year. The 1st night I had inquired with Half Acre and found them to be cult/sorority like in their team selection. Night 2 I was packing my things into the car and Kelly Clarke/Michelle Moore were next to me. I saw the Spidermonkey kit and asked “how hard is it to find a team to join in Chicago that likes to ride bikes and drink beer?” She stated the next team ride was on Saturday and we exchanged numbers. A few weeks later we were riding a century up to Frank’s Diner in Kenosha, WI.


I am so grateful I asked them that question that day. I love being a Spidermonkey!! The numerous options to ride every day of the week and the variety of paces/miles is great. My favorite rides are Tuesday morning girls ride and the fast pace Wednesday nights (each week as the season progressed I was proud I made it further in the ride before getting dropped).

Furthermore, I love the social aspect and having beers with the team. What’s not to like about a Goose Island Dock party and various special beer release parties!!??!!

mondaymorningrideI’m looking forward to a great 2014 season with the Spidermonkeys. My first Vegas trip will be this year and Tour of Galena is on the calendar again. As I look back I am proud of my journey as a cyclist and I am grateful to ride amongst the best in Chicago who are on our team.

I am also proud that I’ve expanded my vocabulary to consist of saying….all I want for Christmas are size 42 Mavic Zxenon cycling shoes, a Seven Axiom SL, and a bike fit with Get a Grip Cycles (and actually know what that means)!! :)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Lauren Wissman

by Lauren Wissman


A year ago I was riding my bike to get to-from class and to pick up dried mango at Trader Joes.  I don’t think that’s called anything besides some frump who rides her bike to get groceries.  Now I’m a commuter and I guess an amateur cyclist. BAM.  Funny what cleats, some carbon, and a bike posse can turn you in to.

Don't get in my way

Don’t get in my way

I’ve always had an obsession with all things sports related.  Growing up I didn’t have cable or X-Box and barely listened to music (before I discovered Simon & Garfunkel around age 10). Most all of my time was spent outside or participating in some athletically driven endeavor: learned to ski at 3, then figure skating, softball, and volleyball, until I started playing basketball and soccer competitively.


X-mas lists included rollerblades, footballs, Tracy McGrady TMAC 6s (which I never got and still want), and giant dog stuffed animals.  I did get a bike for x-mas one year (this is where my saga becomes relevant). There was probably 8-10 in. of snow and the roads were covered.  I remember having to be stealthy getting out of the house.  At the time, my left humerus was still healing from a recent fracture after hitting a plank of wood off a golf cart path jump on a plastic snowboard.

A soccer career/broken leg/torn ligament/onset ankle arthritis later, I was advised to find a different sport.  It was winter 2012.  Thought!!!! Cycling!!! Group rides!! Outdoors! Chicago… So after some extensive googling I found PWP and emailed Kristen to ask if I could get involved.  I did.  I liked it; mostly because I’m ok with self-inflicted physical suffering (the fun kind), but also because there were Christmas lights and RAD jams and I was sandwiched between KMesh and Kelly ‘the masher’ Clarke.  I went to a team event (which involved beer no way) and before I knew it I had signed up for the Gapers Block crits as an almost-monkey.  And there you have it.


Although I’m pleased with the results I’ve gotten this past race season, being adopted by Spidermonkey and having the opportunity to meet so many impressive and positively awesome people in the cycling community has really been the highlight of my intro to the sport.  Nine months ago I barely knew any of you; or the difference between clinchers and tubulars, a criterium and cyclocross, SRAM vs. Shimano; and I won’t pretend like I have it figured out now.  Cycling went from 10% of my life to 80%, 98% on weekends.  And I’m 120% happy about it.  Sunday I spent 8 hours in the snow watching grown men ride around/through/over sledding children for a chance to win Lagunitas and a Pepper Palace variety pack; “you’re one stop shop for hot sauce, BBQ sauce, salsa, pickled items, jellies and jams, beef jerky, and more!”  And it wasn’t strange to me at all.




I tell the friends I have left who aren’t cycle-crazy about our team and tomfoolery.  My parents now ride regularly (Carole just got a Cannondale Synapse roadie and my dad wants to commandeer my CX bike so he can start racing), my aunt is hopping back on a bike for the first time since she was a kid, and I get updates when friends complete big rides, get their first pair of bike shoes or see a Spidermonkey riding on the street…if you hear a CAW CAAAW from an unknown source, carry on.  This thing we do is contagious and I’m truly honored to be a part of it, especially with SM.  So officially, I want to say, YOU GUYS ARE GREAT AND I LIKE YOU A LOT A LOT.


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