Category: SOTW (page 3 of 7)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Stuart Janssen

I didn’t come to cycling until I was already in my 20’s. Of course I had bikes when I was a kid, but my use thereof was mostly around our cul de sac or on the occasional family trip.

familyMost people I meet are surprised to find I was overweight most of my life. I just didn’t take to sports that were popular with other kids; I was signed up for – and subsequently hated – both soccer and t-ball by my parents when I was in elementary school. I was too confused for football and too uncoordinated for basketball. I had a brief fling with hockey when I was in middle school, but I think most of my enjoyment was from my already-adult stature finally having a practical use, namely bowling over the pipsqueak kids who made fun of me at school.

I tried body-building in high school, but my weight didn’t change much. The day I graduated from high school I think I weighed in around 255.

It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year of college in Philadelphia that I started riding a bike. I had developed psoriatic arthritis and walking to and from campus had become more painful than I could deal with so a bike seemed an ideal way to get there. The bike was some heavy hunk of junk from Target, but it did the trick. I rode to school the whole summer, even after my parents’ insurance finally agreed to pay for the medication that alleviated my symptoms. I started going out for longer rides along the Schuylkill River on the weekends.

Halfway through my junior year of college said hunk of junk was stolen from the bike rack in front of the gallery I was interning at, which nicely coincided with a trend that I had noticed all the cool kids picking up on: fixies. I got a cheap steel single speed, and kept riding. After a few months I got tired of the frame flexing under me (I was still fluctuating 10-15 lbs a year) so I sold it to build up my first real bike:

two wheelsets, 3 sets of pedals, 4 sets of tires, countless chains and g-d knows how many crashes and its still going

two wheelsets, 3 sets of pedals, 4 sets of tires, countless chains and g-d knows how many crashes and its still going

I rode (and still ride) this thing everywhere. Fast forward a year and one of my fraternity brothers got the cycling bug and we started doing 50-60 mile round trips 2-3 times a week, him on a converted hybrid, me on my fixie. I started eating healthier and the weight started falling away.  Right after we graduated we did a metric century, and despite two flats, I still finished 45 minutes after him.

I was hooked. As soon as I got home I called my parents and told them I wanted to split the cost of a roadbike for my graduation present. I even started shaving my legs and wearing lycra.



shhh, don’t tell

shhh, don’t tell

I figured I’d give racing a try, thinking that if I could keep up with “roadies” on my fixie, I could probably outpace them on a real road bike. As I suspect is the case with most beginning cyclists, this proved to be 80% hubris and 20% actual leg power. I sucked, but I found I didn’t care that much- I’d finally found a sport that I enjoyed, even if I was finishing nearly dead last most of the time.

When I moved back to Florida to work on my grad school applications, I kept racing and with more free time to train, it turned out I wasn’t half bad (I just wasn’t half good either).

7 out of 17 I think? To be fair, half the field ate it on the first lap

7 out of 17 I think? To be fair, half the field ate it on the first lap

This was the race in Orlando where I separated my right shoulder going over a log

This was the race in Orlando where I separated my right shoulder going over a log


I moved to Chicago in August 2012 to pursue a masters degree in arts education, hoping that I’d be able to find a friendly team to ride and train with, and to continue improving as a newly minted cat 4.

After riding with XXX a few weekends in a row and trying unsuccessfully to ride with Half Acre, I happened upon the Spidermonkey website and showed up for a Sunday ride where I met Geoff. I went on a Saturday ride later that month and met Drew and Roxanne. After only two rides, I knew I wanted to be part of this team- the people were friendly and the kits were cool. The past year has been busy but awesome, thanks guys.


racing SMC


People to ride with and “improving” as a cyclist; one out of two ain’t bad



Spidermonkey of the Week – Kirsten Swanson

by Kirsten Swanson

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

5 Years Old!

5 Years Old!

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

Model for Pearl Izumi

Model for Pearl Izumi

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

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

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

My Favorite Beer (after 312 of course)!

My Favorite Beer (after 312 of course)!

Spidermonkey of the Week – Jenny Lynch

by Jenny Lynch

Jenny Lynch and Lindsey Fahey

Jenny Lynch and Lindsey Fahey

@Ken Dorado – I see your Big Wheel® Night Rider and raise you a Cabbage Patch Kids Big Wheel®.  Nothing screams “badass” like a purple and teal “bike” with flower stickers and a basket for your toys.  (Side note: Anyone who has seen my current bike may notice that my style has not changed much over the years and I still tote around just as much luggage).

Cabbage Patch Kids Big Wheel

Cabbage Patch Kids Big Wheel

Growing up on a small cul-de-sac in Chicago provided an excellent training ground for riding.  My routine consisted of going around in small circles over and over and over and…..  I looked forward to the time when I could take on the wild yonder past the end of the block.  When I was finally able to graduate from my Big Wheel to the big leagues (i.e. a Huffy), I was ecstatic.  My first “real” bike was a lovely shade of neon pink.  It was, of course, adorned with handlebar streamers and spoke beads, a natural continuation of “badassness.”  Every 4th of July the kids in the neighborhood would decorate their bikes and form one large crazy train that rolled throughout the hood.  I remember thinking that life could not get any better.

4th of July Kids Parade

4th of July Kids Parade

(I’m not this old, but I found this picture online of my neighborhood walk/bike parade from back in the day.  Cool to think of how far back it has been a tradition!)

My next big bike milestone came when I outgrew the neon pink machine.  My parents got me another Huffy (nothing like building brand loyalty at an early age).  It was purple with neon pink accents and a neon pink paint splash effect on the frame… much more sophisticated than its predecessor.  This bike also had the potential for pegs.  Yes, pegs, the ultimate bike accessory!  My peg dreams were quickly quashed by my parents (and in retrospect… probably for the best).  I loved my pegless bike in all its glory for many years.  I even loved it after I unsuccessfully tried to stand up AND let go of the handlebars at the same time [fail…scars].

Come junior high, my purple bike with neon splashed paint was not as cool looking as I remembered.  It was even rejected by a bike thief in the neighborhood (three bikes unlocked and out in the open, only two were taken… hmm, was it that bad?!  How rude…).  When I started high school, I retired from my amateur bike career and sadly there was a long hiatus before my love for biking was rekindled.

Mountain Biking!

Mountain Biking!

Fast forward many years and, on a whim, I purchased my first road bike.  Similar to my Big Wheel, there was some amount of purple and flowers involved.  After a couple more years, Lindsey Fahey decided that it was time to be legit with this bike thing (reference Fahey SMOTW).  After much trepidation, I joined her and a lovely group of ladies on a Tuesday morning ride.  Despite having no clue what I was doing, I was so drawn to how friendly everyone was and how accepting they were of such a flaming amateur.  The more I went on SM rides and met people, the more I grew to love the team and the whole underground bike culture that I had previously evaded me.

Two monkey years later, I have learned a ton, I am still NOT “so pro”, but overall I have had a wonderful time and look forward to many more years pedaling away.  When I sat down to write this I was flooded with amazing memories from my childhood that involved bikes, fun, and friendship.  Reflecting on the past few years and my time with Spidermonkeys, that continues to be the theme.
wind farm

Spidermonkey of the Week – Ken Dorado

by Ken Dorado

Hi, I'm Ken

Hi, I’m Ken

My fondest memory on a bike was when my dad would take me on a ride. Placing me in the child seat on the back of his mountain bike. Family and bikes – that’s what it’s all about. Riding through the streets near our house, feeling the wind and the rush of speed gave me the feeling of freedom and all that I was exposed to during those early summer days. I was lucky to realize early on that this was a healthy escape. I was in nirvana in a kids bikes seat.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had some form of human powered transportation. My first ride was the special edition Big Wheel® Knight Rider™. Since then I’ve been addicted ever since.

My original ride

My original ride

After wearing off the plastic tires on my Big Wheel®, I graduated up to a red BMX bike in my teens. There, I learned to do my first wheelie.

Diamondback Zetec

Diamondback Zetec

After graduating high school, I moved onto college at Purdue where I learned the real meaning of owning a bike. Getting to class in a lot less time than on foot. Every minute counted for much needed rest. I enjoyed riding around with my Diamondback Zetec.

After college… I had it all… a travelling full-time job, a girlfriend and an overweight frame to show how “happy” I was. For some reason, I didn’t feel fulfilled and so I ditched the first two (tried to get rid of the third) and found a new religion – amateur racing.

I was first introduced to racing by my friend Ted Ramos and I had the honor of riding with him on Team Get-A-Grip. He’s a great coach at Well-Fit and dear friend. This is where I did my first set of mountain bike and Xterra races. If you’ve never done an Xterra race you need to. Xterra racing consists of a small tight-knit community and you are so close to nature. Nothing beats adventure endurance racing when combined with swimming, mountain biking and trail running. I’ve had my ups and downs with endurance racing, especially from my first triathlon. As easy as a doing a triathlon sounds, getting towed in by boat mid-swim was definitely a reality check and game changer for me. At the end of the day it added fuel to the fire.

Xterra World Champion Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz and I

Xterra World Champion Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz and I

If you thought it couldn’t get better than that, enter the world of Chicago Cyclocross (CX). Better known as the ChiCrossCup. What better way to train during the off cycling season with fun races!? I found CX as a great way to find release and decompress from a long year of hard criterium racing and triathlons.

Jackson Park - Date: 2009

Jackson Park – Date: 2009

Indian Lakes - Date: 2010

Indian Lakes – Date: 2010

After a year or two of racing with Get-a-Grip I ended up rolling with Team Iron Cycles. Although these guys were way more hard core than I, hanging with this crew made me a better all around cyclist. Here, I ended up taking on more road races seriously, especially criteriums. Although I wasn’t big into travelling to races at the time; I’ve really enjoyed going to the Tour of Galena. It’s the trifecta of road races. You get the opportunity to race a time trial, road race and criterium all in one weekend and take in the views of a gorgeous town.
This also happened to be my first experience hanging with the Spidermonkeys.

Tour of Galena - Criterium - Date: 2012

Tour of Galena – Criterium – Date: 2012

I ended up rooming with Spidermonkeys like Sara Rice, Peter Monko and Hayes Sanborn. There was an air about their demeanor which was down to earth but when they brought their game into the race their performance was nothing short of epic.

After getting to know some of the Spidermonkey’s I knew this was a special crew. I had to join them. Not only because of their diverse membership, which consists of volunteers to racers. The Spidermonkeys magically checked all the boxes of what I was looking for in an cycling group:

✔ – Vision

✔ – Great leadership (Dean & Vanessa – You rock!)

✔ – Strong relationships with members

✔ – Support for social causes

✔ – Tight-knit cycling and social community (Never miss a group ride or outing)

✔ – Humor (Hey, it goes a long way)

✔ – Great partnerships

But what they most represent to me. An extended family – ✔

Goose Island Dock Party - Date: 2013

Goose Island Dock Party – Date: 2013

Spidermonkey of the Week – Bailey Hatch

by Bailey Hatch

Two cyclists, with the last name Hatch!

Two cyclists, with the last name Hatch!

For thirteen years,

Swimming was all I knew.

Pruney fingers,

And chlorine perfume.


After a season of D1,

And 25lbs gained,

I was feeling tired,

And rather drained.


So my dad bought me a bike,

And some padded shorts to match,

There were now two cyclists,

With the last name Hatch!


An avid cyclist,

He taught me to ride,

Though on our first one,

I nearly died.


“Try harder” he said,

As he left me in the dust.

I tried to hang on,

But my ass was bust.


Eventually I could keep up,

And I rode more and more.

(Despite the 3 crashes,

And time I sailed into a door.)


I joined Illini Cycling,

And met three silly boys,

We’d drink and I’d listen,

While they talked about bike toys.

Illini Cycling!

Illini Cycling!

The cycling community,

Was so supportive and great.

And when my dad got sick,

They stepped up to the plate.


Riders reached out,

To offer love and support.

Because as we all know,

Cycling is more than a sport.


It’s a lifestyle shared with friends-

Fellow crazies on tiny seats.

Riding hundreds of miles,

All through the streets.


He passed away,

In February 2011.

Peacefully, around friends,

He went off to heaven.


I think of my dad,

Every time that I ride

And being his daughter,

I take much pride.


I looked for a club team,

When I moved here last year.

“Join Spidermonkeys!” said Eric Landahl.

“There’s bikes and there’s beer.”


So I joined the team,

And got really fast!

Accomplished my first century,

And had a blast.


Thanks for being awesome!

I’m a much better rider.

So proud to be a monkey,

That looks like a spider.

Baby SMC Jersey

Baby SMC Jersey

Spidermonkeys of the Week – Sarah and Eric

by Sarah Rice and Eric Landahl


Biking together in California

Sarah Rice
My first time….

Riding a good bike. June 12, 1982, my 9th birthday. My parents got me a gorgeous blue 5-speed Schwinn. I hit the brakes too hard going down a hill, endo’ed, and crashed head first into a parked car. The bike was so messed up that the handlebars touching the seat. My right leg had a 250-stitch gash, and I still have an awesome permanent scar instead of a Cat5 tattoo.

Visiting Chicago. May 25, 1986- “Hands across America”. Heading back to Wisconsin on the Kennedy, I stared longingly at the skyscrapers from the car sick seats in the back of my family’s Pontiac Grand Safari. My parents asked how I liked Chicago and I replied, “I will come here as soon as I can and stay for the rest of my life”.

Athletic Training. Summer, 1987. I read the legend of Milo of Kroton, who trained by carrying a bull calf each day until it became fully grown. Thinking that was B.S., I trained until I could do 18 underwater pullouts in the lake without surfacing. The neighbor kid recruited me to the high school swim team.

Romantically kissing. November, 1991. My dorm room next door neighbor and I were talking and hugging in his room. Then we kissed. It was both of our first serious romantic kiss. Can you imagine trying something for the first time and liking it so much that you had no desire to ever try anything else? That’s what happened. We dated 5 years and then got married.

Our 2nd date, December 1991.

Our 2nd date, December 1991.

Getting an important result. December 1998. Nariman and I were doing a late night experiment that gave us exactly the wrong answer. I erased the “expected results” from the chalkboard and drew up the real results. Then I realized that our experiment had told us how the cell’s transporters walk. The walking mechanism was simple and obvious, and everyone was going for it but no one had thought of it. We hugged each other, jumping up and down and yelling. That experiment led me all the way to Northwestern.

Running a marathon. Chicago 2004. I got hooked and ran 5 marathons before my first serious injury, a torn hamstring. Unable to run and a little burned out, I started triathlons in 2008. I didn’t miss running because riding my bike (something I hadn’t done much before) was really, really fun.

Racing a criterium. In May 2010 I bought the Cervelo R3 now known as Charlie. Ken Mitchell fit me on the bike and told me about the ABD practice crits in West Chicago. First time winning an omnium: June 12, 2010. First time starting in an NRC stage race: June 12, 2013. My 40th birthday.

Laughing beverage up my nose during a race. Lincoln Park, 2013. Spidermonkey teammates were drinking and cheering us on. They were so raucous and funny that I lost it after hearing, “Get off the course you bag o’ dicks!” I can’t wait to return that favor at Montrose in December.

Life has a lot of “firsts” by the time you’re 40. The important ones hit like lightning and stay with you forever. Cycling was an instant obsession for me, and thanks to the camaraderie and support of my Spidermonkey Cycling teammates, it’s gonna stay.


Eric Landahl
My first time…

I’m usually not very good at things the first time.  The first time I went out for an athletic team I got cut (from a swim team at age 7).  The first time I took algebra I flunked it.  And the first time I introduced myself to the gorgeous redhead in the college dorm (the one with the incredible leg muscles!) she told me to go away and slammed her door in my face.

Luckily I’m really stubborn.  I still swim competitively, and I managed to learn algebra eventually–although I did end up staying in school until I was nearly 30 years old.  The redhead is still around as well.

I don’t recall riding a bike for the first time; it was pretty much how I always got around the southside neighborhood where I grew up.  After driving a half-million miles as a Silicon Valley engineer and a government scientist I got rid of my car a few years ago.  Life as a University Physics professor encourages several eccentric behaviors: in my case this includes Divvying around Lincoln Park wearing a coffee-stained corduroy jacket carrying an obscure textbook under one arm with the bits & pieces of some demonstration lashed to the front basket with bungee cords.

Remarkably, my first time riding with Spidermonkey Cycling was a success.  My friend Grace introduced me to Dean at a Universal Sole run.  I had been itching to try something new after a hard triathlon season, so I came out the next Saturday.  I really enjoyed the challenge and camaraderie of the team’s group ride.  The only thing missing was the redhead; my stubbornness won out and she joined up a few months later.

My first time riding a new Surly Pugsley fat bike was two days ago.  I had been on the bike for less than five minutes before I endo’d and ruined the fork and disk brake.  Not many people can destroy a 35 lb bike and walk away from it!  I took this as a good omen.  As soon as I got home I immediately signed up for a winter bike race across northern Wisconsin…

Spidermonkeys of the Week – Dean and Vanessa

by Dean Okun and Vanessa Schilling


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



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!



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 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! ;)



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


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