Category: Spidermonkey of the Week (page 2 of 2)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Kelsey Phillips

Kelsey Picture 4 Track

I was riding home from work last winter. Knobby tires on to fight the snow and ice that were covering the lakeshore path north of Ohio St. It was coming down pretty hard but I felt fine, I had been riding through the winter for years now. But like every winter, I was spacing out and didn’t see the huge patch of ice 3 feet in front of me, and lost control and yard-saled.

A few yards away from me, another cyclist was fighting for control on the ice. I can’t remember if she fell or not, but I remember getting up and looking over at her. It was the middle of winter, so all I saw was cycling gear, not a discernable person. But then she asked if I was ok, and I heard the voice. It was Sarah Rice, a faculty member at my university, scary-smart biophysicist, and overall badass. I knew who she was, but she certainly didn’t know me. I was just a lowly grad student.

We exchanged “are you ok?”s and dusted ourselves off. I said something along the lines of “Oh, you’re Sarah Rice”, and she said something like “Ya, who the hell are you?”. I explained that I was a graduate student at Northwestern. And as we got back on our bikes and rode north, we started talking a bit about school, but mostly about bikes. I remember her looking at my winter beater bike and saying “that’s a funny lookin’ bike…” (it was).

As she turned off the path to head west and go home, she mentioned her cycling team, Spidermonkey. She asked if I had ever considered racing my bike. I hadn’t really. I had done plenty of running races before, but cycling? I had always ridden my bike as a hobby. As a way of clearing my head. As a way of getting everywhere. But racing? I said I’d shoot her an email.

I did shoot her an email. It took a while to actually get the gears (sorry) moving, but eventually the idea started to grow on me. I had heard of races happening in the Chicago area. I started to look at them more closely. Finally, I asked Sarah when the next race was. It was Montrose, the last race of the Chi Cross Cup. It was cylocross.

What the hell is Cyclocross?

I had asked a friend that I knew was into racing. She put me in contact with her friend that races cross. She posted on social media about a new girl needing a 53cm bike for Montrose. About 15 ladies responded, throwing their bikes at me. I would be hooked up just fine.

I showed up that Sunday morning with a six-pack for whoever ended up loaning me that bike. I found the Spidermonkey tent and saw people running in and out, throwing clothes on (or off), shoving food in their mouths. I think I saw a man (who I now believe to be Trent) chugging a beer at 9:30 in the morning.  It looked like a tent I could hang out in.

Some of the Spidermonkey ladies tossed me advice here and there as we got ready for the Women’s 4s race. I don’t know if I listened but somehow I was on the line, in the back, with a number and a cross bike, ready for whatever. The whistle blew and I just, kinda, raced I suppose. Tried to survive is probably more accurate. I was very out of my element. I was mostly just trying not the break the bike I was riding. But I had a blast doing it.


When I finished, and got back to the tent, and had a beer, and I think a waffle or two, I was hooked. I was gonna race bikes. I was gonna do it with Spidermonkey. It was thrilling.

Over the following months, the Spidermonkey team members started helping me out here and there. I signed up for PWP. I got my butt kicked by Kristen. Kelly Clarke showed up and lent me her other trainer. Lauren “Space Jam” Wissman laughed with me and made me feel welcome. Slowly I started to meet these women, and started to feel like I was becoming a part of a family.

I started going on group rides when March rolled (sorry) around. I met Dean and Vanessa. They made me smile for 3 hours straight even when I was fighting back breakfast as I sprinted to keep up with the group. I met Michelle Moore, whose wheel I always tried to get behind on rides because I knew that thing wouldn’t wiggle an inch. I was getting faster, and I could feel it.

Gapers Block crit series was coming up, and Kelly said it would be a great first crit race for me. Sarah insisted I start drilling corners so I’d be ready. She took me to the Lincoln Park Zoo parking lot at 7:00am on a Friday and basically made me take corners at speed for an hour. She rode my wheel too close, bumped my back wheel at speed, elbowed my ribs, everything that could happen in a race, she made me ready for. I rode up to the line for Gapers feeling safe and feeling confident. I wouldn’t have felt that way without Spidermonkey.

Kelsey Picture 2 Gapers Kelsey Picture 3 Gapers

After that, the crit season went into full force. And then track. And then cross again. I could go on for days about all the amazing moments I had with this team. Cramming 10 people in a 2-bedroom house for the Lacrosse Omnium, getting lost on a training ride in the hills of Galena, and even my first big crash that ended up injuring two of my fellow female racers.

Kelsey Picture 4 Track Kelsey Picture 5 Track

Good and bad memories alike, Spidermonkey has been there with me the whole time. Getting me back on my bike to finish those terrible races, cheering me up Snake Alley even when I was walking my bike, being so supportive and helping me become the best cyclist I can. I’m so thankful for this team, and every teammate on it. It’s made me a better cyclist, and a better person, as cheesy as it sounds. I’m just glad that I ate in on the ice last winter, and that Sarah Rice was there to laugh at me.


Spidermonkey of the Week – Ian Hughes

I would like to start off by saying I am absolutely thrilled and honored to be the Spidermonkey of the Week!  While I have always been what I thought was a huge cycling advocate, my love affair with bikes is only in its infancy when compared to everyone else on the team.  I now know that I have only just seen the tip of the iceberg and that by drinking the Spidermonkey Kool-Aid, I am opening up the floodgates to all things awesome.  I have been absolutely humbled through my experiences with those of you I have met so far on the team, and have been deeply inspired in reading all of the other SOTW posts.  Because of you, my goal for 2015 is to become a stronger and more skilled rider and make you all as proud of me as I am to be a Spidermonkey!

That being said, here’s a little about the guy that may be sucking your wheel at the start of this year’s rides.  I was born in New Mexico and bounced around between there, Texas, Ohio, and Los Angeles before moving back to Ohio for college and my first grown-up job in Cleveland.  As with most kids, bikes were a big part of my life growing up but two memories vividly stand out- learning how to ride and going on bike tours with my parents.  My Grandma Joan sat me on my first bike that I received for a Christmas present in Las Cruces, NM and literally shoved me down a hill repeatedly until I could stay on without falling.  Fortunately I got the hang of it before I ended up breaking something!  As for the bike tours, they became a family tradition while I was in grade school after my parents got into riding.  They started bringing me along on 20+ mile country rides around Carey and Columbus, Ohio and it always made for awesome family time.

Ian Hughes Picture 1  Ian Hughes Picture 2

Six years ago I moved to Chicago (chasing my then girlfriend, now wife, Kelly) and left behind my beloved Ohio after 13 years of fun.  When I first got here, I absolutely hated it.  I found myself very frustrated with the noise, concrete everywhere, seeming lack of outdoor opportunities, and most of all the traffic.  For sanity’s sake I stopped driving, took to public transportation and that made things a little better, but after 2 years I was completely over it.  In the spring of 2011, I finally had a moment of clarity while we were sitting in a mess of rush hour traffic in our car- a small group of cyclists effortlessly cruised past us with smiles on their faces.  I wanted (and needed) that freedom and happiness, and later that week I bought a bicycle and took to the streets.

Ian Hughes Picture 3

What started off as a means of getting to and from work quickly turned into my escape from all of the things I didn’t like about Chicago.  All of a sudden I was happier, healthier, and felt a meaningful tie to the concrete, traffic, and noise that used to drive me crazy.  These feelings grew deeper when I began bike commuting year round and really learned to appreciate everything that all of the four seasons throw at us.  The only problem I came across was that my commute was only 6 miles each way, and I wanted more!

Ian Hughes Picture 4      Ian Hughes Picture 5

When I left my job as an Environmental Consultant and went to work for Goose Island Beer Company three years ago, I had the unique opportunity to take this newly found passion and grow it further through sharing it with my new coworkers.  Goose Island was already a strong advocate in the Chicago biking community through supporting the Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago Bike to Work Week, and of course sponsoring the Spidermonkeys, but we had some opportunities for improvement internally.  In the last three years the Green Goose team and I have made some great accomplishments to encourage our employees to ride- we started the Honking Peloton (once a month we ride to a local brewery), improved onsite bike storage, purchased maintenance supplies, and started offering employee tune up days.  Our efforts have resulted in an increase in bike commuting and have also led to Goose Island receiving a Bicycle Friendly Business Silver Award through the League of American Bicyclists.

Ian Hughes Picture 6

Ian Hughes Picture 7     Ian Hughes Picture 8

It was only a matter of time until I got to meet several Spidermonkeys at a dock party and a few other Goose Island beer release parties.  At one of these events (after geeking out over a few beers of course) I received a challenge from Fred Wu to come join the team for a Saturday ride.  Once I realized that there weren’t any Geese currently riding with the Spidermonkeys, I knew I needed to accept the challenge, represent the brewery, and roll with the team up to Highland Park.  After one ride, followed by a delicious gyros sandwich at Budacki’s, I was hooked!  Despite a busy travel schedule for work I managed to hit several other rides last year including a couple treks to Willow Springs and a very ‘spirited’ Wednesday night ride.  I am looking very forward to being even more involved this year, riding my first century, and diving into my first CX race this fall- hopefully I won’t be riding in Fred’s Divvy bike basket!  Here’s to all of you and here’s to a great year with Spidermonkeys! Cheers!

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 – 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 – 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.


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)!

Newer posts »

© 2021 Spidermonkey Cycling