by Lindsey Fahey
As a kid I grew up riding my bike all over my neighborhood and always remember how exciting it was when my mom would give me the ok to extend my ride (Ok, now you can go AROUND the block, you are 5 now!). So I suppose generally I liked riding bikes since day 1.
Through high school and college I didn’t ride a bike at all since it never seemed particularly convenient or much of a workout, plus I was playing lacrosse at U of I, so usually got my workouts in that way. When I moved to Chicago I thought people were crazy who rode their bikes on the streets. Many of my coworkers at the design firm I used to work at rode their bikes to work. All I could think was “stupid hipsters.” I certainly would never be one of those bike people. One day 2 years ago I was eating at a buffet with my friend Jenny (also now a Spidermonkey) and she mentioned she had a road bike that she sometimes rode on the trail with her mom. I was like oh, huh, maybe I should get a bike. I may have actually asked her how she got it to the trail; did she ride it on the STREET ALL THE WAY THERE?? I started toying with the idea of biking since I decided to retire myself from running after hurting my hip training for the ‘09 marathon. Living in Roscoe Village, I wandered into Roscoe Village Bikes one day and started chatting with Paul. After test driving a few bikes later that week I settled on a blue Jamis road bike. My boss (who is super into cycling) asked me if my new bike was carbon and what components I selected……I stared back blankly and told him I don’t know and that I don’t need some fancy carbon bike. I started riding around a little bit, taking only one way streets for the most part. Jenny taught me how to ride on Addison WITH CARS to get to the trail in the mornings before work and I slowly became more comfortable on the roads. I even started riding to work and by the end of the summer I was one of those hipsters riding to work, some weeks up to 3 days if I didn’t have meetings. I was bummed when the weather changed and I couldn’t ride anymore, minus one misguided attempt to ride to work in January.
Fast forward to early spring this year, I was chomping at the bit to get out on my bike and was constantly bugging Jenny and my friend’s husband (the only 2 people I knew with road bikes) to go ride. My roommate told me I was super annoying, and suggested I go “join a club or something” to make some friends who like bikes as much as I did. That seemed like a good idea so I started googling bike clubs in Chicago. I figured it was best to look at the pictures of the members to assess each club. I don’t mean I just checked out the members…more like I wanted to be sure they weren’t only wearing spandex and super hard core or the other extreme of just touring around…fun but serious athletes was what I was looking for and the Spidermonkeys looked like normal people. They seemed to actually have fun together in their pictures so I emailed Vanessa who suggested I come try out a girl’s ride. I was terrified, I had never even ridden 30 miles, let alone with a group that had a rule list that was pages long. I was so nervous I barely slept the night before, but finished the ride and was hooked. I was so thankful Rebecca took the time to ride with me that first time and show me the ropes of the pace line (yes you get THAT close) and what all the signals meant. As the summer wore on I went on as many girls rides as I could make with my work schedule and tried a few of the Saturday rides. Every time I got my ass handed to me, but learned a lot on every ride. I couldn’t believe how encouraging everyone was and how willing they were to share their experience.
By this time I had badgered Jenny into getting clipless pedals and join Spidermonkeys as well so we could train together for our rides we had registered for throughout the summer. Our first MAJOR RACE EVENT was a 40 mile Chocolate City ride in Burlington, Wisconsin. Maybe it is because we were in the same sorority at U of I, or maybe because we played college lacrosse together, but in our minds this was an epic sporting event and we absolutely needed matching jerseys. I told her that for the Chicago marathon you always dressed like the person you were running with so you could keep track of them in the massive crowds of competitors. (Did I mention this ride was in Burlington, WI??) We would need to be brightly colored and matching so we didn’t lose each other in the packs of bike riders I imagined would be at this ride. We rushed to the “start line” at 6 am in our sweet matching (hot pink!) jerseys and were met with a few locals from the Lions Club hanging out in a school gym handing out chocolate. I was like oh did we miss the start?? They were like ummm, no you just ride the route, there isn’t a start, you can start from 6 am until 10 am. Guess we missed the memo that bike rides were nothing like distance running races, no chips, no crowds and no gun at the start. We rolled out and had a great day on our first ride…and didn’t see another soul for about 75% of it. We actually got asked if we were a lady cycling team on the ride due to our matching pink jerseys.
We then did the Tour de Cure with my company team which was fun, (this time we had on matching jerseys but in different colors). We realized we liked the small town somewhat disorganized rides better. Plus they had much better food. We followed those rides up with a ride in Chillicothe, IL, and the Apple Cider Century in Three Oaks, Michigan (highly recommended, although don’t make a U turn in the downtown unless you want to get pulled over and lectured by a cop on foot, ooops).
By the end of the season this year I had gone on countless SM rides, tried my hand at mountain biking and actually made it up a mountain in Colorado (sort of, I fell off the bike into some bushes), made those illusive bike friends I was looking for who are always willing to ride (even on Thanksgiving!), figured out how to change a flat tire, finished my first Century with some coworkers at the North Shore ride, crossed 2 state lines on my bike and just recently bought my first big kid full carbon bike and told my boss exactly what components it had. I could not be happier with my decision to email Vanessa and go on that first ride. I’m SO excited for the upcoming season!