Tag: Little 500

Spidermonkey of the Week – Erin Kasprzak

by Erin Kasprzak

My first bike - look at that trackstand!

My first bike – look at that trackstand!

Even though I was not a super athletic kid, I always loved riding bikes. Though not much of a rider himself, my dad was brand-loyal to Schwinn, and to our LBS, Denny’s Schwinn, in East Lansing, Michigan. I am pretty sure my first two-wheeler (the pink Schwinn pictured) was heavier than my current bike with its steel frame and SOLID tires. At least once, I rode it off a little ramp the neighbor boys had set up to jump their BMX bikes and I crash landed. Hard. But I didn’t stop riding. After the pink bike, I graduated to a bigger Schwinn, still a single-speed with coaster brakes, and when I was in eighth grade I got my first multi-geared bike, a red Schwinn Mesa Runner mountain bike. I remember that I had gone to the shop wanting a “ten speed” (which was what everyone called a drop-bar road bike) but the guy at the shop steered me and my dad toward the mountain bike.

In high school, I spent most of my time hanging out with the drama geeks and I didn’t ride that mountain bike all that much. I sometimes wonder if I would have ridden more if I had gotten the ten speed I wanted in the first place.

I didn’t ride much in college either, spending my spare time inside at the college radio station, and I clearly missed a real opportunity in grad school. I was at Indiana University, home of the Little 500, and I can probably count on one hand (definitely two) the number of times I rode my bike anywhere.

I moved to Chicago in 2001, and bought an aluminum Fuji hybrid with plans to commute, which I did occasionally but didn’t make a regular habit. After several years following the Tour de France, and under the influence of my cyclist brother and cousin, I bought my first road bike in 2009 – the steel Jamis I still ride. I enjoyed solo riding, but never got too serious about it until last January when a college buddy sent me a link for AIDS/LifeCycle (a weeklong 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles) and said “This is what we’re going to do.” I didn’t hesitate before telling him I was on board. I looked at a couple of different training plans, dusted off my trainer, and started pedaling.

After two long months of slogging it out on the trainer alone, I was ready for some company. I knew about the Spidermonkeys because I’d had my bike serviced at Roscoe Village, and I’d seen the orange and black paceline fly by while I walked my dog on Damen.

I was so nervous riding down to that first group ride, my heart rate spiked like crazy and I almost puked. But then I met you. Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging, and I had such an amazing time, I joined immediately. Best. Decision. Ever.

RidingWith friends, Kevin and Tom, AIDS/LifeCycle 2013 with a team made me look forward to my training rides, and even after a pretty bad crash in April, I didn’t stop riding because I wanted to get out with the group again. I found out I really like going fast. And even though I knew the physics of it, I was still amazed to see for myself that drafting is AMAZING.

I am super proud that I was totally prepared for the ride from San Francisco to LA. In fact, I was faster than the two guys I rode with. I was also super proud to wear my Spidermonkey kit when I crossed the finish line, and I just wanted to keep riding. Well, not that day. That day, I wanted to sleep in a real bed. But after that, I was so excited to have people to ride with when I got home.

At the finish line in LA (after 545 miles, with a smile on my face)

At the finish line in LA (after 545 miles, with a smile on my face)

The best part of being on a team is that teammates have your back. Teammates who helped me after I crashed in April, who loaned me their gear for the California ride, and who gave me a friendly push to help me get out of the wind and onto the wheel in front of me on the second day of the MS ride.

Nearly all of my best memories of 2013 involve my bike, and all of those were possible because I’m a Spidermonkey.

In 2014, I’m resolving to:

  • get dropped more (because I will come out on Wednesday nights)
  • drink more 312
  • have at least as much fun as I had last year

I can’t wait to see what happens this year! Caw caaaawwww!!

Spidermonkeys of the Week – Amy Ancheta and Jonny Kloppenburg

Amy and Jonny at the Hilly Hundred

Amy and Jonny at the Hilly Hundred

by Amy Ancheta and Jonny Kloppenburg

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

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

Jonny on the tractor

Jonny on the tractor

Little Jonny on his first bike

Little Jonny on his first bike

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

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

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

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

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



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

10th Mountain Division Hut Trip

10th Mountain Division Hut Trip

Yosemite backpacking!

Yosemite backpacking!

Banff backpacking!

Banff backpacking!

Apostle Islands sea kayaking

Apostle Islands sea kayaking

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

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

Amy's first MTB race (WORS)

Amy’s first MTB race (WORS)

Fried chicken at the Hilly Hundred

Fried chicken at the Hilly Hundred

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

Jan mtb'ing with Amy and Jonny

MTB’ing with Jan in the Kettles

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

Spidermonkeys of the Week – Megan Kuzydym and Brian Feyereisen

End of Year Bash .. Megan and Brian!

End of Year Bash .. Megan and Brian!

by Megan Kuzydym and Brian Feyereisen

Megan:  Instead of telling you I knew, at age 5, that I would be a lifelong cyclist, I’m going to tell you the truth: I don’t really have many bike memories. My driveway was much too small to ride around and I lived in a lakeside community, which meant the traffic in the summertime looked similar to traffic on LSD when the President comes into town. So obviously, my parents were convinced my sister and I would be run over. Especially me since I’m clearly not large enough to be well-noticed.

Brian:  Growing up on a small lake in Central Wisconsin involved waterskiing and wakeboarding all summer and ice hockey in winter.  Skateboarding was much more popular than biking in the small village of Random Lake.  Thrasher magazine, mullets and field parties were my main interest.  My Huffy Rock Rhino mountain bike was purely used as a mode of transportation to baseball and soccer practice.

Megan:  I went to Indiana University, home of the infamous Little 500 bike race, but chose to spend my college years determining how close I could get to the really drunk/sick line without crossing over it. I also learned some stuff too. The thought of training for the Little 500 by riding through the hills of southern Indiana (Hilly Hundred, anyone?) wasn’t at all enticing.

Brian:  After graduating from UW-Milwaukee, I refused to grow up.  I worked some random jobs to fund my real passion, bar league softball, which I participated in up to six nights a week.  Eventually I realized I couldn’t turn my softball passion into a career so I decided it was time to grow up.  Growing up involved the beginnings of my current career as Commercial Director for an energy company, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners.  My career has involved three year stints in Charleston, SC, Houston, TX and now Chicago for the last four years.  My job involves a lot of travel and dinners with clients several nights a week.  I realized if I wanted to continue wearing the same size jeans as I did since high school, I was going to need to begin exercising.  Since running shoes were easy to travel with, running became my new passion.  I signed up for my first marathon, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in the fall of 2007.  Nine marathons later with a PR of 3:21 I was burning out.

L: The extent of our bike riding in 2010 – Vail Pass in Colorado
R: Yes, we are wearing sandals riding our bikes around Chicago in 2010

Megan:  When I moved to Chicago after graduating, I swore off dating for a while. That same weekend, I met my new boyfriend (Brian). He was really ridiculously good-looking (and active). Running, cycling, snowboarding, water-skiing – you name it, he was good at it.  I decided, about 6 months after we met, to try being active too. I bought a hybrid Specialized but it was too heavy to keep up with Brian and his fancy road bike. So I took up running and ran through October 2011 when I got sick. My condition caused my leg to swell and running became extremely uncomfortable. So instead, I hopped on a spin bike. I loved spinning and the effort it required. I bought a fancier bike, hoping I’d enjoy riding outside as much as spinning.  I went for some solo rides, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as I’d thought.

L: The Nashville Marathon in 2011
R: The Fox Valley Half-Marathon in 2010

Brian:  After completing the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in the spring of 2012, I knew it was time to try something different as marathon burn out had fully set in.  While running the Lakefront trail I noticed a lot riders in black suits (I know now these are called kits) that said xXx,  I thought they looked cool so I looked them up online and decided to join one of their Saturday morning group rides.  I showed up with my freshly polished 2003 Specialized Allez that I hadn’t ridden in well over three years (other than to the grocery store).  I was decked out in my mountain bike helmet and the finest mountain bike jersey I owned.  xXx turned out to be a great group of RACERS who welcomed me, but the sprints to Highland Park and back weren’t quite what I had in mind.  That was when my amazing fiancée, Megan rode the Tuesday morning Girl’s Ride with a new group she discovered called the Spidermonkeys.  She returned from the ride glowing about this wonderful group of girls who helped her on her first successful group ride.  By this time, I had decided it was time to buy a new road bike and trade in my mountain bike gear for some new road gear if I wanted to take this whole cycling thing seriously.  I started to ride the Spidermonkey Saturday group rides and I was immediately hooked.  I found exactly what I was looking for with the Spidermonkeys; a great group of friends who all happen to enjoy cycling.  You’re pretty quick too!

Megan:  At this time, Brian had been on some xXx group rides and talked about being part of a team – which appealed to me.  Not too much camaraderie in spin class. I  went on a Chicago Cycling Club Beginner’s Ride – which was not for beginners. I got dropped in Skokie, called Brian crying and he told me to pedal myself back the way I came (what a sweetheart ;-) ).  Riding back home alone gave me time to think and I became stubbornly convinced that I was going to figure this whole cycling thing out.  I searched online for a women’s or beginners ride and came across the Tuesday Morning Girl’s Ride.  I contacted Vanessa who was so welcoming right from the start.  Rebecca stayed with me at the back on my first ride and I returned home with a sense of accomplishment.  I was hooked.  I convinced Brian to go on a Spidermonkey Saturday ride with Drew Randall and we never looked back.

North Shore Century

After completing the North Shore Century – Megan looks happier than she was! (I was so cold!!)

Both:  We can’t say it hasn’t been hard (hellloooo North Shore Century), but it has definitely been worth every second.  We’re so excited for 2013 and all the new experiences including Vegas and the MS 150. We couldn’t have asked for a friendlier, awesome group of people to spend multiple hours with every weekend.  And when JPC asked us to be the SOTW couple, well, we knew we’d finally found a cycling home.

Caw caw!

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