Say hi to Vanessa here!
1. How/when did you get into cycling?
I started riding in 2006 due to a running injury. It was a temporary solution and only meant to keep me active and possibly have some fun cross training for my marathons. I rode about once a week. On July 4, 2007, I went on an organized ride with a few friends including Matt Smith. A large group of cyclists went flying by us and Matt yelled, “Get on their wheel!” I did. My legs eventually got tired and I started to lose their wheel. Matt literally pushed me back into the draft. That's when I learned how to stay in the draft which makes riding a road bike so much fun! I was hooked and wanted to ride all the time.
In 2007, we talked a lot about starting our own club. At the same time, our friend Nate Iden saw, “Talladega Nights”. Our next ride, he passed us yelling, “I'm comin' atcha like a Spidermonkey!” We joked about calling ourselves the Spidermonkey's. By the end of the season, we decided to try to make it happen. Around the same time, Dean Okun went to a party and happened to be chatting with somebody who worked at Goose Island. He asked if they'd be interested in sponsoring a local bike club. Turns out it was the owner's son. It was a sign of great things to come.
2. How does your organization directly benefit cyclists?
We are a great resource for people who are interested in road cycling, in particular riding in a group or racing. We have four rides a week that are open. We take pride in our rides and how safe they are. The safety doesn't happen by accident, we have some fantastic ride leaders. We spend the time to teach people who are new to group riding/racing because we all started somewhere.
3. Do you specialize in a certain type of cycling?
Yes, road cycling.
4. What are your "must-have" items for cycling (this could be a tool, an accessory, a food, etc.)?
I love arm warmers! I hate being cold so to start off the ride knowing I can easily rip off my sleeves is awesome! I've also learned from experience to always, always have a few standard items just in case: tube, CO2, money, credit card, ID, and cell phone.
5. What is your favorite bike?
Mine! Pink and orange flames. You either love it or hate it. I love it.
6. What is the biggest challenge you face or the biggest challenge faced by the cycling community?
Cyclists vs. drivers. Probably all cyclists could go on and on about this, but in the end, my feeling is that everybody should get out there and ride a bike in the city at least once. That's the only way drivers can truly understand the challenges of being a cyclist in the city. It would be nice if someday we could work together as drivers and cyclists. In the meantime, a technique I use to deal with people who feel the need to yell things is to pretend they are yelling nice things at us like, “You are awesome!” “We love cyclists!”
7. What do you see as the biggest area of opportunity in your niche market?
New riders. Especially women. I think there is a lot of interest in road cycling, but there is an intimidation factor. It's scary to get on a bike, being new to clipless pedals, not knowing the etiquette of group riding, and showing up on a group ride where you're the outsider. Being a woman, it's extra intimidating since the group is usually a bunch of guys that probably race. We work really hard on removing that intimidation factor. We have a ride that is open to beginners where we work with new people. We also have a Tuesday morning women-only ride that I did not anticipate would be such a hit since we leave at 5:30 in the morning! It started with two of us and now we normally have 10-15 women! Both rides have turned out to be a great place for people to get started with group riding and racing. Overall, our team has grown very quickly and we have a lot of women on our team. I think that says a lot about our efforts in that area.
8. How do you think the cycling community has changed in the last year or two?
There are more of us! More commuters, more road cyclists, more women cyclists. We love it! It's part of why we started the team—we want more people on more bikes more of the time!
9. If you could go on a bike ride with anyone (living or dead), who would it be?
My parents! They passed away in 2002 and I did not start my life as an athlete until after they passed. Riding a bike and running is now a huge part of who I am. I am happiest when riding my bike, so it's unfortunate that they missed this part of my life. My dad used to skydive all the time and even packed his own parachute. My mom went a few times too. They loved it! I'm scared of heights so could never skydive, but I always think that the adrenaline rush they got from skydiving must be the same as the rush I get from riding my bike. It'd be fun for them to see that I've found my skydiving rush!