THURSDAY SEP 14 / 2017 / by Andrew Talati

New Zealand 2016 - 8 Legs New Zealand 2016 

The official story

Early Years first Mansfield Ride 2006 Mansfield Ride 2006

The Spiders (The Melbourne Eight Legs) hark back to 2003, according to Ben James (christened King Spider), who was one of the founding members together with another rider Phil Turnbull. They had been riding together for a few years in the Melbourne cycling scene, including the popular North Road Ride and the Hell Ride, while also enjoying the Tour de France a couple of times.

Then, some of their non-cycling friends wanted to get into it so they were then joined by Justin Abrahams (The founder of Pedla) and Scott Carmichael and entered the Albert Park four-man time trial which never actually happened.

4 riders x 2 legs

So by entering four men, given it was a 4 man time trial, so 4 x 2 legs is eight legs, so they thought that's eight legs is a spider so let’s call ourselves ‘The Spiders’.

The spiders grew legs - just grew and grew

The Spiders coincided with cycling being touted as the new golf with more and more people taking up cycling for the fitness and health benefits and socialising with their mates. Especially at that time, they were in their mid-30s with young families, so it was a good way to re-engage with their mates and they gradually welcomed more and more people to the group.

The boys weekend - equally about what happened on and off the bike 

The Spiders 8 legs - TdU 2012TdU 2012

The Spiders 8 Legs Mansfield Homestead 2006Mansfield Homestead 2006

With the Spiders becoming bigger and bigger they started going on holidays together, including 4 - 5 Tour Down Unders and an annual trip to Scott Carmichael's farm in Mansfield, that occurred over 8 - 9 years which was a boy’s weekend.

The Spiders 8 Legs Mansfield chilling out 2006Mansfield 2006

It was as much about what happened off the bike as what happened on the bike so it was a way of catching up with good buddies.

Always open and egalitarian to people joining

The Spiders Eight legs Spain 2017 rollingSpain 2017

The Spiders have always been inclusive, however if you ride with the Spiders you had to ride by the rules, ride together and, like the Sydney Swans, there is a no d$%#heads policy.

They were welcoming to riders of lesser skills or fitness levels but they needed to listen to the founding partners about the safety aspects of how they rode, what they did on the ride, i.e. what Monday ride was (pace, rotations), that they didn't leave people behind and silly rules that if they are eight and someone gets a puncture then you don't have to stop.

Helping to coach their friends 

The Spiders Eight legs Spain 2017 pit stopSpain 2017 

As the new members were friends they were happy to provide coaching on the many aspects of cycling when you start out. For instance, where do I buy my bike from, how much do I need to spend on a bike - all of those questions evolved into simply just come and ride (providing all of the information while they rode/at coffee shop) with us which was easier than directing them.

Unified but solidified

The-Spiders - Eight legs Spain 2017 - Beach - matesSpain 2017 

With the Spiders going over such a long period many Spiders have moved to other suburbs and started their own chapters including Brighton, Malvern, Kew, Hawthorn and to all meet at the same location at 5:00am doesn't work when you are dispersed

The Spiders Eight legs TdF 2013 coffee stopTour de France 2013

But it has been solidified through the holiday rides they do together including the Tour de France with Phil Anderson in 2003 and the Giro with Top Bike Tours with Dave Ollie, New Zealand in 2016 and France in 2013 and just this year they went to Spain and did the trip planning themselves.

Who doesn't want to go on a  great holiday with their mates?

The Spiders Eight legs New Zealand 2016 - Enjoying some beersNew Zealand 2016 

There is always a lead into the event, a transition into doing the ride which usually involves 3 - 4 months of training so this keeps everyone together and involved.

There is some self selecting on certain rides

The Spiders Eight legs TdF 2013 quiet back roads Tour de France

There are some riders who are still into the racing scene so there is a small group who are still passionate about going faster and ride together so it's important not to bring along guys who wouldn't enjoy that.

The Wednesday ride follows the North Road Ride route and is a recovery ride; everyone rides together though it may get a bit edgy on the way back but they generally ride to the slowest rider’s pace.

Spain, New Zealand and France trips

The Spiders Eight legs Spain 2017 coastlineThe Spiders Eight legs Spain 2017 climbingSpain 2017

As they enjoy the finer things in life the holidays have been magnificent with Scott Vickers Willis being one of the key guys behind organising the trips.

The Spiders - Eight legs Spain 2017 pool terraceSpain 2017

Scott has a massive attention to detail, so much so that those in their professional life who have the capacity to take overseas holidays pick their brains about how they do it; i.e. having masseuses and chefs who come in and cook for them. Generally they find a big farm house and all stay together which is actually a really cheap way to do it as you are sharing a fixed cost amongst a big group of people.

A lot of fun in the lead up

There are lots of dinners, the wives get involved, they may have a themed lunch which this year was around Spain, they drank a lot of Sangria, red Tempranillo, chocolate donuts and all of that kind of fun stuff.

The holidays have become a must do

The Spiders Eight legs New Zealand 2016 - Bridge crossingThe Spiders Eight legs New Zealand 2016 lakeNew Zealand 2016

They did some fun stuff in New Zealand and the holidays have become a real focal point. They even christen each bike with their own sticker which may be the rider’s nickname. Justin Abrahams is 'The Peacock' as he likes to dart off ahead and show his feathers.

The cycle of life - now fresh as a daisy

The Spiders - Eight legs Tour de France back roadsTour de Frace 2013

Most of the Spiders have teenage kids who can look after themselves on a Saturday morning but for Ben he does remember in the early days riding in some of the faster bunch rides and would roll up to the start so tired as he had babies.  Some of the younger riders would do every ride and he would be so jeoulous while now all of those kids (younger riders) now have all their babies and they roll up so tired while James is as fresh as a daisy.

Families are very supportive

The Spiders have been involved in some great charity rides including Chain Reaction that helps raise money for very special kids. The families are very involved and can see the good that cycling has brought to those communities and organisations.

Looking at cycling through a different lens

The Melbourne Spiders - Tour de France 2013Tour de France 2013

While a few of the Spiders would still like to dream of riding and racing as much as they could; time, family (kid’s sport) and work commitments means they now have to look at cycling through the lens of mid-40 year old guy who has a lot on their plate and the changing of their focus.

Yet some of the Spiders have ticked some big boxes including the Melbourne to Warrnambool Road race, racing at Sundown raceway with the Southern Vets so they had the fun part now they really enjoy the little bit more of a cruisier way of doing it.

Bonds that are never broken

The Spiders Eight legs Spain 2017 - preparationsSpain 2017

As they have ridden over many, many years. Spent years riding shoulder to shoulder, bonds are built that will never be broken while sharing those parts of your life, the times with young kids, young marriages, new businesses and often you don't have anyone to talk to during those key moments in your life, you're in it, you're living it but when you are riding and just having a chat is a good thing to help get it off your chest.

The-Spiders Eight legs TdF 2013 SummitTour de France 2013

When you reflect back on 10 -20 years of riding with these guys that's the reason we have such deep relationships. These people know you, what you have been through, where you have been, they know your story as they have seen that movie before. 

The loudest you laugh all week

The Spiders 8 legs - Tour de France 2013 Orica Green EdgeThe Spiders Eight legs 2013 - AFL Footy briefTour de France - footy debrief - 2013

It's not always the serious stuff but the banter and giving each other a hard time (in true Aussie style), seeing something funny that happens on the ride or a bet that has gone wrong and they have to buy everyone a coffee; all that crazy immature stuff gives rise to the hardest you have laughed all week. 

Sometimes it's important to keep being a kid and joking around

The Spiders 8 legs TdF 2013 - Party HatsTour de France 2013

For everyone working in big organisations and taking care of the kids sometimes this stuff is missed, like popping a mono on your BMX bike as a kid may be the equivalent of riding fast down the 1/20 in the Dandenongs so it's about doing terrific things that are fun and healthy.

For Ben, it's something he can see himself doing for another 30 years with some very old Eight Legs but they may have to call themselves the Six Legs as a few may have fallen off the twig.

Partners can tell if there is a spring in the step

For their wives/partners they can tell if they haven't been riding as there isn't that spring in the step. With the winter mileage dropping from 350-400kms/week to 150-200kms/week it's a case as wishing you had done more riding, it's that feeling, it has an effect that you can read in people (who they haven't been riding).

Consumerism side of the Spiders

The Spiders - 8 legs New Zealand 2016 shoe covers

This is of epic proportions as the bikes that roll through the bunch are always of very high quality and always a great deal of one-upmanship about shoes, helmets and who is 'matchy matchy', who isn't 'matchy matchy', 'long socks vs short socks’ which is great fun spending time on the websites about new products (which is a discussion for a whole new interview).

Evolution of the Spiders Kit

The Spiders Eight legs New Zealand 2016 kit hanging to dryNew Zealand 2016

In the early days, Assos was one of the brands that was embraced when teams based kits like the tour teams such as US Postal then into club cycling kit like St Kilda Cycling Club and this evolved into making their own kits.

There have been 10-12 iterations of the Spiders’ kit; it's always changing and now the time frame between kits is only 12 months and sometimes even more frequently with special kits like for their holiday in Spain.  The Pedla produces the kits while the graphics are done by fellow David Pidgeon, who runs a branding company. 

Peak Spider period - the Christmas ride

This is probably the only time of the year when everyone gets together with the numbers swelling to over 40 riders with everyone wearing Spiders’ kit and contributing money that goes towards a charity they are supporting; followed by a long breakfast

Dual citizenship isn't encouraged

While it's not frowned upon, it's not actively encouraged to have dual citizenship across multiple groups. The Australian government may require you to resign while at the Spiders you can fly multiple flags and cross the floor and that's ok.

For more info

The kit supplier
Graphics and branding of kit

All photos courtesy of The Melbourne Eight Legs