October 27, 2017

#WomenWhoBike Emily S.

Emily S.


Why did you start biking?

Good question! When I began biking, I had just left Pittsburgh for Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I was a non-traditional student and when I left Pittsburgh, I traded in my friends and my life for 4 years of hard work. I spent much of that time in my off campus apartment alone writing papers late into the night. This eventually payed off in Cum Laude honors and a job I love, but my semesters were jam packed with credits and I took courses every summer.

All I did was work, I didn’t have any close friends, and I was undeniably bored. However, there was a local bike shop nearby my apartment that was owned by a very nice father and son team. I began to wander in after class, ask questions, and became so interested that I finally ended up purchasing a bike from them. My intent was to just use the bike to get around on, but I quickly recognized how much I enjoyed biking, and that it was becoming much more to me than a way to get to the library. Before I knew it I was challenging myself to ride the entire town, and after that, I was pushing myself as a novice biker to complete 20+ mile solo trips on country roads outside of town.

When I moved back to Pittsburgh, I met my partner, best friend, and avid cycler Ryan Hays. I had never biked in a city or urban environment before, and I had no idea how to get around via bike, much less safely. It was with his advice, knowledge, encouragement and direction that I learned to bike here, and in the process learned that if I can do it, anybody can do it.


What is your favorite thing about biking?

Thing? You must mean things! Biking is fun, exciting, challenging, and it’s so rewarding. Biking is good for my mind, my body, my wallet, and the environment. I can do it alone, or I can do it with a group, both of which I enjoy very much. Great day or horrible day, I cannot say there has ever been a time I regretted going for a ride by myself or with others.

Biking is good for my mind, my body, my wallet, and the environment.

Being a biker allows me to get to work and around town free of charge while also getting some exercise, it does wonders for my overall wellbeing, and it allows me to come together with others, and bring others together. Lastly, a good bike date never fails to satisfy my fellow bike-loving partner.

Honestly, riding for me is the good stuff. When I am on two wheels, I am present. That is because I’m forced to pay attention and to be in the moment. You really don’t have a choice when biking, right? [Bike is] something that affords me such a heightened sense of awareness, allows me to be so in tune to my body, my breath, my mind, my surroundings … this is something I place a high value on in a life that is so full of distractions. Some find this value on a yoga mat or on a cliff face. I find it in the saddle.

In short, the positive mental, physical, and community-oriented aspects of biking constantly have me finding that my water bottle is always sitting half full in its cage.


What does biking enable you to do?

Biking enables me to give a gift. It was a gift to myself when I bought my first bike, it was a gift that my partner gave to me when he shared his love of city cycling and taught me the ropes. Biking is now a gift I can and do share with others, by word of mouth and by volunteering.

Earlier this year I began collaborating with Jane Runyan of BikePGH with a shares a goal of increasing our wymn identifying biking community here in the city of Pittsburgh. I love wymn, biking, and community, and so does Jane and BikePGH. When I began volunteering with Jane I learned that there was a group of wymn bikers gathering for coffee meet ups under the name of the Spinnsters, but I also learned that there were no casual rides happening, or scheduled to happen. It seemed like fate. I decided that I wanted to change that, in the process meet other wymn bikers, and place myself in a position where I could give something to my community, and get something positive in return: A reason to bike more! So, together with Jane and the support of BikePGH the Spinnsters monthly rides were born.

We organized and led our first official ride this past March on International Women’s Day, and since that time, I have had the pleasure of co-leading and co-organizing 8 solid monthly rides. These rides are free, no drop (which means you will never be left behind,) and owning a bike is not necessary to participate (thanks to the always wonderful, Healthy Ride.) All you need to participate is to show up with a bike (rented or owned,) and with a willingness to learn and to support your fellow wymn riders.

With a lot of help from Jane, muscle on social media, and word of mouth, the Spinnsters are currently wrapping up their first season with the last official ride of the year on November 21st! All said and done, Jane and I are very proud of what we were able to accomplish, we are very proud of the people who come out and make the Spinnsters such a great thing to be a part of, and I will finally say that I’m pretty proud of myself. We had an average of 20-30 wymn enthusiastically showing up month after month of various age ranges, ethnicities, orientation, and experience. To me, this is exactly what increasing the wymn in biking community should look like: Positive, safe, open, community oriented, educational, and welcoming.

I look forward to continuing to give and share the gift that is cycling with all who are interested in reaping its benefits and rewards. I can’t wait for the next Spinnsters season and I am always looking for additional opportunities where I’m able to be positively involved and give back through biking.


What would you say to women who are interested in biking, but haven’t been on a bike in years or may have never ridden a bike?

Get involved volunteering with Healthy Ride or BikePGH! Both organizations regularly host or participate in events that happen right here in Pittsburgh, and these are great places to meet other bikers, learn about educational opportunities, ask some questions, and gather resources and knowledge about how to get you on two wheels asap. If you are wymn identifying, check BikePGH’s website and Facebook for events related to coffee meet ups and next season’s Spinnsters schedule.

Regardless of how and when you are ready to ride, know that the biking community here in Pittsburgh is large, diverse, and waiting for you. Don’t be afraid to try something new or challenge yourself to revisit, and remember that health allowing, all kinds of biking is appropriate for any person, regardless of your age or size. If you want to bike to work, hit a trail, grab some coffee, or train to crush the Allegheny Passage, it is all within your reach. Happy biking!

© 2021 Healthy Ride Pittsburgh
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