Reported by Women: From Cycling Fiends to Agents of Change
Women on Wheels: 50 West Women’s Cycling
Reporting and photography by Emerin Boomer.
Every Saturday, you can count on seeing the 50 West Women’s Ride (50WWR) cyclists whizzing past the Wooster Pike cycling shop and, well, 15 miles in any direction (that is, if they aren’t going too fast for you to catch a glimpse). Started about four years ago and now led by Brenda Wimberg, the group has grown into a tight-knit web of women who ride.
“Many of us do co-ed rides as well, and it’s a whole different energy with the women’s ride. We just have fun, there’s no pressure.”
On Saturday, June 8, I met Brenda in the drizzling parking lot of the 50 West Cycling Shop. As cyclists came rolling through, we chatted about the growth of the group over the years and how cycling has brought the women together outside of 50WWR. Ranging from age 24 to 65, the riders all trickled in with smiling faces. They had just ridden a 26-mile route in about two hours. The distance seemed more than impressive to me, but I was assured it was actually a short ride for them. Some of the women were beginners when they started doing the weekly 50 West Women’s Ride; others had been riding for years beforehand or were picking up where they had left off in college or otherwise. No matter the experience level though, a word I kept hearing was “life-changing” – physically, mentally, and in terms of friendships. The fact that it is a women-only ride also means something, as one rider, Lisa Cieslewicz, states, “Many of us do co-ed rides as well, and it’s a whole different energy with the women’s ride. We just have fun, there’s no pressure.”
Don’t get her wrong though—as another rider pointed out, these women ride fast! I certainly left the event feeling inspired to buy a bike, and if you are too, make sure to follow the group on Facebook or check out their website. They are always looking for new riders of all levels, and if you aren’t up to 30 miles, there are stopping points to turn back early.
It was a fitting location for the new program which is focused on Covington, and designed to celebrate fandom and geek culture while tackling social justice issues.
Noe sees nerds and geeks as people who care a great deal, and who don’t bother to hide that devotion to their passions.
Agents of Change is organized by Super Heroines, Etc. (SHE), a nonprofit that focuses on empowering women in nerdy communities. SHE was created by Carolyn Noe in St. Louis to combat the animosity women face in spaces like comic conventions or STEM fields. When Noe moved to Cincinnati in 2016, she brought SHE with her and established the organization’s second local chapter.
SHE regularly hosts events in Cincinnati such as “Introverts Get Desserts” and “Women’s Round Robin RPG Campaign,” which allows women to try their hand leading a role-playing game (such as Dungeons and Dragons) in a nonjudgmental space.
Noe began the meeting by explaining her vision for the Agents of Change, which is all about passion. Noe sees nerds and geeks as people who care a great deal, and who don’t bother to hide that devotion to their passions. With Agents of Change, she hopes to channel that energy into activism that benefits the local community.
Noe highlighted similar organizations that have used their passion for fiction to create change in the real world, such as Women of Letters, fans of the TV show “Supernatural” that raise money for charities of their choice, and the Harry Potter Alliance, which supports children’s literacy through their annual book drive. She then welcomed Give Back Cincinnati Civic Engagement Coordinator, Harmony House, to speak on local issues.
House gave an overview of Cincinnati’s homeless population and how people can get involved in providing assistance. She closed her presentation with a quote from one of her favorite Batman characters, Commissioner Gordon, “You’re going to make a difference. A lot of times it won’t be huge, it won’t be visible even. But it will matter just the same.”
After House’s words, the attendees split into two small groups to discuss the local issues they wanted Agents of Change to tackle going forward. Their concerns ranged from voter engagement to women in tech and housing insecurity.
The Agents of Change then heard from Shelley Walter, the coordinator of Fuel N.K.U., a food pantry for Northern Kentucky University students. Walter explained the origins of the program – a single shelf in the office of Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor, a professor of social work, and how Fuel NKU grew from that idea until they had their own suite located near the student health center.
It was an inspirational note to close the meeting, and Noe urged attendees to stay in touch and find others before they convened for their next meeting, which has yet to be announced.
If you’re interested in joining the Agents of Change, contact Carolyn Noe at email@example.com.