Riding with Emma

Riding with Emma

  • Allison Hartz

In the gray light of early morning, Kristen pushes her bike out of the garage, steps on, and begins pedaling. Emma runs alongside as they exit the alleyway onto the road. Then, Kristen says, “Trailer!” and Emma hops in for the ride to work.

Kristen uses a roamer leash to have Emma run alongside while gravel bikepacking.

Kristen didn’t always live on the bike, like she does now. But when she was 19 years old and injuries from track and gymnastics left her searching for another way to be active, she discovered that riding a bike didn’t hurt.

Kristen on a gravel ride in Central Oregon.

Growing up in Buffalo, New York, the family dog was always Kristen's dog. When she moved out of her childhood home to attend college, it was her first time without a dog in her life. Then one day, she saw an online ad for a litter of puppies. She got in her car and drove 6 hours south, from Buffalo to a farm in Pennsylvania. That’s where she met Emma.

Young Kristen with her family dog.

When Emma was 7 months old, Kristen introduced her to the bike. Emma took to it immediately, running alongside while Kristen pedaled. Although she never tried to herd Kristen, Emma’s working dog instincts seemed to kick in as she followed closely behind the bike.

Emma at 7 months old next to Kristen's mountain bike.

The following year, the pair moved west from New York to Oregon. They continued riding together -- Kristen pedaling the bike and Emma running alongside. Yet, this limited them to day trips and distances that Emma could run.

Kristen's bike loaded down with gear for a bikepacking trip.

Kristen was getting into multi-day bike packing, but Emma, now four years old, usually had to stay behind. On one trip to Colorado, Emma rode in the support van. Having Emma at camp each evening gave Kristen something to look forward to throughout the day of riding. It dawned on Kristen that Emma was what made biking fun.

Silhouette of Emma jumping to give Kristen a kiss at sunset.

Kristen began looking for a solution that would allow her to bring Emma along on lengthy and multi-day bike rides. Two-wheeled carts weren’t practical for the type of dirt and gravel riding Kristen and Emma liked to do, but then Kristen came across an off-road cargo trailer with suspension. It wasn’t designed for dogs, but with the addition of a waterproof liner and a sleeping pad, it met their needs.

Emma in her trailer behind Kristen's gravel bike loaded for bikepacking.

Just like biking, Emma took to riding in the trailer right away. Now the trail seems limitless, and Kristen and Emma have begun embarking on three- to four-day journeys on a regular basis. Their favorite way to go is straight from their front door to the trail.

Emma next to the loaded up gravel bike setup with broken Top mountain in the background.

In 2018, Kristen and Emma joined the Pack Support team at Ruffwear. They bike to work almost every day, year round. It’s rare to see Kristen and Emma off the bike unless they’re inside the office.

Emma sits on an urban sprawl dog bed next to Kristen's desk at ruffwear.

And when the weather permits, they skip the trip home, opting to head straight from work into the National Forest west of town to camp on weeknights.

Emma in the trailer behind the gravel bike loaded up for bikepacking on a wood bridge in Central Oregon.

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