The List: Stephen Smith

Owner of The Handlebar Cycling Studio

Stephen Smith, a Chicago transplant and Michigan State University alum, has worked as a personal trainer a group fitness instructor in both large gyms and small spin studios. After working in the fitness industry for 12 years, Smith felt inspired to run his own place. Now, as the proud owner of The Handlebar Cycling Studio, Smith instructs classes like Rhythm Ride, Cycle/Boot Camp, Sip and Spin with Odd Otter, and Early Bird Cycle. His goal was for his studio to be accessible to anyone and everyone working to get in better shape.

Favorite Places

To relax: I really love disc golfing in Auburn, University Place, and Steilacoom.

For dinner: MSM on 6th Ave. has become my favorite sandwich shop in Tacoma hands-down, but for a sit-down dinner experience, I enjoy the ambience at Matador.

To be inspired: I like to hike a waterfall in Eatonville and sit at the top.

Inspiration Board

Currently reading: Star Wars: The Lando Calrissian Adventures by L. Neil Smith

Currently listening to: Scorpion by Drake

Best professional advice you’ve received: “Figure out what you love to do, and find a way to get paid for it.” — My mom

Mantra you live by: “If you enjoy your work, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Hobbies: Hiking, kayaking, disc golf, and softball


What is the most rewarding part of owning a business like The Handlebar Cycling Studio?

Watching the transformation of my members. It’s not just the physical transformation, but also the mental change. To see people who have never taken a spin class and have been weary of even trying, go from that state of mind to a place where they are regulars and enjoy their experience. After being in the fitness industry for 12 years and seeing it from all different angles and in different places, I love being able to call this my own and run it the way I believe a studio should be run. I want my studio to be accessible to anyone seeking to be in better shape.

Is there a weekly class that seems to be particularly popular among your members?

The weekend classes always fill up fast; everyone wants to get that morning workout in so they can go enjoy their day, so the energy on Saturday mornings is high.

How has your business managed to pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Well, since reopening June 8, we have only had five-person classes (as of press time), which is totally different from the 20-person classes we had before. I also had six other instructors that taught classes; since a majority of them have small children or take care of older individuals, I have been teaching all the classes morning, noon, and night, seven days a week, so that’s a big change. I’ve started taking personal training clients over Zoom, which is something that I have found to be a great new way to work with clients.

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