Back on the last Sunday in August I took part in Pedal PGH for the first time. Although this event had never been on my radar, it’s been held every year since 1994. Having now participated, I recognize the color-coordinated route markers placed throughout the city to guide cyclists from previous summers; I always assumed they were left over from the Pittsburgh Marathon or other running event. This year there were four routes to choose from in mileages of 10, 25, 40, and 60 miles. In an honest assessment of my fitness level I would’ve opted for the lowest mileage option, but the 10 mile route only covered a loop around the South Side river trail, and I’m on those paths all the time as it is. So I opted for the 25 mile City Tour route.
Suggested start times were staggered based on your intended route length, but everyone began from the same place beneath the South Side end of the Birmingham Bridge. It was fun checking out the variety of bikes and cycling gear represented around the starting lane, particularly the more fanciful conveyances.
Streets along the routes were open for business as usual, so cyclists were sharing the road with other traffic, but with the energy of a massive group ride that was an entirely new experience for me. This year’s Pedal PGH coincided with the annual national meetup of Black Girls Do Bike, an advocacy organization committed to growing a cycling community for girls and women of color. I saw numerous riders with BGDB gear throughout my route and they were among the most active in calling out stoppages or traffic at intersections, especially through downtown. There were two rest stops along the 25 mile route with the first being in the Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side.
The inclines began to overcome me climbing out of the Strip District and crossing the 28th Street Bridge. Polish Hill really wore me out although it was cool traversing new streets and seeing neighborhood landmarks like the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church up close for the first time. There were also some great views along that stretch.
The next rest stop was in Highland Park, which was timely for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was feeling fatigued and famished at this point and was happy to find a somewhat shady spot to wolf down the lunch that was provided. Secondly, during the ride into Highland Park I started having issues with my bike that made me nervous.
Upon mounting my bike and attempting to resume the ride my rear wheel fishtailed dramatically, confirming my fears that I had a flat tire. Thankfully the rest stop also included a bike service station and I was able to get the flat fixed.
From there it was back toward the South Side passing through Bloomfield, Friendship, Squirrel Hill, Oakland, and Greenfield. The ride ended where it began beneath the Birmingham Bridge.
I gotta admit I was pretty wiped out by this ride and it took my body a few days to recover.
Here’s a compilation of footage I shot during my ride. I tried to record the whole trip but my phone was too low on battery after a couple of hours, so this video only covers about two thirds of the route. It’s a shame because it misses out on some of my favorite parts of the ride, particularly going through Schenley Park into Oakland, and riding Swinburne Street down into Greenfield. Also, apologies to the North Side neighborhoods that I don’t know well enough to properly shout out in the video…Manchester? Chateau? California Kirkbride?