PedalPGH is a great event for biking on surface roads in Pittsburgh
Last updated on September 1, 2021 by Jeremy
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PedalPGH is an annual charity bike ride that takes place every August (approximately) to help raise funds for BikePGH and their local cycling initiatives.
For many years we have watched this one from afar, as we started out primarily as rail cyclists who prefer mostly flat rides rather than surface roads. But after building our experience on the bikes, we signed up for PedalPGH and have to admit that this event is a lot of pleasure.
We had so much fun, in fact, that we plan to ride this one once a year!
So in this one, we thought we would share a little more what you can expect from PedalPGH, things to keep in mind, and why signing up is so important.
PedalPGH offers a lot of cycling fun for a good cause
We have to admit that when we signed up to PedalPGH we didn’t know what to expect. We knew the ride was a charitable fundraiser for BikePGH, and we knew the routes were mostly surface roads in many areas of the city. But beyond that, we didn’t know much else (other than knowing that it was popular – historically we’ve seen thousands of bikers walk past our house when the route includes our street).
While this is indeed a brief summary of what PedalPGH is, we quickly learned that there are often four unique routes fitted out during PedalPGH weekend and they also have change every year!
In 2021, PedalPGH’s routes included a 7-mile local loop that cycled fast around the North Shore River Trail and the Strip District / Downtown, a 25-mile city tour that spanned Manchester / Squirrel Hill / South Side, a 40 mile Grand Tour that added Brighton Heights / Perry North / Troy Hill, and a 62 mile MoveForwardPGH challenge that added more detours in Reserve Township / Highland Park / South Side Slopes / Mount Washington.
The 7 mile loop was designed to be mostly flat (with the exception of the bridge crossings) while the longer routes became more and more technical with rather steep climbs.
As all trails are designed to be loops, riders simply choose the route they wish to take, find the colored arrows that match it, and head to the nearest road to begin their journey (note: routes are usually one-way). It really is that easy!
We had every intention of cycling the 40 mile Grand Tour during the PedalPGH weekend in 2021, but we have to admit that the weekend coincided with some of the worst heat and humidity we’ve had in recent memory. . Since we’re good weather bikers in every way (read: partly cloudy and under 75 degrees) we weren’t conditioned to take long rides in this heat so we took it back to the 25 mile route and are quite happy we did. By the end of the ride, the extreme heat was sweeping over us and we knew it was time to stop.
Ignoring this, the ride itself was one of the more enjoyable bike rides we already had, and that does mean something because Pittsburgh‘s bike trails are indeed quite amazing. There are a few main reasons for this.
First of all, we are generally rail-trail bikers who stick as best as possible to the flat segments. Think of the Great Allegheny Passage, Ghost Town Trail, Butler-Freeport Trail, etc. We try to avoid the hills and only really reach Woods Run near Riverview Park (a pretty crazy hill, as we found out in hindsight) because we live nearby and use it to get home . PedalPGH encouraged us to take surface roads that we probably would have avoided otherwise.
We really can’t overstate how rewarding it has been to be able to cycle through so many neighborhoods that we only see in a car. We were even routed on a few roads that we have never taken so well!
Second, although PedalPGH will maintain the routes for several days and let you ride when you want, we went out during support hours on Sunday. As most bikers do during these times to access assistance stations (with free snacks and water – a necessity in the heat), we also had strength in numbers when we rode. Driving up the Polish hill or crossing the winding roads of Schenley Park wouldn’t have been so safe if we hadn’t done it surrounded by over 30 other bikers. Motorists probably hated us (the city is inundated with bikers this weekend), but from a safety standpoint, it’s hard to ask for more than traveling in a pack.
If I had one criticism, other than our own weather woes, it would be that sometimes along the course the signage seems sparse and even at times ambiguous. So we ended up looking at the map and turning here and there.
Other than that, as bikers we have to admit that PedalPGH was a lot nicer than we ever thought possible and we hope to do it every year!
What you get with PedalPgh ride fees
Before we ended this one, you might have had a moment of pause reading our review above, as there is one element of the event that we kind of glossed over. It is simply this: PedalPGH is a paid race to raise funds for BikePGH.
Now, as we mentioned above, the routes have colored arrows across town to illustrate where to go. So you might be thinking, “Couldn’t I be riding on weekends without registering?” The answer is a resounding maybe (although we wouldn’t encourage it at all). By paying, you benefit from several advantages:
- Access to road maps with step-by-step directions to familiarize yourself with things ahead of time.
- Without knowing which color coincides with which route, you could end up on a very long hike with huge hills! Which color is 7 miles and which is 62 miles? You won’t know!
- A navigation map with audio instructions that records your route via your smartphone’s GPS. This feature was fantastic.
- Assistance stations with snacks and water at certain times of the weekend (usually Sunday mornings, but this can change annually).
- Start and finish line events for those who complete the route on a designated day (usually the same day / time as support stations). To note that this was put on hold in 2021 due to COVID concerns – we’ll comment on that next year.
- Swag varying depending on the level you purchase, including water bottles, t-shirts, bib numbers and / or a PedalPGH jersey (we have chosen not to receive these to allow more money to be spent). ‘go to organization).
- Finally, by also supporting the initiatives of BikePGH!
So while you might think you can just go out and take a walk with the signs displayed, we really don’t recommend it. The distance and the hills alone are a great deterrent if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, and to be honest, if you’re a biker, donating to BikePGH to charity is something we strongly encourage. in any event.
Getting an amazing ride and assistance stations during certain hours is a nice bonus. We would go so far as to say that these stations were critical in the extreme weather conditions we had on our trip!
PedalPGH usually takes place over a weekend each August. Although this is a paid ride, it is a great way to help support the local BikePGH organization!
Have you ever ridden PedalPGH? What route did you take (lengthwise) and what did you think? Comment below to share!