Ride Report: 2014 Dirty Dozen Pittsburgh

Unless you live in Pittsburgh there is no way to anticipate what the Dirty Dozen will actually be like.  The ride sniffs out the 13 steepest roads in the Pittsburgh – which by nature makes them 13 of the steepest roads on the continent.    The crown jewel of the ride is Canton Avenue, arguably the steepest road in the world at 37% grade.  Ask anyone who has finished the DD about which climbs were the toughest, though, and they will likely name at least 2 or 3 other hills first.  Organized by “The Million Mile Man” and 2 time RAAM winner Danny Chew, the ride is more than a calculating test of endurance; it’s an intimate experience with the topography, construction, and history of an incredibly rich cultural city.  There’s a human interest story behind each of these quirky roads and the unique lives behind the people that spend their lives on them.  In order to become part of it you must be willing to toil and suffer.  Put in the hard work and you will be welcome without question provided the rugged landscape doesn’t swallow you whole.


I call the Dirty Dozen a ride because for 85% of the 300+ participants this year it was just that.  For a select few, the DD is a points race.  The first 10 finishers on each hill receive points from ten (for 1st place) to one (for 10th) and at the end of the race the rider who has collected the most points wins.  The scoring is irrelevant for most since the points are usually distributed between the same 20-something riders but there are other odd rules that affect everybody, most important being the “forward motion” rule.  Any rider that puts a foot on the ground loses their position and must start riding the hill over again.  From the bottom.  Luckily the race is “neutralized” between the hill climbing efforts, meaning that the leaders wait at least ten minutes at the top of each hill for everyone who can make it to make it.  The group rides at a slow pace between hills that gets gradually slower as the day drags on.


Nick and I drove out to Pittsburgh after deciding less than a week beforehand to do the Dirty Dozen.  Nick brought his Surly Cross Check with single 38 tooth chainring in the front and a 12-32 cassette in the back.  I rode my Scott Addict (repaired by the one and only Aaron Ritz) with a compact crank (50/34) and a 12-27 cassette.  We both set out with the intention of finishing every hill honoring the “no foot down or you start over” rule.  I, fueled with bravado about my climbing abilities and dreaming in carbon fiber, also had a crazy notion about finishing in the top ten on at least one hill.  Since I haven’t found any truly detailed reports about the race and each hill, I decided to write a full report, including as many details and minutiae of the experience as I can muster.  Hopefully it can serve as a guide for anyone who is thinking about doing the race.  Check it out after the jump, hill by hill (with some pictures).

The ride starts in the parking lot of a police station. The ride this year was larger than 320 riders making it the largest Dozen in history.

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