PedalPGH is a Great Event to Bike Surface Roads in Pittsburgh

Last Updated on September 1, 2021 by Jeremy

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PedalPGH is an annual charity bike ride taking place every August (roughly) to help raise money for BikePGH and their local biking initiatives.

For many years, we've watched this one from a distance as we started out primarily as rail-trail bikers who prefer mostly flat rides as opposed to heading out on surface roads. But after building up our experience on bikes, we signed up for PedalPGH and have to admit that this event is a whole lot of fun.

We had so much fun, in fact, that we plan on riding this one yearly!

So in this one, we thought we'd share a bit more about what you can expect from PedalPGH, things to keep in mind, and why signing up is so important outright.

PedalPGH Offers a Lot of Biking Fun for a Great Cause

PedalPGH Took Us to Phipps Conservatory

We have to admit, when we signed up for PedalPGH we didn't know what to expect. We knew that the ride was a charity fundraiser for BikePGH, and we knew that the routes were primarily on surface roads throughout many neighborhoods in the city. But beyond that, we didn't really know much else (other than knowing it is popular- historically we've seen seeing thousands of bikers pass our house when the route includes our street).

While this is indeed the quick summary of what PedalPGH is all about, we quickly learned that there are often four unique routes laid out over PedalPGH weekend and they also change every year!

Signs for PedalPGH Stay Up for About a Week Around the Event

In 2021, PedalPGH's routes included a 7-mile Local Loop that did a quick cycle 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 on Brighton Heights/Perry North/Troy Hill, and a 62-mile MoveForwardPGH challenge ride that added more detours into Reserve Township/Highland Park/South Side Slopes/Mount Washington.

The 7-mile loop was designed to be primarily flat (apart from bridge crossings) whereas the longer routes became more and more technical with some rather steep climbs.

As all the trails are designed to be loops, riders simply pick the route they wish to ride on, find the color arrows that correspond to it, and head out to the closest road to them to begin their ride (note: the routes are typically one-way only). It really is as simple as that!

After the Climb Up Polish Hill

We had every intention of biking the 40-mile Grand Tour during PedalPGH weekend in 2021, but have to admit that the weekend coincided with some of the worst heat and humidity we've had in recent memory. As we are fair-weather bikers in every respect (read: partly cloudy and under 75 degrees), we weren't conditioned to do long rides in that heat so we knocked it back to the 25-mile route and are quite glad we did. By the end of the ride, the extreme heat was getting to us and we knew it was time to stop.

Ignoring this, the ride itself was one of the most enjoyable bike rides we've ever had, and that is saying something because the bike trails in Pittsburgh are indeed quite incredible. There are a few key reasons for this.

PedalPGH Took Us to Neighborhoods We Dont Normally Bike In

First, we generally are rail-trail bikers who stick to flat segments as best as possible. Think the Great Allegheny Passage, the Ghost Town Trail, the Butler-Freeport Trail, and the like. We try to avoid hills and only really hit Woods Run near Riverview Park (a pretty insane hill, as we found out in retrospect) because we live close to it and use it to get home. PedalPGH helped encourage us to get out on surface roads we otherwise would've likely avoided outright.

We really cannot overstate how rewarding the experience was being able to pedal through so many neighborhoods we otherwise only ever see by car. We even were routed on a few roads we've never been on as well!

Second, although PedalPGH keeps the routes up for multiple days and lets you ride whenever you like, we went out during the support hours on Sunday. As most bikers do it during these times to access the support stations (with free snacks and water- a necessity in the heat), we also had strength in numbers when we rode. Going up Polish Hill or through the serpentine roads of Schenley Park wouldn't have felt nearly as safe if we weren't doing it surrounded by 30+ other bikers. Motorists probably hated us (the city is flooded with bikers over this weekend), but from a safety standpoint, it is hard to ask for more than traveling in a pack.

Sweaty PedalPGH Ride in Front of the Cathedral of Learning

If I had one critique, other than our own misfortunes for the weather, it would be that sometimes along the route the signage does feel few and far between and even ambiguous at times. So we did find ourselves consulting the map and turning around here or there.

Other than that, as bikers, we have to admit that PedalPGH was way more enjoyable than we ever thought possible and we hope to do it annually!

What You Get With the PedalPgh Ride Fee

Snack Stations Were a Saving Grace from PedalPGH

Before we end this one, you may have had a moment of pause when reading our above review as there is an element to the event we kind of glossed over. It is simply this: PedalPGH is a paid ride in order to raise money for BikePGH. 

Now, as we mentioned above, the routes have color-coded arrows through the city to illustrate where to go. So you may be thinking, “couldn't I ride over the weekend without signing up?” The answer is a resounding maybe (although we really wouldn't encourage it at all). By paying, you get a number of benefits:

  • Access to route maps with turn-by-turn directions so you can familiarize yourself with things in advance.
    • Without knowing what color coincides with what route, you could end up on a really long ride with some huge hills! Which color is 7-miles and which one is 62-miles? You won't know!
  • A navigation map with audio directions that logs your route via your smartphone's GPS. This feature was fantastic.
  • Support stations with snacks and water during select times over the ride weekend (typically Sunday morning but this could change each year).
  • Start and finish line events for those who complete the route on a designated day (typically the same day/time as the support stations). Note that this was paused in 2021 due to COVID concerns- we'll comment on this next year.
  • Swag varying based on the tier level you buy including water bottles, t-shirts, bib numbers, and/or a PedalPGH jersey (we opted not to receive these to allow more money to go to the organization).
  • Finally, supporting the initiatives of BikePGH as well!

PedalPGH App Route

So while you may think that you could simply head out and go for a ride with the posted signs, we'd really caution against it. The distance and hills alone are a great deterrent if you don't know what you're getting yourself into, and to be honest if you are a biker making a charity donation to BikePGH is something we highly encourage anyway.

Getting an amazing ride and the support stations during select hours is a nice perk. We'd go as far as saying those stations were critical in the extreme weather we had on our ride!

PedalPGH typically takes place over one weekend each August. While a paid ride, this one is great to help support the local org BikePGH!

Have you biked PedalPGH before? What route did you do (length-wise) and what did you think? Comment below to share!

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2 thoughts on “PedalPGH is a Great Event to Bike Surface Roads in Pittsburgh”

    • I believe there were portapotties at most of the support stations. Oakland’s was in Schenley Plaza so there were dedicated facilities there. But permanent facilities are likely dependent on the route, and that changes yearly.

      Reply

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