Uphill Battle: Training for Pittsburgh’s Dirty Dozen Bike Race

After three attempts, Jeremiah Sullivan completed all of the Dirty Dozen bike race hills on a Healthy Ride bike. This year he has been training to ride up all of the hills on a tandem bicycle.

by Lindsay Patross
October 21, 2021

Update: The Dirty Dozen race returns for 2021 on Saturday, October 23, 2021. 

For the past 36 years, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, some of Pittsburgh’s cyclists have made a loop around Pittsburgh to tackle the city’s steepest hills. What started as a group of friends pedaling up the steepest hills in Pittsburgh now has several hundred riders.

The race was started by Danny Chew, a Pittsburgh cyclist who is on a mission to ride 1 million miles in his lifetime. A few years ago, Danny was injured in a cycling accident. With the help of volunteers, Danny continues to organize the Dirty Dozen bike race. Danny is also continuing his quest for 1,000,000 miles on a handcycle.

The 2019 Dirty Dozen: New date & new challenges

The 2019 Dirty Dozen race is being held on Saturday, October 26.

We caught up with Jeremiah Sullivan to find out about how is he training for the race this year. Jeremiah has gained some cycling notoriety for being the first to try the Dirty Dozen race on a Healthy Rice bicycle.

This year, Jeremiah is gearing up for a new challenge: He will be riding on a tandem cycle.

A brief history of the Dirty Dozen bike race

The Dirty Dozen has been taking place on the hills of Pittsburgh on the Saturday after Thanksgiving since 1983. The race was started by Dan and Tom Chew, and Bob Gottlieb as a way to show off the steepest hills in town. You can read more about the history of the Dirty Dozen bike race on Danny Chew’s website here.

2019 Dirty Dozen Bike Race Details

  • Date: Saturday, October 26, 2019
  • Time: Riders will start between 9 am and 10 am
  • Start location: Rhododendron Pavilion in Highland Park.

The 2019 Dirty Dozen after-party:

A post-race party will be held at East End Brewing in Larimer.

Cyclists and supporters can gather at the brewery from 3 pm – 7 pm for food from Larder and awards. There will be a free bicycle valet. More details on the Facebook event here.

The 2019 Dirty Dozen Route

Here is the Garmin link for the Dirty Dozen route.

Dirty Dozen bike race map 2019

List of hills around Pittsburgh

  1. 57th St./Christopher St., Stanton Heights
  2. Centre Ave, Aspinwall
  3. Ravine Street, Sharpsburg
  4. High Street/Steavy Road, Etna
  5. Logan Street, Millvale
  6. Rialto Street, Troy Hill
  7. Suffolk / Hazelton / Burgess, North Side
  8. Sycamore Street, Mount Washington
  9. Canton Ave, Beechview
  10. Boustead Street, Beechview
  11. Welsh Way, South Side
  12. Barry/Holt/Elanor Streets, Southside
  13. Flowers Ave. / Kilbourne Street / Tesla Street in Hazelwood

Dirty Dozen: A guide for spectators

The Dirty Dozen race is a ton of fun to watch but a little tricky. The most important thing if you are going to watch, is to stay out of the way of the cyclists.

For many of the hills, there is not a lot of extra space for spectators and spectator parking. From my experience, it is hard to get to every hill. If you want to watch, I would pick a few hills to visit to watch the race. That way you will have plenty of time to get from one hill to the next and not have to worry about rushing.

If your only going to go to one hill… you will probably want to check out Canton Ave in Beechview. This is hill number 9 and I am guessing the riders won’t get there until the afternoon. While there aren’t published times for the race, I’d keep an eye on Twitter #DirtyDozen – I am sure there will be some spectators tweeting the race and you can get a sense of where the riders are on the course.

From previous races, I would recommend, looking at the livestream to see which hill the cyclists are on and then go 2-3 hills ahead of the group, so you have plenty of time to get there and park before the cyclists start. (In the past, you can find the livestream on the Dirty Dozen News Feed Facebook page.)

Rick Sebak on the Dirty Dozen

From the 2011 program, It’s Pittsburgh and a Lot of Other Stuff by Rick Sebak.

Read more about the Dirty Dozen…

Video by Daymon Long

Pittsburgh born and raised, Lindsay has been writing about the people who love Pittsburgh since 2008.

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