The end of the racing season is always a good time to look back at the past year to remember the good and bad things that happened on the bike. When looking back, there are always a couple of rides that seem to stick out as being the best and worst. I don’t like to dwell on negative stuff, so let me tell you all about one of my favorite rides this year.
This ride was actually not a ride, but a “race.” I say not actually because this race is not sanctioned by any organization and has no permits to even be allowed on the streets of Pittsburgh. The ride is called the Dirty Dozen and it is basically a large group of cyclists, on all styles of bikes, riding up the 13 steepest hills around the city. This “race” has occurred on the Saturday after Thanksgiving since 1983 and was started by my friend, the Million Mile Man, Danny Chew. Out of all the years this ride has been held, I have only done it three times before deciding to do it again this year. The last time I did the Dirty Dozen was in 1990 and I finished second to Mr. Chew that year; which I had totally forgotten about until he reminded me when I registered for the event.
The interesting thing about this race is that the only part where racing actually occurs is on the steep grades of the 13 hills spread out over the 60 mile route with approximately 6900 feet of total climbing. The rest of the ride is neutral until Danny blows his whistle at the bottom of the hill to begin another race up a climb. Points are then awarded to the top five riders at the hilltop finish line. The rider with the most points at the end is crowned the Dirty Dozen Champion.
This year somewhere around 150 riders showed up to tackle this challenging ride on a very cold and windy day. There were a variety of bikes at the ride to include triathlete bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes, tandems, road bikes and me on my Salsa Chili Con Crosso Cyclocross bike. I had no idea what to expect of the ride because it had been so long since I did it last. I knew it would be hard because of the difficult and extremely steep (up to 37% grade) climbs, but I also figured it would be fun to do again after 20 years of missing the event.
I wasn’t disappointed by either the toughness of the ride or the amount of fun I had. It was great seeing and talking with friends along the route and even more fun to do a full out sprint against them up hills so steep that many people either chose to walk or were forced to walk after falling off their bike on the way up.
I finished fairly well on the majority of the climbs and scored enough points over the course of the nearly 7 hour ride to finish in second place overall, which was a completely surprising to me considering the large number of fast roadies doing the ride.
Maybe I did well because of my late season cyclocross fitness; maybe it was because of my fast bike with the low cross gearing on it; or maybe it was because I really didn’t care how I finished and was just out having a good time on my bike with a group of good people that really enjoy riding bikes. No matter what the reason was I’m glad I did the Dirty Dozen again and can’t wait to do it again next year.
Special thanks to Benjamin Stephens for the use of his photos.
Happy Trails and Happy Holidays - Gerry