Video: Earning your turkey and stuffing the hard way

Pittsburgh’s Dirty Dozen “fun” ride includes city’s steepest hills

Ride Reports Video
Riders try to tackle one of the steepest hills in the world.

Dirty Dozen riders grind their way up one of Pittsburgh’s steepest roads. Photo courtesy WESA

Of course you deserve that biggie sized carne asada burrito. You just rode for five hours. Or that’s how the rationalization usually goes. Having just banged out a solid chunk of miles, or even just knowing there’s a big ride on the horizon, we cyclists occasionally give ourselves a pass when it comes to dietary choices. And there’s no single day that exemplifies this more than Thanksgiving. More pumpkin pie? Why not…

The Dirty Dozen bike race is one reason why you might want to reconsider filling your proverbial rim to the brim. This 50-mile post-Thanksgiving fun ride challenges participants to climb the 13 steepest hills in Pittsburgh. And these aren’t just any old hills. The Steel City boasts some of the steepest paved streets in the U.S. None of the Dirty Dozen ascents are less than 20 percent, and the grind up Canton Avenue’s bumpy cobblestones maxes out at a chain snapping 37 percent.

The Dirty Dozen began when event founder Danny Chew and a few buddies decided to ride some of Pittsburgh’s steepest climbs. Chew’s a former Race Across America champion, so this challenge was right up his alley. Five people took on the challenge the first year, but the Dirty Dozen has grown ever since. This year about 300 riders are expected to contest the 32nd edition.

Points are given to the riders who summit the various climb sections the fastest. If a cyclist loses forward motion, stops, or puts a foot down, they have to start the hill over from the bottom. But more than a serious race, this is a good time event that offers a rolling tour of the city, fosters camaraderie, and encourages fun. Non traditional cycling outfits are commonplace. But you may want to skip that extra helping of mashed potatoes. With riders sometimes re-riding hills, plus two food stops, and a group photo opp near race’s end, the ride can take upwards of seven hours to complete. Here’s a look a the climb up Canton Avenue.

Charging up Canton Avenue during the Dirty Dozen.

If you cant make it to Pittsburgh there are lots of other cool fun rides held around the Thanksgiving holiday. Cyclists in Phoenix look forward to the Flight of the Pigs, a 70-mile affair held the day after the big feast. This mountain bike ride rolls through Arizona’s biggest city and several mountain preserves. Check out this video to see what you can expect.

Other events include the Tour de Tryptophan, held the day after Thanksgiving in Fullerton, California. This annual event has been a vehicle for various charities and this year is raising money for spinal cord injuries. Riders will burn off the calories from their Thanksgiving feast riding the Fullertoon Loop, an 11.5-mile suburban mountain bike ride that links abandoned railways with horse trails through neighborhoods and parks, with singletrack sections throughout.

The Caloosa Riders, a bike club from Southwest Florida, organizes the Black Friday Turkey Leg Century. This “pleasure cruise” connects Naples and Fort Myers. More info at

Mellow Johnny’s bike shop in Austin, Texas, is hosting a post-Thanksgiving ride on Friday, November 28th. It’s billed as a mild 30-mile affair. Riders of all abilities are encouraged to join. Learn more at

Finally, for Northern Californians, there’s the Sacramento Appetite Enhancement Thanksgiving Day Bike Ride. Entering its 27th year, this long-running fundraising event has become a Sacramento tradition. The ride is known to draw in excess of 1000 riders and is a great way to kick off your Thanksgiving. Get more info at

If you know about a fun Thanksgiving holiday ride (road or mountain) let us know and we’ll add it to this list.

About the author: Jeff Titone

For as long as he remembers, contributor Jeff Titone has been riding bikes. The former National Champion triathlete has such a passion for cycling that he has dedicated his career to spreading the two-wheeled gospel. A cycling industry veteran of more than twelve years, Jeff has worked for such notable brands as Cannondale, Titus, and Blackburn. Whether grinding out the miles on his road bike, shredding the Arizona desert on his mountain bike, or cruising the greenbelt on his way to work, Jeff relishes every opportunity to be in the saddle. He also has a soft spot for vintage, lugged steel road bikes and bourbon.

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