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Monday, December 7, 2009

Punk Bike Enduro 2009

The punk bike did not disappoint. Frozen mud caked to shifters and gears, bodies covered head to toe with dirt and slime, all sorts of revelry and of course beer!

My goal for the day was to earn at least one punk. Punks are awarded to the top 7 finishers of each stage and can be found hidden throughout the course. With guys racing for points like Chris 'Thick Bikes' Beech, Montanna 'Bananna' Miller and bicycle messengers like Stick Boy and Bare Chested Rob; capturing a top 7 spot in any stage was not going to be easy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Dirty Dozen - Danny Chew's Sadistic 61 Mile Tour of Pittsburgh

This was my first time on the Dirty Dozen, a 61 mile tour of Pittsburgh that includes stage races up 13 of some of the steepest hills in the area. It is the invention of Danny Chew, The Million Mile Man, and two time Race Across America winner. I shouldn't have been surprised by the fierceness and intensity of this challenge but I have to admit, I was a bit coy when it came to the ride. I'm a mountain biker, we live and breathe hill climbs and anything that could be paved, well it just seemed easy. I was wrong. Very wrong. Climbing these hills on a road bike was the hardest thing I've ever done. Nothing has ever been harder.

Many hills were inconceivably steep, but it just wasn't steep that made it so difficult, these hills were impossibly long. Just when I thought nothing could be steeper, I crested the next rise to find the hill was even steeper and longer still. It amazed me that some one thought to build roads up these inclines but such is Pittsburgh.

Hill number 5, Logan Street out of Millvale, was the biggest ego blow. I barely made it to the top struggling to hang on the entire way. The next hill, number 6, was Rialto across Route 28 from the 31st street bridge and rises straight up to Troy Hill. After Rialto I was certain I was never going to make all 13. My legs were spent already and I had another 7 hills and probably 40 more miles to go. Unbelievably, I was able to continue on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

50 miles, 5,000 feet and 4 Red Bulls at North Park

On Friday the doctor gave me the all-clear to ease back into exercise following a bout of bronchitis. I’d been off of my bike for 10 days and was feeling very antsy. After feeling great riding Friday, Saturday, and Sunday exploring Settler’s Cabin it was time to "ease back" into an Epic North Park ride. I’d been planning “Epic North Park” for some time and was determined to do a 50-miler before the end of the year. With the weather looking like it was going to turn-for-the-worse by the weekend I decided to take a day off work and go for it.

Starbuck’s and a blueberry scone for fuel I set off nice and early. I started slow as the trails were a little wet and slippery, but it wasn’t long before I was calibrated to the wet roots. Typically I’m a solo rider, but when I do ride with others it’s not long before they realize why I’m infamously named “the camel”. It’s extremely rare for me to carry fluid – I typically hydrate before and after a ride. Knowing this was going to be a long ride I stashed a four-pack of Red Bull in my car just-in-case.

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My goal was to ride most the trails at North Park. I particularly wanted to take in the connector trail to Irwin Road, the Dr. J Trail and the trails in the northwestern part of the park as I had never ridden them before. I knew I’d have to have some trail duplication and have to ride some pavement to hook it all up, but it was mostly going to be ride-it-once single track.

I parked by the ice rink and started on the east side of the park by climbing North Ridge Drive and then taking in most of the eastern single track (and Irwin Road & connector). I crossed Babcock Blvd with 16 miles under my belt.

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I proceeded to the southern trail system. Again rode pretty much everything – including the Dr. J trail – exiting this part of the park crossing Babcock Blvd at 26 miles.

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After riding the Koto Buki and Police Academy trails I was feeling (unusually) a little thirsty and decided to take some pavement back to the Red Bulls.

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32 miles down, 18 miles to go - I sucked down 3 Red Bulls at my car and headed on my way to ride the west and northwest side trails. I rode most of these and was back at the car at 48 miles.

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As the goal was 50 miles I had another Red Bull and headed back to the east side to catch a little piece of single track I’d missed the first time around - ba
ck at the car at exactly 50 miles & 5,130 feet of climbing.

Post by Simon T

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Allegheny County Park System

A fantastic resource for area mountain bikers
The Allegheny County Park System (website link) consists of almost 12,000 acres of land in nine regional parks within Allegheny County. These parks are located in various geographical directions within a 25 mile radius of downtown. This park system is an amazing resource for mountain bikers from the region, with excellent, well maintained, single and double track. The whole system contains about 176 miles of non-paved trails. We are very lucky to have such an excellent network of trails in such close proximity to the city.
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Blazing and Mapping Efforts
Countless hours of volunteer work - painting blazes on trees - has resulted in a significant proportion of the trails being very well marked (blazed). This excellent work not only included the actual blazing of the trails but determining which trails would be blazed. A lot of thought and hard work went into this effort.
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Follow this link (
article link) for a good article on the mapping and blazing of the trails at North Park.
Allegheny GIS Department (website link) has done a fantastic job of making publically available free maps of the parks. These maps typically indicate the blazed and non-blazed trails and were developed using GIS (Geographical Information System) mapping with GPS (Global Positioning System) technology (maps link).
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In addition to having a fantastic County Parks System, a group of tirelessly working volunteers "blazing" the trails, and Allegheny County GIS Department making very informative free maps of the trails - we are also extremely lucky to have the Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group (website link) acting on our behalf in the area. PTAG is a local not-for-profit, all volunteer organization founded in 2001 to help protect and encourage shared use trail access in Western Pennsylvania. They especially focus on single track trails used by mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians. PTAG helps maintains, designs, and builds sustainable trails in the Allegheny Regional Parks. PTAG Trail Stewards for the parks are listed with their contact information under each respective park below.
WANT TO HELP with trail maintenance or blazing trails, then check out: 1. PTAG’s website (website link) 2. Pittsburgh Off-Road Cyclists Club’s (PORC) Trail Maintenance Forum (forum link) 3. Or contact the PTAG Trail Stewards directly (see contact info below)
North Park
Mountain biking trial description: By recent vote on the PORC trail Talk Forum (forum link) the most popular Allegheny County Park trails. Miles and miles of fantastic single track and home to the first purpose built freeride trail in Allegheny County – the "Dr. J Trail".
Park size: 3,010 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 13 miles
Miles of trials: 43 miles
Minimum elevation: 925 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,300 feet
Elevation difference: 375 feet
PTAG trial steward: Brian DelVecchio (
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: trail guide link
South Park
Mountain biking trial description: Another favorite venue for local mountain bikers, home to great single track.
Park size: 1,999 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 10 miles
Miles of trials: 17 miles
Minimum elevation: 925 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,245 feet
Elevation difference: 320 feet
PTAG trial steward: John Hinderliter (
GIS Map of Blazed & Paved Trails:
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: No guide yet – stay tuned
Settler’s Cabin Park
Mountain biking trial description: Currently only 5.4 miles of trails blazed. Although there is a lot of elevation to be exploited at the park, the blazed trails are fairly flat but fast. The "hidden gem" in the Allegheny County Parks System. Imagine a mini Raystown Lake or Mochican State Park 11 miles from the city – this is the potential that lies here.
Park size: 1,589 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 11 miles
Miles of trials: 22 miles
Minimum elevation: 865 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,265 feet
Elevation difference: 400 feet
PTAG trial steward: No Steward
GIS Map of Blazed & Paved Trails:
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: trail guide link
Deer Lakes Park
Mountain biking trial description: Intricate web of intersecting single track.
Park size: 1,180 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 21 miles
Miles of trials: 21 miles
Minimum elevation: 945 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,325 feet
Elevation difference: 380 feet
PTAG trial steward: Elizabeth and Lee Klevens (
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: No guide yet – stay tuned
Round Hill Park
Mountain biking trial description: Reported as overgrown track overgrown? Check out PORC forum post: forum link
Park size: 1,101 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 15 miles
Miles of trials: 13 miles
Minimum elevation: 805 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,235 feet
Elevation difference: 430 feet
PTAG trial steward: No steward
GIS Map of Blazed & Paved Trails: no map
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: No guide yet – stay tuned
Boyce Park
Mountain biking trial description: Superb spiders-web of miles and miles of intersecting single track.
Park size: 1, 096 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 17 miles
Miles of trials: 21 miles
Minimum elevation: 1,000 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,365 feet
Elevation difference: 365 feet
PTAG trial steward: Barry Jeffries ( & Howard Mitchell (
GIS Map of Blazed & Paved Trails: no map
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: No guide yet – stay tuned
White Oak Park
Mountain biking trial description: Trails in development. Check out PORC forum post: forum link
Park size: 810 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 17 miles
Miles of trials: 4 miles
Minimum elevation: 830 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,265 feet
Elevation difference: 435 feet
PTAG trial steward: Leslie ( and Scott Gray (
GIS Map of Blazed & Paved Trails: no map
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: No guide yet – stay tuned
Hartwood Acres Park
Mountain biking trial description: Miles of fun and challenging single track holding a ton of technical features, including: rock gardens, log crossings, switch-backs, drops, and steep plunges.
Park size: 629 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 12 miles
Miles of trials: 15 miles
Minimum elevation: 980 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,315 feet
Elevation difference: 335 feet
PTAG trial steward: Maurice Tierney (
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: trail guide link
Harrison Hills Park
Mountain biking trial description: Perfect riding for beginners. Many well maintained and groomed trails throughout the park with not much climbing - with some single track, but mostly wider maintained tracks.
Park size: 500 acres
Distance from City of Pittsburgh: 25 miles
Miles of trials: 20 miles
Minimum elevation: 855 feet
Maximum elevation: 1,235 feet
Elevation difference: 380 feet
PTAG trial steward: John Hinderliter (
Pennsylvania Dirt Trail Guide: trail guide link
Post by Simon T

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brady's Run County Park Trail Guide

Brady's Run County Park holds refuge to some of the best mountain biking close to Pittsburgh. Mile-for-mile Brady’s has more climbing than any other ride in the immediate Pittsburgh area, making even a short ride feel longer than it actually is. This is the place to go to hone those climbing legs.

The trail system boasts fantastic single and double track – every inch being fun and 100% rideable. The trail system here has a split personality – with two very different character trail types at one venue. The main loop - comprised mainly of the Trail North and Trail South - is single and double track with valley-side traverses, nice challenging climbs and steep descents. The south-western portion of the park is flatter and contains a maze of twisty single track with many log obstacles.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Frick Park Trail Guide


The mountain bike trails at Frick Park are located just five miles east of city center. It's ironic that many people head into town to mountain bike, but the trails at Frick Park are that good. It's hard to say how many miles of trails there are but on the April 2008 P.O.R.C. ride took us over 17 miles with what I'd estimate at barely a mile of overlap. This still left trails unridden.

The Frick system is a series of trails along the steep sides of of Fern Hollow where it meet Nine Mile Run. To help you visualze that Tranquil Trail runs down the center of Fern Hollow the length of the park North to South were it meets up with the trail along Nine Mile run on the south end. Eventually all of the trails empty into this basin. This makes it easy to find your way down to the bottom without getting lost. At Frick you never seem to know exactly where you are but manage to end up at the same place every time. Because many of the trails end up here most of your climbs are going to start out with Fire Lane Extension or Ravine Falls trail. They are just about the only sane routes back up to the top on the east side of the park where the majority of the trails lay.  The trick of spinning a good ride together at Frick is to construct a nice long route before being spit back down onto the valley floor. With a little patience and planning it is very possible.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Settler’s Cabin Park Trail Guide

Settler’s Cabin County Park is the third largest park in the Allegheny County Park System. To say it’s close to Pittsburgh is an understatement - It's only 12 miles west of the Burgh. With this proximity to the city you’d think it would be well developed and crawling with mountain bikers.

There seems to be a lot of nostalgia out there about this place - a great place to ride way-back-when. However, somewhere along the line it became forgotten – a mere a found memory for some old school bikers that cut their teeth on the trails there.

Virtual Reconnaissance

***WARNING*** this is a post for all you map geeks.

Google Earth

Google Earth is an excellent free tool for scouting a mountain biking venue before you go there. Google has wrapped aerial photography for the entire Earth over a digital topographic model so that one can view any area in three-dimensions. You can literally fly like a bird through the terrain. You can see your selected destination from a birds-eye view or tilt the surface as if looking at it from the side; you can also spin the view around so you can look at the 3-dimensional surface from any geographical direction. Google Earth is coupled with Google Maps powerful location search engine so you can just type in a name of a place, town, latitude/longitude etc. and zoom right to your locale of choice.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Blue Knob State Park Trail Guide

Blue Knob State Park is one of the best mountain biking venues in western Pennsylvania. Its dome shaped peak is the second highest point in Pennsylvania at 3,146 feet. This mountain grandeur allows for some great climbing - in fact one can climb (& descend) over 1,500 feet from the valley floor to the trails near the summit. In other words, the fantastic descents here are well earned by climbing-time in the saddle.

What makes Blue Knob such a great venue? The answer is simple - a great mix of riding, lots of elevation, but most of all – the mind-blowing descents. The riding is very varied including paved road, double track and single track climbing; awesome technical rocky single track; and a tantalizing 40 mile-per-hour double track descent. Did I mention the straight-shot-hold-on-to-your-handle-bars single track descent, windy flowing single track through the trees; and fantastic views? This variability makes this a “must-ride” for any mountain biker from the region or afar.

The trail system here is very obvious and armed with a map it’s almost impossible to get lost.

Google map directions form Pittsburgh
96 miles /1 hour 59 minutes

Trail Map

Suggested Routes

Lookout/Rock ‘n’ Ridge Loop
This ride affords fantastic single and double track descents but with a lot of climbing - 750 feet on the paved Park Road and then 800 feet on double track. Mountain bike purest? Hate riding on paved road? That’s me and I still absolutely love this ride – and although one can avoid the road and climb on single track, I still believe the best riding combo here is to be had by following this suggested route.

Park at the Mowery picnic area off of Pavia Road (just north of the swimming pool). From here ride down hill on paved Pavia Road and turn left to ride up the paved Park Road. Climb 750 feet to the top of Park Road to the intersection with the Willow Springs Trail. Now you have another 800 feet of climbing on double track. Be sure to bear right to stay on the Willow Springs Trail (labeled number 10 on map) and prepare for a steep section of trail to get your lungs burning. The rest of the Willow Springs Trail is moderate climbing with another steep section just past the intersection with the Mountain View Trail (number 4 on map). Continue on the Willow Springs Trail until the second intersection with Lookout Trail (number 7 on map). Ride the Lookout Trail counter-clockwise and pop out back on the Willow Springs Trail at number 4. The Lookout trail is excellent singletrack starting with a fun descent and finishing with a rocky technical section which is cleanable if the wind is blowing in the right direction. From this intersection of the Lookout Trail and the Willow Springs Trail and again climb the second steep section of the Willow Springs Trail. This time rather than turning on to the Lookout Trail keep on going and turn left onto the Mountain View Trail. If you hit the ski access road then you’ve gone to far. Get ready for a truly AMAZING single track descent – go as fast as you dare. At the trail junction marked number 10 on the map take a tight right and ride the fun rocky cleanable single track that contours the mountain to north. Where this trial meets Camp One Road, make an almost 180-degree turn to ride the Saw Mill Trail (number 14 on map). Take the Saw Mill Trail until the Rock ‘n’ Ridge Trail can be seen on the right (number 13 on map). This trail intersection is by some large rocks on the left hand side of the trail. Get ready! This trail starts as very fast downhill double track. The descent is briefly punctuated by a short rocky up hill and then it’s back to descending – this time – on awesome windy single track through the trees. This trail then contours the hill side back to your car

Want some more climbing - this time on single track and want to do the fantastic Rock ‘n’ Ridge descent again? If so, add this to the previous ride:

Rock ‘n’ Ridge Climb & Descent Addition
Rather than jumping off Rock ‘n’ Ridge trail back to your vehicle, continue on the western section of the trail. Climb this ignoring a trail that comes in from the left (16 on map). Continue on the Rocking ‘n’. Ridge Trail to the Group Camp (number 14 on map), ride through the camp to the intersection with Camp One Road and the Saw Mill Trail. Follow the Saw Mill Trail and the directions above back to your vehicle and enjoy the descent on the eastern portion of the Rock ’n’ Ridge Trail for the second time.

Still want more awesome descending?

Crist Ridge Downhill Addition
Once you get back to your car after riding the Lookout/Rock ‘n’ Ridge Loop or after adding the Rock ‘n’ Ridge Climb & Descent start climbing up Pavia Road on the pavement. Climb 350 feet on pavement to the Crist Ridge Trail on the left and loose 400 feet on some great single track that joins Pavia Road just south of the pool. Climb a short way back up Pavia Road to your vehicle. If you have the energy, this is well worth adding.

If all this wasn’t enough, there are also great trails at Blue Knob Resort just a short distance away. These trails are close enough to add to the loops above! Check out:

Trail guide by Simon T

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Favorite Pittsburgh Mountain Biking Venues

Back on October 27th I started a poll on PORC’s Trail Talk Forum called "PORC Top 10 Favorite Pittsburgh Area Rides" ( I have to admit that my motivations weren’t wholly ultraistic – part of my rationale for starting the poll was to see what local mountain biking gems I hadn’t visited yet.

The rules were simple - List your top ten favorite rides within a 3-hour drive of Pittsburgh.

Twenty-six PORC forum users voted yielding a bounty of thirty-nine venues. That’s a lot of places to ride within a three-hour drive of PGH. Due to the plethora of venues voted for I decided to expand the results to a top twenty list.

1 Moraine State Park, PA

2 Bavington (aka Hillman State Park), PA

3 Roaring Run Watershed (Apollo), PA

4 North Park (Allegheny County Park), PA

5 Hartwood Acres (Allegheny County Park), PA

6 Laurel Highlands, PA

7 Big Bear Lake Campground, WV

8 Raystown Lake (Allegrippis Trails), PA

9 Mohican State Park/State Forest, OH

10 Seven Springs Mountain Resort, PA

11 Rothrock State Park, PA

12 Frick Park (Pittsburgh City Park), PA

13 Quebec Run Wild Area, PA

14 South Park (Allegheny County Park), PA

15 Cooper's Rock State Park, WV

16 Blue Knob State Park, PA

17 Kennerdell Tract (Clear Creek State Forest), PA

18 Deer Lakes Park (Allegheny County Park), PA

19 Brady's Run County Park, PA

20 Boyce Park (Allegheny County Park), PA

For me the poll was a great success - at the time of the poll I had ridden sixteen of the top twenty and as a direct result of the poll I have added Seven Springs and Quebec Run Wild Area (check out - to my list. Only Deer Lakes and Boyce Park left for me - any suggested routes for these venues would be much appreciated. I hope you find some hidden gems in there too.

It is Pennsylvania Dirt's goal to have Trail Guides for all these and more posted.

Thanks to everyone that voted.

Simon T

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quebec Run Wild Area Trail Guide

Quebec Run Wild Area certainly lives up to its name - it's wild, it's rugged and it has a real remote back-country feel. Its 'wild' designation means that no development of a permanent nature is allowed to ensure it retains its undeveloped character.

Quebec Run

My guess is - you'll either love or hate Quebec Run Wild Area depending on your mountain biking sensibilities. If you crave trails "designed by mountain bikers for mountain bikers" and like to jump on your bike, flow along the trails and not put your feet down again until you're back at the trail head, then this trail system is probably not for you. If you love feeling like you're in the wilderness, riding wild, ruff, and rugged trails and don't mind some hike-a-bike, then this is somewhere you should definitely visit.

The dense forest here is stunning, one minute you're riding through hollows of hemlocks or by beautiful rocky mountain streams, the next you're riding on tight twisty trails through rhododendron thicket or navigating moss-covered rocks along fern-lined single track.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hartwood Acres Trail Guide

Photo J. Matta
Hartwood Acres is a fantastic mountain bike destination with miles of fun and challenging mountain bike trails making it a favorite among many western Pennsylvania mountain bikers . It certainly deserves to be ranked among some of the best mountain bike trail systems in the Pittsburgh area. One of the reasons for it's popularity is the mountain biking trails at Hartwood Acres hold a ton of technical features including: rock gardens, log crossings, switchbacks, skinnies, drops and steep plunges. The trails also  make particularly good use of the elevation and if ridden properly climbs are rewarded with fast continuous flowing downhills. This gives Hartwood Acres some of the most popular single track in the Pittsburgh region.

Hartwood holds a dizzying array of intersection trails so if you are not familiar with them it would be worth bringing a map and doing a little planning beforehand. The blazed routes don't stick to one trail and require quite a few turns as you merge from one trail to another but do resist the urge to wonder. The blazed route is well marked and is well thought out. You'll have a much better ride if you follow them.  Even though the trails are blazed generously and marked frequently, if you are not paying attention you can easily loose the route. Keep in mind that a double blaze indicates a turn and sometimes it's just best to stop to find the next blaze at these intersects. Like most any riding area learning a trail system takes a little patience and learning the trail system at Hartwood will be very rewarding.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

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