Every autumn, on the steep streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a local bike race is held that is not quite like any other.
Called The Dirty Dozen, the race was founded in 1983 by Danny Chew, a former Pro Road Racer who has twice won the Race Across America. With his brother Tom and their friend Bob Gottlieb, Danny’s goal for the first Dirty Dozen was to find and ride Pittsburgh’s steepest hills.
The 1983 version of the race consisted of only 12 hills, but since 1988 13 hills have been featured, and the race was dubbed “The Dirty Dozen” in the vein of a “Baker’s Dozen” which = 13.
In the intervening years, the race has grown in popularity attracting many local cyclists and even some who travel to Pittsburgh to see what all the fuss is about. How steep could these hills really be?
Well, the answer is, pretty steep!
The riders warm up their legs on the first hill with an average grade of a mere 13% over .37 miles or .6 km.
A couple of hills later they’re facing Berry Hill Road - almost 17% average grade over .18 miles / .3 km
Even steeper is Logan Street. Located in Pittsburgh’s Millvale neighborhood, the climb measures a whopping 20.5% average grade over .27 miles / .4 km
Another tough (although shorter climb) comes towards the end of the race on Welsh Way. Average grade is 18.7% over .13 miles / .2 km.
Probably though, the most talked about (and possibly most feared) hill on the entire race, is the famous Canton Ave hill.
Although short, Canton Ave is the steepest officially recorded public street in the United States with a section of 21 feet / 6.4 meters that averages a 37% grade. This record is disputed, however, one thing that we can all agree on is that it is very steep! To add to the fun, the street is covered in cobblestones which makes it especially interesting for the riders in rainy or snowy conditions.
In order to qualify as a Dirty Dozen Finisher, riders must complete each hill without stopping or getting off their bike. For each completed hill, points are awarded to the top 10 males and the top 5 females, depending on their placing. The rider(s) with the most cumulative points at the end of the race are the winners.
Have you completed the Dirty Dozen? Would you attempt the Dirty Dozen? Drop us a reply to this post and let us know about any unique local races or events in your area!