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Dirty Dozen 2021

I did the Dirty Dozen ride in 2021. It was a very hard ride, but also very rewarding to complete it. I’ve had a bunch of images and notes about it that I’ve been meaning to compile as a post, so here goes…

Here’s my ride log:

The list of hills and their order has seen minor change in some years, but in 2021 the list was:

  1. 57th St./Christopher St.
  2. Center Ave./Guyasuta Rd. in Aspinwall
  3. Ravine St./Midway Dr. in Sharpsburg
  4. Berryhill Rd. between Saxonburg Blvd. and Middle Rd.
  5. High St./Seavy Rd. in Etna
  6. Logan St. in Millvale
  7. Suffolk/Hazelton/Burgess Streets on Northside
  8. Sycamore St. on Mt Washington
  9. Canton Ave in Beechview
  10. Boustead St. in Beechview
  11. Welsh Way on the Southside
  12. Barry/Holt/Eleanor Streets on the Southside
  13. Flowers Ave./Kilbourne St./Tesla St. in Hazelwood

I successfully completed all the hills, although I did fall on Canton on my first attempt. I had a horribly wrong approach and wound up getting pushed off to the left side. Canton is definitely steep, but it’s also relatively short, so it’s actually not too bad if you hit it right at the start, which I did on my second attempt.

Here’s a view of the bad start on Canton: canton-bad-start

Waaay off to the left… (When I say “left”, I mean when looking up the street; I’m the rightmost rider in this picture.)

This photographer caught me just milliseconds before I fell over on my first attempt (I’m dead center with the black jacket on.): canton-fail1

You can see me on the edge in this one turning around to go back down: canton-fail2

Here’s me on my successful Canton run! What a rush! canton-success.jpg

Someone asked me what I thought the hardest climb was, and I’d say either Logan or Eleanor, but for different reasons. On Logan, my tires spun in a couple places because they were wet and the road surface at that time was absolutely awful. There were potholes and deep cracks all over it. I thought I was going to fall on Logan. On Eleanor, my legs started to cramp up while I was seated but luckily they eased up when I stood up and I was able to do it without stopping. Eleanor Street was also pretty rough because of my arm fatigue at that point in the ride.

I thought Welsh Way was difficult because it is so narrow and you have to ensure that you didn’t hit or get hit by other riders. So it was difficult in a more technical sense.

Someone else asked me what I thought the easiest climb was, and I’d say probably Sycamore. Sycamore is also probably a good one to train on if you want to do that on a genuine DD hill.

It was a really hard ride. Towards the end, my arms were cramping up even more than my legs, partially because of the climbing and partially because of all the braking involved on the steep downhills. I had done a fair amount of training, but only on long slog hills that were not as steep as the Dirty Dozen hills, the Deer Run hill in Aleppo Township being a good example. As a result, I feel like my arm strength wasn’t as high as it could’ve been.

Overall, it was actually a more technical ride than I anticipated, not just on Canton. There was a pretty wide variety of skill levels and gearing in my bunch. Some of those people with lower gears than me started to block me even when we were both still making forward progress up a hill.

I was also surprised how long it took. We waited at the top of each climb for everyone in the group (or at least as many people that didn’t drop back into the following groups) and the stops seems to get longer and longer as the day went on. There were also a couple mechanicals and stuff slowing things down.

It was a very rewarding experience, and a real rush to be able finish the ride. There were several hills with lots of cheering fans. Canton is especially exciting because there are so many people cheering you on.

My tips to people who want to do this ride would be:

  1. be sure to train your upper body muscles on training climbs as much as your lower body muscles. I’ve been told that mountain biking is a good training regimen for the Dirty Dozen, and although I don’t have a mountain bike, that sounds plausible to me.
  2. make sure your brakes are in good working order. You are going to be descending many of the same, or similarly steep hills as the ones you are climbing.
  3. even if you don’t normally use electrolyte supplements, you might want to use them for this ride to combat the cramping. I know I wish I had.
  4. consider dropping your tire pressure a little lower than you’d normally keep it. You’ll want the extra traction on the rougher roads.
  5. don’t hesitate, do it. do it right now.

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