Biking from Greenfield to Pitt (revisited)

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yllw
Member
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My apologies if this has been asked recently. After living in pgh for 2 years I want to try to get back into biking, starting with my daily commute (roughly from the Greenfield Giant Eagle to the heart of Pitt campus).

I read this thread: https://bikepgh.org/mb/topic/biking-from-greenfield-to-upitt/

But obviously now that the Greenfield Bridge is no more, this route is no longer a possibility. Google Maps suggests taking Murray to Forbes, but I’ve tried this route once before and don’t like it at all. Is there a better route? Maybe Greenfield Ave to Swinburne bridge? Is the bridge bike-friendly?

Any tips for an out-of-shape newbie are much appreciated!


jonawebb
Participant
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No, no, no, do not try the Swinburne bridge. The bridge itself is OK, but once you cross you will be on Swinburne Street, which is narrow, twisty, has poor sight lines, and lots of traffic during rush hour. Very dangerous.
If you don’t like Murray/Forbes the other way is to take the Panther Hollow Trail to Joncaire, riding the sidewalk uphill because of the Belgian block. Or you could ride to the end and take Bayard.


Jason-PGH
Member
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A few suggestions I have:

1. Take Greenfield Ave. to Saline Street (Right onto saline) then onto the Junction Hollow Trail. Take the trail either to Boundary Street which would take you up to Fifth Avenue. Or, you could turn left onto Jonicaire Street which would drop you off at Bouquet.
goo.gl/EO2nWZ

2. Same route, but instead of continuing on the Junction Hollow trail, turn right onto the ZigZag trail. Its not the best trail in terms of size or blazed, but it will get you up faster than the Junction Hollow. Take the zigzag to a left turn on the Bridle trail. Take this to the Panther Hollow bridge, which will bring you into Oakland.
https://goo.gl/T6EFtg

3. If you’re looking for a more bike-lane friendly route and don’t mind a bit of a longer ride, take Beechwood to Beacon, Beacon to Whightman, then left on Forbes. From here you can either branch off onto Schenley Drive, or continue down Forbes which will drop you off by CMU.
https://goo.gl/9pBmf5


yllw
Member
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great, super helpful! I’m gonna try one of the first two routes tomorrow.


Jason-PGH
Member
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Both of those require a downhill and uphill, which can be kinda sucky if you’re trying not to get sweaty.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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What part of Murray to Forbes didn’t you like?

Instead of the Beacon-Wightman-Forbes suggestion above, I might propose taking Beechwood to Forward.
When Forward bends left at Murray, continue straight onto Pocusset. Follow this uphill, then down onto the Pocusset Drive Trail.
When it ends at the north end of the Greenfield Bridge gap, turn right on Greenfield Road.
Go straight through the traffic light at the top of the hill, then left at the stop sign onto Serpentine.
At the top of Serpentine, continue to the right on Circuit, then make a left at the stop sign onto Darlington Road Ext. Left again on Schenley will take you down through the golf course to the back side of CMU, then to Phipps, where you can turn right toward Schenley Plaza / Pitt / etc.

(You can also make the left at the top of Serpentine to take Circuit down to Schenley; this descent is fast, curvy, and has a lot of parking on the side at the bottom…)


abm760
Participant
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If you are ok with Murray Ave. to the GetGo station at Murray, Forward, and Pocusset, you can ride to there, (Copenhagen left if warranted), go up Pocusset, and then take Wightman to Darlington into Schenley Park. This keeps you off of Forbes and no major climb towards the end of your ride.

I used to live a block from the end of Wightman and this is the route I used to get into Oakland.

https://goo.gl/maps/5ugesXz8SHG2


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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oh, right. I keep forgetting Darlington is one-way only east of Wightman, not Murdoch…


yllw
Member
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that looks like a great route abm! I don’t mind the Murray ave. bit as much as I’d like to avoid Forbes, so this is perfect. Looks like I have a few routes to try out.


Ahlir
Participant
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If you simply want to avoid Forbes, cross it and keep going to Aylesboro then turn left. At that point there’s many options to get to Pitt (Scheley Dr, Wilkins/…/Ellsworth).

Or as others have suggested, turn west on Bartlett then on to Schenley by way of Darlington (or, heck, straight down Bartlett and on to Serpentine for a nice ride through the park).

Pocusset/Greenfield/Bridle is nice, but the trail surface is maybe rough and it’s often clogged with joggers.


yllw
Member
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I took abm’s route this morning and it was very good and manageable! I’m a bit worried that the ride back is gonna be tougher but I think that’s unavoidable.


Pierce
Participant
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FWIW, it gets easier with time. I’ve been riding the same stupid hill for about eight years, but I still pull over a take a drink halfway through it. I hoping the natural process of erosion will make it easier over time :)


yllw
Member
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haha we might be waiting on erosion for a while in hilly Pittsburgh. I ended up walking a good bit of Schenley on the way back but I figure that’s not so bad given the last time I biked was 2 years and 20 lbs ago. I’m gonna keep at it though!


jonawebb
Participant
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You guys need lower gears.


yllw
Member
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I do use lower gears uphill! The problem is I need to quit smoking ¯\_(?)_/¯


Ahlir
Participant
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Maybe it’s your brand… try one of these:


yllw
Member
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hahaha maybe I’ll switch from the full-bodied American Spirits to the mellow ones and that will fix everything /s

today’s bike ride went a lot better though! I’ll get the hang of it.


Mick
Participant
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@yllw

You guys need lower gears.

You might want to contemplate this.

On my bike, I have two gears that are lower than those you would run into on most commercial commuter bikes. They are the gear I use the most and the one I use the 2nd most.

When I got back from a round trip to DC and was in better bike shape than I ever was in my life, I bikes hop sales ‘droid loudly told me that I wouldn’t need the gear ratio I was requesting “once I got in shape.” Right.

As Marko kindly pointed out me while we were ascending Bates street, I can proceed at 3.1 mph and have a comfortable cadence.

Yllw, I might be wrong, but I’d guess you would be a happier camper if you had one or maybe two gears lower than what you have now.

As to your route, you might consider braving Murray until the ugly intersection, then travelling on Pocusset, Greenfield Ave and then schenley trails ( or the street or sidewalk along Panther hollow Blvd) to Oakland.


jonawebb
Participant
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@yllw to follow up on this point, road bikes are usually sold with gearing that is too high for the average rider. Probably something to do with racing. Anyway, around here, it would be a good idea to have a lowest gear ratio less than 1:1. That means your smallest chainring (the numerator) should have fewer teeth than the largest cog on your rear cassette or freewheel (the denominator).
My lowest gear ratio is 3/4.


yllw
Member
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I’m not riding a road bike actually, I have a Cannondale Hardtail for the moment.

I actually did take the advice to heart and went even a few gears lower on the uphill bits and I didn’t have to stop at all during my last two rides, so thanks for the advice! I think I was just self conscious at first that I was going so slow.

I don’t know too much about gear ratios…I usually ride at 2&7 on normal slopes and now I switch around between 2&1 – 2&3 on uphill climbs. I typically don’t mess around with the front gear too much because there aren’t huge inclines or declines on my commute.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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@yllw, the ratios @jonawebb is referring to are between the number of teeth on each gear. Each cassette is different, so even if we have the same number of gears your 7 might have more or fewer teeth than mine.


yllw
Member
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okay good to know! Thanks again, this is a friendly forum!


Ahlir
Participant
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If you want to get all down and geeky, check out http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html
Look your bike model up on the web to figure out its setup.

If your lowest gear is in the mid- to low- 20s, you should be able to handle pretty much everything around town. As you’ve noticed, the more you bike the less you need to use the really low gears. I have a bike that bottoms out at 29″ and it gets me everywhere.


jonawebb
Participant
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You can also just eyeball the gears to get an idea. The biggest cog in the back should be larger than the smallest chainring in the front. If it’s not, your bike shop can change one or the other so you’ll have an easier time getting up hills.
Bike shops are listed at the Biking Pittsburgh Wiki at http://bikingpgh.com/index.php?title=Shops
If I had an old bike that I didn’t want to spend too much money on and I wanted to do this I’d either go to Free Ride near Construction Junction, or Jerry Kraynick’s shop in Garfield.


emma
Member
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This is so awesome. Great job yllw!

It’s so easy to be self conscious and talk yourself out of doing what you want to do, and you didn’t let yourself do that at all! A+


yllw
Member
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thanks emma! I was biking a lot when I went to school near Philly, and then I moved here a few years ago and got intimidated by the hills/city layout/traffic so I stopped for a long time.

But I’ve actually looked forward to the commute the last few days, I just wish I had started sooner now!


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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@yllw, I may have mentioned on another thread, another tip that may help. Learn where the staircases are, and employ them when possible. For myself, I’d much rather carry the bike up 100 steps than grind my way up a difficult hill. It exercises a different set of muscles, so you’re not worn out, and usually the terrain at both top and bottom is closer to level.

The 144 steps toward the bottom of Joncaire will take you up into a low traffic bit of Oakland behind Pitt’s Frick Fine Arts building, near Carnegie Library. The 130-ish between Greenfield Ave and Bigelow Street make the grade on Bigelow a bit easier to deal with.


byogman
Member
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The joincaire steps, they were going to be rebuilt with a runnel, right? What’s the status on that?


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I haven’t heard anything. I don’t think it’s happening this construction season or we would have heard something from somewhere, though I would love to be proven wrong.

Meanwhile, I just practice carrying my bike up and down steps. It’s a really useful skill.

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