By Anna-Lena Kempen
The Frigid Bitch is a ladies’-only bike race in Pittsburgh that happens Valentine’s Day weekend every year. The format is classic alley-cat style–go fast, get there first (try not to freeze). Held in mid-February, this race is aggressively NOT pinkified–not shorter, not easier, no gimmicks. In fact, its probably the hardest alley-cat all year.
Ladies gear up and slog their way through snowed-in trails, slice through cutting winds and grit their teeth against freezing temps and Pittsburgh’s infamous terrain: steep hills, cobbled streets, city steps, and wheel-sized potholes. Because alley-cats are modeled after the day of a bike messenger–racing around town as quickly as possible to deliver packages–there are specific checkpoints racers want to hit but can go in any order, via any course. This means while being fast and competitive are definite pros, women can also pull ahead based on how well they know the city and trails, how confidently they ride in traffic and through obstacles, and how efficiently they plan their route.
Winning the race is tough-as-nails; this year, the full course included hauling up a massive city staircase (or 2), racing down railroad tracks to a secret spot on the river, flooded-out trails, and about 25 miles of riding. Racers have 2 hours to hit checkpoints and another hour to get back to the finish. In order to qualify for rank, however, racers are only required to make it to 1 checkpoint and cyclocross rules apply–you have to have a bike, but you can carry it if you need to. This means a killer time can be had for riders of all levels, and thanks to the absolute outpouring of support from the cycling community, organizations and businesses both local and international, the prize table is stocked to the max. Every single rider, every year, has walked away with swag more than equal to their $5 registration fee.
And this year, having heard that the biggest ladies’ field in Pittsburgh was the 1997 US Pro Women’s Championship with 100 riders (and a $25,000 prize purse), Pgh Babes on Bikes decided we wanted to beat that bar. If registration broke 100 riders, 100% of the fee would be donated to the Greater Pittsburgh Women’s Shelter and Center. Day-of we got a record-breaking 106 registered racers for the 5th Annual Frigid Bitch.
Ladies poured into the venue to grab their manifests, hand-drawn maps, form teams and plan their routes. They rode through the river, hauled ass up a staircase to ring a cowbell, grabbed hot toddies, mulled wine or straight whiskey from cheering volunteers, ran the tracks to shot gun a beer, and hugged a water tower at the top of a steep brick and potholed hill. They rode carbon fiber, fat bikes, commuters, fixies, borrowed bikes and city bikes. Complete strangers rode together and when they cut back through the sleet and snow, ran down the steps to yell their spokecard # into the crowd, they sprayed the organizer with wet from their helmets, grinned and grabbed a beer to exchange road warrior stories and wait for the results.
It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which means two things: people are finally awakening from their food-induced comas and it’s time for the annual Dirty Dozen ride/race. The race is celebrating its 35th year, and perhaps more importantly, it is celebrating the return of its co-founder and longtime face of the event, Danny Chew. Missing last year’s event after suffering a crash that left Chew paralyzed from the chest down, his return was an emotional one. As he was greeted by over 400 riders and volunteers, the contrast of moods between this year and last was an obvious one. Chew chatted excitedly with the riders; his trademark high-pitched ramblings could be heard around the Bud Harris Cycling Track as the event waited for its start.
The Dirty Dozen is a carnival of bikes on the streets of Pittsburgh. Riders from all over descend on the city with hopes of ascending 13 of its steepest hills. What began as a small group of friends testing each other in the winter months has turned into a full-blown cycling event that is a destination for many. Men, women, children, hand-cycles and a unicycle all took their chances against these monstrous slopes. These hills are steep and then they get steeper. By the time the riders reach Canton Avenue, the unofficial steepest hill in the world, they are well aware that these hills are no joke! Having already clawed their way up 8 rugged climbs, including what many feel to be the hardest on Suffolk Street in Pittsburgh’s Northside, the party and refreshments at the top of Canton were a welcomed sight.
Participants were greeted with clear skies and mild temperatures, likely aiding in the record attendance this year. Ian Baun went on to win his second consecutive Dirty Dozen and his third overall, and Stef Sydlik also took home her third overall win in the women’s category. While riders enjoyed the day of camaraderie and physical exhaustion, it was Chew who benefitted most. Friends and family of Chew know how much this day meant to him, to return back to his favorite day of the year. It was another milestone in what has been a long year for Chew; this past weekend was a huge lift for his mental state, remarked a relative. Chew is aware that he faces a long uphill battle, but let’s face it, long uphill battles are where Danny Chew excels.
For the National Bike Summit Recap, we are highlighting some of the amazing organizations and people that attended this year’s event. The role that these organizations play in bicycle and pedestrian safety is extremely important. Go here to read the Part 1 Recap.
Bike Summit Attendee: Julie Mallis
Organization: Bike PGH, Pittsburgh, PA
Tell me why did you attended the National Bike Summit? I wanted to meet with other youth bike educators and LCI’s (League Cycling Instructor), connect with other women in the industry, discuss and challenge the equity of the work we all do, lobby our state senators for people-centric safer streets and to bike around DC! Being around a lot of bike advocates is empowering and fun!
What are some easy ways for people to get involved and support an organization like yours? Thanks for asking! It’s easy, you can: 1: Donate or become a member. You can become a monthly sustainer or contribute annually, 2: Get your business involved with supporting bicycling, 3: Volunteer at our big events like OpenStreetsPGH or parking bikes at the bike valets.
Why should people support organizations like yours? We are a membership-based organization and we need the support and participation of the community to keep up the work! Our organizational focus is on advocacy, community, and education. We work for policy change and transformation of our urban core by inspiring and advocating within communities to achieve bikeable/walkable streets. As we work together for safer streets, we also host large community events like OpenStreets that reimagine how a street could be used. We provide accessible education programs and printed resources for youth and adults to learn online or on-the-saddle bike safety and tips. There are a number of ways in which someone can support or participate in this work!
What was your #1 takeaway from the Summit? Youth are the future of bicycling and we must centralize their voices and experiences in advocating for safer streets. The Engaging Youth in Advocacy and Education was my favorite session. It was hosted by young people from Philly’s Cadence Cycling and Neighborhood Bike Works, Arlington’s Phoenix Bikes and DC’s Gearing Up. Everything the youth had to say was on-point, inspiring and direct. “Just because I’m a youth, doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about” – Theo of @GearinUpDC
Look forward to one more National Bike Summit attendee posts !
Legendary Pittsburgh cyclist Danny Chew was injured in a bicycle accident over the weekend and his dream of reaching one million miles on a bike may be in jeopardy.
Chew, 54, is known throughout the region for his ultra-long rides and for hosting the Dirty Dozen race up the 13 steepest streets in Pittsburgh. The event, which includes the famous Canton Avenue climb up a 37 percent grade, has grown from a challenge amongst friends in the early 1980s to a huge event with police escorts and hundreds of participants.
According to Chew’s friend Cassie Schumacher, who was riding with him in Ohio at the time, he lost control of his bike and rolled into a ditch, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He did not lose consciousness but fractured two vertebrae and is not able to move his legs. The full extent of his injuries may not be known for several days, she said. It is still not clear what caused the accident.
Chew has twice won the Race Across America—in 1996 and 1999—and was pursuing a lifelong goal of cycling a million miles. Right now he is about 200,000 miles to go.
“I’ll just have to finish my million miles on a hand cycle,” Schumacher said he told her. “So be it.”
As a integral part of the cycling scene in the city where Bicycle Times was founded, we hope you can donate or spread the news of this terrible accident. Many Bicycle Times employees over the years have tackled the Dirty Dozen, and we hope to see Danny back on a bike soon.
From Danny’s nephew, Steven Perezluha, on the the youcaring.com fundraiser:
“Recently, my Uncle, Danny Chew, had a bad crash on a hundred mile ride. During the ride, he suddenly passed out and lost control of his body. He broke his neck and remained unconscious. Doctors informed us that he could potentially be paralyzed from the waist down. He is currently in extensive care in Ohio undergoing surgeries.
Danny lives to ride his bicycle. He does not have a 9 to 5 job, he does not have kids, nor is he married. Bicycling is his one true love. To me, my uncle is one of my best friends. With the thought of never being able to ride a bicycle again, it is important that we come together to help him recover and get back to an active life where he can hopefully use his legs again.
My Uncle is the man that got me into cycling. Without him, my life would not be the same. When I was 16, I developed a love for cycling through my Uncle. Our cross-country journey to Alaska developed us as true companions. Danny is a big inspiration to many people and myself. My Uncle has pushed me to accomplishing my biggest goals and has inspired me in everything I do in life. What I’ve learned the most from my Uncle is that with dogged determination and patience, I can accomplish anything that my heart desires. Let us be patient and hope that Danny can continue to ride his bike.
All donations will go directly to Danny Chew’s accumulation of medical bills throughout his long road to recovery. Currently, we are not sure of the extent of his medical needs, but I will do my best to keep all donators updated with news on Danny’s condition.”Tweet Print
For a lot of kids growing up in poverty, the world they know is only what’s directly in front of them. Pittsburgh attorney Mark Rubenstein was seeing young adults make the same mistakes and commit the same crimes as their parents and grandparents. He knew that if he could only expose them to the wider world it would give them a greater perspective on what they could achieve in life.
In 2006 he founded Pittsburgh Youth Leadership, a non-profit that would take at-risk kids from the city on all-expense-paid bicycle tours. Along the way the teens have learned invaluable leadership skills, perseverance, teamwork and how to challenge the world around them.
Since then the group has racked up more than 137,000 miles through 44 states. This summer the organization is planning a 3,000-mile journey from Oregon to New Jersey and filming a documentary of the trip. The film they hope to create a long the way, Conquering the Cycle, will hopefully inspire more teens to challenge themselves and reach for their dreams.
If you’re inspired by how far they’ve come, you can make a donation to Pittsburgh Youth Leadership on its website.Tweet Print