The Absolute Best Tips for New Pittsburgh Cyclists

Build confidence for your next ride in the city

All of us here at Bike Pittsburgh have been around the block a few times (and up most of the hills as well). That’s why we compiled this list of some of our best tips for those new to biking (or just new to biking in the Burgh).

When you need more information, check the links for our detailed guides or watch our how-to videos. Then head out the door for your ride.

8 Tips for new Bicyclists

3rd Edition Biking 101 Guide

1. Read the Biking 101 Guide

Since 2007, over 50,000 copies of this guide have helped Pittsburghers learn the tricks, tips, suggestions, and laws to stay safe, comfortable, and legal while biking. All the information is laid out in an approachable style that gives you enough to grasp the concepts, but not too much to scare you away.  The best part is: it’s absolutely free.

Some of the included information involves:

  • How to navigate Pittsburgh’s weather while biking
  • Tips for getting you around all the hills and rocky roads
  • PA Biking Laws that you should abide by

Grab a copy at any of the bike shops in town, or feel free to stop by our office.  Be green and skim through the online version.

2. Start with an ABC QUICK CHECK

Have you checked your bike since your last ride? When was the last time you had it in the shop? Regular bicycle maintenance can prevent accidents. Here is the “ABC Quick Check,” which you should do every time before you ride.

  • A is for Air
    •  Check each of the tires for proper air by either locating the proper air pressure, called PSI (pounds per square inch), on the side of the tire and using a gauge to confirm, or by pressing against the tire to see if its filled.
  • B is for Brakes
    • Give a squeeze to each lever by the handlebars while pushing your bike forward. The brakes should stop you from progressing your bike forward. You can watch the brake arms hug each wheel stopping it when the levers are pulled.
  • C is for Chain
    • After, see if the Chain moves smoothly up and down the chain ring and that it’s sufficiently lubricated and not rusty.

After the ABC’s, look to see if you have Quick Release parts and that they are securely closed. Watch our how-to video on the ABC Quick Check for more information!

3. Fit Your Bike Helmet Properly

Take your time, and be patient when fitting your helmet. Follow this step-by-step guide (or watch our video) to correctly fit your helmet:

  • Loosen the dial on the back of the helmet (if it has a dial).
  • Put the helmet on and tighten the dial.
  • Make sure the helmet is snug. Shake your head left, right, up, and down.
  • Buckle the strap. Make sure only 1-2 fingers can fit between strap and your chin.
  • Check to see if the strap fits around your ears.
  • Check to see if your forehead is protected. There should be a maximum of two inches between your brow and the front of the helmet.   

Any child under the age of 12 is mandated by law to wear a helmet, but to be up to date on the latest bike fashion, everyone should wear one.

4. Stay Lit

If you find yourself out towards the end of the day, don’t fret, just make sure you’re prepared to bike at night.  Remember that visibility is key! It’s important to make sure you follow state vehicle law and have lights visible from over 500 feet away, and be sure to test your visibility before getting out on the road. Be sure to check out our video guide on how to ride at night!

5. Remember your Hand Signals

Hand signals are the only effective way of communicating with other vehicles. In any case of turning or slowing down, make sure your arm is fully visible to all vehicles around you.


To make a right turn signal you have 2 options. You can either signal with your left arm by making an L shape signal or with your right arm. In each case, make sure your arm is fully visible to all around.


To make a signal left, use your left arm and point to the left. Make sure you full arm is extended and clear to drivers in front of you and behind you


To signal that you are coming to a stop, extend your left arm down, with the palm of your hand facing the car behind you. Release your signal when you come to a complete stop

6. Plan Your Route – Ahead of Time

Pittsburgh can seem like a daunting place to ride a bicycle for a new cyclist or a newcomer to the city, but it shouldn’t be. Our city’s beauty, in many ways, stems from our lack of a traditional street grid, our rivers, and our many hills — three elements that also make riding in the city challenging at times, especially since these geographic components provide most of our neighborhood connections.

Our Pittsburgh Bike Map is designed with the commuter and urban explorer in mind, in the hopes that folks can learn some safer routes between neighborhoods, and increase their mobility options to get around all of the city.

When planning your route, look at all options – often there’s multiple routes available. Our map legend points out:

  • Marked on-street bike routes
  • Protected bike lanes
  • On Street bike routes
  • Cautionary bike routes
  • Trails
  • Steep Hills and Very Steep Hills (You’re Welcome)

Click here to check the official Pittsburgh Bike Map to plan your next ride.

7. What’s the Weather?

It’s good to remember that weather in Western Pennsylvania knows no bounds, and any spring day could have a wintery mix morning, drizzly afternoon, and humid, sunny evening. 

Make sure you wear the right gear to stay dry when out in the rain, brake gradually, and give yourself extra time when traveling. Be sure to dress in layers if it’s cold in the morning and warmer during your trip home.  Wear breathable fabrics that are great for hot and cool temperatures like microfibre or merino wool! 

6. Ride With Us

BikePGH offers exciting community rides to bikers of all backgrounds. These rides can help familiarize you with some of the best routes through Pittsburgh, while allowing you to meet some fellow bicyclists.

  • Get to know your neighbor during a community ride!
  • Join the WMNBikePGH community of women and non-binary riders!
  • Take a City Cycling class to get adjusted on your bike! We offer classes for all skill levels, as well as one-on-one lessons.
  • In the summer you can look forward to OpenStreetsPGH during the last weekend of May, June, and July and Pedal Pittsburgh the last weekend of August.

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