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squirrel hill to lawrenceville route

New to Pittsburgh. Biked to work everyday in my previous city (Philly) but hills like I've seen here don't exist there and I'm a little intimidated. Any suggestions to ease me into it? Roughly speaking, will be going from Murray and Phillips to 45th and Penn. Thanks in advance for the responses!
2014-07-18 14:14:10
I like Morewood, South Millvale, and Friendship. Coming back up the hill I usually take Forbes since it has a climbing lane. Down the hill you can mix it up in many different ways. Negley tends to have more car and bus traffic than I like but going out via Wilkins and Amberson and then over to Morewood/Millvale can be nice. Note: I am slow and like to look at all the cool houses in Sq Hill and Shadyside. Directness is generally not my main consideration.
2014-07-18 14:25:12
You may learn to like hills. I used to think 40th was unclimbably steep. Now I sometimes don't even shift into my lowest cog. Give it time. Legs learn.
2014-07-18 14:50:28
I would jag over to Shady, take Shady down to Walnut. L onto Walnut and follow that to Aiken. Stop at Prantls on the way for a treat. R onto Aiken. When you cross Centre, stay on the main road which bears to the Left. This is Liberty and has a nice bike lane. Follow Liberty to Cedarville. R onto Cedarville to Friendship. L onto Friendship. Friendship hits Penn just about at 45th street. Not the shortest way but keeps you off some of the busier streets. As for hills, if you're gonna ride in Pittsburgh you've got to learn to love them.
2014-07-18 15:00:36
You really don't have to climb many hills so long as you stay away from Negley Hill. Google Maps has 3 different routes that require around 150 feet of climbing. That's pretty flat in these parts. And Stu is right, the hills are strangely addictive. Some people compare it to Stockholm syndrome; others call them their friends.
2014-07-18 15:03:08
Another thought, not just for your commute--Get hold of Bike Pittsburgh's biking map. It shows many good routes and provides an indication of the steepness of hills.
2014-07-18 15:10:03
North on Wightman, left on Wilkins, straight on Fifth to right on Morewood, right again at end onto Millvale, left on Friendship (behind hospital), to near Allegheny Cemetery. Can customize route from Friendship over time to better suit your needs. Only hill is on Wilkins, which is easily doable, or has sidewalk you can walk up. Having lived in Bloomfield and run and biked this area many times, I am certain that this is the route I would take (although I would have come up Aiken, rather than Morewood/Millvale as it would bring me closer to home)
2014-07-18 15:49:58
Get Pittsburgh gearing and learn to love hills! Pretty soon a 20% grade will seem friendly enough! There are many ways to make the trip you describe without steep hills -- I suggest trying a few and paying more attention to cars than hills.
2014-07-18 15:50:47
P.S. Within a year, you will be of the "hills build character" mindset. For now, rest assured there is not a hill in Pittsburgh that you can't walk your bike up, if needed. (Ok, no need to prove me wrong on that statement, any smart a**es out there)
2014-07-18 15:52:02
I live in Sq Hill too, near Wightman & Wilkins. Sometimes I don't feel like climbing Wilkins from 5th so I loop around Morewood->Forbes->Beeler, if you are already at 5th and Morewood it is not far out of the way and the most gradual way up the hill. There's also Beechwood on the other side, although that is a bit of a detour for this commute; it is a little easier than Shady. Very occasionally I will take on Negley directly. You can also put your bike on the front of a 64 bus, it is practically door-to-door.
2014-07-18 23:05:54
Rule #1 Cardio. In the past year, I've gone from "OMG, that hill almost gave me a nosebleed!" to "Eh, that wasn't so bad." when it comes to (most of) our hills. Your legs get used to it. I still have a few "I hate you, hill!" slooooow climbs, but I do 'em for fun.
2014-07-19 00:18:47
Coming up from Lawrenceville I like climbing in Allegheny Cemetery. you still have to climb, but there's no pressure from traffic. You can S turn if you feel the need (until you get your Pittsburgh Legs). I cut across Penn there and pick up Friendship about two blocks away. From there you have lots of options. I think maybe (someone correct me if I'm wrong here), but I perceive the easiest climb is going through East Liberty - Penn, 5th, Beechwood, Forbes, to Murray. When I cut through Shadyside I go up Wilkins, and I remember that as a bit more steep. I know for sure that cutting through Chatham Univ is much more challenging. Everyone is right about getting used to the hills. Climbing 18th St from the Southside to go to Mt Washington used to kick my butt. I no longer wheeze for air when I reach the gas station by Arlington, and I'm not impressed with myself when I climb up Troy Hill at all. It's all relative. Hang in there, and remember Salty's advice: when it gets too bad toss the bike on the front of a bus. Keep Calm and Downshift.
2014-07-19 09:51:46
I was also quite serious about the gearing. Most bikes you buy off the rack, even in Pittsburgh, come with generic gearing that just doesn't consider the grades that you almost can't avoid around here. Unless you are in the fixie tribe, go to a shop and have a chat with the mechanic about the gearing on your bike. A new cassette does not cost very much if your derailleur can accommodate it. Then just keep spinning.
2014-07-19 11:38:43
Triple chainring. Absolutely get a triple. I don't know how I survived my first few years in this town with a double. I find myself switching among the three in front and nine in back constantly. In my lowest, I find it difficult to deal with mud and gravel because I'm geared too low. I spin out. That's somewhat a result of climbing some long-ass hills a lot, too. If you saw me, I'm not a big guy -- 5'8", 150 -- but my legs have gotten good at climbing hills like Negley on a routine basis. Only I don't do that one too often. I live north, so I get to climb Federal Street fairly often. Negley is about 150 feet in 0.2 miles; Federal is about 350 feet in 0.75 miles. You get used to it. btw, I recommend making sure your brakes work really well, too.
2014-07-19 12:39:31
Since you're near 45th though, davidson to service way to sherrod to 45th (take the sidewalk for a block to avoid the one way) to friendship to millvale ave to center to morewood to forbes to beeler to wilkins to murray. Another low stress way up the hill in lawrenceville during rush hour is davidson, to urbana to geneva to main then take that to liberty or make a left on to howley or penn to access friendship ave. I usually just crank up 44th or main st, but it just depends on how much you like riding with traffic up a hill.
2014-07-20 19:21:57
Coming from squirrel hill, I like phillips to whitman to forbes to morewood to millvale to liberty to taylor to friendship to 44th to davidson to 45th.
2014-07-20 19:26:14
Interesting to see what everyone suggests. I live in Sq Hill and ride that way often. I take Shady --> Alder --> College --> Ellsworth --> Aiken/Liberty --> Main --> Penn. Coming back I would probably reverse it.
2014-07-20 20:23:33
There isn't a bad suggestion here, you just have to find what fits with your temperament and priorities. And that may be different day to day. So try them out. Maybe try multiple on a Sunday to get an initial feel especially if there's one you're interested in but a bit nervous about.
2014-07-20 20:30:20
One (or rather two) things to keep in mind about very steep climbs. There a useful part of the route (back up... avoid on the way down) in two diametrically opposed scenarios. And it's actually perfectly valid to do some of each. Scenario one, harden up: If you stay on the bike, you can think of it as a proving ground. You certainly don't have to clear the hill day one (or even month one), but you can go in with the mentality, dammit I am going to give it my all and see how far up this stupid thing I can get... better be at least as far as last time. That brief, slightly insane level intensity exercise causes more bodily adaptation than much longer, less intense work, so as long as you're not injuring yourself or getting so discouraged you don't want to be out there, it's a good investment in yourself. Scenario two, wimp out: Taken off the bike, walking, you're not off the bike for long for how much vertical you clear, and the rest of your route is a lot friendlier for the comparatively short walk. I hear the crowd here booing, but if you're in a bit of a bind... low energy, a bit sick, something complaining from a string of "harden up" rides, whatever, having an out like that can be the difference between riding and not. Obviously if you find yourself doing a lot of scenario two, it's far better to just make another easier route your default plan. But if you do finally work up the steam to clear tough hills like Negley without walking you feel (briefly) like a superman, and that's where the addiction to hills thing kicks in. Building in that reserve capacity means that you when you take an easier route, load up the backpack/panniers with groceries or the like... which is awesome (I get tired of the squirrel hill giant eagle). Stick with it, it gets easier. And have fun out there.
2014-07-20 20:42:17
This is the route that I use when I need to go from Sq. Hill to Friendship: I find the climb up through the golf course a lot nicer than up Forbes, and also more pleasant downhill.
2014-07-20 21:02:45
LOTS of great responses - thanks!! Looks like I have many ways to try out and find out how good/bad my conditioning is! I do get a 'blood-in-the-eyes' competitive streak every now and then so you might catch me attempting Negley eventually! I'll probably be the guy walking the bike up the hill!
2014-07-21 09:17:55
@byogman Really nice advice. Scenario 3: Work up to a single speed. Regularly climbing all the big hills and loving it, but still slap the panniers onto the geared bike for shopping.
2014-07-24 08:35:09
That's a commute I've done many times (or at least most of it). I used to live at the corner of of Wightman and Phillips and worked at West Penn Hospital. I would head up to Wightman, right on Wightman to Wilkins, left on Wilkins to 5th, hard right on 5th, left on St. James (or Aiken), right on Ellsworth, left on Aiken, continue on to Liberty, right on Taylor, left on Friendship, which ends at 45th and Penn. You could vary a bit in Bloomfield. Sometimes I would go up Negley on the way home. And when I was really tired, I would take the back streets in Shadyside and make my way to Beechwood. That's the least steep road up into Squirrel Hill. Wilkins isn't really all that bad, though. Just be glad you are up at Penn and not down on Butler. That's another hill to climb. I haven't ridden to work in a while, but once the school year starts back up I plan on riding again, so maybe I'll see you out there.
2014-08-08 14:38:59
A nice thing about these 'best route' threads on BikePgh is that you'll get maybe a couple of dozen reasonable alternatives but no real knock-down arguments about the "right" routes. [maybe that's why no one reads this board anymore, at least according to one opinion on the "constructive comments" thread]. Anyway, all the routes suggested sound fine to me. I travel between these neighborhood semi-regularly and have of course have my own preferences. One suggestion if you're not in a super hurry to get to work and just want to ride: make your way over to Dallas->Hamilton->ELB->Negley->Penn (say along Northumberland), most of it is low-stress biking. Otherwise just make sure Millvale is one of the links. On the way back Friendship->Baum->Highland->Broad->ELB->Beechwood is somehow relaxing (despite the cars).
2014-08-08 17:53:29