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  1. #1
    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    Cleveland to Pittsburgh?

    I'm thinking of starting my 2006 Pittsburgh to DC tour ( Via ATA and C&O trails) from Cleveland which would logistically work better for me since I want to use Amtrak from Albany NY to my starting point.

    Looking at Ohio DOT's website it looks like I could use railtrails for some of the trip, But I was wondering if there might be some other interesting road routes between Cleveland and Pittsburgh?

  2. #2
    RPM: 85. MPH: varies. edtrek's Avatar
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    I live in the middle of Cleveland-Pittsburgh near Beaver, PA and although I can't tell you much about the Cleveland side of it, I may be able to help with the middle and the Pgh side of it. There's two tour books that should help greatly.

    Check out a great little book 'The Cleveland / Pittsburgh Connector", dated 2001 by Anthony F. Ratajczak, ISBN 0-9716165-0-7. I bought my copy at a LBS, Snitger's Bike Shop in Beaver PA, 724.774.5905, you can probably get one there. He's done routing work for Adventure Cycling and did a very nice job. Here's a link to the book at Adventure Cycling

    COLUMBIANA - BEAVER
    Ratajczak offers a two paths between Columbiana OH and Beaver PA, one hilly/quiet and the other flater/busier; I've ridden the flat-busy one and it's okay with me, but it's definitely riding with cars going fast.

    BEAVER-ROCHESTER-MONACA
    One question is how to traverse the confluence of the Ohio and Beaver rivers. You'll see on a map how Beaver PA sits on on the northwest side, Rochester PA sits on the Northeast side, and Monaca PA sits on the southwest side. Ratajczak's Map7 has an inset identifying the route.

    Approaching Bridgewater, use an old, small bridge to cross the Beaver River into Rochester PA. (If you go straight on 51 South you'll end up on a highway bridge, which isn't great. I don't recommend it).

    In Rochester you go straight in for 3 blocks, then turn right and cross the Rochester-Monaca bridge along 18-South. This is kind of strange, but it's called either the Rochester-Monaca bridge or the Monaca-Rochester bridge, depending on who won last year's football game; they actually change the signs.

    You do NOT want to take Route65 south along the east shore of the Ohio. This section of Route65 has the most accidents of any road section in Beaver County.

    So you're crossing the Monaca-Rochester bridge across the Ohio River. In town, turn left on Route 51-South, and you've joined the PA State Bike Route A.

    I ride on Route 51 often; at times it's a 4-lane limited access road without shoulders and fast cars, but generally it's OK. I see other riders out there too.

    So you persist on 51South until you get to a town called Coraopolis, when you have choices to make. This is where Ratajczak's book ends.

    CORAOPOLIS - PITTSBURGH (3 options)
    1. You can stay on 51South until Groveton, and join the Montour Trail, which will lead you nearly to the GAP in McKeesport. There's a few gaps uncompleted, and it's a long meander off course. I love the Montour Trail, I ride it a lot, but it's going to add a lot of miles to the route. Check out the Montour Trail Map

    2. You can stay on 51South and climb several major hills to downtown Pittsburgh.

    3. At the south end of Coraopolis, turn onto Neville Island, which is an ugly gritty industrial island that's perfectly flat and pretty straight. At the south end of Neville Island, exit onto Route 51South in McKees Rocks, and you'll have skipped several heartbreaking hills. This is the way I'd go, but you'll have to decide for yourself. The photo below suggests the route.


    Either way, on 51 South toward Pittsburgh, you're riding in a lot of traffic. McKees Rocks is a once-bustling steel town fallen into disrepair and neglect. They're not high-crime in daylight, but I wouldn't be hanging out in Spandex too long, either. Route51 is a busy major road with no shoulder. Just north of the Fort Pitt Bridge, get on the Station Square Trail:
    PDF Map Station Square Trail

    PITTSBURGH-MCKEESPORT
    If you use Mary Shaw's most excellent little book, "Linking Up: Your Traffic Free Bike Trip Between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC" ISBN 0964601486, available on Amazon, they describe paths from downtown Pittsburgh to McKeesport. There's also a PDF version of the book here: Linking Up Page 25 of the PDF describes the Pgh-McKeesport detour.

    This Pittsburgh trail system will eventually connect to the GAP, but not for a few years. It dead-ends in a railroad yard a few miles short of Sandcastle, and you don't want to be crossing the tracks down there.

    So the trick is, you want to get off the trail at the last road intersection before the dead end. You won't want to have to backtrack. The trail does not go as far as the Glenwood bridge. You could exit the trail at the REI store in South Side Works. Homestead and Duquesne are places where you don't want to stray from the beaten path. Proceed via busy local roads (PA837 ?) through rundown steel towns to McKeesport and join the trail.

    Local bike shops along the route are Snitger's in Beaver PA, Ambridge Bike Shop in Ambridge PA, and Coraopolis Bikes in Coraopolis PA.

    In summation: I've been over most of this route, and without a doubt it's a lot of riding on busy fast streets with cars. I can't understate this: if you're not comfortable with traffic, you wouldn't want do this.
    Although the view of Pittsburgh is great and I love the trail from Pgh to SouthSide, most of this ride is industrial and not pretty. After you get to the GAP, you'll be doubly grateful for a scenic no-car trail to ride.

    I do recommend both Ratajczak's map book and Mary Shaw's book.
    If you have any questions feel free to PM me, or use this form to email me.
    Last edited by edtrek; 11-30-05 at 03:02 PM.

  3. #3
    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply Ed!. I will get Ratajczak's book.


    My alternate plan is to leave the car in York PA , take a bus to Pittsburgh and ride back through \DC and then north through maryland and linking up to the north central railtrail to York Pa.

    I haven't toured in eastern ohio and been wanting to see it
    Last edited by velonomad; 11-30-05 at 04:56 PM.

  4. #4
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Hey Ed,

    I am from Western PA also. I live in Robinson Twp. Allegheny County (for those of you not in the area there are two Robinson Townships that almost touch one another). I am sure I will find your information even useful to me.

    Do you know if it is legal to cross the 79 bridge on your bike? I thought I remember seeing somewhere that it was. Once I get my boat back in the water, in the Spring, I want to take a trip up to Moraine State Park, spend the night on the boat and return the next day.

    velonomad,

    Just be prepared for rough trail on parts of the Montour Trail. Most of it is very good with hard packed limestone but there is a bit that is washed out. The first 2 miles or so from Coraoplis can be traveled by a road bike but it is rough. The area from Imperial to the Boggs parking lot can also be rough but this can be easily bypassed via Boggs Road. If it has been wet then consider a road route as most of the trail will be very muddy (limestoney ? ).
    I was out this weekend, went 20 feet, turned around and just took the roads.

    The McDonald Trestle should not be missed. It is a pretty impressive bit of engineering considering the era in which it was built.

  5. #5
    RPM: 85. MPH: varies. edtrek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker
    Do you know if it is legal to cross the 79 bridge on your bike? I thought I remember seeing somewhere that it was. Once I get my boat back in the water, in the Spring, I want to take a trip up to Moraine State Park, spend the night on the boat and return the next day.
    Hi Spinnaker,
    There's a discussion on the Great Allegheny Passage Yahoo Group about the I-79 bridge right now. The topic is titled: Re: route from Pitts to Montour trail head at Coraopolis?
    My understanding is it's kosher on the bridge, I've seen some bike signs visible to auto drivers on the bridge.

  6. #6
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edtrek
    Hi Spinnaker,
    There's a discussion on the Great Allegheny Passage Yahoo Group about the I-79 bridge right now. The topic is titled: Re: route from Pitts to Montour trail head at Coraopolis?
    My understanding is it's kosher on the bridge, I've seen some bike signs visible to auto drivers on the bridge.
    I thought the same but I think I might give the State Smokies a call just to be sure.

  7. #7
    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edtrek
    Hi Spinnaker,
    There's a discussion on the Great Allegheny Passage Yahoo Group about the I-79 bridge right now. The topic is titled: Re: route from Pitts to Montour trail head at Coraopolis?
    .
    That is my thread on Yahoo Ed, My orginal plan was to ride from Pitts to Lamcaster PA via Washington DC (~500 miles). But I have waited 3 years for the Big Savage Tunnel to get done. In the mean time Amtrak cut baggage service from the Pennsylvanian train in 2004( NY to Pitts) so now I have to ride Greyhound from York to Pitts. Then a few days ago I got the idea to start in Cleveland I still get a ~500 mile tour and the logistics would be easier since I could take the Capitol Limited train instead of the Bus. I'm liking the Cleveland option.

  8. #8
    RPM: 85. MPH: varies. edtrek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by velonomad
    That is my thread on Yahoo Ed, My orginal plan was to ... ...
    That's kind of funny (in a good way), as you've seen I pretty much copied my entry here onto that one other thread, I was feeling pretty efficient about it all, too...

    I'm in a group of three riders planning to ride Pgh - DC in the spring. Previous years we've done McKeesport - DC, with overnight stops in Meyersdale and Williamsport, get to DC, hop in a rental SUV and drive home. This year the guys are eager to see a slight variation in the itinerary so I'm not sure if we're going to start in Pgh or what.

    There's one fellow who's reports are excellent and reliable who rode through the tunnels this September, here's a link to his trip report , he's the first rider who's report I've seen that rode the tunnels.
    Last edited by edtrek; 12-01-05 at 09:55 PM.

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