Those snowflakes you thought you saw the other day? That was all in your imagination. Or maybe you were hallucinating – prolonged exposure to brutal arctic conditions can produce flashbacks, you know. Or maybe it’s your choice of refreshments. Heaven knows you couldn’t be blamed for downing a few bracers after what you’ve been through. But now that it’s over – and it is over, right? – we denizens of the 40th parallel can finally turn our attention to recreational activities that do not involve sliding around on frozen stuff.
One of those activities involves the bicycle. If you rode one as a child – and if you didn’t you must be some sort of communist – you probably can ride one today. We say “probably” because bicycles have changed quite a bit since you rode around barefoot throwing the Mayberry Gazette onto Aunt Bee’s porch. Your idea of a bicycle is probably what they now derisively call a “cruiser,” a primitive tank-like balloon-tired affair which can be operated without donning a futuristic aerodynamic helmet or anything resembling spandex pantaloons.
Today’s bicycles are engineering marvels with 24 gears, or about 20 more than you’ll ever use. Seriously, though, you’ll be glad you have them when you encounter a hill because it will allow you to ascend at about 1-1/2 mph while pedaling at a furious 3600 rpm. What you want to do, for safety’s sake, is avoid the streets and stick to the trails. Try the Great Allegheny Passage trail that wends its way from Pittsburgh up alongside Carson Street on the South bank of the Mon, through Sandcastle, the Waterfront, and Kennywood’s back yard and into Duquesne. It will then cross the Mon and pick up the Yough in McKeesport which it will follow into the mountains to its source and beyond.
You don’t have to go that far, though. You could bike from the Waterfront to South side, grab a coffee and a donut at Station Square, and head back to catch lunch at Eat n Park. Total mileage? About 15, depending on how much you zigzag. Net calories burned? Let your conscience be your guide. You could head in the opposite direction, negotiating the bridges across the tracks which can be a little daunting, and the refurbished railroad bridge across the Mon, which is stunning, and grab a nosh at the old Palisades near the Mon-Yough point. About the same mileage, but you’ll work a little harder, which might justify that second danish. The only real hazard will be the Tour de France contestants who like to fly by at high speed wearing gaudy costumes and riding bikes that cost more than our first three cars. Combined. For this reason alone you probably want to wear a helmet. The bikeshop variety are very light, but you could get by with an old football helmet, or your OH-5 hard hat with a bungee chin strap, especially if your cruiser is OSHA orange.
The other hazard is the seat. Go ahead and switch to the big tractor style model with padding galore but you’ll still feel the pain after a few miles. There doesn’t seem to be a really comfortable one and no one knows why. You’d think Einstein could’ve come up with a theory for that.