Bike ride through the mountains – Complete!

Below is a trip report from my big ride last Friday (7/8).

Overall, the trip was great.  Certainly the toughest physical accomplishment of my life.  The first 50 miles were basically simple.  After that, it was all uphill and extremely steep over the Chestnut and Laurel ridges.  The grades here ranged from 10-14%.  I also had a good number of dogs that seemed to want to attack.  This really spoiled a lot of the enjoyment for me.

For a picture of the route, click here

Trip Statistics

  • Total distance: 68 miles

  • Total time:  5 hours 48 min

  • Speed:  Avg - 12 mph  /  Max - 41.6 mph

  • Altitude:    Chestnut Ridge (2300 ft) & Laurel Ridge (2800 ft)

  • Counties traveled: 5 (Washington, Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette, Somerset

Route Diary

1. To Monongohela (12 miles at end)
Trip started from my driveway.  Followed roads down to Mingo Creek Park and down to Rte 88.  88 South into Monongohela.  Joins with Rte 136 and followed this across the river and to the east.

2. To West Newton (22 miles)
Followed 136E towards Rte. 51.  Pretty much uphill all the way to 51.  First tough climb of the ride. Road had some cars on it, but was not too busy.  Plenty of shoulder to ride on if needed.  After 51 intersection, 4 miles to West Newton.  Pretty much downhill from here aside from a small hill.  Stopped at trail entrance just before the river.  Bike shop (Korber’s Bike Shop) & bathroom located here.

3. Bike Trail to Smithton (28 miles)
Took bike trail South along the river.  There was a parking area in Cedar Creek, but I did not stop.  It was 6 miles to the Smithton Parking area.  This was much smaller, but I was able to spot the exit at the end of the parking lot.

4. To Scottdale / Connelsville (38 miles)
Took a left onto 981 E and crossed the Yough River.  I took this rode all the way to Scottdale.  Very nice road for riding.  No major climbs or attack dogs and traffic was minimal.  After about 7.6 miles, 981 split to the left (In Ruffs Dale, PA).  I stayed right and the road eventually changed its name to Homestead Avenue.

5. To Normalville (56 miles)
This is where things got difficult.  I was hoping to take back roads up the Chestnut Ridge into Normalville.  I had it all mapped out, but I could not find the road I needed (T731).  These little township roads can be poorly marked.  Anyway, after a bunch of looking, I gave up and took 119 S into Connelsville.  This was ugly.  Rumble strips and tons of traffic.  Not really a road that is made for bikes.  Then I decided to take the route to the cabin on the roads that I know from driving.  I took 711 out from Connelsville.  Brutal climbs that were extremely steep.  At least 14% grade at times.  To make matters worse, there were tons of big trucks going to a quarry up the road.  711 was so tight, that I had to pull off the bike and stop when trucks went by.  Peak was about 2300 feet.  Climb was 9 miles long.  Connelsville is 905 feet, so the total climb was 1395 feet.

6. To Cabin (68 miles)
Stopped in Normalville at a market to recover.  Still another big steep climb ahead.  653 was also full of 12-14% grade roads and had a lot of trucks due to another quarry.  I climbed as best I could and was going as slow as 3mph at times.  A couple times, I really did have to stop.  Not sure if it was any tougher, or if I was running out of steam.  At the very bottom of the climb, a Rotweiler jumped out at me and was not on a leash.  He was showing teeth and looked ready for action.  Since I had a giant climb in front of me, I was quite concerned.  Luckily a truck came down the hill and scared him off.  Yikes.  Peak was 2800 feet.  Climb was 6 miles long.  Normalville is at 1800 feet, so the total climb here was about 1000 feet.  When I saw the Laurel Ridge State Park signs, I knew I was home free.  All downhill to our cabin from there.  Family was waiting for me cheering at the end.

What I brought

  • 3 replacement tire tubes

  • 2 patch kits

  • Rain jacket

  • 2 bike water bottles + 1 extra bottle filled with Gatorade

  • 2 Cliff Shot Gels – Razz Sorbet

  • Fig newtons

  • Tools – pump, multi-tool, allen wrenches, tire irons, Phillips screwdriver

  • Wallet & mobile phone

Changes for Next Time

  • Possibly take 819S from Scottdale to 201 and then into Connelsville.

  • A woman in Normalville from the market told me a better way from Connelsville.  She said to take Breakneck, to Quail Hill, to the Clinton Bypass.  This would guide me down to 381 and into Normalville.  I’m sure the climbs over Chestnut Ridge would still be there, but there would hopefully be less traffic.

  • For a longer trip (possibly easier), I could pick up the trail again in Connelsville and follow it to Ohiopyle.  From there, I could get picked up or take it all the way past Confluence to Rockwood.  From Rockwood, I could take 653 going the other way and climb the Laurel Ridge from the other side.  Rockwood is at 1,826 feet, so some of the climb would be done on much less steeper grades.  Connelsville to Rockwood would be 47 miles and then about 11 miles up to cabin.  This would make for an overall distance of 108 miles.

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