Canton Avenue


If you have not heard of it, Canton Av is the steepest public street in the US. It is also one of the steepest in the world. Many cyclists measure their mettle by trying to climb it. I was passing through Pittsburg, PA with my bike on the car so I thought I would give it a shot.

As I was driving toward the location I was wondering if I would have the leg strength and the cardio endurance to make the hill. I found it, put my helmet on and climbed on my bike. I got a bit of momentum prior to the start of the hill and up I went. After a very short distance my momentum was gone and it was all me. I quickly realized I would have both the power and the cardio to do it except… I did not consider how hard it would be to keep the front wheel on the ground.

I am a Clydesdale making things very top heavy. I also ride with flat handlebars in an upright posture making things worse. My weight meant I had to put additional force on the pedals creating more torque on the back wheel. The combination of these things made it nearly impossible to keep from flipping back over the rear wheel. I let up a bit on the pedal force and it helped but I immediately slowed to nearly a stop. Then the front tire hit the first cobblestone.

The street is paved with asphalt for the first part then the remainder is a type of cobblestone. These stones were shaped like bricks with a sharp edge. This sharp edge is situated up so it grips car tires much like coarse snow tire treads grip the pavement in bad weather. The first sharp edge was all it took to completely lift the front of my bike.

Stopping the bike on the extreme incline was no easy task. It wasn’t graceful or pretty, but I managed to keep from falling. Good thing because if I fell backward, I would not stop when I was horizontal, the ground is still lower.

So, I was not successful, but I feel confident that I had the power and the cardio, the hill is short. If I were lighter with drop bar handlebars, I am convinced I could have done it. If I get back to Pittsburg with my bike maybe I will try again with some weights secured to the front fork.

Here is a story about the hill: KDKA report

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