Larry Walsh on biking: Modern city ride has classic flair

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Might Pedal Pittsburgh, the annual event that offers bicyclists of all ages and abilities a choice of three rides, be the successor to the City Bike Hike that was held in and around the city in 1969?

Could be, said veteran cyclist Tim Killmeyer of Robinson, who recalls riding in the event that started and ended at the Civic Arena. He was 12, his brother Wayde was 11. Their father drove them to and from the arena.

Killmeyer thinks it was Pittsburgh's first large-scale bicycle ride.

"It might be considered a precursor to the Pedal Pittsburgh ride and all the other rides through the city. It still took a number of years for bicycling to reach the level of interest it enjoys today as a recreational activity for all ages. But I think that ride 45 years ago started to lay the groundwork for what we see today. And it planted seeds in me!"

Killmeyer, 57, a home health care coordinator and a deacon for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, recalls pedaling "a third or fourth person hand-me-down bicycle" that he learned to ride as a 7-year-old in an alley in Elliott. "It wasn't pretty but it took me anywhere and everywhere."

He said his father took Wayde to Bakers Bicycle Shop in McKees Rocks on his seventh birthday and bought him a used, reconditioned bicycle.

"It was painted black and had big, wide handlebars on it. The thing had 28-inch tires -- bigger than anything I'd seen before.

"The 29[-inch]ers you see on some bikes today are on regular frames, but this frame was so big that he couldn't even ride it when he first got it. [As] he started to grow into it, he had to stand on a curb with the bike on the street to get on and off it! And it must have weighed at least 60 or 70 pounds. It was a big bike!

"[Wayde's] recollection of the City Bike Hike was pumping that big, heavy bike up the hills to Schenley Park and getting teased by kids with lighter, newer rides. But he never got off and walked!

"It was great taking over the streets with 700 bicycles using a police escort. I really think that ride started to open my eyes that my bicycle could do more than just get me around my local streets to my friends' houses and back and forth to serve Mass and go to Little League games."

On a trip to Washington as a high school senior year, Killmeyer saw a railroad right-of-way converted to a bike trail in Arlington, Va.

"That stayed in my head [and became] the impetus for a dream of converting a local abandoned right-of-way in Robinson Township to a bike trail [that is] now part of the Montour Trail.

"Some of the credit for all of that, at least in my own case, probably goes back to that City Bike Hike in 1969," he said.


Triathlon weekend

The 17th Annual First National Bank Pittsburgh Triathlon & Adventure Race will be held today and Sunday at the North Shore Riverfront Park/Great lawn between PNC Park and Heinz Field.

More than 1,000 triathletes, from beginners to professionals, will challenge the "grueling course," said Thomas Baxter, executive director of the Friends of the Riverfront.

The Triathlon and the Adventure Race includes bicycling and running. The Triathlon includes swimming; the Adventure Race offers competitors the option of paddling a canoe or a kayak.

The event includes a Race Expo from 10 a.m. to noon today and Sunday.


Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.

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