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Round Things Roll

The view from the C&O trail, as featured on


I’ve previously shared my love of bikes here on Eleventh Stack, which is why it pains me to admit that I haven’t been riding my bike nearly as much as I should these past few years. This is largely due to two factors: 1) although it’s easier (and safer) than ever to bike on the roads of Pittsburgh, I’ve never felt totally comfortable riding alongside cars, especially on roads without designated bike lanes; and 2) Pittsburgh has some truly crazy geography, and after I bought a house a few years ago, I realized it was just about impossible for me to continue biking to work.

Despite the narrow roads and many steep inclines, I still have to say, Pittsburgh is a fantastic biking city. We have a terrific bicycle advocacy group (with an award winning bike map), a growing assortment of bike shops, a bicycle museum and at least two places that I can think of where you can drop in and learn to fix your bike for free (or for a very minimal fee).

And if you’re like me and don’t feel comfortable biking on the road, there are also hundreds of miles of bike trails in Western Pennsylvania that are dedicated exclusively to pedestrians and bike riders. I’ve always wanted to tackle the 335-mile rail trail that goes all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., and in a recent effort to get healthier, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and attack the trail this October.

Luckily the library is here to help me (and you!) train for this ride. Here are a couple resources that I’ve found helpful while planning for my trip:



TrailBook 11th Edition: Official Guide to the C&O Canal and the Great Allegheny Passage

The title pretty much sums it up. This TrailBook covers all 335 miles from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, PA. It includes: a planning guide, weatherproof tips, a full-color map, 232 pages of trail information, plus a description of trail towns with dining and lodging listings.


bike_historyBiking Through History on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail

This book explores the history of the early settlers and developing towns along the Great Allegheny Passage. If you’re someone who likes to learn a little bit of history while you travel, then you will find this book delightful. Bonus: the book also discusses the flora and geological features along the trail, with some lovely illustrations and photographs.



The Bike Deconstructed: a Grand Tour of the Modern Bicycle

It’s a good idea if you’re doing a longer ride to learn some basic bicycle maintenance, such as learning how to patch a flat or adjust your breaks. Free Ride Pittsburgh offers affordable bike repair classes, and of course the library also has some helpful resources. Richard Hallett’s The Bike Deconstructed is a great place to start if you want to get a feel for the various working parts of your bike (and learn a little history about bikes in the process). Moving forward, The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair is handy to have on hand if you’re just starting to tinker with your bike.



Bike Your Butt Off!: a Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Cycling

If you’re anything like me, you may not currently be in the proper physical shape to ride 50 miles a day for an entire week. I’ve just started training for my ride, and picked up this book for inspiration. Even if you’re not particularly interested in losing weight, you may find this book helpful. It offers training tips for becoming a better cyclist, exercises for strengthening key muscles, stretches for relieving those same muscles, and nutritional suggestions for both fuel and recuperation.

So how about you — are you planning any exciting bike rides or other adventures this summer? Please share in the comments below!

Happy travels,


Need some biking inspiration? Check out one of these bike films!

Two Wheels in Film

Tara is a Librarian in the Music, Film & Audio Department, and loves to make film & book recommendations. Some of her interests include gardening, cookbooks, foreign films, comedy albums and devastating literary fiction.

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