Short documentary captures Pittsburgh's inclusive Frigid Bitch bike race | Pittsburgh City Paper

Documentary captures Pittsburgh's inclusive Frigid Bitch bike race

click to enlarge Two bicyclists round a corner, the sun at their backs.
Photo: Courtesy of Early Dawn Productions
A Bitch of a Race

The Frigid Bitch bike race has more than earned its name. The annual event, defined as a so-called alley-cat, or unsanctioned race, challenges riders to brave cold temperatures while traversing Pittsburgh’s hilly, sometimes unforgiving terrain.

What most attracted bicyclist Danielle DiVito-Gerson to the race was its billing as an event for “women and under-repped-genders only.” Initially lured as a participant, DiVito-Gerson instead set about documenting the annual event in A Bitch of a Race, an upcoming film co-directed with her wife, Aubrey Leigh DiVito.

Set to premiere as part of the No Man’s Land Film Fest, an all-women adventure film festival based in Denver, Colo., the nearly 17-minute short captures the many types of people who participate in the Frigid Bitch.

“When I started this project, I really wanted to show what an important community was created,” says DiVito-Gerson.

Venture Outdoors will host the premiere on Fri., Aug. 12 as part of its Big Day Aht weekend-long fundraiser. A Bitch of a Race, as well as other selections from the No Man’s Land world tour, will screen drive-in style at Carrie Blast Furnaces.

DiVito-Gerson says Frigid Bitch came from Pittsburgh Babes on Bikes director Anna-Lena Kempen, who created the race nearly a decade ago.

"And then she realized as, you know, it got bigger each year, ‘I need to make this more inclusive.’ So it's women, non-binary folks, there are a lot of trans riders,” says DiVito-Gerson.

Kempen says the first Frigid Bitch took place on Feb. 15, 2014, adding, "It was created by a woman wanting to share an awesome experience with her peers, and be the biggest toughest most badass alley-cat out there.”

Unlike other competitive races, riders can make Frigid Bitch their own and take it at their own pace, opening it up to people of all skill levels and abilities.

DiVito-Gerson, a self-taught filmmaker who lives in Moon Township, says her biking journey began when she “just bought a bike randomly off Craigslist.”

“And I would always bike around the city just kind of casually,” says DiVito-Gerson. “And maybe two years ago, I started doing it a little more seriously. And in the last year, I definitely got into it more seriously. It's, like, the best stress reliever there is.”

She and her wife had planned to race the Frigid Bitch earlier this year but instead turned their attention to highlighting other riders and their stories.

DiVito-Gerson says the race appeals to a wide swath of people, from moms “who come in from the suburbs to ride once in a while” to professional racers. She points to one subject in the film as the reason why events like Frigid Bitch are so important.

“She's Korean, and in the documentary, she says basically when she is facing a giant hill, she thinks about how grateful she is to be doing this sport because her mom didn't know how to ride a bike. Her grandma didn't know how to ride a bike. And they kind of looked at her like, you shouldn't be doing this sport as a female,” says DiVito-Gerson.

A Pittsburgh native, DiVito-Gerson says she believes the city has become more bike-friendly, thanks in part to work by organizations like BikePGH. She points at the increase in bike lanes and other infrastructure built to accommodate pedalers and pedestrians, as well as its proximity to major bike routes like the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail, which runs all the way to Cumberland, Md.

A fan of adventure documentaries about everything from mountain climbing to kayaking, DiVito-Gerson looks forward to contributing to the genre.

“I really want to tell the story in a thoughtful way that really shows like the heart of Pittsburgh and how different it is for these athletes,” says DiVito-Gerson.

This story was updated on Aug. 11 to include a correction and a quote from Anna-Lena Kempen.

A Bitch of a Race. Gates at 7 p.m. Fri., Aug. 12. Carrie Blast Furnaces. 801 Carrie Furnace Blvd., Rankin. $25.

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