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Fox Chapel man to cycle 300 miles for charity

Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Eric Rickin stands with his bike after running the Pittsburgh Marathon.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Eric Rickin of Fox Chapel is counting down the days to a well-planned mid-life crisis.

There's no sports car or ill-advised fling on tap, but for someone who admittedly lacks spontaneity, a 300-mile bike ride to Washington D.C. fits the bill.

“I decided for my 40th birthday, I will ride the trail from Pittsburgh to D.C. and really make this milestone something positive,” said Rickin, a physician at Western Psychiatric Institute.

There was no turning back, either, once Rickin decided to use the trip as a fundraiser for the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry.

“I decided that if we could get $2,700, my family would match it,” said Rickin, who chose the site to honor his late grandmother.

As a member of Adat Shalom, Rickin is a regular contributor to the food bank through produce harvested at the Synagogue's summer garden.

Founded in 1998, the food pantry serves 850 people a year and is the only food bank in the region to distribute kosher food as well.

Shortly after turning 39, Rickin made the “big ride” his priority and has since sped past the original fund-raising goal; he is closing in on $3,000 in donations, meaning a $6,000 gift for the food bank.

“I'd like my ride to be a force for good,” Rickin said on his website, “I feel that this is my part in tikkun olam (a Hebrew phrase that means to repair the world).”

Training for the past eight months, Rickin bikes the seven miles to and from work each day and runs in his spare time. He's lost 45 pounds.

A week ago, Rickin ran in the Pittsburgh half-marathon, 13.1 miles.

He's done some dry runs on the bike trail too, riding from the Boston Bridge in Elizabeth Township to The Waterfront in Homestead.

The longest stretch he's completed at once is about 25 miles, a far cry from the 60 he plans to do five days in a row. But that's part of the excitement in this first-ever event outside his comfort zone, Rickin said.

“I am regimented and risk-averse,” he said. “I knew my crisis had to be helpful and must not interfere with my family or work life and also had to be economically feasible,” he said.

Getting fit, he jokes, was all that he could come up with.

He starts rollin' on Monday, with the course taking him along the Great Allegheny Passage to Cumberland, Md., and then onto the C&O Canal Towpath through Harper's Ferry, W. Va, and into Georgetown.

He said he'll be staying in bed and breakfasts along the way rather than camping out.

There's no worries, he says, about the physical rigors, the preparation or a bike break-down.

“I've become pretty good at fixing my bike,” he said. “I'm more nervous about a thunderstorm or something unplanned.”

When he arrives on Friday into D.C., his family will be waiting for him to spend the weekend in the nation's Capitol.

“Perhaps my story, some schmo turning 40 who wants to ride his bike 300 miles, will inspire you to get involved in some way, small or large, in your community,” he said.

To donate to the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, call 412-422-7200 or visit

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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