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Annual Icycle Bicycle Ride to be held Jan. 1

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2007

For some, New Year's Day is about sleeping in, recovering from the previous night's festivities and perhaps rolling out of bed in time to watch some football.

For others, New Year's Day is time for the annual Icycle Bicycle Ride, a social event that dates back to some time in the 1970s (even the organizers aren't sure exactly when it started) and takes place rain or shine, sleet or snow.

Sometimes a lot of snow.

"The ride originally started at 31st and Penn (in the Strip District) and the object was to get to the McDonald's in the Strip for hot chocolate and coffee," said ride organizer Marc Yergin of the sponsoring Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen. "At times people had to push their bikes through the snow in order to get there."

This is the second year that the ride will begin at REI at the SouthSide Works, where participants can indulge in free hot chocolate and coffee, courtesy of the store. Last year's ride drew about 200 participants, the biggest crowd Yergin has ever seen.

"Considering it's Jan. 1, and the ride starts at 11 a.m., that's pretty decent," said Yergin, who's ridden in about half of the rides dating back to the 1980s.

The ride this year will take cyclists over the new Hot Metal bike and pedestrian bridge with most of the riders heading toward Downtown, over to the North Side, across the newly reopened 31st Street Bridge and back through the Strip, across the Smithfield Street Bridge and back to REI.

It is a social ride, not a fitness ride, and Yergin said that participants can turn around and head back at any time. All bike types are welcome, and Yergin said he's seen everything from road bikes to mountain bikes to recumbent bikes, and riders in all types of conditions, from the wide awake to those who are still recovering from the night before.

About the only thing he hasn't seen, he said, is a unicycle.

"I know there are some people who do ride them in Pittsburgh, so maybe we can add that to the picture this year," Yergin said.

George Schmidt of Squirrel Hill said that he's done the ride going back at least 20 years.

"(The ride) has been done in blizzards, nice weather, whatever," Schmidt said. "Sometimes it's really nice and people just really want to be outside. Other times it's all you can do to get to McDonald's and get back to the car. But it's been a tradition for a long time around here."

Because it's a social ride, Schmidt said, one of the best parts is just getting to see folks who otherwise tend to hibernate during the holidays.

"It's just nice seeing folks and start talking about what rides you're going to do this year, the big tours, the races," Schmidt said. "This year we have the Tour of Pennsylvania going on and the festivities for Pittsburgh's 250th celebration, so we should have some nice rides."

For details, visit the Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen's Web site at www.wpwbikeclub.org .

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