L’Eroica in California
We’ve reported on L’Eroica many times over the years and you surely understand the concept: ride your bike and enjoy it for what it is – one of life’s true pleasures.
James Stout was part of the California Eroica earlier this month and he was compelled to share his story…
– Photos: Beth Welliver
Much has changed about cycling since RIDE Media began, much more since I was born. Despite all these changes the joy of sharing the road with your mates remains eternal. Sometimes, we need to strip away the gear and the GPS or any kind of cycle computer and get back to the pure and simple joys of a long day out with good people, food and roads to remember what cycling has always really been about.
Nothing illustrates this better than the series of ‘Eroica’ events which has grown from a single Tuscan Gran Fondo to a worldwide phenomena.
The rules of the events stipulate that riders must use technology from before 1987 (amusingly this is the year I was born, but apparently this does not make me ineligible), indexed shifting, steel frames and no clipless pedals.
Woollen clothing is encouraged and helmets are (gasp) optional.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the California Eroica ride this month and to share the dirt roads, beach views and delicious wine with a bunch of mates I haven’t caught up with since I last pinned on a number.
L’Eroica was a fantastic day out, I met new friends (including some subscribers to this very publication) and hopped back into old relationships in a way that only cycling allows me to do. I learned more about bikes than I ever thought I could, and I gained a new respect for the racers of the days gone by.
I didn’t set any power records or KOMs but I got something much better, the reminder that when we all set out to ride for the pleasure of it, we all get to win.
I borrowed a bike with quite some heritage. Its last use was under Edwig van Hooydonck in the Classics, as reflected by the massive tyre clearance and rather ambitious gearing (as well as the still-present race number).
I was surprised at how well the bike handled but the “hard man” gearing didn’t do my knees any favours given the 2,100m of climbing on the 140km course in California.
The day before the event sees the obligatory “packet pick up” and a much less mundane concourse in which some classic bikes are displayed, and judged.
The beautiful roads around Paso Robles California provided a wonderful view to distract from crunching that huge gear. Much of the event took place on the kind of fine gravel that one associates with the Strada Bianche of Italy but which is very common in California’s own wine and olive growing region.
The food stops on the ride also took on a distinctly old-fashioned tone. That’s fine with me.
Picking period clothing is difficult.
One the one hand, modern lycra just ruins the classic aesthetic, but on the other hand wool shorts are terrible to ride in. I opted for some more modern variants with a classic look: Bontrager’s merino wool Classique Jersey, Specialized’s airnet helmet and some plain black Castelli Premio bibshorts provided a great combination of looks and comfort.
Lace up shoes are a must and Mavic kindly provided us with a very tidy Aksium pair to strap into our toe clips. They’re so nice that I’ve repurposed them for my coffee shop rides.
Old equipment makes for some great stories. Is there anyone over 30 who doesn’t remember these?
I can think of at least three wheel contracts I have violated to race on Ambrosio’s legendary rims, for decades they were unparalleled on the cobbles .