Themed rides are quite popular. You know, where you dress in vintage clothing, on a vintage bike and the whole time you ‘gram with a brand new iPhone as photographers shoot away on the best DSLRs available. These rides take you, en masse around a town as on-lookers wonder what brought all these people to their streets. You ride for a little while, drink for a long while and head home, remove your garments and pack them away for the next ride.
The L’Eroica is not a themed ride in that sense, although many of those traits apply here. You must ride a vintage bike older than 1987. Your attire should be of similar age, as well as your shoes, gloves and other accessories but don’t be mistaken, this is no casual jaunt around the park. This is no leisurely stroll, only sated by a cold beer at a pub. The L’Eroica Britannia is a ride for cyclists.
Going into the 2014 L’Eroica Britannia, Brooks England said they would supply the bike, the jersey and bibs. Basically, all I needed were shoes. My attempts to procure size 47 vintage shoes failed miserably over eBay, resulting in a non-period correct foot retention system. That said, my 70’s Carlton road bike with a mix of Weinmann and Shimano made up for the lack of period-correctness at my feet.
As we all know, equipment on a all-road ride means everything. Not in the sense that there is a requisite of disc brakes, or 45c tires, or 11-speed, but rather, your bike needs to be in working mechanical condition. For the most part, mine was, save for brakes that mostly scrubbed speed – I couldn’t even skid around a dusty corner – and a 1cm wobble in the front wheel.
We would be traversing dirt roads, blasting 1-track and yes, even tearing down rutted and steep maintenance roads. Dave and I opened it up on one descent, not giving a fuck and passed mountain bikers, disc brake “adventure” bikes and the like on our vintage road bikes with 23c tires with practically no brakes. I’m telling you, it ain’t the equipment…
But just as fast as we’d descend, a wall of loose dirt awaited on the other side.
The L’Eroica Britannia was tough. I’m feeling it today in the legs. We rode 60 miles and climbed around 5,000′. Well, I did anyway, after making a wrong turn and ended up down at the base of Slack Hill – only to have to climb the 15% wall on a 49/25 gearing… This ride was for cyclists and it was evident at the last check point, as the unfit laid out, completely shelled and tales began to be spun. For many, this was the “toughest ride they’d done.”
It was a long day, but in the end, it was a beautiful experience, filled with laughter, good food, cold beer and yes, the occasionally tweed rider on a penny farthing… Kudos to the man on the WWII infantry bike and full wool clothing. I wish I had gotten a photo of him!
I want to thank Brooks England for bringing me out and the L’Eroica Britannia for being such great event organizers. Enjoy some photos in the Gallery!