Wine, Olive Oil, Dirt and Glory: 120 Miles of Eroica California

Eroica translates to the heroic in Italian and perhaps that was the intention when the Eroica California team designed the course for the forthcoming event in April. While the original event was born in the Italian countryside, on pristine strada bianche, the California event takes to the hills and mountains separating wine country from the beautiful coastline…

Period correct

Equipment is essential, with strict rules and guidelines for what you can ride and wear. No bikes are allowed newer than 1987 – even though even “aero” brake routing is shunned. No STI, no Ergo, either downtube shifters, bar ends or “Cambio Corsa” on a steel bike. For your safety and those around you, please ride a durable, classic looking tire though.

Appropriate attire and equipment. Hey Zoe!

For apparel, you should wear wool, to keep you cool in the hot afternoon sun and warm for the descents. A variety of shoes are available either in the vintage or vintage-inspired variety. No clipless pedals. This is an event that pays homage to cycling’s beautiful past time and it should be respected as such.

With two courses, a 100k and a 200k, Eroica is sure to offer as much dirt and elevation you would desire. The name of the game is excess. Wine, delicious olive oil with frites, dirt and yes, elevation. Everything in excess. Make sure you’ve got that 26t freewheel… you’re going to need it.

The grade kicks up fast before ascending a valley.

As far as the route, you begin by leaving from Paso Robles, for the Cass Winery for a quick ride around the grounds before sampling a delicious wine. Then you’re off to the Halter Ranch Vineyard, before ascending the Santa Lucia Range and one of the most beautiful climbs in the area.

The descent to the coast is one for the books, as you spill into Cambria and scenic HWY 1. Cayucos’ mellow coastal vibes distract you from the two climbs that await. One on sealed road and the other on hardpack dirt, through California orange groves. The final stretch of the last climb will leave your mouth dry, ready for the final rest stop and your arrival back to Paso Robles.

Fun for all groups

Do not be mistaken, this will be a beautiful, yet challenging ride. One that will surely embed itself in your memory and instill a new sense of respect for the forefathers of cycling, all while offering a beautiful tour of one of the most scenic states in the US.

Registration for Eroica California will be open February 16th and is expected to sell out fast, so stay tuned to the event’s Facebook and the Radavist as we’ll make sure to update you as events warrant. The Eroica California is made possible by the Hospice San Luis Obispo County.

  • Steve Clay

    Gorgeous shots.

  • michael

    a doozy for sure.

  • Forrest Cobb

    #40 is one of my favorite shots ever on this site — composition, color, caption — everything about it is incredible. And that road!

  • Peter Ryan Amend

    This so badass! Does anyone know if there are any strava segments showing the offroad sections?

    • Lonnie Wolff

      Strava and L’Eroica are not compatible. They are from different centuries!

  • Tim M

    Seems cool, but a rather high barrier to entry with the specific vintage bike, gear, and clothing. I might copy their routes for a future ride…

    • Bob Freitas

      maybe as close as you local Goodwill…………..

  • charlesojones

    How much of the course did you ride? What was rough breakdown of paved vs. dirt roads?

    • John Watson

      We covered the whole course. 75% dirt.

      • charlesojones

        Wow! 75%?
        That sounds good!!

  • Elliott Cheresh


    • John Watson


  • barry mcwilliams

    Stunning. So amazing. Really nicely done.

    Wish it was in my budget to start ebaying old frames :)

    • c_j_drawbridge

      I agree. Sometimes I look on Craigslist and hope someone sells something wherein they have no idea what they have……

    • Bob Freitas

      Craigslist, your local Used Bike Store, Goodwill or even Ebay. I have seen nice but not top of the line frame sets on ebay for $150. You just have to be creative.

  • fyxo

    Killer set.

  • krashdavage

    This set is ridiculously good. Who shot this? Easily as beautiful as Tuscany… no?

    • John Watson

      I shot it. Everyone shot in the galleries is me unless otherwise noted.

      • krashdavage

        Very pro mate! I knew it was you… but you’re really outdone yourself!

        • John Watson

          Awwwwhhhh shucks. ☺️

  • Carl Anderson

    Nice pics, I looove the light in #46. For shoots like this do you ride or drive? No judgement, just curious, I personally would find it easier to drive (or scooter).

    • John Watson

      Ride with the camera and lenses.

      • Carl Anderson

        Respect. Especially because it looks like you yoyo from behind to ahead of the group so often!

        • John Watson

          Yeah, it’s kinda exhausting! Haha

          • [email protected]


  • ap

    I read the equipment rules earlier and got annoyed and got turned off on the ride because I dont have anything set up as is that would exactly qualify. but the photos make me want to do the ride anyway. great set. but my couplered bike has downtube shifters but 20 speeds.
    come to the east coast eroica.

    • Bob Freitas

      I think the Bianchi might have a $200 or less value(and that 52/48 front chain ring setup earns him ”Hero” for sure). In Italy I have seen many basic bikes out on the course (think Peugeot UO-8 or similar ”bike boom” bikes from the 1970s) ,my recommendation is good tires and proper adjustments.
      I dont think anyone will be turned away if they wear a T shirt or tennis shoes.(they probably just will not get their picture taken)

      • Naoto Hatakeyama

        T-shirt and Tennis shoes will get turned away. That is not the spirit of this event.

  • GreenCentury

    Luckily this is my back yard and I ride these roads all the time:) They don’t care what bike you are on, they are always beautiful.

  • Harry

    All the photos are fantastic, but my favourite is #9. Love the contrast of rider types.

  • Dave Dibble

    Really wished Amtrak’s station in Paso Robles had baggage check; or that Amtrak finally had the bike racks in cars on the Starlight Express.

    • charlesojones

      Don’t know what area you’re wanting to travel from but the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner has (limited) walk-on bike service. The Surfliner runs between San Diego and San Luis Obispo. Not exactly Paso Robles – but close.

      • Dave Dibble

        Thanks for the info Charles. I’d be coming from the SF Bay Area.

        • Naoto Hatakeyama

          Take the Bus/Train combo. Put the bike in the Bike box.
          There will be two mechanic stations at the event. They can help you put the bike back together. Free of charge.

  • mrbiggs

    Is that Sam Shepard in the jeep?!

    • Naoto Hatakeyama

      he looks more like Robert Duvall to me…..

  • [email protected]

    Well done John, that is one of my favorite parts of the entire world, lucky to live on the fringes of it. Thanks for making it look so good

  • Jimmy_Melnarik

    Easily one of my favorite photosets I’ve ever seen on this site.

    • John Watson

      Thanks man, means a lot.

      • Brett Rothmeyer

        yeah man that shot from inside the barn is super, lots of gems in this one for sure.

        • Naoto Hatakeyama

          It’s me on the bike!

  • Ace Metric Cycles

    Diggin everything about this.

    • Naoto Hatakeyama

      Thanks! Hope to see you in April.

  • alex

    This is awesome! With so much of the course being dirt, why is everyone riding slicks? I can only assume it’s because of the tight restrictions on equipment but I just thought I’d ask.

    • John Watson

      You don’t need a cross / MTB tread to ride slicks and most vintage frames won’t fit tires with tread.

      • Bob Freitas

        maybe many LATER Vintage frames won’t clear wider tires might be more accurate. Even 70s bikes have fair clearance. 60s bike are more generous in the clearance dept.My recommendation would be if you already have a bike you will use ,check to see if it will take a larger tire. If you are looking for a bike to use for the event also keep that in mind.

        There were certainly narrow tires on this preride but it would be safer to have a wider tire on the downhills where there is no pavement and some loose surfaces.
        I myself would recommend 28mm and even 32mm tires and did use 32mm slicks on this ride.

    • Naoto Hatakeyama

      The event emulate the heroic (Eroica) days of road racing by riding the vintage bikes and wearing the period correct kits. For example, take a look at the videos from Bartali/Coppi era on YouTube
      They rode the road bikes with tubulars on the unpaved mountain passes. Also it shows you you don’t need the mountain/cross bikes to ride the terrains such as on this ride.

  • Greg Achtem

    Looks like a real interesting group of riders. How about a bit on them?

    • John Watson

      coming soon…

  • charlesojones

    Curious, what do you plan to ride? Or are you saving that for another story?

  • G. Jackson

    I’m doing it with my dad in October in Tuscany. Just bought an old Cilo bike. I can’t wait to ride it there.

    • Naoto Hatakeyama

      You should go ride this event first. It will be a nice warm up ride for Gaiole in Chianti.
      You will also meet the people from L’Eroica Italy and you will be their friends when you get to Italy in Oct.

  • Alefdeux

    Love the Central Coast! I’m eager to explore it even more now. Inspiring pictures! Mr. Watson, have you got a sense of how accessible the backroads in this route are to an everyday cyclist outside of an organized event? I’m not stoked on jumping into private property uninvited.

    • Naoto Hatakeyama

      There are a few private road sections on the route (riding through some vineyards), but majority of the back roads are open to the public.

      • Alefdeux

        Thanks for the intel, Naoto. I can’t make it for the event, but would dearly love to go exploring. Is there a way for semi-locals to get in touch with you or someone who knows their way around?

        • Naoto Hatakeyama

          Please contact us via Facebook.

          • Naoto Hatakeyama

            Our website in live. Send questions from there. Thanks.

  • John Crump

    Looks great what will the weather be? I am use to starting at my house at 6400f and going up to 11000f so the net ft climb is about the same. Love the photos. Got the gears sorted. now what tubs to use? Vittoria rallys to thin? Flats? we get goat heads. John Crump

    • Naoto Hatakeyama

      Hi John Mr. Old Brit, The weather should be nice and warm by the this time of year. We did some research on the past weather pattern before we picked the dates and it seems getting warmer each year. Well, we all know why that is.
      I believe it was 83 degrees on the 12th of April last year.

      • John Crump

        Naoto? Is this WESLEY? By the way MY REAL NAME IS Lord ANTHONY JOHN WILLIAM CRUMP The 23rd Earl of Warwickshire

  • Garrett Kautz

    Yes! You got to meet Walter…Wally’s Bicycle Works. That dude is so rad. In college, he loaned me a vintage track bike for 6 months while I saved up for a new build.

    • Naoto Hatakeyama

      Yes, Walter is one of our volunteers. He can’t wait for the event in April. His shop will be handling one of the mechanical support stations.

  • Tom Hellmann – Bicycle Belts

    Incredible photoset. Well done!

  • ez

    Damn that looks pretty. That said, I’ve followed the original L’Eroica for years and while I respect and understand why people do it, it’s not for me. I only bring this up because it seems like folks balk at the vintage gear requirements. If vintage gear isn’t your bag, this isn’t your ride. It’s not exactly a fair comparison but L’Eroica is sort of like war re-enactment only much more classy as it’s not violent in any aspect save for the carnage of a wreck and the physicality of riding.

    Now, if I was running L’Eroica, la bomba handups would be de rigeur as would eating all the food at a cafe and skipping out on the bill. It’s a cool ride and if you’ve got a serious vintage jones, do it. Realize too, that the requirements could be even more strict. You could be stuck with the OG Campy shifter (the two levers), Modolo brakes with the original style pads, a Simplex derailleur, or no sunglasses… choose your own shitty, but cool looking adventure.

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  • John Crump

    Helmets. Mandatory? Or do you have good insurance. Sign a waiver HUH! Guess that dirt is soft so take yer chances. How about an old English crash hat, is that cool or what?

    • John Watson

      Helmets are not mandatory and as with other Eroica events, not many wear them. That said, they’re not going to tell you that you can’t wear one.

  • John Crump

    Looking at photos of the Brit ride last year. It would appear that its about 2/3 of the riders that had helmets, Also quite a few had saddle bags! I never wore a helmet untill about 10 years ago, I hate the bloody things, But I do think they are better than nothing. Would like to be 82 in June so I am going to take all the protection I can get. There are several organized rides in Colorado where helmets are mandatory. I am glad that Wesley is pushing wearing them. I feel very lucky to have ridden and raced all those years and nver had a problem. Love your photos, great stuff.

    • John Watson

      Thank you sir and be safe out there!