The 2014 L’Eroica Britannia

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!

  • Jimflip

    Looks like a great ride, well done !

    Next time you’re looking for “new” vintage cycling shoes, try this small company from Taiwan – Hasus – I picked up a pair and they’re great. Alternatively, Vittoria makes a “Line 1976”, and although it’s hard to find Detto Pietros NOS, Dromarti makes a pretty impressive, albeit spendy, similar looking shoe.

    Apologies for the link lengths…

  • ap

    Looks like a very pleasant day. And looks like there were some quality babes of L’Eroica.

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Should’ve grabbed a pair of Quoc Phams. They have 8 stockists in London alone!

    • They’re too narrow for my feet.

    • muir mackean

      I bought a pair of Quoc Phams and sent them straight back – nasty ‘plasticised’ leather that smelt & felt like plastic, in a horrible puppy-shit brown colour…

  • Charles Southgate

    Hot Jack Taylor action

  • Aaron

    49?? How big was the big ring? When men were men..

  • Owen Clements

    Top day, especially descending balls out, with just a cap and no brakes. I could be heard screaming in delight as I wizzed past the sensible people. Great write up and a truly amazing day.

  • Steve

    I was at that duck pond today; finding a cheese supplier for my cafe!

  • Dobry

    Looks like a great ride. Thanks for taking pictures for all of us who couldn’t be there. So, what shoes did you go with? What bourbon?

    You should totally allow that weird Guest non-sequitur about the Knicks. Show people the weird things sysops have to deal with.

    • I rode with the Giro Empires and had Colonel Taylor Single Barrel. ;-)

      • Dobry

        Classy. That’s the way to be when abroad: “I’m an American, but I’m not all uptight about it and you guys a great too.” (That’s the implication, right? I’m like the Sylvia Brown of whisky choices).

  • Mike
  • Doug M.

    #38 that’s Charlie the Bikemonger!

  • Tom

    Hey John, thanks for taking the time to chat and photograph my bike (silver Merckx). Good times, back next year. Tom

  • Adam Miller

    The Italian singlespeed in #58 is amazing.

  • I’ve just done painting my frame for L’Eroica race (in two weeks), come to kitchen, made a tea and went thru your pics. Really nice, thanks!

  • muir mackean

    Big thanks for this gallery. I had to miss the event because of illness, and this is the first thing that given me a glimmer of what it was really like, and reminded me how much more satisfying Proper Photos taken with a Proper Camera are than phone photos – any one of your images is worth more than the entire Instagram output of the L’Eroica organisers over the whole weekend.

  • Chris Wilman

    2nd paragraph: ‘You must ride a vintage bike older than 1987. Your attire ……..’
    Don’t you mean ‘no older than’, or ‘younger than’ ? :)

  • Sooz McRitchie

    Wicked photos, glad the ones you took with me in them were at the start and not a sweaty mess at the end! Hope you had a great ride

  • David Smith

    The shoes that may suit you are the Hibell shoe from They are awesome and Made in Derbyshire, England……the home of L’Eroica Britannia. I wore a pair for the ride :-)

  • faff

    WTF. I wonder how that Look shifted with the chain going through the RD the wrong way.

  • David Talbot

    Will add the (I guess the date) 1950 policeman in full uniform complete with helmet and a very heavy looking wool cloak the Brazilians who flew in Friday with hand luggage, bought bikes at the festival Sat, rode Sun and flew home with their new old bikes on Monday (if anyone can top that for a long weekend story I’d love to hear it!) and the German Lady in a very elegant prim and proper 40s dress on a vintage Pashley with brakes that didn’t work to well when going down Peak District hills to the honourable mentions.

  • Giancarlo

    Sorry, who knows this girl?