Why I Am Not at Eroica

Why I Am Not at Eroica

I love bikes. Pretty much all bikes. One of the few bottom lines of my life, along with my love for my wife and sons is that any ride is better than no ride. Thusly, any bike is better than no bike.

Let me add that I love Paso Robles and believe it’s a place more deserving of cycling love than it gets. Speaking of loves, I’d have to count the Zinfandel wines out of Paso Robles one of my favorite combinations of variety and place in the entire world.

And I love that Eroica is a celebration of a bygone era, a reminder of when we were far more at the mercy of the road builders of the world than we are today. Seeing craftsmanship from the past is a chance to look at what our spiritual grandparents were pedaling.

At last year’s event, I had a fantastic time. I rode with old friends, got to chat with Andy Hampsten, who continues to be one of the most humble and decent people ever to pedal a bike, and I conquered some remarkable hills.

My knees, though, they hurt for days afterward.

But I planned to be there this year. There were a great many people I had hoped to see and ride with. Then came finding a bike.

In a world of unlimited funds and unlimited garage space, I’d find an old frame from Albert Eisentraut or Bruce Gordon and build it up with some great parts, maybe from one of the forgotten eras of Dura-Ace, just to do something different. But if I’m honest, that’s a bike that would get ridden a half dozen times a year if I was lucky.

However, I have neither those funds nor that garage space, so I needed to borrow a bike. I started working old contacts. Most didn’t have anything that fit me, but the one bike I did find was so overgeared I’d have walked every hill. Actually, there was another, but he’d want me to pay him.

There came a point where I was so frustrated by the search it caused me to think about the rule that requires riders to be on a vintage-style bike, to really think about it. It’s evident they are trying to grow the event as evidenced by the way it’s being marketed and the amount of PR that’s being done. Fine, if you want more people to come, make it easier for them to come. What if the ride were opened up to anyone who owns a steel frame?

Were that to happen, the event would suddenly become a place that didn’t just celebrate the old, but it would also celebrate the current, those builders who are the direct lineage to Colnago, Cinelli, Masi. A chance to ride with the likes of Jeremy Sycip, Todd Ingermanson, Curtis Inglis, John Caletti or any of the multitude of California builders within a five-hour drive is just the sort of expansion that could certainly encourage more riders to participate.

And it strikes me that the way Eroica is ruled, the event is essentially asking people to become collectors when they might not otherwise. With more people on Ebay (the number one place to find this stuff), prices are driven up and availability drops. That a single event has the power to skew the entire market for vintage road bikes makes me uncomfortable, especially when there are so many current builders for whom an extra few orders per year means a higher standard of living. The builders working in steel today deserve our support.

Something about these rules feels divisive, and in our current political climate, I’d rather see us strive for inclusion, rather than rejection.

So I’m not going to be riding the event. I’m missing out on a lot, but when I ride those roads next, I want to do it on a bike that fits, with gears I’ve chosen from my arsenal and with clipless pedals. I’ve made some big and financially difficult investments in custom bikes in the last five years, and as I wrote to the PR person when I informed her that I’d decided not to come, “if my bikes aren’t cool enough, then I’m not cool enough.”

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  1. Alan

    I’m glad I saved my old 1980 Trek 720. I still ride it often, usually on the trainer. Best gears available: 42-24. Can’t believe what I used to climb on that. Eroica events are a way to get in touch with that, though I agree, stringent rules are a bit exclusive. I’ve only gone to less formal ones. Everyone tried to come up with what they could, as best they could.

  2. rich

    I completely support the idea of Eroica. If you want to spend the day riding with like minded people on vintage bikes why not. There are more than enough rides for the rest or us.
    The bikes are relatively inexpensive compared to a top end Carbon bike that many feel they need for a Gran Fondo.

    1. Author

      I’ve got no problem with someone riding a vintage bike. It’s cool, full stop. But let’s be honest, buying a vintage bike is for most a luxury as it will never be their primary bike, while spending thousands on a carbon bike makes plenty of sense as they aren’t buying it to ride a fondo, they are buying it to ride daily.

    1. Author

      Oh, nice mention. I love those rides and look forward to doing more of them now that I no longer have to drive from LA to do them.

  3. Dave

    Could not agree more. My twenty year old steel lugged Colnago has me in the same riding position as my carbon bike but doesn’t make the cut because it doesn’t have down tube shifters and the brake cables aren’t hidden. I enjoy riding it but it is vintage by any measure other than Erotica.

  4. Sean Dowden

    My thoughts exactly. The rules are archaic with respect to what is eligible. 1987 or before should allow one to use first gen clipless pedals from Look or Time and aero brake levers from Dia Compe or Shimano. Down tube levers I can understand but the pedals & brakes make no sense to me as I was using both by 87, the latter since 84!

    1. Brad Maestas

      Also agreed. My lovely 1985 Team Fuji is ineligible merely due to its aero brake levers. Sure, I could swap them for some non-aero levers but like Padraig said, finding even these humble things (in great condition) is getting quite expensive. If you’re already spending $150+ on replica wool jerseys it’s very likely you already have that all-original Cinelli/Campagnolo ride or two in the bag. I love vintage bikes as much as the next guy but the equipment rules, namely with regards to the brake levers, seems excessively restrictive.

  5. Stefan

    they want to grow? not sure, if I remember well they have a limit for participants. the event is great, anyway, go alone, and you have the roads for yourself.

  6. Andrew

    Totally agree. I have a beautiful steel Hampsten I’d love to ride in the Eroica, but it has modern Ultegra and clip less pedals, and I see no valid reason to change it over for this. Also- wool jerseys. If I am in the same room with wool, even the newest superwool, I start itching uncontrollably.

  7. Sophrosune

    I think you make a cogent argument and I hope Eroica organizers consider it in some way. Maybe to have two steel frame groups: one pre-1987 and another post-1987. But I am not sure Eroica necessarily forces you into collecting a bike you will rarely ride. I have found with my vintage Masi the addition of clip less pedals through most of the years makes for a nice bike to ride regularly. Nonetheless, I think what started out nearly 20 years ago to save the dirt roads of Tuscany and the old Steel bikes of Europe has become a bit of a bonanza for Ebay sellers cashing in on high demand.

  8. Jon Spangler

    The Eroica California ride rules are moire inclusive than most of its sister rides on other continents. Wool clothing is encouraged but not required, and many riders are using more modern gear that fits within the spirit of the event. And you CAN get low gearing on a classic bike….Wally’s Bicycle World in San Luis Obispo (805-544-4116, http://wallysbikes.com)) has many terrific classic bikes available for rent just for the event, too.

    1. mark

      The event organizers already had a vintage bike ready and waiting for Patrick. Finding a bike for this event was not an issue.

  9. Kevin

    This isn’t politics. It doesn’t matter in the least whether some people can or want to participate in a recreational event or not. The whole point is to set rules for the rules’ own sake. Complaining that the Eroica doesn’t allow the folks who don’t have/can’t afford to get a vintage style bike or who don’t want to wear wool to participate is like complaining that you can’t use the cash you have in your wallet to play Monopoly.

  10. David

    Sorry, do you need an event to ride these roads? Even if I had a perfect vintage steel bike (the one I do have is sitting as a single speed kid-chaser) I would just ride the central coast of my own free will, and I do, on a couple of modern steel bikes.

    I think stuff like this is why I ride alone 99% of the time. I ride my bike for me, not to play dress up. Reminds me of rockabilly kids, clinging to an era they were never a part of.

  11. JohnK

    I am living in a parallel universe and am not riding Eroica for the same reasons. I’m riding with a torn meniscus and have two beautiful steel bikes that unfortunately don’t meet the rules, given compact gearing etc… and don’t have room in my wallet or garage for another. That said, it looks to be a beautiful event, and I hope conditions favor my attendance some day.

  12. dj

    Why deride someones event as exclusionary just because it’s not EXACTLY how you would manage it? Hardmen don’t do that, whiners do.

    1. Author

      I didn’t deride it. I think it’s a really neat event that sends a very mixed message due to its oversized marketing and PR.

    2. Italvega Bart

      Exactly! Nothing stopping anyone from organizing another ride in the Beautiful California Central Coast area that has a different set of rules. How about rules that would allow:
      1) Only post 1987 steel or metal
      2) Only post 1995 non-metal bikes – now that would be very costly, given that full Carbon bikes which many don’t own, would easily cost $2K or more.
      3) Only Mountain bikes or BMX bikes, since they are perfect for this climbing ride – would be OK as long as they don’t go off route and damage the countryside.
      The Eroica is following in the general footsteps of a tradition and an evocative ride. Start a new tradition with another set of rules and run with it.

      As for marketing, perhaps it feels corporate to you, but its trying to be very professional, and already has a lot of bicycle related corporate tie in via the original Italian Eroica and all the other older Eroica rides around the world. Wesley, the organizer, put forth a lot of effort combined with tons of volunteer support.

  13. Hoshie99

    Yep, if you don’t have vintage gear, that event has a pretty high hassle factor. That’s both the charm and the annoyance of those type of rules.

    If you added the steel exception rule, many don’t have Black Cat or Caletti type of funds either so not sure that is a broader solution. Plus the wait lists….


  14. Alan

    If the event is as large as the organizers want it to be with the current rules, that is their choice. People will vote with their attendance.

    Perhaps a better argument is that there may be interest in an event for more recent vintage bikes or steel frames with less restrictive rules. That might gain more traction.

  15. Todd

    Patrick, completely understand regarding the financial aspect. Wish we had communicated ahead of time. We have modified our Delirio to have down tube shifter bosses for this exact reason. I would have must certainly provided you a machine to ride. Wool to wear is another question. Unfortunately I’m not there due to a tibial plateau fracture that is keeping me off the bike for five months.

    1. Author

      I’m very sorry to hear about your injury, Todd. I hope you heal quickly. The financial piece of this really isn’t even what I find most disturbing. The way I see it, no one should have to do backflips to ride a properly geared bike that fits them at an event. Again, this goes back to their marketing of the event. I wouldn’t feel this way if it was an underground event that wasn’t spending money on marketing and PR.

  16. Doug Carter

    It’s vintage racing. With vintage bikes. They don’t allow contemporary cars to race at the Monterey Historics, because it is a VINTAGE race. Even if you built a new car to look like an old one. Why? Because it’s exclusive and historic.

    Should stay that way. Plenty of places to race contemporary equipment. Stop trying to bring the “trophies for everyone” Little League mentality to everything. Don’t like the rules? Don’t race. Simple.

    1. Author

      Doug, you make a great point about Monterey. The issue, as I see it, is that the folks at that concourse aren’t busy trying to expand it and aren’t pestering every automotive outlet to drive something there. That’s where the analogy falls apart. If you want to be exclusive, that’s fine; but don’t then market it as an event for everyone to attend. As to the “trophies for everyone” mentality to which you refer, I’m not sure where that came from. I’m not looking for everyone to be rewarded.

  17. Casey

    Patrick, when some people put a foot down, it lands in dog shit. When you do it, a butterfly emerges from captivity or something similarly poetic. Cycling needs less barrier to entry across all aspects.

  18. Michael

    I guess I’d argue for a separate event for those riding non-vintage bikes. New bikes with newer equipment (lower gears, bigger tires, disc brakes, etc.) are simply going to be faster, and the strain is different (so not the same shared suffering). You don’t throw the single-speeders in with the Men’s A riders at a cross event (although there ARE a few single speeders who are fast enough and choose to do it), and it would change the event a LOT to mix them all up. I have not ridden an Eroica, but hope to one day. I would ALSO be interested in a ride there that was NOT vintage-only (didn’t you run one there, Paddy?), but I am not sure I would want to ride the mix.

  19. Gerb61

    I suppose the term ” vintage equipment” needs to be defined a little better. Bianchi’s website shows a model called L’Eroica. The site claims that it has been “certified by L ‘Eroica’s commission to ride in all Eroica events”. Further down in the specs it says the bike is equipped with a Veloce 13-29 cassette and a Veloce 10 sp chain. I can’t recall any 10 cog cassettes or narrow 10 sp chains being available prior to 1987, so how does equipment like that make the cut but clipless pedals are out ? I’ve read accounts of these rides and find them to be very interesting. I also enjoy seeing the photos of all the old equipment. I guess it’s always fun to look back at the past. A little clarification of the rules just might encourage more participation. How much longer until my 1989 Cannondale can be considered Vintage?


    1. Author

      Yeah, the rules are capricious and inconsistent. But that’s not the conversation I want to have. My point isn’t that there are loopholes to their rules or that there are numerous exceptions; rather, I just want to relax about the rules and be more inclusive. I don’t dislike this event. I just think that given their efforts to grow the event and gain more recognition for it, relaxing some gives them a chance to expose more people to this stuff and gain an appreciation for it.

      Also, I would hate for Bianchi to catch any grief over their Eroica-legal model. I think it’s cool they did it, and if that’s a bike someone wants, terrific.

    1. Author

      Nice rig. Great point regarding ’40s French stuff being more apropros for dirt roads than ’70s Italian stuff. I didn’t want to argue that point, but I wondered when someone might raise it.

  20. mechaNICK

    I agree that the rules are restrictive and arbitrary. The argument that it is a vintage ride isn’t supported by the inclusion of the very modern-geared Bianchi L’Eroica (http://www.bianchiusa.com/bikes/road/all-road/eroica/). As for the pre-87 regulations, why are clipless pedals are forbidden even though Look released their first model in 1984 (http://www.lookcycle.com/en/it/look-cycle/histoire.html), indexed gears banned despite Shimano Dura Ace 7400 debuting their SIS index system in ’84 (http://www.shimanousa.com/content/Corporate/english/index/portal-site/history1.html, not to mention their earlier attempt with Positron in ’82), no aero brake levers allowed (Shimano Dura Ace BL-7300 ’81, Campagnolo prototypes in ’82, Modolo Kronos and Orion ’83, SunTour Superbe Pro, Sprint, and Cyclone 7000 in ’87, etc), and the insistence that clothing should be wool (Castelli pulled off a publicity stunt at the ’81 Giro by having their riders outfitted in turquoise Lycra shorts)? If it’s going to be a vintage-only ride, shouldn’t the rules be governed by history? @David said it best, it smacks of the cool-kids pining for an era they never experienced.

    1. Author

      Dude, you’ve got an impressive memory. YOU ought to be giving a talk at Eroica. My comment to Gerb61 contains much of what I’d respond to you.

      Again, I don’t want to denigrate anything these cats are doing. Whether they really rode/raced those bikes back in the day doesn’t matter one whit to me. I just don’t care. I just think they’ll be more successful at what they seek if they are more inclusive than exclusive.

    2. mark

      Bianchi is a global sponsor for the entire Eroica series. Their involvement in the series is very much appreciated and they have been involved in making these events happen for many years. Their bikes were very much a big part of cycling’s past, and their new “L’Eroica” bike is a great way for riders to celebrate the the past and gives people an alternative to piecing an old bike together. As a global sponsor, and working with the events original founders, the bike was spec’d accordingly and given approval for entry into all Eroica-branded events.

    3. Mark

      I saw a number of people with indexed shifting with down-tube levers. Indexing is only forbidden on the handlebars (brake/shift levers such as STI or ergopower), although I’m not clear when SunTour released their indexed bar-end shifters.

      There isn’t an insistence on wool clothing. It’s encouraged but not required. If you’re not wearing wool, they do ask that your lycra/poly jersey at least looks vintage.

      I will certainly grant you the other inconsistencies.

  21. Pat O'Brien

    I have no interest in riding an Eroica event. That being said, the rules for these events severely limit the growth. So, if the organizers want it to be exclusive, then no rule changes are necessary. If, as you state, their PR goal is to increase the participation, then rule changes are inevitable.

  22. Alan Cote

    All good reasons why some retro-themed events should be born that have more relaxed rules. It’s seems odd that cyclists are largely letting one ride organization arbitrarily define what retro means.

    There’s a Vermont Vintage Velo in a month that has “unenforced rules”. Sounds great. For pre-ride dallying about, my 1983 Rossin can wear its Campy SL pedals/Binda Extras/Adidas Merckx shoes … then I’ll quickly swap to Speedplays and Sidis for the ride.

  23. Waldo

    Snip: “Something about these rules feels divisive, and in our current political climate, I’d rather see us strive for inclusion, rather than rejection” un-ironically said the man who rejected l’Eroica. L’Eroica rules have been fairly consistent independent of political climate in the US and everywhere else. A year from now the rules will remain pretty much the same whether we are building the wall on the Mexican border or singing Kumbaya while attending free public universities.

  24. Ransom

    Vintage auto and motorcycle racing can’t help but come up (saw the Monterey bits above); and being competitive events, you’ll find letter-of-the-rules accurate vehicles doing lap times the greats would’ve *dreamed* about when the vehicles were current thanks to decades of development (and modern tires). These are not as they were raced in 1967.

    If it’s not a race, I tend to feel anything that celebrates the old stuff is neat. Not that I’m going to say what anyone else should do, but my 1970 BMW has engine management I can tune with my laptop. Today gives us the options of all of history to pick and choose from; only tomorrow isn’t quite available yet. That said, I’m more excited about modern steel than putting Ergopower on the Ciöcc I never got in ’86…

  25. Chern

    Hey people, RKP is an opinion blog. That’s why you read the posts …. for the view from a personal perspective that’s not yours. It stimulates discussion and we all have an opportunity to learn there. Might even support your thinking on aspects of cycling stuff and then it might not. There are no sides here, no right and wrongs …. just ideas. So how about doing whatever turns your crank. I personally like vintage stuff …. I have a mid 80s Italian steel bike I put 100K miles on hanging in my shop …. but my more modern steel bike handles better, is more comfortable and is easier to get replacement parts for, so that’s what I ride. Have you ever noticed that dudes from the day mostly ride newer, modern equipment ? It’s good that there’s the Eroica, otherwise those beautiful vintage bikes would gather a lot more dust.

  26. Dan Harkins

    Don’t like the way Eroica is run then set up your own event, with your own rules. Remember TR:

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

    1. Walt S

      My knowledge of significant quotes from history is a little lacking, so I had to look up the quote above. At first I was thinking “TR” was Tom Ritchey. I know, FAIL!

  27. Andy

    I disagree with your point of view. The event seems pretty watered down in California already. Basically any steel bike with downtube shifters, toe clips and non-aero lever are eligible. I am pretty sure the actual enforcement isn’t “1987 and before” but “like 1987 or before”. They want participants hence the fairly low threshold for participation. If one doesn’t have a cool old bike in the garage already the local craigslist in San Francisco had numerous eligible bikes for months anywhere from $250 to $800 would get you anything from a decent Reynolds 531 Trek to a Tommasini . The organizers even have a blog post on their site about Eroica bikes on a budget showing how far afield one can go and still have an eligible bike. It really appeals to the gearhead in me with the prospect of putting together a special “vintage event” bike for cheap. You don’t have to have a pro bike. They are trying to capture a sense of the past which I applaud them for. I am sure there is a century or fondo in that area for those that won’t use toeclips.

  28. Bill Cass

    I missed you at the ride Patrick and I am glad you used one of my highlight images from last years ride. I was bummed to hear your reasoning though. Especially because I offered to put a bike together for you. I now know you missed that offer buried in my text. I must say I truly enjoyed the ride this year and many personal goals were achieved and new friends were made.
    All your reasoning above is sound and you make great points. I think you miss the spirit of the the ride with those exclusions. I am sore today but I must admit to feeling a bit more heroic. Also as a designer I am a constant “edge finder.” By reading this bit on the website I can honestly say it relieves most of what your issues are. “Vintage-Looking Bikes with steel frame from new or recent construction with vintage look and characteristics may be used only if they are road racing bikes assembled using vintage components or replicated parts similar to the original as described above. In particular if the bikes are inspired by the design of road racing bicycles of the 1970’s and 1980’s, they must comply with rules a), b), and c) above, regarding shift levers, toe clips and straps, and brake cables.” There is even a piece about vintage gearing being relaxed as to the difficulty of the ride. If I read between the lines and like this, “we invite participants to fit saddles from the same period.” There is an ask but not a rule.
    Lastly, and this may be the nostalgia of the old racer in me but I was proud to remember how to flip my pedal over and jam my foot in and get going on a tricky hill after stopping to take a photo of the amazing view. Who am I kidding, the photo op was an excuse to get my heart rate back under 180. During the day I saw a few minor and comical infractions of the rules and enjoyed those with a smirk. (zip tying toe clips to their shoes) When a “Holy Roller” came cruising by in a full zoot carbon cross bike I was pretty annoyed. He wasn’t willing to wrestle with the points you made above. I hope to see you there next year.

  29. Mark

    I rode it. The “Coastal” route, at least, which was what my current fitness allowed. It was an amazing day out on the bike, with great volunteers, excellent organization, mostly excellent food, frequent water stops, and mechanics on duty. The weather was nearly flawless after light rain the day before — lots of clouds to keep it cool before breaking into sun later. The roads were amazing.

    I didn’t keep strict count, but I saw about 40% of the riders on what I might call “true Eroica bikes”: high-end period-correct, with gearing similar to that which a racer of the era might have used. Almost all of those guys were walking at some point or another on the dirt climbs. Another 30% or so were on low-end or mid-range American or Japanese bikes with mostly-period-correct parts; these tended to have lower-range gearing, with a lot of triples in this group. Another 30% of the bikes were mutts with mixed-up components or bikes later than ’87 that were clearly retrofitted just enough to pass the brake cable/toe clips/shifting/rim requirements. I saw one of the neuvo-retro Bianchi’s that was pretty, but — personally — I’d rather commision a custom from Roland Della Santa.

    My own bike was an ’87 Bianchi refitted with a mountain bike crankset that I put a 30/42t combination for the front, and an 8-speed 740x 12-25 cassette in the back. I wore a modern jersey that looks like an old light-blue Bianchi jersey, modern black shorts, and modern lycra-back gloves. Most people had clothing that looked appropriate; about two-thirds of the riders had wool jerseys. A couple jerseys verged on inappropriately-modern looking. Nearly everyone rode with a modern helmet.

    I started riding “seriously” in ’87, with the Mid-Hudson Bicycle Club — the non-racing group in the area. Any number of serious riders from the era rode triples or other low gears. If you accept the idea that this is cosplay, you can choose to play as a club rider or randonneur rather than euro-racer.

    I didn’t hear a single person out on the ride complain about anyone else’s equipment choices. A number of riders commented that they were jealous of my lower gearing. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, even when the riding was hard. Likewise, I didn’t hear anyone call out anyone else’s clothing choices. I heard a lot of admiring comments about beautiful old bikes, and every stop was a chance to browse some more classic eye candy. At the rest stop in Cambria, I spent ten or fifteen minutes chatting in very broken Italian with Luciano Berruti who, if not an actual Eroica official, is certainly one of its patron saints. He seemed entirely happy with my clothing, bike, and components.

    I hear you that you feel like the requirements are divisive. It didn’t feel that way on the roads on Sunday, although of course I was among the self-selected people who had chosen to be there.

  30. Mark

    *I should have used a letter for my last name… The comments from Mark on 4/12 are from me, Mark H., a participant. The comments from Mark on 4/11 are someone else. Sorry for any confusion.

  31. Mark Petry

    It’s a great event and I support the spirit of it and the dedication of the team that put it on. They did a great job. I have a number of vintage bikes that would qualify (Masi GC, Hetchins, Baylis) – HOWEVER like the gentleman above, I have some knee issues and need to ride with SPD pedals – toe clips are not an option.
    My concern was that if I drove down there (1000 miles) with my bike, I would be refused entry to the ride, and that’s a long way to go. I have a travel bike (Ritchey Ti takeapart with DI2) and that’s clearly not an option. Several emails to the organizer went unanswered.
    So yes, I think the spirit of the event is wonderful and I salute the hard work of the organizers, but the marketing and elitism that was evident in some communiites (CR notably) put me off it. It does bug me when I read reports of people who showed up “day of” with non compliant bikes did get to ride – but thanks Padraig for validating my own perceptions here. I do hope it’s a bit more inclusive next year.

    1. Alex M.

      I emailed the organizers well in advance and the response wa along the lines of “Nice bike, if X part doesn’t comply with the rules the worst you’ll get is a stink eye from a fellow rider.” I think the elitism was in your mind.

    2. Author

      I’m really interested to hear about your email. The message coming through the PR end of the organization was much more stringent; I was told you wouldn’t be allowed on the course.

    3. Italvega Bart

      From the rules:
      “Exemptions regarding the type of bicycle will be granted to participants with disabilities, as long as they make a specific request to the organization at the time of registration.”
      Sorry to hear that your emails weren’t answered, although I’m aware a lot of effort went into trying to accommodate individual needs. Not sure how a pedal exemption may have been handled but a medical certification from your doctor may have been sufficient, and some pics of your bike would help. Would have been interesting to have to field questions from other participants unless you had something like a “medical exemption – pedals” sticker or extra label on your riding tag.

    4. Alex M.

      Padraig, I Re-read the email. I sent a pic of my bike and asked about my ‘aero’ brake levers (which were original on my ’85 bike). Organizer answered that a course official might give me a DNF and no finishing gift – that’s all. My old levers were kind of rickety, no biggie getting new ones. Many folks had lower gearing, etc.

  32. Peter B

    Clipless pedal necessity is a red herring. It might be news to some but people had knee issues in the pre-clipless pedal days. Knee issues aren’t new to cycling. Hard to imagine, eh? I worked at a bike shop for some years, there were and are solutions and methods. But all that is ignored, just doesn’t work for someone, which masks something else entirely. From the many comments I’ve read on various forums, it seems the complainers want to ride whatever they want to ride, period, end of story, and then throw cold water on other people and their interests. I can’t enter and drive my Scion at a Ferrari car rally, and I don’t go crying about it. There are a gazillion organized bike rides, plus anyone can start their own.

  33. Randall

    I like the concept and I think that one solution is patience. I started looking for a retro bike, and after about 2 years, I was able to get [in 2013] a 1983 Ross for about $40. I got most of the rust off and replaced the bar tape, pedals, seat, etc. Total investment was around $100, making it the cheapest bike I own.

    I wish I could have what Mark calls a true Eroica bike (or even chromoly steel vs Hi-ten) but my main goal was to get a bike I could make fit properly. In retrospect, I’m even happier that I spent so little, because I moved shortly after the purchase and have literally never taken it on a group ride. If Eroica St. Louis ever comes around though… http://www.randy82103.com/cycling/Ross.jpg

    1. Jim

      Great looking bike! The only issue I would see with this is the lack of downtube shifters. But overall what a great vibe. congrats on a cool build on a budget.

  34. Dale Brown

    I think it would be more constructive to think of these (very few) events as being like Revolutionary War Re-enactments. (Probably not many of those out west, eh?) It’s a bunch of enthusiasts who have great fun, trying to play a bit “like they did in the olde days.” Harmless, silly but great camaraderie. Now should these event organizers invite folks who want to dress up in 1920s attire? Or, more to the point, encourage folks to wear their contemporary clothes because it’s so much more comfortable? Of course not. These sorts of events are an attempt at a very specific thing, to ride cool old bikes in close to vintage looking attire. And have a lot of fun.
    Is it divisive or exclusive? No, anyone can participate. Even accept the loan of a bike if need be!
    It is not true that vintage bikes are more expensive now because of Eroica events. They might have become that if the world’s economy was not awful, but in fact, exotic bikes and components are fetching less today than 10 years ago.
    So, my wish is for a little more thoughtfulness and a little less raining on parades.
    Dale B

    1. Author

      Dale, there’s nothing wrong with an exclusive event that might cater to a very select group of people. Just don’t market it to the masses.

  35. Dennis Johnson

    I passed, and was passed by, a wonderful lady climbing those sharp hills on a 70’s vintage Schwinn Varsity – Stock… Alvit derailleur, Normandy hubs, steel rims, Ashtabula cranks… Stock. She was cussin’ and laughing and having fun. She was “Eroica”. As to your comment about contemporary steel – I believe that they are allowed under the rules, so long as they don’t have clip less pedals or “brifters”. That’s about the only hard rule in my opinion. How hard is it to trade pedals and slap a pair of Weinmann brake levers on a bike anyway? BTW I didn’t wear wool – I wore a modern Lycra repro Peugeot jersey.

  36. Tony Taylor

    Folks, The rules are clear. You do not have to ride a vintage steel bike, but you do have to meet certain criteria. There is no restriction on the number of gears you have (although I believe the 1987 cut-off should govern this). You need brake cables over the tape, down-tube shifters, and no clipless pedals. The rules specifically allow more modern components, but they must be in the spirit of the classic era. How hard is that to comply with?
    I do agree that the rules should be enforced fairly, and equally.
    If you don’t like the rules, don’t enter. Just don’t whine about it!
    As the “Eagles” sang; get over it.

  37. Wesley Hatakeyama

    Please watch this video from our founder Giancarlo Brocci.
    Eroica would like to grow, but grow with the people who can understand and appreciate what we are about and respect the rules that we have in place.
    Thanks to our supporters, our event was successful with a 20% increase in participation and we had nearly 100 female cyclists in attendance. We had cyclists from 29 different countries. We hope to be back in 2017. We are able to almost double the amount of donation to our charity partner , Hospice of San Luis Obispo.
    Patrick, we had a bike ready for you to ride. Hope to see you in 2017.
    Thank you.

    Wes Hatakeyama
    Event Director
    Eroica California

    1. Author

      Wes: If growth is such a big deal for the event, then why make it so exclusive? That’s my one point of criticism.

      Also, if you had a bike for me, then maybe you should have communicated that. It’s a somewhat irrelevant point, though. On a course that difficult, I’d simply rather do it on a bike that fits and has reasonable gears.

  38. Corso

    Wait a minute…last year all was fine because you borrowed the appropriate bike, but this year, due to YOU not getting it together yourself, the organizers need to change the rules? To accommodate you? Where was your complaint last year? Oh, yes, you were on a bike that complied, so why request it be “opened up” to all bikes?

    Many other sports have similar “classic’ events, for that very reason: Keep it to the classics. From boating to motorcycles, these events are a bit unique for a reason.

    I recall you also complaining that the R2D2 randonnee should have had tech support and more rider benefits, completely missing the fund raising mission of the event.

    Both events seem to be doing just fine. Perhaps you have to pay closer attention to the rides you’re reporting on.

    If an organizer decides on having an “all classic italian made bike ride”, don’t show up on a borrowed Seven and complain about it when they ask you to follow the pack from a distance.

    1. Author

      If you read my post about last year, I mentioned just how hard the course was on a bike that was overgeared. I also mentioned being on a bike that was too small. But hey, I gave it a go. It was fun, once.

      The point I continue to make is that small and exclusive is fine, but if you’re going to promote an event relentlessly for the purpose of making it bigger, be prepared to have people point out that your exclusivity is a problem.

      D2R2 had real organization problems, full stop. Example: no matter what kind of charity work you are doing, a lack of daylight course sweep is inexcusable.

  39. Gordon

    I rode the coastal 85 mile route and at the beginning the dirt roads felt more like mountain biking, but they soon lead to one of the sweetest downhills (paved) that I have ever ridden. The wool jerseys look great with their solid colors and there was a flock of former racers in old jerseys from the 70’s or 80’s (including Andy in pink). The old bikes looked great at the stops and did not seem to slow anyone down. The speed in the pace lines felt like a good training ride pace and no one was trying to kill anyone. So I had fun at the event. I was glad that I put an old touring crankset on my bike and opened up the slots in my cleats for a little more float. Will I do it again, no probably not. It has gotten me riding my old race bike and I will continue to ride it more. Training on that bike and riding it in what was actually a pretty hard grind, my old bike just became a bike again and I just rode it without really thinking I was in some retro event. Yes some of the rules seem a bit much. But at the root of it, the old race bikes are solid, simple and effective.

  40. paul sadoff

    I rode the event last year and really loved it. I rode on a bike that I had built myself in 1982 that was nearly all original except for the tires and brake pads. I saw a lot of folks have issues with their bikes falling apart and the hills being too steep for their vintage gears and un-trained legs. This didn’t seem to deter anyone.The whole thing is like a Civil War re-enactment for cyclists. Folks forget that the bikes that they are riding were used by top professionals in their early 20’s , most likely doped up on amphetamines . Your average weekend warrior suffered mightily at the Eroica Calif.
    I had to skip this year’s event as my feet are arthritic from years of toe clips and straps back when those ’70’s bikes were new. I cannot ride with toe clips any more without crippling myself for days. I have the bike, I have the fitness and I love the ride but I’ll probably never do it again because of the toe clip requirement. I was told that I could get a doctors not for an exemption but I’ll just leave that ride to the bike collectors-even though I love old bikes I’m not really one of that crowd………I like new bikes , too-forgive me !

    1. Author

      Damn, that’s a shame Paul. I’m sorry to hear about your feet, but even sorrier that someone with your history wasn’t presented front and center. Gah.

  41. John Kopp

    All my bikes qualify except for clipless pedals. Three Treks (two 510’s and 950), and a Schwinn Paramount. I don’t consider them vintage. I also have wool Jersies from back in my youth.

  42. Jimmy

    The ride originating in Italy, it’s no surprise it’s Italian-centric with their own set of self serving contradictory rules. Ever try to fix a Fiat? A few things stick out to me from the ride after reading your post: I met and caught up with some great people; the descents were as exhilirating as the climbs were challenging -and would have been on my low geared, disc brake cross bike as well; I could only find gas station coffee prior to 7:00 a.m. No espresso at an Italian themed event. How’s that for Italian contradiction? My not Italian, pre 1987, 6-spd bike with post 1987 8-spd upgrades got exactly the same number of inquiries as times I heard people ask, where is padrag. Zero. There was wine being served at the first rest stop at 8:00 a.m. I took that as a message to chill the eff out about the coffee and enjoy the ride. Next year I’ll bring a bottle for you.

  43. Peter Brueggeman

    Are the Ferrari ownership restrictions of a Ferrari car rally keeping other car drivers from enjoying the experience of a Ferrari car rally?

    1. Author

      The difference is that the Ferrari rally isn’t marketing itself to every car owner on the planet.

  44. Alex M.

    A year ago I sounded similar to some complaining about the random rules. But I went ahead and put non-aero levers and cages and straps for the ride (though I will go back to clipless pedals, I preferred the non-aero levers after all). There’s not a bunch of mean referees kicking riders off the course at the CA event. I saw folks riding $100 Craigslist bikes from the 80s and having a great time along with period correct museum pieces. My 80s sport touring bike w/ low triple gearing and 32 tires was the perfect rig for the ride though it has lots of modern components too. To those painting the event as exclusive or snooty in any way, it really wasn’t like that at all. It was the best time ever on a bike, a completely magical ride that would be difficult or impossible to replicate on a normal day (some private vineyard roads opened for the route). Bluntly, your loss if you choose to snub for whatever reason you’ve made up in your mind. And how hard is it to find an old road bike? Sheesh. Don’t hate, ya just jealous. It was rad!

  45. Italvega Bart

    I went as support for my BIL who was riding his 78 custom Bruce Gordon. I brought my high school years purchased ’72 Italvega Super Speciale, essentially stock except for rebuilt low flange hubs, clincher rims/tires, new brake pads, bar tape, and unrestored flaked off decals. Was a lot of fun to get all kinds of inquiries about the bike and realize that it was the only riding Italvega there – aside from a frame at the Citizen Chain tent, and 2 others who said they were building similar bikes back home.
    Given that there probably are tens if not hundreds of thousands of vintage TOTL and mid-tier completely ride-able pre 87 bikes out there all across the country finding one isn’t terribly difficult, just finding one in your size and deciding to have one at all is the question, especially if you feel that you wouldn’t ride it much and spending the money is an issue. That I understand.
    Perhaps there will be more options for “Rent-a-rides” from the Local SLO shops?

  46. Chris W.

    I’ve always enjoy your site and your writing. On this score however I think you’ve missed the mark, particularly in your reply to Wesley. The guy has worked his butt off to put on a really well-run bike ride. Why can’t Eroica spell out their brand of rules and why can’t they market? It’s obvious the idea has caught on and people have responded with their participation. I was one of them and enjoyed it a ton. You could have done it on a craigslist Peugeot U08 for $100 – but you didn’t want to do it that bad. End of story.

    1. Author

      Unlike some rides where organization has been an issue, I have no issue with how Eroica California is organized. It’s very well done. Class across the board. And while people seem to keep coming to the conclusion I don’t like the event, let me be clear that I do. However, to employ such wildly restrictive rules (DQing a period-original bike for aero brake levers is just stupid) and then to market the event relentlessly is a very mixed message. Some might not mind that, but I realized that I take issue with it. Could I have done it on an old Peugeot? Aside from not wanting that experience, I’d have had to devote time and money that are in short supply for my family and that just wasn’t realistic or fair to them. If they really want to grow it and to make a bigger impact to their chosen charities, they’ll realize greater success by being more inclusive; that’s a fact.

  47. Chris W.

    I don’t have an issue of your choice to spend said time/money resources on your family. No one will fault a man for that. What we are faulting you for is throwing rocks at these guys. For what? If this Mixed Message thing is your beef, fine. “Wildly” restrictive rules? C’mon. It’s a case of The King of the Kingdom Makes the Rules. At Eroica, we dig up an old turd to ride and polish it. On RKP, you write generally great stuff and we all stomp and clap and yell “Praise the Lord!” RKP is your Kingdom. But you’ve lost me on this one.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing you perspective. That goes the same with everyone who has commented. I have always wanted RKP to have a distinctive voice, a particular voice, whether it’s my work or the work of another contributor. That desire to do something unique carries some risk as it means putting real opinions out there, and as our history here shows, not everyone agrees all the time. Heck, behind the curtain, the writers here don’t agree with each other all the time. I’m sorry that this piece didn’t work for you, but thanks for reading.

  48. Jeff

    Next year, when I do the long course again, I hope to be strong enough to ride up the steeper and slippery sections on my 1982 race bike. I’m not changing the gearing to make it easier. I recently picked up an abused PX-10 that is currently in rehab and I’m debating whether I’ll ride it next year with its stock and very heroic 52/46. How did I miss all the relentless marketing. Most of the folk I ride with never heard of it but many of them have an old bike hanging in their garage. Tubes, tires, and a can of WD-40 is all they need to have a really great time.

  49. James

    Bravo to Eroica

    I love an event that encourages recognition of the golden era of cycling and vintage bike building for one day a year in a beautiful place and enables you to share with other who have an interest in the art and challenges of owning and riding vintage bikes.

    In part that pleasure is the shared experience of NOT riding with the benefit of all the positive developments in bike technology since the 1980’s

    Happy with the rules

    Happy to take my clipless pedals off my vintage bike for a day in order to be able to do the ride.

    Happy to fly from Australia to participate under those rules – indeed it is the integrity of the event and its rules that makes me want to travel halfway around the world.

    Combined cost of suitable bike, international travel and accommodation is less than the purchase price of my everyday bike.

    Don’t change a thing

  50. pete

    The original l’Eroica (and in my mind the only one to really call l’Eroica) in Tuscany went to the rules in 2009. And if anyone wants a sense of what this ride means to Italy and Italians and their history, go to Gaiole the first sunday of October and ask them if they want to change the rules. someone above called it “meet your maker” and this is the truth. for one day, ride a bike the way it was built from an era that no longer exists. it doesn’t cost a lot money to rent one, and if you’re a fan of this ride, make the investment to get a bike. if not, go do a different ride, this ride isn’t for you.

  51. greg garrett

    love it. all spot on. and I’ve been rebuilding older classics, they are fun, but yes, expensive to do the right way. when I see the Bianchi built “vintage” and “eroica ready”, to me that defeats the purpose anyway. its all about marketing for the sake of excitement for the heritage of the bike as a too, however, so I support that idea. the exclusion of aero products from the late 70’s on up is silly, however, as they were used on many of the coolest rides in the early 80’s. I had a non complient trek because of the aero stuff, when I was a college kid in 81 ———-if I had it now, I couldn’t use it. we’re talking earliest Trek years, steel, friction suntour cyclone stuff with racing wheels and all. no, I think they have missed the boat.

    era to ’89 for now, but I think they will change as the years go on.

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