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.”