Words by Jeffrey Stern, photos courtesy of Eroica California
Passing over rolling hill after rolling hill, surrounded by lush vineyards and old barns with signing birds, wispy clouds and blue skies you’d think you were in the famed Tuscan region of Italy. But no, you’re actually right here in the lower 48, the Central Coast of California to be exact.
Instead of riding a state of the art, carbon fiber aero road bike, you’re aboard the first real road bike you ever owned. A vintage steel road bicycle made by Raleigh, adorning the original head badge indicating the bike’s birthplace of Nottingham, England; not some far away, oversees factory.
In a typical sea of sameness, Erocia California stands out from the crowd. It oozes passion and fascination for technology of the past that still exhibits relevance today. Sometimes the simplest things are the most beautiful and being surrounded by a bicycles 30, 40 or even 50 years old creates an aura unreplicable at most gran fondos and gravel grinders around the country.
In the heart of Paso Robles, California, the third annual Eroica California drums to it’s own beat. It’s far from a race. Offerings include a ‘concours d’elegance’ of the vintage bicycle kind, a festival of passionate bike owners showcasing their steeds as well as four different route options from short (40 miles) to heroic (127 miles).
Rest stops aren’t the fill-your-bottles and stuff-your-pockets kind, but rather take a seat, crack open a cold one and kick your feet up to share some laughs with new and old friends alike.
The feelings Eroica California invokes resonate with all the participants for various reasons, but for former professional Andy Hampsten, they are truly special, “I can reason that the terrain and scrub growing out of the limestone hills reminds me of some of the best places I have visited. I am taken back to Tuscany and Southern France when I ride near Peachy Canyon, and I am reminded of it every time I drink wines from Villa Creek Winery that the Eroica loop passes. It’s a magical spot to ride in and eat from.”
It’s as much about the bikes, festival and food as it is about doing good for the surrounding communities. The event raises money for the Bike SLO County, helping create safe bike routes and spreading cycling passion and maintenance knowledge, as well as the Hospice of San Luis Obispo County offering counseling and support for those in need.
What’s more is that similar events take place all around the world throughout the year. From Italy to Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain and even in Uruguay, the revival of vintage steel road bikes is strong. Riding dirt and gravel roads is nothing to the owners of these bikes, they’ve been doing it long before it was the cool thing to do. Now they have a platform to share in their passion with like minded cyclists who travel the globe to attend these one of kind bike festivals.
Eroica California takes place this weekend in Paso Robles, California and the next one is scheduled for April 30 in Buonconvento, Tuscany.
PRESS RELEASE — Eroica California will take place April 8-10, 2016, in Paso Robles and surrounding cities. This event, originating from Italy, will draw cycling enthusiasts from all over the world to San Luis Obispo County as they gather to celebrate the history of cycling. Due to the success off its inaugural year in 2015, the event will expand to a three-day festival celebrating cycling’s historic roots.
This three-day cycling event will feature a vintage bike show and contest (Concours d’Elegance) showcasing vintage road bikes from early 1900s through 1987. In addition, there will be a designated bike swap tent for cycling enthusiasts and collectors to share and sell vintage bike parts, vintage clothing and other cycling gear. Additional highlights include an expanded assortment of vendors (featuring handmade bike frame makers, bicycle art, and cycling clubs and shops), cycling celebrity guests, special event dinners and much more.
The grand finale of Eroica California is the vintage ride. On Sunday, April 10, an estimated 1,500 cyclists will don vintage cycling apparel and set off on vintage bicycles (made in 1987 or earlier) on one of four scenic routes over gravel and paved roads that mimic the heroic days of cycling’s past.
Four routes are offered: 120 miles (the Eroica or Heroic), 85 miles, 67 miles and 38 miles. Each route offers unique geography and challenges. Just as in the golden era of cycling, each route has rest stops complete with gourmet food and drink for participants to refuel while taking in the quintessential California scenery of vineyards, mountain vistas and the Pacific Coast.
L’Eroica founder, Giancarlo Brocci, defines Eroica events as a means to “spread the authentic roots of an extraordinary sport with great soul. We want people to rediscover the beauty of fatigue and the taste of accomplishment.”
Eroica California benefits Hospice SLO. A portion of all proceeds (rider registrations, special dinner engagements and auction) are donated to the Hospice of San Luis Obispo County.Tweet Print
The popular Eroica movement in Europe and the United States has spilled over to criterium racing. Regulations stipulate that all bikes must be built before 1987, with similar clothing regulations to boot. Brooks England is bringing back its Retro Criterium event at the Jupiter Nocturne in London’s Smithfield Market this weekend.
Here’s a video from last year’s inaugural event:
The Jupiter London Nocturne combines elite and feature races alongside a festival atmosphere that runs into the night. More than 10,000 people will head to Smithfield Market to witness an action-packed race program, which will include the traditional Folding Bike and Penny Farthing Races. The main events are the men’s and women’s Elite Criteriums, which will feature a host of British and international cycling stars.Tweet Print
Carbon frames, integrated shifters, skin-tight clothing—all of these things make cycling easier, and faster, but for many folks there is a desire to celebrate a simpler, more authentic era of cycling before technology laced its inevitable fingers through our spokes.
The L’Eroica rides were founded in the Chianti region of Italy, a homeland of sorts for cycling culture. With a strict dress code and bike specification, they form a rolling time capsule along the famed Strade Bianche of roads through vineyards and orchards.
For the first time the spirit of the original L’Eroica is coming to America. The Eroica California will be held April 11 and 12 starting in Paso Robles. There will be three route options, from 41 to 123 miles, and they are only to be undertaken with strict bicycle regulations. These include only bikes that have been constructed prior to 1987, have exposed brake housing over the handlebars, toe-clip or flat pedals, and down tube shifters.
More than just a ride, the Eroica California includes a festival with local vendors, live music, a silent auction, a pasta meal for riders and a bicycle Concours d’Elegance.
Registration is open now. You can read more about what it’s like to ride L’Eroica in our recap of our trip to the original Italian event here.