Eroica has become something of a milestone event in the cycling calendar, its not a race, it isn't a trade show, its more of a big Event, a festival for well dressed cyclists. It's somewhere people come together on beautiful bicycles, dress up, have good food and drink and enjoy a party atmosphere. Some of them may even go for a ride on the Sunday.
When we signed up as a The Light Blue dealer it was my aim to get on one of the bikes and ride Eroica. Hold on you may interrupt, you can't ride a brand new bike at an event like that, it is after all one of the greatest vintage bike rides in the world. But the rules do allow it. Yes its desirable to ride a beautiful pre-1987 steel machine but its also allowable to get on a The Light Blue 'Retro' model and ride that too.
It didn't take me long to book my place on the ride as soon as I had got the bike. I decided to ride a St John's model in full retro style, downtube shifters, classic brakes and a Reynolds 725 frame made this bike fit in amazingly well even though it stood there as a 2016 vintage.
It's not a long drive or cycle to Bakewell from Sheffield, the base for the event, but I felt I needed to take in the full atmosphere in so booked into the campsite for the entire weekend. I am really glad I did. I arrived to find a Glastonbury style muddy field in which to pitch my tent, I found a dryish spot next to a small dip in the ground where a small lake of water had collected. Once pitched I wandered into the festival and was greeted by the usual party atmosphere and smartly dressed characters from all over the world, it was slightly reminiscent of a Jules Verne novel like Around the World in 80 Days. There was a multitude of traders selling everything from used vintage bike parts all the way to specialist cheese and skin tonics. This event attracts all. SMEG kitchen ware even had a giant tent dedicated to retro styled fridges and freezers. The Thornbridge Brewery tent was of interest to most with its special festival ale aptly named 'Handsome'. The music roared out from the stage and even with the thick mud under foot everyone had a smile on their face.
The Saturday was a day to parade, not just those who'd entered the best in show categories but most people had made an effort to don their best period outfits and make the most of it. Admittedly the addition of wellies with a flowing red and white polka dot dress didn't quite hit the mark but it was very muddy. I wandered around the festival in my tweed but it was my bike that pulled the admiring glances and why not; the St John's is a beautiful beast, a real classic. Taking off along the Monsal Trail for a short blast, tweed I found was a big mistake at this point, I ended up at the viaduct where there were lots of people riding through again all in period outfits and looking so smart. Its such a shame we don't embrace this style on a bike anymore and Hi-Viz and urban battle gear seems to pervade our world. Everyone looked delicious and all with a smiles from ear to ear.
Now its common for bikes as old as some of these to have a few minor mechanicals, or just need adjustments to get them running smooth but there was a lot of work being done in the evening on Saturday to get their bike ready for the main event on Sunday. Luckily I was not one of them and all I needed to do was fit my new bell to tinkle my way through the Peak District.
After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast of porridge and eggs on toast washed down with copious amounts of strong coffee I got my kit on and proceeded to the start. Having got my card stamped I managed to get positioned right at the front next to the MC dressed in a magnificent red and gold dress coat. Tandems were called to the front for a small head start but not much and by the time we got to the bridge out of Bakewell they were far behind and I was off onto one of the best cycling events I've ever taken part in. Part endurance ride, part fashion show and a great reason to ride a steel bike. After a few hiccups on gear selection I got to grips with downtube shifters, being of a certain age STI shifters are pretty much all I've ever ridden on for any lengthy period of time. The route was well picked and took in some amazing trails, places everyone should make the effort to cycle or walk, like the tunnels along the Monsal Trail and the steep descents of the High Peak Trail leading into Cromford. The St John's performed above and beyond expectations, this should be rebranded a classic gravel bike as it eat up the trails as if they were tarmac and flew. I never felt so stable on a bike off road before and this was a steel road bike. The geometry made dropping down to grab some speed on the descents a breeze and the wheels ran as smooth as any I've known. The frame was incredibly smooth and yet when I wanted to speed up there was no hanging around. I fell in love with this bike after 55 miles.
The final 10 miles were tough, its been a while since I rode that sort of distance in the Peak, but the finish line made up for it. I turned into the festival site with the route lined with cheering onlookers and as I turned the last corner I saw the finish line and put the hammer down, the bike responded instantly and I was propelled across mud and straw strewn tarmac to a roar of cheers. The free bottle of beer at the end was a welcome relief.
This ride attracts all types, whether you want to ride in tweed, classic replica wool cycling gear or, as someone did on this ride, a gorilla outfit. The bikes vary from a brand new The Light Blue all the way to 1940's butcher's bikes and if you want a friend to join you there were plenty of tandems on the route, someone even had the guts to ride 55 miles on a Penny Farthing!
There are many rules that exist to take part in the Eroica event, but you can be assured that by buying a The Light Blue Kings or St John's Retro model you'll be compliant and will have the pleasure of riding an amazing bike. You can come and take our Eroica bike out for a spin or why not hire it for a weekend out in the Peak riding some of the trails we did this glorious weekend, we've yet to give the bike a clean from its adventures so why not join us at our Sheffield Station shop to find out more.
If you are planning to ride the Eroica next year or just want to hire a classic road bike for a day or two we have several to hire from our Neespend Shop.