For those of us who reject modernity and want to return to the safety of the past, there is only one race that is suitable. L’Eroica was an event created by the now legendary Giancarlo Brocci, as a means to escape the ‘modern’ bicycle race of lycra, aerodynamics, GPS and science. He wanted to make a race for people who love the simplicity of riding bikes and relish the connection one can achieve with a vintage bike. So in 1997, the very first L'Eroica took place in Gaiole, Tuscany. Since then, the race has gone from strength to strength and is now the one event on the calendar that fans of vintage bicycles look out for every year.
The race itself has a wide range of routes that participants can undertake. The reason for this is to make all feel included and welcome. You don’t have to be a high-performing athlete training everyday to take part and enjoy the event. Routes start at around 45km along the beautiful Strade Bianche of Tuscany, winding through picturesque countryside and romantic villages; all the way up to the dedicated routes, in excess of 200km and taking riders around 15 hours to complete! But the point of L’Eroica is to celebrate the majesty and accessibility of vintage bikes.
Riders can undertake a range of routes as part of the event depending on what it is they want to get out of L’Eroica. Here is just what is on offer:
The routes pass through many small towns and villages dotted throughout the landscape, each and every destination is there to show off all the town has to offer: from live music, to sampling some of the finest foods and wines they have. The entire route is a festival and celebration - a chance for people to come together and enjoy the simplicity of life.
In its initial year, a meagre 92 participants undertook the challenge - whereas last year in 2019 an astonishing 8,200 registered! This is not counting those who simply joined the routes wearing a previous year’s race number - the real number of participants is a mystery!
The demand has become so high at L’Eroica in Gaiole that other events across the globe have started. There are Eroica races that take place in:
as well as many other events in Italy!
The increasing demand for the race stems from the aura of the whole event. All are welcome so long as you just want to ride a vintage bike and appreciate the era which the event is celebrating.
The reason that Eroica exists is to celebrate all things related to vintage bicycles. Getting to know yourself as well as the machine that you are riding, sometimes for many many hours, is a liberating and enlightening experience. The race is not about trying to cross the line in the shortest amount of time, but to enjoy the beauty of the countryside and to feel part of a community that share your interests
Having said all this, it is therefore essential for participants to adhere to the regulations of the event in order to ensure that everyone is able to get the most out of the event. People must wear age appropriate attire including shoes, socks, woolen cycling jerseys and shorts. The bikes they ride must also be very special indeed…
To be accepted into Eroica, bicycles must meet certain criteria, the first and foremost being that bicycles must be made before 1987 and be made of steel.
An illustration based on a Bianchi Tour de France that we made to showcase an appropriate Eroica bicycle.
1. Bicycles are allowed to be both geared and single speed, but geared bicycles must have down tube shifters, or alternatively bar-end shifters.
A Faema Team Replica from the 1970s with Eroica Approved down tube shifters.
2. Toe Clips and Straps on must feature on pedals.
A Flema Special Randonneur featuring Eroica approved Toe Clips and Straps on the pedals.
3. Brake Cables for bicycles must be routed outside of the handlebar (it is OK to have inner routing on the frame).
A Colnago Saronni Superissimo with Eroica approved cable routing.
4. A minimum of 32 spokes on max 20mm depth rims made of steel, aluminium or wood.
5. Both tubular and clincher tyres are allowed.
6. Saddles must be era appropriate and in-keeping with the age of the bicycle, although modern retro-looking saddles are also permitted.
7. Larger cassettes are also allowed, considering the steepness of some of the routes.
There are a few ways that you are able to get your hands on the beautiful Eroica approved bicycle. Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:
Due to the inclusive nature of Eroica, and the events they hold - it is possible for participants to visit vendors at the event to hire a bicycle to use for the ride. This is a great way to use brilliant machines for a short specified amount of time. The bicycles available are in excellent condition and will be suited to your needs - it also removes the need to transport the bicycle to the event and back, but it does mean that you have to say goodbye to your trusty steed at the end of the race.
Verdict: Perhaps the easiest way to participate in Eroica, the hassle of sourcing a bicycle is taken away, but be warned: you must book in advance to secure a suitable bike.
At Eroica events, there are also many sellers who have stalls offering all things to do with vintage bikes: apparel, merchandise, tools, equipment and even the bikes themselves. This is often not the cheapest option for participants and the possibility of turning up too late and missing out entirely is also real! You also have to be ready to transport your new purchase home once the race is over.
Cost: from around €400 up to €10,000 depending on quality
Verdict: A great way to feel a part of the community there, but sourcing something that is perfect for your requirements is tricky. The stalls form a sort of bazaar and it is hard to find something and even then you need to know a lot about bikes to make sure it’s exactly right for you.
There are some bicycle shops that have specified collections of bicycles that are Eroica approved - saving you the hard work of ensuring that all the criteria for entry are met. The components that comprise the bikes will also be age appropriate and fully serviced meaning that the bike is completely ready to be ridden down the beautiful white streets of Tuscany (or elsewhere!)
Cost: from around €400 up to €20,000 depending on quality, build construction, history and style.
Verdict: This is the way to cement your passion for vintage bikes - an investment in the ride and also in your love of riding the best kind of bikes.
One joy in life is building something yourself, making something from nothing and having done it all yourself. This is a possibility for Eroica bicycles too. With an understanding of the way you want the bike to turn out, and an appreciation of the parts that were available at a specific time period, building something beautiful from nothing is very possible and makes one truly unique machine!
Cost: €100 - €4,000 this depends on what kind of components you want to use - the more rare and specialised the parts the higher the price you can expect to pay.
Verdict: By investing in parts for your bike, the bike is given a new lease of life - a great way of continuing the story of your favourite frame and showing it off.
Some of us will be lucky enough to have relatives from whom we will have inherited our love of the great sport of cycling. In special cases, one might happen across an old bicycle of a relative who has been collecting for years for the perfect race. In this instance, there can be no finer joy than meeting the very purpose of what Eroica is all about - celebrating tradition, rejecting modernity and going back in time. This is a wonderful tribute to the relative and the machine which will be used.
Verdict: If you’re lucky then you should definitely consider continuing the heritage of the bicycle through your association with the original owner.
Eroica Bicycles available online
Berma Professional Aero Frame Set 1980s
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Faema Team Replica by Pelà Classic Road Bike 1970s
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Bianchi Rekord Classic Road Bike 1970s
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Mercier Pink Sport Ladies Bicycle 1970s
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