It’s called ‘Eroica’ or ‘Heroic’ for a reason - the range of distances that participants can undertake varies from around 45km up to a staggering 200km. Most of these rides wind over the beautiful, picturesque and unkempt ‘Strade Bianche’ of the Tuscan countryside. Therefore, your bike has to be in perfect working order before undertaking the challenge. Here are 10 helpful tips to get your vintage racing machine ready for Eroica.
It may seem like an obvious place to start, but it’s probably the most important thing to do before setting off on any ride, let alone Eroica.
You should check your bike that it is safe to ride, make sure that the frame has no cracks, dangerous dents or sharp bits of metal hanging off it. But another thing to consider is whether your wheels are buckled - bikes that have seen better days may need a little bit of care and attention before carrying you on the best ride in Italy.
The routes of Eroica rides are extremely long and wind their way through the Tuscan countryside and this means that you must also be prepared to deal with vast amounts of elevation gain which can be extremely tricky on vintage bikes of a particular age.
Vintage bikes before the invention of the parallelogram rear derailleur (1937) will have a very limited amount of gears and riders of these bikes will struggle with the longer routes available at Eroica.
If your bicycle has conventional, by today’s standards, gearing then we recommend that you change the rear cog with something reaching up to around 26 or 28 teeth to make the climbs a little easier.
Another way to make it easier for yourself is to fit a new chain to your bike to make sure that those gear shifts stay!
It is extremely important to be safe when riding your bike. One of the easiest ways to ensure you are as safe as possible is to replace your brake pads.
Old, perished or cracked brake pads are unreliable and likely to cause the user, and those around, an issue.
By changing your brake pads, you increase your ability to stop or at least slow yourself down adequately to avoid any dangers.
Another way to ensure safety is to replace your brake cables - fresh, new cables will perform better than loose, old cables. It shouldn’t be a long process and will be well worth it if your brakes are called upon at very short notice.
By replacing your brake hoods, you not only provide yourself with a more comfortable point of contact to the bike for your hands, but you breathe new life back into the bike whilst maintaining the style of vintage cycling.
If your tyres are not new, then it is imperative that you replace them before undertaking any ride at all. Old and perished rubber is dangerous, especially when it is the material connecting you to the road beneath.
By replacing your tyres you make your bicycle far more safe and decrease the risk of punctures or popped inner tubes.
Our tip: use tyres as wide as possible with a reasonable amount of tread to withstand the varying terrains of the Strade Bianche.
Before undertaking the enormous distances on offer with Eroica, it is wise to test your bike out to see how it feels and work out whether you have to make any other adjustments. The longer the ride, the better in this instance as some issues only become apparent after a long time in the saddle.
There is no sense of accomplishment like completing the heroic ride - so by taking the time to get to know the bicycle that is going to carry you the distance, you give yourself the best chance to do so.
It is important to stay hydrated on any ride, but especially important to do so in the blistering Tuscan heat whilst pushing yourself to your limits on a vintage bike. The key to surviving the ride is to keep yourself hydrated!
Make sure to place water bottle cages on your frame or on the handlebars to keep in line with the stylistic requirements of the event.
There is only so much space in cycling jerseys and extra provisions are often required when riding Eroica.
By packing a saddle or handlebar bag, you can fit extra, sometimes essential, tools or snacks to ensure that you and your bike make it to the end of the route!
If you are undertaking the longer routes on offer at Eroica, expect to be in the saddle for in excess of 10 hours - this will mean that you will either be setting off before sunrise, or arriving back once the sun has set. In that instance it is highly advisable to pack lights so that you are able to see where you are going and that others can see you when visibility is low.
Huge amounts of power is lost without the use of toe clips and straps. The best way to conserve energy for Eroica events - and meet the bicycle requirements - is to use toe clips and straps.
Having said that, it is also incredibly important to make sure that correct and adequate footwear is worn to maximise comfort. Vintage, or retro cycling shoes are specifically designed to maintain comfort whilst using toe clips, so be sure to get a suitable pair before getting to Eroica!
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