Six reasons every cyclist should enter the Eroica Britannia vintage bike ride
Beautiful vintage bikes, a family-friendly festival and rides in the incredible scenery of the Peak District make the Eroica Britannia a must-ride event.
Eroica Britannia is the UK's version of the classic Italian L'Eroica vintage ride which has seen riders on pre-1987 bikes take to the famous Strade Bianchi (white roads) of Tuscany since 1997. In 2017, the fourth and biggest ever Eroica Britannia was blessed with glorious sunshine and scorching temperatures over the weekend of June 16-18th.
Located in the stunning Peak District in Derbyshire, Eroica Britannia is held on quiet country roads and gravel trails to help recreate the Italian experience. Riders can choose from three routes – the 25-mile Tourist, 55-mile Sportsman and the epic 100-mile Hero with more than 8500 feet of climbing.
Here's why you should enter the 2018 event when tickets go on sale on November the 1st!
It's a great excuse to buy another bike!
To enter Eroica Britannia you have to ride a pre-1987 bike with downtube shifters, no internal cabling and clipless pedals are strictly forbidden! So, if you don't have an old bike in the shed you'll need to buy one! (There are some exceptions which you can find here in the rules. If you want to ride 100-miles on a Brompton be my guest!) For the 2017 I bought a 1983 Raleigh Sprint off of eBay as it was my first road bike. Watch the video below to see how I got on with it.
You get to dress up!
Another one of the rules for Eroica Britannia is that you "…must be dressed in vintage or era specific clothing. Lycra and modern style clothing is not permitted." At this year's event I saw plenty of gents in tweed plus-fours, women in tea dresses and even one chap wearing a pith helmet. I opted for a fetching woollen jersey and shorts combo. Wool is quite warm when the sun shines… (I have to admit I saw plenty of riders blatantly flouting the no Lycra edict…)
You'll get to see some amazing bicycles!
One of the real pleasure of Eroica Britannia was seeing hundreds and hundreds of simply stunning old bicycles. As you might expect the organisers put on a 'Best In Show' event in which judges cast their eyes over some beautiful classic machines and dish out rosettes. There were some absolute stunners on display and you can see few here. Better than looking at bikes in a field, though, was seeing them being ridden on the roads and trails.
It's a proper family friendly festival!
The Spedding's descended en-masse to Friden Grange near Buxton, Derbyshire and 'enjoyed' their first ever camping trip. You can bring your own tent, caravan or camper, or opt for glamping. Either way it's a lot of fun. (I borrowed a caravan!) There was plenty for the kids to do and in the evenings you're treated to live music – this year Norman Jay and ABC were the headliners! A huge variety of street food vendors, fairground rides, workshops, stalls selling bike and non-bike goodies and, of course, a beer tent all add up to make the event feel like a huge friendly fete.
The riding is sensational!
I opted for the 55-mile Sportsman ride with just over 4000 feet of climbing and I felt that it was epic enough on a heavy old bike with – in theory – just 10 gears. The Sportsman mixed quiet roads with reasonably road bike friendly gravel trails – the High peak and Tissington trails are used. For 2018 the organisers say that they'll be looking at the route as it did include some ever-so-slightly-sketchy rocky sections. There were no epic climbs on the 55-miler but if you're riding a knackered old bike even the slightest lump can feel positively Alpine. Feed stations were decent with real cakes and, at the final stop, free beer!
It'll help you fall in love with cycling all over again!
For me, this was the biggest take home from Eroica Britannia. The friendly, inclusive atmosphere is unlike anything you'll get at a regular sportive. Perhaps it was the weather, or maybe just the fact that everyone was riding an old bike, but the whole weekend was incredibly relaxed. There was certainly none of the ultra-competitive MAMIL behaviour you get at some sportives! To be fair, many of us couldn't have ridden quickly if we'd wanted to thanks to our bikes but that meant that we took our time, chatted as we rode and simply had fun. And that's what cycling is all about isn't it?
Tickets for the 2018 Eroica Britannia go on sale on November the 1st. The event takes place on the 15th-18th of June. For more information click here.
Subscribe to Cycling Plus
Cycling Plus has been seeking out Britain's Best Rides since 1992 – subscribe here!
Sign up to the Cycling Plus Newsletter here