L’Eroica Italia


Updated, March 4 2014

leroica2To be properly equipped for a vintage bike rally you need vintage cycling gear of the same period as the bike you are riding. The gear should be functional and must look good too! This is hard to achieve with the sources available today but it is still possible. There is also the “style” factor to consider and if your are riding at an event like L’Eroica then the bar is set very high indeed! No problem, I’ll just go down to the vintage bike store and buy the proper gear right? Wrong!

My 2012 L’Eroica bike was a 1974 Legnano Gran Premio, so to put together a kit appropriate to that bike was a bit of a challenge. For me it took a lot of time scouring eBay and Googling specific items. Eventually I was able to put together a kit suitable for L’Eroica that was comfortable to ride in and the correct style if not actually vintage.

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If you have not followed the lead up to this event then you should read the posts prior to this one first. It is written assuming some knowledge of L’Eroica and the reader may not appreciate this post without that understanding. The reason for this follow-up post is to share a couple of additional photo’s from the event and also to provide a few of my conclusions about the event now that I have had some time to reflect on it. First, let me say that L’Eroica was one of the standout events in all of my years of cycling.  The premise and tradition of this event make it unlike any other I have experienced and there is not an event like it in the US. It also ranks as among the hardest rides I have done. The passion for cycling as demonstrated in this event makes it clear to me that Italians live and breath cycling like no one else. Their fervor for the sport is unsurpassed and their skill as cyclsits is on a par with their zeal. Italy is now one of my favorite places to cycle!

Myself (left) with fellow rider Terry from England at the start.

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A vintage bike rally in the Chianti region of Tuscany.

Okay, for those who know nothing of this event, it is a bike ride held once each year in October which begins in the village of Gaiole in Chianti. Its purpose is to celebrate the golden era of cycling which emphasizes mechanical simplicity over technology and the heroic struggle of its riders against the conditions. The route is a 205 km circuit of the Chianti region on local roads which include the Strada Biancha (the white gravel roads) found in this part of Tuscany. The route circles and crosses this very hilly region and features many challenging if not downright vicious climbs. It is attended by 5000 riders, 80% of whom are from Italy. The remaining 20% are from other nations, including the US.

This year I will be riding the 205 km distance and my stepson Justin will be riding the 135 km route. We will have the same start time and share the same route for the first 50 km or so. After that it will be each man to his own, along with the other 4998 riders. My ride is a 1974 Legnano Gran Premio while Justin has a 1983 Bianchi Nuovo Racer.

We arrived just after 5 am at the start line to find a long queue of riders waiting. Each rider had to sign in and get their start time stamped on the card. It took about a half an hour before we reached the front and started our ride. My friend Bob Owen, also from Utah was just ahead of us and waited so that we would start together. We had been chatting with fellow rider Terry from England in the starting queue and the four of us were underway at about 5:40 am as we joined the long stream of riders in the darkness.

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Tuesday, October 2

My wife Sara and I along with son Justin and his wife Erin have arrived in Pisa Italy. The purpose of the trip for Justin and I is to ride L’Eroica, the classic cycling event held the first week in October each year. I guess the ladies will have to occupy themselves with shopping while we are out riding.

Wednesday, October 3

Okay, we have arrived in Pisa but our bikes seem to have taken another plane. They did finally get here this morning and were delivered to our hotel. We assembled them and checked them over before heading out for an easy spin to the coast.

 

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L’Eroica is just over a month away and it is time to make sure that everything is in order with the bike. I have a couple of hundred of miles on the Legnano already but have not done any real hills on it yet. I decided to to a hilly 100 km populaire into Bryce Canyon that has about 4000 feet of climbing in it. This should give me an idea of how the bike climbs and how well it is working.

The route starts in scenic Red Canyon a little ways outside of the park and climbs up the wonderful Red Canyon bike path. This path has been recently extended and will take you to within a few miles of the park. Eventually it will go all the way to Bryce Canyon National Park.

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1974 Legnano Gran Premio, completato!

Here it is, the finished project. It came out pretty much as I envisioned it, mostly original but with other components spec’d for the intended use and in a retro style. Form and function were equally important on this bike because of it’s intended use in the L’Eroica event later this year where a challenging course is ridden on historical bikes. As discussed in part 1I chose to preserve the paint in its existing condition, only taking measures to prevent further damage from rust. It retains the patina of age without the worry of further deterioration. The original components were thoroughly cleaned and reinstalled but also retain their blemishes. Other parts that were not original also show their age but are in good mechanical condition. Cables, chain and tires are new but were necessary to assure good performance.

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The L’Eroica bike completed:

Original Bianchi 1983 catalog photo

Excerpt from 1983 Bianchi catalog:  “Sleek Italian styling and proven European components make this an excellent choice. Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleurs, double butted Columbus frame, TTT stem and handlebars, Ofmega Competition hubs, headset, crankset, pedals and seatpost, Mavic G-40 rims and Clement 100 psi skinwall tires complete this thoroughbred Italian.”

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