Wednesday, 8 March 2017

We're going to be heroes...

Now that we have our beautiful, classic steel bicycles we need to take to the road and get aquainted with riding them. It has to be said they are somewhat alien to modern machines - and whilst, back in the day, bikes like these were everyday and commonplace - that was 40 years ago - times have changed - the differences are numerous.

For a start there's the handlebars and brakes - the bars are a lot narrower and skinnier than modern counterparts - and the brake hoods a lot smaller. The frame tubings are skinny too so that all-in-all the bike feels smaller and less substantial and the riding position more confined and aggressive than found on current bikes. Then there's the gears - no one-click shifting on these old darlings - changing gear on an old machine is an art in itself and will require some practise - the levers are simply friction controlled - pull down (or push up) and feel for the gear change, trimming accordingly just by feel. Add don't forget the issue with pedals and toe-clips. Instead of modern cleats which are relatively easy to clip in (and out) of the pedal housing, these old bikes utilise a system whereby feet are anchored to the pedals and held in place by leather straps and buckles - demanding considerable forethought to disengage when coming to a stop (I can remember times when I toppled over at junctions and traffic lights because I'd forgotten to undo the straps before coming to a halt).

On top of that the gearing of these old classics is much higher - i.e. harder! - Chainrings at the front are bigger - 53/48 teeth, compared to 50/34 on new bikes and the cogs on the rear wheel much smaller, typically 5 cogs ranging from 14 to 22 teeth - whereas my carbon bike has 10 rear cogs 11-30. This means the bikes will be much harder to move - especially (dread!) going uphill.

So what's the point you may wonder? - Well, high on our bucket list of cycling challenges is to ride 'Eroica Britannia' held each June in the Derbyshire Peaks. We went along to the inaugural
event (as spectators) a few years ago and decided then that it would be a great weekend to take part in. What is 'Eroica' you ask? - It's a cycling event that originated in Italy (Eroica translates as heroic) in 1997 to celebrate the cycling 'heroes' and machines of yesteryear - the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest! - and also to highlight a campaign to preserve the famous Tuscan white gravel roads - the strade bianchi. It's now a globally franchised event with Eroicas in Japan, California, Spain and Holland. Although the centrepiece of the festival is, of course, the bicycle there's plenty to do and see for everyone.  Check out the itinerary and the many photos and video clips here

Get an old bike and we'll see you there!

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