One weekend in June each year, the highways and byways of the Derbyshire dales and moors are travelled by thousands of cyclists. This, you may think, is not unusual for such a beautiful part of the country. But one thing unites these cyclists – their period-specific cycles and clothing. This is Eroica Britannia, a celebration of all things vintage velo.
Given my propensity to bore for England when it comes to cycling, and being lucky enough to call Derbyshire my home, I was keen to ride the Eroica. This year I got my chance.
The original L’eroica has its roots in Tuscany when local cyclists sought to thwart plans by local authotrities to pave, and tame, the white gravel roads or strade bianche that provide passage across its verdant hills. They were successful and the phenonmenon has gathered momentum across the globe with festivals as far a field as Japan.
Britiannia was founded by four businessmen - keen cyclists all - from Sheffield. In common with other Eroicas around the world, it has followed its own distinct theme; not a ride of protest but a celebration of tweed, flat caps and plus fours. Chianti and Pecorino cheese are replaced by pale ales and gourmet pies.
Subscribing to the n+1 theory of cycle ownership, the Eroica gave me the opportunity to build a new replica bike that met the event’s entry rules as I was unable to find a period-specific machine in my size – lanky. Riders pick from three non-competitive routes: 30, 55 and 100 miles. I opted for the latter which offered a heady mix of Peak District trails and some infamous climbs that regularly test my creaking limbs at the weekend.
Pushing off at 6am from Bakewell – home of the tart and pudding – the weather (just) and route were sublime. Feed stations on route kept riders fuelled while energetic kids lined the roadside in pretty Peak villages holding out hands to ‘side five’ the riders. The finish, at Bakewell showground, felt very special as the riders were ‘announced’ back home to cheering crowds.
Eroica means heroic. I’m not sure my ride fits this lofty description but the experience was certainly addictive. I’ll be back for more.