The L’Eroica isn’t just a challenging ride in the Tuscany region of Italy – it’s an experience. The L’Eroica ride is unique in that participants are encouraged to dress and ride a bike from a vintage era. While modern bikes and clothing aren’t forbidden, the theme of the event is paying homage to a bygone era of riding a bike that wasn’t constructed by a robot or made from carbon fiber.
The course of the L’Eroica is mostly gravel roads and participants have several ride options: 205 or 135 kilometers as well as a short course that emphasizes the scenic aspect of the event rather than the gravel roads that the other options include. The terrain is all rolling with very little flat stretches. Riding on gravel is a challenge but the road was punctuated by ruts and washboards that demanded the rider’s attention. The ascents were tough and the downhills equally so. With the rough road a rider can’t relax and recover. A moment of inattention could be a disaster.
Riders from around the globe make a yearly pilgrimage to this area known for it’s wine. Bob Sabatini of Columbia, South Carolina made the trip to Italy with his Paletti bike and participated in the 205 kilometer option.
The thought to participate in the ride started over a year ago. He was vacationing in Italy at the same time as the L’Eroica and figured why not try the ride. His only goal was to complete the distance.“It was the challenge of can I do it,” said Sabatini.
In the spirit of the ride Sabatini picked up a 1979 Paletti frame which originated from the same area of his family’s Italian heritage. Not only did he ride a steel frame his kit included a vintage Paletti cap as well as crocheted gloves, leather shoes with metal cleats, wool jersey and shorts with a leather chamois.
The day before the ride Sabatini was with his Italian cousin and they met a couple of professional riders that knew his cousin.
“They told me they do that course in nine to to ten hours!”
The course itself is tough but compounding the difficulty was the gears on his bike were slipping. Unable to stay in a gear, Sabatini was often forced to walk up the steep pitches.
When it was all said and done the Columbia Summit Cycle rider completed the 205 kilometers in 13 hours.
“It was the hardest thing I have ever done,” said Sabatini. “But I would do it again, just not the longer route.”
The advantages of modern bikes are obvious, however rides like the L’Eroica takes us back into a time when toe clips and straps were standard issue and energy food was a sandwich wrapped in tin foil. In order to appreciate the advantages of what we have now it’s important that we remember what came before. Cyclists raced over the same peaks that today’s racers conquer. However that it was on steel bikes weighing three times what our modern bikes do makes these stories epic in proportion. If you have the chance throw a leg over a steel frame or better yet plan your vacation around the L’Eroica and participate in a event that will give you a life time of memories.