The Britannia Times
Jack Sexty of Road.CC Magazine joined us for his very own Great British AdventurePublished on 24th. June 2018
Through some rough stuff, up muddy climbs, a couple of scenic feast stops and a motivational hip flask later - Jack shares his Classic Ride commentary from the saddle of a Dave Quinn 7 speed racer.
Rickety old steel bikes, beer and cake with thousands of feet of elevation around the peaks of Derbyshire? It’s a far better idea than it sounds, as I found out at this year’s Eroica Britannia. After attending the launch event for the 2018 Eroica Britannia back in February, I liked the ride and the Eroica vibe so much that I made sure to save the date and stock up on retro kit for the event soon afterwards.
“Fast forward a few months and I’m toe-clipped into my vintage steel racing bike on the start line surrounded by hundreds of other relics from the past, preparing for a long but epic day in the saddle…”
In short Eroica Britannia is a vintage bike festival spawned from the original Eroica event in Tuscany, which itself spawned a professional race, the Strade Bianchi. There are several events worldwide now, and Eroica Britannia takes places around Derbyshire’s Peak District (departing from just outside of Bakewell, off of Bakewell pudding fame) with 30 mile, 60 mile and 100 mile route options.
“Your bike officially has to be pre-1987, which means steel frames, downtube shifters, toe clips and wool are in, while cleats, carbon and lycra are generally frowned upon. We saw everything from penny farthings, to tandems to Raleigh Choppers taking on the course, completely unsuitable but that’s all part of the fun.”
Although we were in two minds which distance to tackle, my two pals and I opted for the 60 mile route with just the 4,560 feet of elevation; the main reason being that the 100 departed at 7:15 on Sunday, and we were already a couple of drinks down the previous evening… so a 9.30am depart seemed a bit more manageable!
The ride begins off-road on some flat gravel around the high peak trail, and the ascents start on the road within the first 10 miles. To me a prerequisite of riding Eroica was making sure I was well physically prepared to tackle the tough ride, and factoring in an unfamiliar bike with downtube shifting it really is no joke... therefore seeing people pushing their bikes on the first hint of a climb made me wonder if some folk had underestimated it or had just accepted they were going to be on foot for the hilly bits.
The Thornbridge Hall stop was a highlight, and also provided plenty of photo opportunities with a retro Mavic neutral service car plus a nice stodgy lunch bag with optional Thornbridge pale ale on tap.
“After soaking up the beer with Bakewell Pudding we set off towards Bakewell town, before a pretty rough climb up and over Beeley Moor. This one was long and constant as opposed to the short and sharp stuff I'm accustomed to in the UK, and more reminiscent of a European climb in my mind.”
After a long old descent we reached the second stop at 47 miles and filled up on homemade brownies, probably too many because immediately after is arguably the toughest part of the course... an off-road climb averaging 11% that finishes up on the top of the High Peak Trail.
There's one more bit of off-road climbing before rejoining the gravel paths for a relaxing pedal towards the festival site, with more drinks awaiting the finishers. In hindsight I'm glad we did the 60 miler for the kind of day out we wanted (stopping lots and soaking it up with a bit of physical exertion along the way) and would probably have preferred to do the 100 with less pit stops and totally at my own pace. If you do take on the long route and are riding with others of varying ability, be prepared for a big day out... that's just my tuppence worth though.
“All in all I reckon Eroica Britannia is a must-do event in the UK for any cycling fan, and extends far beyond a niche vintage bike nut gathering. The ride itself is fantastic on its own, and add in all the retro goodness, a festival and excellent tasty freebies for the entry price, you're guaranteed an epic day out providing your vintage bike is somewhat rideable!”
Read Jack’s full article HERE