The vintage cycling festival rides again, and how! Eroica Britannia is a world class event, and it has a few things to thanks for it. The location, the bicycles, and the mad old Brits who love to get involved.
Returning to Bakewell this year was myself and Charlie, but in tow we had family of all generations. Joining us were my parents, both my brothers, my brothers girlfriend, and the youngest of our team our beautiful 9 month old daughter Eva. It sounds like I made a great job of selling the festival to them but I did nothing, Eroica did it itself.
As last year we stayed from Thursday to Monday in a couple of cosy cottages in nearby Buxton, and as soon as we arrived we filled both with bicycles! This year my dad, my brothers, and I were all taking part in the mass ride on the Sunday of the festival. We had all readied vintage steeds to do so. I was riding my 1970s Carlton Corsa, Dad was on his 1970s Hungarian Pannonia, brother Chris on his 1980s Gazelle replica, and youngest brother Steve was rocking a rod braked 1950s Triumph. All in fine fettle and ready to take in the scenery.
Saturday at the festival saw the vintage lifestyle element come into play. There were competitions for best dressed family, moustache, bicycles by decade, bicycle restoration, and the great British cake off! The bike jumble was huge with plenty of opportunity to pick up a bike for the ride on Sunday, or that missing piece of your restoration project. We were successful with our rummaging, jumble yielding a pair of GB Maes handle bars and Hiduminium spear point stem for my Rotrax resto and a lovely chain guard for my brothers Triumph. The show fields were packed with traders selling all manner of cycling lifestyle related goods. We had vintage, tweed, steel, technology, innovation, style, charity, food, and booze. You were really spoilt with places to spend your money. Yes the festival field was a little waterlogged and muddy but it didn’t stop everyone enjoying the great mix of stalls and live entertainment.
Now, onto the Sunday! The weather held up nicely and the ground conditions didn’t get any worse. We arrived at the festival for around 8 o’clock, unloaded the bikes, and headed for the ‘Grand Depart’. All seemedly going well I noticed a bulge in my tyre where it had started to leave the rim. Cursing I headed back to the car to deflate, re seat and inflate. Then as I re inflate the valve separates from the tube…….. I could have exploded as well…. Luckily, or not so, I had replacement tubes on board so swapped over and I was ready to go. Catching up with family and the rest of our team ‘Dad and Sons’ we headed for the start line.
The Grand Depart is set in Bakewell town centre about half a mile from the showground on one of the towns cobbled streets. Its the perfect vintage gateway to the start of the ride into the peak district. Very fitting for Eroica. With 3500 riders registered to ride this year it was heaving. We made our way through and of into the peaks!
We rode the short route of the festival, and at 30 miles it wasn’t a distance that would faze any of us normally. Although, with the elevation change and age of our steeds it made things a little more interesting. Without wanting to give too much away, the ride was beautiful. The scenery was stunning and the villages were very cute. The Monsal railway trail was fun to ride with plenty of tunnels, and a viaduct! a real highlight. The in ride refreshment and entertainment was great, with live music, fresh bacon sandwiches, and coffee on tap. All of our bikes performed admirably and I was surprised at my Carltons amazing ability to climb. I was able to whip it uphill a few times past a fair few groups of riders, at both mine and their amazement! the only bike that didn’t make it up all the climbs unaided was my old mans Pannonia. But hey, the gearing was far to stiff for this sort of thing. Unlike my brothers Triumph that, living up to its name, remained a gentlemanly effort throughout.
Returning along the Monsal trail you could see the show ground from your elevated position, spurring you on over the last few hundred metres. Reaching the end of the trail you drop down to show level and back into the grounds along a tarmac path directly through the middle of the festival. What a great atmosphere, people line the road and cheer you in, and names and numbers are announced as you cross the finish line. Makes you feel like you really were in a road race!
When through the finish line and back in the festival you get to collect your musette with honorary Thornbridge Eroica beer and some goodies for finishing from the race control tent. The bar is open, the beer is flowing, and the party continues. Despite the muddy showground everyone was getting stuck in and relaxing well after some potentially arduous rides, liquid calorie redemption!
After an hour we headed back to Buxton to rest and chat about the weekends events. My family thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and it was great to ride with my dad and my brothers. Eroica Brittania made great work of this years festival, I’m sure they will be returning next year with even more to see and do. I’m tempted to return again to Bakewell but the Italian chapter is calling me with much gusto, I just need to organise a family trip for that now……
If you had any doubts about visiting the festival, don’t. There is plenty to see and do, in and outside the festival. We visited Chatsworth house on the friday to add to the trip, and that would have been worth the trip to the Peak district in itself. Get yourself signed up to their mailing list and get ready to buy your tickets for 2017!