Ultimate Guide To L’Eroica Cycling: Vintage Bike Requirements and How To Take Part

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L’Eroica bike races are a unique series of events taking place all around the globe, with a twist: Everyone is in full vintage get-up!

This means vintage bikes, vintage clothing, and even accessories. The key aim of the events, according to Eroica, is to “rediscover the past of cycling to inspire the future of this beautiful sport”.

But what are the specific rules and requirements to enter a L’Eroica cycling event? Where are the events held? And how can you take part?

Don’t worry, we’ll answer all your L’Eroica questions to get you involved in these unique races! We’ll be covering:

  • What Is L’Eroica Cycling?
  • What Are The Rules And Requirements?
  • How To Take Part

Got your retro gear at the ready?

Let’s get started!

L'Eroica Cycling: Title Image

What is L’Eroica Cycling?

The Eroica events – meaning “heroic” in Italian – are inspired by the style of professional racing exhibited in the era of the “Duel of the Century”: Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali.

Perhaps the most significant feature of Eroica races is the requirement for vintage bikes and clothing authentic to the aesthetic of a different cycling era. This makes for races with an extremely distinct appeal.

Many participants choose to ride bikes that are similar to those used by 20th-century cycling icons and Grand Tour winners such as Coppi and Bartali, who used vintage steel-framed Italian road bikes made by the likes of Bianchi and Colnago.

L’Eroica originated in 1997 in Tuscany, Italy, and was created by Italian cycling enthusiast Giancarlo Brocci. The first event hosted a modest 200 riders, but now you’ll be sharing the roads with hordes of vintage bike lovers.

Eroica has since grown into a series of races and become a global phenomenon, with events taking place worldwide, including Italy, the UK, the US, South Africa, Japan, Germany, Spain, and Belgium.

In addition to the vintage bike requirement, Eroica races are also known for their challenging routes, which often feature dirt and gravel roads, as well as steep hills and loose terrain.

These routes are designed to replicate the classic cycling events of the past and give riders a taste of the difficulties faced by the pioneers of modern cycling.

This is exemplified by one of the first Eroica events, which remains amongst the most popular. Taking place on the Strade Bianche (“White Roads”) near Siena, Tuscany, one of the things that make this race so challenging is the surface of the roads, which is loose, rough gravel.

Given that the riders are using vintage bikes from an era that typically stuck to a tire width of around 23 mm or narrower, the loose terrain can be challenging for many.

But this isn’t the only challenge riders have to face; the routes are usually also incredibly hilly. In Tuscany, for example, the strade bianche traverse the classic rolling hills of the region.

Full-length events can be fairly physically demanding, so it is a good idea to make sure that you have a decent level of fitness and are able to ride long distances over hilly terrain.

Luckily, there tend to be multiple route options for entrants: short, medium, and long. So if you’re slightly less confident of your ability, then there’s still an Eroica route for you!

The races are also fully supported. You are supported at the roadside with snacks, mechanical assistance, and refreshments. In addition, your entrance fee usually includes a generous feast for both lunch and dinner – usually authentic foods from the region you’re in.

What Are The Rules And Requirements?

One of the main attractions of Eroica is the opportunity to experience the feel of cycling in a different era.

This means they have some fairly strict rules and requirements for entry. These are not there to detract from the enjoyment but to uphold the authenticity and spirit of the events.

There are two types of Eroica events, which have different rules and requirements – classic and NOVA. Some rules, however, are universal and apply to any race organized by Eroica: entrants must be 18 or over, bring valid ID, and pay a registration fee.

The event-specific rules are as follows:

Rules for Classic L’Eroica Events

The classic Eroica events are the original races, and most events around the world abide by this format.

The following restrictions are in place for the bikes, clothing, and accessories used by the entrants:

  • Bike: must be bici eroiche (“historical bikes”): pre-1987 racing bikes either with or without gears. These are almost always steel-framed.
  • Components: must also be pre-1987, which usually means down-tube shifters and cables which rise over the handlebars. Pedals must be toe-clip pedals with straps – clipless pedals are not allowed.
  • Clothing: must be “of classic inspiration”, such as wool jerseys and bib shorts. Although it is slightly less strict than the bike requirement, generally, the clothing should be manufactured no later than the late ’80s.
  • Accessories: slightly less strict again. The accessories must fit in with the spirit of the event, including bottles, bottle cages, sunglasses, and shoes. The only modern accessory permitted is a modern helmet – for obvious reasons.

Rules for Eroica NOVA Events

Eroica NOVA – meaning “new heroic” in Italian – events were first organized in 2017.

They attempt to make the L’Eroica Gran Fondos a more inclusive series – not everyone owns or can afford to buy a working, good-quality vintage bike.

Therefore, the NOVA events basically just don’t have the vintage requirements. You can either enter them with gravel or cyclocross bikes.

This is especially handy in the Eroica events that take place on gravel and allow the riders to feel more confident and safe.

Although they are significantly outnumbered by the classic Eroica events, NOVA Eroica is becoming increasingly popular and global. You can now find NOVA events in Italy, the US, Switzerland, and South Africa.

How to take part

So, you’re now inspired to enter a L’Eroica race, but how do you do it? Well, there are a few things to do before you get pedaling.

#1. Get Yourself a pre-1987 bike

Unless you’re riding in an Eroica NOVA event, or you already own one, you’re going to need a pre-1987 vintage racing bike.

There are a few different options here.

Firstly, you could get a cheap, pre-1987 vintage bike. Often you can pick one up for around $100-$400, depending on the brand. The benefit here is that you have access to all L’Eroica events without breaking the bank.

The downside is that the vintage bike you get for this price is unlikely to be a lovely ride unless you get an incredible deal. For sure, you can find one that works and will allow you to enter the race, but it’s likely to be in mediocre condition at best.

The chances are, if you’re planning on entering an Eroica event, you already own a nicer bike that you ride regularly. In this case, it’s unlikely you’re going to ride your new vintage bike so regularly.

But if this is the option you’re interested in, then it is a good idea to check out some of the vintage brands that made solid, reliable bikes at lower price points, such as Raleigh and Peugeot.

The other option is to splash out on a stunning piece of machinery. If you’re truly trying to experience what a professional-standard bike race was like for the likes of Coppi and Bartali, you’re going to have to spend a small fortune on an Italian racing bike.

However, although they definitely don’t come cheap, many cycling fanatics own such bikes as collectibles or even centerpiece decorations. If you spend a little more, you’ll not only get a beautiful bike but one that rides very well too.

Many of these bikes were flagship releases at the time, and their technology still somewhat holds up to this day. Particularly steel frame bikes, which generally feel far “softer” to ride over slightly bumpier terrain.

It’s worth considering that these bikes will likely hold or even increase in value.

If this is the option for you, then some of your best options will be Bianchi, Colnago, or Pinarello. There are some slightly cheaper options amongst these brands too, which can realistically be found for under $1000.

Alternatively, you can rent bikes from L’Eroica themselves. However, at €120 per day, you might even be able to buy a budget Eroica-friendly bike for a similar price.

Choose Your Event

The next stage is to choose the event that you wish to enter on your new vintage steed. There are many different options to choose from and a few different ways in which you can choose.

You could choose the event nearest to you. If you live in Western Europe, there are so many to choose from. There’s the Peak District in the UK, there’s Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany, and four different events in Italy.

If you’re from Asia, North America, or Africa, your options are slightly more limited, but there are events in Japan, California, and South Africa.

You could choose the event that interests you most. Maybe you want to make it a part of a larger cycling holiday to a particular destination, or perhaps you just want to ride one of the original Italian events for the most authentic Eroica experience.

A full list of the different events can be found here.

Register for the event

This is, of course, a crucial step. You must pre-register for the event on the L’Eroica website.

The cost ranges from around $70-$120, depending on the event and level of registration. Irrespective of the amount paid, this price includes:

  • A race pack full of souvenirs, including an Eroica cycling cap, a keychain, and much more.
  • Food stops at multiple points throughout the race that includes a veritable banquet of local food and drink.
  • A prize for the winner.
  • A “pasta party” for dinner after the event.

With everything included, the fee you pay is pretty good value!

Now you know all about L’Eroica Cycling…

You can get signed up and enjoy your unique vintage-era race!

Eroica bike races are a truly unique and memorable experience for anyone who loves cycling. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting out, these events offer something for everyone.

So why not dust off that vintage bike and join in the fun?

Enjoyed this guide to L’Eroica cycling? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Jack is an experienced cycling writer based in San Diego, California. Though he loves group rides on a road bike, his true passion is backcountry bikepacking trips. His greatest adventure so far has been cycling the length of the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia, and the next bucket-list trip is already in the works. Jack has a collection of vintage steel racing bikes that he rides and painstakingly restores. The jewel in the crown is his Colnago Master X-Light.

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