The addition of an air bed made the night go easier, but it couldn’t get rid of the sounds and celebration. Late to sleep, early up. Morning was bright and cold, but the sun quickly disappeared, leaving the day overcast. At least getting up early allowed us to get ready, have a bacon butty, and get to the start in Bakewell at the beginning of our group, the 30 mile ride, early on.
We set off about 9:00 in a large group, many of whom stayed with us, bouncing ahead or dropping back for the rest of the ride. We quickly got on the Monsal Trail, and had six or seven miles of relatively flat gravelled rail track. At our first feed stop (you could easily gain weight on this ride!), we returned to the road for perhaps two miles of steady climbing. Kyla climbed the whole distance. As reward for our investment in the hill, we had a steep descent–Kyla is much better at these than I am; she barrels down at full tilt while I’m on the brakes trying to control–and that took us to our first stamp station, in Tideswell. Eroica gives riders a small booklet, about the size and colour of an international driver’s license, and riders need to stop at feed stations and get their booklet stamped. When I first rode this event, I found this process immensely frustrating: stop when you don’t need to, stand around and wait your turn, and finally get your ticket stamped. In the end, no one looks at the booklet. As a teacher, I feel homework that’s not checked or mentioned is frustrating for students. The booklet is like that.
By this, my third ride, I recognise that I can’t change them, so I’d better relax. Tideswell had a lovely 14 c. church, and they said we could climb the bell tower, open all day. We decided to pass, and rode on. More hills. Kyla did really well on a ride that had a lot of climbing, interspersed among the gravel roads. We walked some of them, but we climbed more.
Our riding companions were great. There was a lovely mix of classic bike and people in period costumes. We passed and were passed by a Chopper Mark 1, and we saw two nurses at Tideswell who had clearly survived the Second World War. People were friendly and chatted at the feed stations and on the road.
We had more food stops at Eyam and Thornbridge, but thankfully only one stamp added. We crossed the finish line just before 1:00, collected our complementary bottles of Thornbridge Brewery’s ‘Handsome Pale Ale’, and started what seemed a never-ending process of packing up. First, though, a final walk through the bike jumble sale to pick up Kyla’s pre-war Coventry Eagle, made in Tile Hill, around the corner from home!
Eroica is good if a bit of a grab bag. The down side is a central organisation that’s trying to monetise every moment. This cascades down to the shops–though not particularly the bike jumble–which need to recoup probably over-the-top rents, which results in a modest bacon butty for £5 and a general escalation of prices. On the plus side, it’s wonderful being among other people who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about old bikes. The shops and food stalls are staffed by friendly and helpful people, and you can discover bike-specific gear you never imagined existed.