My Bikes Rides Vintage Events

Eroica, California: Gearing up for 2016


Cotton tape, hemp twine finishing, wine-cork bar plugs.

I just signed up for the 2016 edition of Eroica, California. It will be my second year, and I have great memories of spinning along in a peloton of riders in moth-eaten wool jerseys on silky smooth dirt roads, receiving a water bottle of white wine at about 9:00am (uncharted territory), scarfing down french fries cooked in olive oil, and eye-guzzling more gorgeous bicycles than I’ve ever seen together. Last year, I rode a sort of resto-mod ’71 Raleigh International that was just a cat’s whisker within regulation. For the uninitiated, I’ll explain the salient regulations for the event: Eroica is open to riders on bicycles 1987 or older (although more recently built traditionally constructed frames are permitted if they are running vintage components), with toe-clips type pedals (you can ask for a medical exception to use clipless pedals if needed), downtime friction shifters, wheels with at least 32 spokes, and non-aero brake levers. My Raleigh met these regulations, and I considered my bike in the spirit of the event. However, I had hung mostly modern, but retro looking parts on it. At least I had a couple of genuine vintage parts: Campagnolo Nuovo Record headset and brake levers.  


My ’71 International’s previous incarnation.

My big 24.5″ Raleigh Intern’l came to me as a frame from a fellow Bridgestone Owner’s Bunch Google Group member who had used it as a commuter on the east coast. The frame had been repainted with non-period correct decals. I took it to Tucson frame builder Andy Gilmour for a repaint. In the process, he added braze ons for a second water bottle, and re-spaced the rear triangle to 130mm so I could run modern hubs. While Andy was working on the bike, he discovered that it had a crazy 76.5 degree head tube angle. At first, we both suspected that the bike had been run into something causing the frame to bend, but there was no evidence of that. Andy called it a “Friday bike” and figured the boys in Nottingham must have been in a hurry to get to the pub for a black and tan the afternoon they brazed up my frame back in 1971. The fix for the ultra steep head tube angle  involved replacing the down tube with a new, slightly longer, Reynolds 531 tube to bringing the head tube angle closer to 73 degrees. The downside to the down tube replacement was that I would lose the cool-looking chrome on the Nervex lugs.  We used a paint color that was not offered on ’71 Internationals, and some decals that Andy had on hand that were a year or two off.  It wasn’t going to win any awards at a vintage bike show, but I liked the way it looked.


In Eroica 2015 livery.

Perhaps more importantly, the International performed wonderfully. The frame accommodated wide 30c Challenge tires rolled nicely on pavement or dirt roads and were plush and comfortable. I’ve put more miles on the Raleigh in 2015 than any of my other bikes. I’ve hung with a some guys on club rides, run innumerable errands, and climbed Mt. Lemmon (56miles with 8,600 ft. of elevation gain) on the bike. The Raleigh, with its Reynolds 531 tubed frame, is lively and likes to go. I consider it a fine climber. Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly talks about bicycles that “plane” (this is hotly debated), and I don’t know if my Raleigh does that, but I can say that it seems to get in sync with my cadence, and feels springy in response to my pedaling input, particularly when climbing. Since building the Raleigh, I’ve been riding other vintage bikes with original components, and I’m leaning toward using a full vintage rig in 2016’s event, but I think I will miss the modern ramped cogs (10 speed Campy rear cassette) on the Raleigh, whose drivetrain and shifting are utterly silent and smooth. 

I did steer into preciousness a bit in two ways. Stainless steel water bottles (see photo to the left), are nice eye candy for photos, but are functionally silly. They are prone to rattle and are hard to open and use while riding. I say this as someone who has a bunch of them and has used them for five years while bikepacking, in my car, and on city bikes. Next year, I’ll be bringing plastic bidons, or old aluminum models with cork tops. Also, while I love cotton bar tape, I’m done finishing it with twine in the Rivendell fashion. Now I prefer to tape from the stem down. I may still use wine corks for bar plugs though, if for no other reason than riders who pass me always ask about my corks. For the record, the right side is from a Bordeaux Superieur, the left from a Spanish old vine Granacha.  



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