It’s that time of year again! Time for the biggest vintage bike nerds from around the world to get together and take part in a good, old-fashioned, life-changing ride. On April 10, 2016 (and in April of every year after), the peaceful little Californian town of Paso Robles will become a hotbed of cycling action—classic steel frames and wool jerseys as far as the eye can see.
We’ve already talked about the Eroica and its guidelines on the Art’s blog, so if you’re curious about what to bring to the event, or where it all started, we’ve got you covered there. For this post, we’ll be focusing on the Eroica California specifically—the details, the attractions, the (short) history.
You’re probably wondering why the only Eroica event in America takes place on the relatively remote Central Coast of California. Mainly, it’s due to the persistence of a small but dedicated group of old-school roadies (including Art’s co-owner Eric Benson) who worked with the Eroica organizers to bring the event to the Central Coast. According to Benson, Eroica had originally been scoping out the Santa Rosa area for the American ride, but once they saw Paso Robles, they fell in love.
It also helps that, thanks to the Mediterranean climate, the Central Coast looks and feels an awful lot like the Eroica’s homeland, the Chianti region of Italy. The rolling hills, the dirt roads, the vast vineyards—taking a ride on the outskirts of Paso Robles is like pedaling through time and space to the golden age of cycling in Italy. All in all, this was simply the best place for the event.
Benson and the other Eroica California planners worked hard to map out a route that would bring riders through as many breathtaking vistas as possible. Just because the ride is pretty doesn’t mean it’ll be easy—lengthy dirt stretches, loads of rough gravel, and formidable inclines make the Eroica California a demanding challenge, especially without the benefits of modern bikes. They’re not joking around with those inclines either, the road crosses over the steep Santa Lucia Range twice, so make sure to get plenty of hill repeats in before you show up to the ride.
If you don’t feel like you’re up to the full 120 mile “Heroic” route, don’t despair—there are three other routes that are a little less taxing. With 120, 85, 67, and 38 mile routes, there’s something for every rider at the Eroica California. Each ride presents its own challenges, so don’t think that the 38 mile route is going to be a complete cakewalk either.
Thankfully, there are plenty of stops at vineyards, orchards, and wineries along the way. Every fifteen miles or so, you’ll be rewarded with cool, refreshing drinks and tasty Californian cuisine. Riders break for delicious snacks, meals, and fine California wine at Cass Winery, Olea Farm, Nadeau Family Vintners, Daou Winery, and Halter Ranch, as well as the sleepy seaside villages of Cambria and Cayucos.
“Come for the ride, stay for the wine” might as well be the unofficial motto for the Eroica California. The Central Coast is home to some of the finest wineries in the world, so wine tasting is a must if you’re coming in from out of town. And it’s not only wine—Paso Robles is becoming somewhat of a fine dining Mecca, with more exquisite restaurants than you can shake a stick at. Add in the tranquil pine forests of Cambria, the sandy beaches of Cayucos, and you’ve got a weekend (or a week, or a month) that you won’t forget any time soon.
We here at Art’s are cyclists just like you, so we understand that the most fun part of any ride is gearing up. With a very strict set of rules about what you can and can’t wear and ride, the Eroica California provides some interesting and exciting challenges for the hardcore bike fan; tricking out your bike to look as ancient as possible is part of the joy of the ride. While searching in antique shops and on ebay may be the best way to find authentic old equipment, Art’s Cyclery has more than a few easy and affordable options to get you looking retro.
From the classy Vittoria 1976 Shoes, to the iconic 7-Eleven Cap, to the gravel grinding Continental Gatorskin Tires, and of course the old-fashioned Brooks leather gear, Art’s has your Eroica California needs covered.
Though there’s a lot of folderol surrounding it, at its heart the Eroica California is all about the history. It’s much more than just a fun ride with great food and drink—it’s a celebration of cycling for riders of all ages and interests. It’s an opportunity for bicycle lovers to experience what it was like to ride in the sport’s heyday—to take on the struggles of their forefathers and gain a better appreciation of where the sport is today. And there’s no better place to connect with fellow bike fanatics and cycling history buffs. Food, fun, and new friends—what’s not to love?