The Eroica is a lot of fun, but there are a few guidelines in place to preserve the vintage spirit of the ride. Here’s a quick overview of the regulations for clothing, accessories, and your bike so that you can be prepared when it’s time embark on the dirt and gravel of your first Eroica. Note: The rules of each Eroica ride vary slightly—this article is specific to the Eroica California, but the other events should be pretty similar (check the Eroica website for the full rulesets).
When it comes to the Eroica, the golden rule is that everything from before 1987 is fair game. You can remember it with this handy mnemonic: Before ’87, you’re in heaven—after ’88, you’re too late. It’s a point of pride to ride the most ancient bike at the event, so the older the better; showing up with a sleek ’87 roadster is a bit of a cop-out. People generally don’t ride anything from before 1900, just because the tech is too cumbersome for a hundred-mile ride, but if you can really rock a penny farthing or velocipede then go for it.
Replica vintage bikes are allowed as long as they look the part, but don’t expect anyone to be complimenting your ride if you show up with something new. If you want to look cool, old-school is definitely the way to go. The event is all about history, so riding something built in the last 30 years kinda defeats the purpose. Clips and leather saddles are musts.
Speaking of history, it’s not just your bike that needs to look retro. Riders are also required to look like they stepped out of the past. That pretty much means wool and leather. Some antique riding goggles and a tubular around your arms are sure to impress—the more historically accurate your attire, the cooler you’ll look. Don’t be afraid to show off: You’ll be surrounded by other cycling history nerds who are all trying to outdo each other, so bolder is better. If you really want to make an impression, try and make sure your kit and accessories are all from the same year as your bike—now that’s going the extra mile!
Helmets are a bit of a point of contention at the Eroica. All over the Eroica site, they recommend wearing a helmet, but each time it feels like they’re saying it with a wink and a nudge. Helmets aren’t historically accurate, so they kind of ruin the aesthetic of the ride. On the other hand, these are some pretty intense journeys across some potentially dangerous terrain, so that anachronism might just save your life. If you do decide to go with safety over accuracy, don’t expect to be one of the cool kids at the event. If the Eroica organizers could legally require you not to wear a helmet, they probably would.
As for the accessories, pretty much the same rules apply. It’s gotta be old, or at least old looking. Aluminum bottles, leather shoes, traditional caps, etc. Bringing tools from the 40s will turn heads, of course, but don’t be ashamed if you decide to take more modern equipment. If you can’t live without your CO2 or alloy multitool, just keep them out of sight—if nobody sees it, nobody will care.
Eroica is surprisingly strict about these rules. They can kick you out of the ride, or bar you from entering, if you bring gear from the wrong year. You don’t want to go all the way to an event to be turned away at the front door, so make sure your bike and outfit are period-appropriate ahead of time.
You can also get kicked out of the event (and possibly banned for two years) for just doing stupid stuff. This should all be common sense: Don’t get sloppy drunk, don’t bring drugs, don’t take shortcuts, don’t trade numbers, don’t litter, don’t harass the staff or other riders. The general rule of thumb is, if it seems like something you shouldn’t be doing, don’t do it.
It’s not technically a rule, but you might want to leave your tech in the car. I know it’ll be tough to resist Instagramming your adventure, but pulling out your smartphone in the middle of a historical ride is not a good look.
And that pretty much covers it. It’s all simple stuff. As long as you behave yourself and get into the spirit of the ride, you’ll have an amazing day.
The Eroica California takes place on April 10 this year. Registration is available now on the Eroica website for $175 per rider (or $200 if you wait until after March 15). Registration closes on March 31, so get in while you can—this year’s event is sure to be epic.