The first American L'Eroica ride took place April 11 and 12, 2015, in Paso Robles, California. It began on Saturday with a cycling festival. The banner event was the concours d'elegance bike judging, which was followed by a dinner. On Sunday, the rides took place.
Paso is in what we Californians call Central California, an area made famous by the wine produced there and the well-known movie “Sideways” of a few years ago. I feel lucky to have been at L’Eroica, because I stupidly almost had a “been there, done that” moment that caused me not to sign up.
I’ll spend the next couple of weeks telling you a little bit about it, and sharing some photos that I hope capture the essence of the event. I’ll start off this week with some background on the Central California area’s cycling tradition and what made the L’Eroica especially cool. And I’ll wrap up next week with a bit about the ride itself, and what made it really special and fun. Also included today are the following photos of the festival and concours d'elegance.
Every May, back in the late 1980s and early 90s, I would load up our Westy with all our bikes and take the family to Paso for a fantastic 4-day festival of all-things cycling called The Great Western Bicycle Rally (GWBR). It had taken place for decades, and attracted cyclists from around the world with about two dozen rides, guest speakers, a concours and swap meet, and even a few races.
At the GWBR, the road riding was almost endless, and incredible. Still, like I said, when I learned of the L’Eroica taking place in the same town, I got this feeling that I’d already done those rides and wasn’t sure I wanted to spend $150 to go back. Fortunately, my riding buddy John Pollard, who happens to own a couple of vintage road bikes, convinced me it would be a big mistake to miss the first L’Eroica to land in America.
Now that I’ve been a part of this amazing event, I believe it will become an essential annual tradition for anyone interested in celebrating cycling history with classic bicycles, fun people and epic riding. I should say heroic riding, because that better relates to the Eroica name, and better explains why this event is so special.
Unlike the GWBR, which offers wonderful road routes throughout the area, the three L’Eroica ride options covered mostly dirt trails and roads, meaning amazing scenery you would otherwise never experience, plus almost completely car-free riding.
The organizer, Wesley Hatakeyama, accomplished this by getting permission to open the gates and run the 600 or so cyclists straight through the trails and dirt access roads in and surrounding multiple private vineyards. Plus, he even got these vineyards to set up rest stops complete with treats like olive-oil cooked French fries and even bike bottles filled with their wines to take along!
Check back next week for Part 2, when I talk about the 8-hour ride through the backroads of the gorgeous California wine country.