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L’Eroica Britannia
by Richard Byatt, posted 7 September 2017

Richard Byatt reports on how his restored Claud Butler coped with what the UK version of the strada bianci offered at the 2015 L'Eroica Britannia

The “new” old bike (the Claud Butler) needed a challenge so I signed up for the 2015 Eroica Britannia - the vintage bike ride. For three days in June, Bakewell in the Derbyshire Peak District was the centre of the vintage cycling world. The town’s showground was turned into a cross between a village fete, a music festival and a cycle jumble!


The rules for eligible cycles are: pre-1987, steel frame, downtube shifters, no cleats. There were so many wonderful bikes on show, some beautifully restored, others looking like they’d been pulled out of the shed the day before!


In only its second year in the UK the festival attracted over 3,000 riders. The early morning staggered start from the centre of Bakewell, bedecked with bunting, was a great experience – with plenty of friends and well-wishers turning out to see the riders off.


Much of the route for all three rides (30, 55 and 100 miles) was off-road, on excellent cycle tracks, including the famous Monsal and Tissington Trails.  Running along the bed of old railway lines, these trails are great fun, taking rides through beautiful scenery in cuttings and on embankments. There’s even a few dark, dripping tunnels on the Monsal. We also experienced the joy of exposed, windswept moors and (my personal favourite) the long, steady descent through the beautiful Long Dale.


At Hartington village bikes were everywhere, leaning against walls, surrounding the village pond and propped against trees as riders queued for locally baked cakes. The Duke of Devonshire even let us ride through his estate to sample tea, champagne and Bakewell Pudding on the lawns just below Chatsworth House.


For all of us what really stood out was the atmosphere created by the other riders and the friendly welcome from the people of Bakewell and the surrounding villages. As my cycling buddy David Brown (1978 Orbea Raymond Delisle) said: “It felt like a romanticised version of England – if only it was always like that!”

Richard Byatt is a former B2B magazine and website editor now working freelance but spending too much time riding bikes. There will be more reports from Richard featured in Just Ride the Bike. You can read about his cycling journey from boyhood Coventry Eagle via his Claud Butler to achievements in the Alps.

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