(Photos & Report © Rick Perkins)
Eroica Britannia 2016
The first ever Eroica Britannia was held in 2014 and was a huge success. Over 30,000 people travelled from all over the World to make the event truly wonderful. The follow up event in 2015 was even better with improved facilities, more vendors and more riders; the big question was would number three continue the upwards trend??
Previous events were such an overwhelming success that the 2016 version had a tough act to follow and on balance I think was still great fun but was not as good as previous events.
The weather in the lead up to the event had not been helpful to the organisers and the ground was heavily waterlogged and clearly they were having to move facilities and put in place actions to mitigate the problems the wet ground was going to cause.
When we arrived at 1pm on Friday we were about 4th from the front of the queue to pull into the show ground off the A6. After about 30 minutes we had only moved about 10 van lengths and the queue on the A6 was now back up in both directions as far as I could see … so I pulled on my wellies and took a walk up the queue of campers and cars towing caravans to see what was going on.
What was going on was the ground had been chewed up and big campers and cars towing caravans were having to towed into the field … this was going to take a long time.
Eventually, after 2 hours, we had moved from the gate to our pitch. We were able to drive in no problem. I did sugest to the guy at the gate that they started to redirect the caravans and big campers to Motor Home B to alleviate the pressure on the queue and to get the log jam off the A6 but he didn’t really welcome the suggestion and actually told me that this was the only field and all campers/caravans were going here …
I suspect the A6 by now was completly gridlocked and this would not have done the organisers any favours with the locals.
Anyway … once we were all pitched up we took a walk into the festival and immediately we were thankful for our wellies; there were people squelching around in other footwear and clearly they were getting in a right mess … it would be wellies all weekend.
At registration we were signed in by the usual helpful team and handed our goodie musette; the musette was not as well stocked as previous years.
We then took a walk around the stalls. There was a very nice vintage Maserati on their stand and a nice new 4×4 there; the staff were quite happy to show us round regardless of our interest in buying one. I have to say the 4×4 was very nice; and whilst not cheap starting at £54k I’d have to say looked good value for money compared to a Range Rover which costs more … the finish on the Maserti was very nice and probably represented better value. I thought they would be £80 – 90k region … anyway; I won’t be buying one.
In the evening we ate at the camper van and then went to the beer tent; we had the usual interesting conversations with random people you meet at such places. All very friendly.
On Saturday morning after a leisurely breakfast. We had entered the Best in Show Bike; my 1984 Pinarello Montello and Sarah’s 1964 Moulton Standard.
You had to enter your bike on-line in advance to be short listed then bikes were judged by Wesley Hatakeyama / Chris Sidwells / Dave Marsh in 3 classes.
1 – Pre-War, 2- Post war preserved and 3 – post war restored.
Sarah was first up in class 2 and whilst her 1964 Moulton stood out in a group of lightweight machines she didn’t make the top 3.
The bikes were being very thoroughly judged individually by the judging team and they had a tough job on their hands given the very nice bikes on show.
Finally I was up in class 3; again a huge range of impressive machines. When they were judging mine they pointed out the brake nut was wrong … I said I know, and it wasn’t wrong but a taste choice made by the original owner of the frame to match the cromovelato finish; and that I had the “correct” 50th nuts at home but had stuck with the cobalto ones that looked best.
Anyway, my bike wasn’t selected for the final 3; although Wesley did come up to me afterwards and say that my bike was the runner up and had I had the 50th nuts in place of the cobalto nuts I would have been in the top 3 and in the final; he understood why they were as they were and agreed they looked good but they were operating to a certain scheme of judging … I understood.
Whilst standing around being judged I met a few people off the Retro Bike forum and someone who had bought a few bits off me via eBay.
Never any shortage of people to chat to about bikes.
What happened next with the best in show I don’t really know; it would have been good to see the top3 from each class displayed for the rest of the day but they were just presented on the main stage … I did not see any of that so I cant say what happened or who won …
I then met up with a few guys off the Retro Bike forum whilst Sarah went off into Bakewell.
When she returned we had another look around the festival; some dinner and then back to the entertainment in the evening.
The ride on Sunday was going to be a different plan this year … previously I had done the 100. This year as Sarah was riding the Moulton I decided to start early; do the 55 and ride the 30 with her.
So I started the 55 early because the last start for the 30 was 10:30am.
I set off with the 100 milers and after about 8 miles the route split which meant I then rode the rest of the 55 alone. This wasn’t a problem; the roads and paths were empty the early weather was fine and I just set about the route with some effort to make sure I was back early.
The route as ever was fantastic; great trails and climbs and superb Peak District views the whole way.
At the food stops each time I was catching them by surprise as they were not expecting any riders so early but I was accommodated admirably as I explained to them my plan … each time I ate whatever was ready at the time and moved on.
Given the weather some of the ground was a bit wet and the decent into High Peak Junction was pretty slippy and I suspect that section would have been difficult in crowds and would have had many walkers. I rolled down on my 27mm tyres with no problems.
As I approached Chatsworth the usual back gate into the grounds was shut; I guessed that I was too early and so would miss the food stop on the lawn in front of Chatsworth house. Never mind I figured, I was operating slightly off-piste so just carried on.
However, soon after I found the Chatsworth food stop just past the house. This was handy as I was a bit peckish, again they were just setting up, but I did get a scone and can of lemonade. It was disappointing that the final food stop was not as previous years in the grounds as that was one of the highlights.
Then I set off for the show ground to finish; the route back in was better this year and I think it was nice to be able to hear the festival noise drawing you back in.
As I arrived at the gate there was a group of marshals; they asked to see my wrist band so I showed them; then I asked the way to the finish which got some blank looks; I told them I had already done the 55 and then they started cheering & clapping as I rode into the ground and to the finish line. I found a truck loading rubbish bins and nothing else … I guess I was too early so turned round and headed back to the start to ride with Sarah!
We met in the town and set off at 10:20ish so were some of the latest starters of the 30 but there were now plenty of riders around in contrast to my previous solo ride.
Out of the start we were straight into a bit of a drag and Sarah had to get mashing on the Moulton pedals; it is a very heavy bike with only 3 gears. I was kind enough to give her a little push, she didn’t get off and soon we were onto the Monsal Trail.
The Moulton is much better suited to flat roads and this was a great section; then it was onwards to the first feed stop of Tideswell. When we arrived we were shocked; it was heaving with queues stretching as far as the eye could see … it was going to take hours to get a bacon roll so we grabbed a couple of bananas and headed onwards hoping that the riders would be more spread out as the day went on making the stops less busy.
More ups and downs through the peaks followed; I stopped to help a lady with a mechanical issue, jammed chain. I pointed to my pristine leather bar covering and she said “no problem I have wet wipes” as her chain was a disgraceful dirty mess, jammed between the freewheel and drop out.
Anyway I managed to free it for her and explain why it derailed and set her on her way again … the wet wipes did the trick so I didn’t have to mess up the bar tape.
I then caught up with Sarah who had continued alone and we then rolled into Eyam food stop … again the queues were very long so again we missed out as we didn’t want to queue for so long to eat …
These queues were a real shock for me as on the 100 there were never any issues; I don’t know if this was the case on the 30 in previous years but these stops were just massively undermanned and we were not getting anything to eat which was a problem and made the ride expensive … hopefully they will be better next year.
A few more ups and down with a bit more pushing of the Moulton and we rolled into the final stop at Thornbridge Hall. This was the highlight of the ride; a great country house with free beer; not only that but free beer that you didn’t have to queue for.
We sat on the lawn, relaxed and had a beer. When we got up to leave Luciano Berrutil (Eroica legend) came over and started talking to Sarah in animated Italian tones; he was most interested in the Moulton and could not believe she had rode the 30 miles on that bike; she then invited him to lift it at which point his expression was priceless and was clearly impressed with her fitness to ride such a heavy beast around the Peaks.
Luciano then admired my Montello; I don’t speak Italian but I know what Bellissimo means; he then pointed at my jersey from the 1985 Worlds in Montello and said; Joop Zoetemelk so clearly he has a pretty impressive knowledge of cycling history as Joop was the winner of the 1985 worlds in Montello.
We then set off for the finish … the finish delivered the riders into the middle of a muddy field with no clean way out.
Luckily for me that Sarah had packed 4 sandwich bags in her handbag along with a roll of PVC tape so we put the bags over our feet and tapped them on … this saved our shoes from getting ruined by the mud … others were not so lucky to have a wife with such foresight.
Then we cleaned up; had nice hot showers and a post ride chilli con carne in the camper. As per previous years the facilities in the camper area were very good.
In the evening it was back to the main tent to collect our free beer bottle and have a relax; we found a nice sofa so just chilled out for a bit then bed …
In the morning I was a little worried that the inbound queue would repeat itself as everyone tried to leave but the exit was no problem.
So, in summary we had a great time … I don’t think it was as good as previous years, and not just because of the mud.
The festival was more commercial with greater lifestyle elements but that is fine if it helps the event to continue and make a profit for the organisers; the bike jumble section was much better this year and there was plenty to browse over.
The bike show was much better and more organised; I would like to see the finalists bikes displayed after the judging as there were some fantastic bikes.
The organisers seemed a little unprepared for the weather/ground conditions and it was quite frustrating the wait to get in and the finish line being in the middle of a muddy field wasn’t good. Also the queues for the food stops basically meant we ate virtually nothing during the ride which was really a bit poor.
That said we had a good time, met lots of nice people both staff and riders and had a very enjoyable weekend. I didn’t leave on the high of previous years and I hope the organisers can fix the niggles. I’d still recommend this festival as a great way to spend a long weekend.
As for next year; well perhaps it is time for a change; we have been here 3 years in a row. Maybe next year we will try Eroica Limburg as this is probably a shorter drive.
Afterwards this was the bike … some serious cleaning will be required …