Friday, 14 November 2014

Retro Ronde and The Joy of Cycling


Following last years trip to Tuscany and taking part in L'eroica, I had been chatting to an Australian called James Foster and he mentioned another vintage ride in Belgium that he was thinking of entering called the "Retro Ronde". My ears pricked up to this as Belgium is a little closer to the UK than Italy and it would easy to drive there rather than fly.  To give it its full title, the Retroronde Van Vlaanderen is very similar to the L'Eroica in as much as the restrictions placed on the rider with regard to the age of the bike are the same ( so anything built before 1987) and you should ride in period style clothing with vintage woollen jerseys/ costumes being the order of the day and even a sprinkling of tweed here and there.

Period costume is the order of the day
With 2014 being its 8th year, the key to this ride of course is the route and the type of road surfaces  you get to cycle on. Starting in the town of Oudenaarde in the heart of Ardennes, it features some of the  climbs and cobbled roads that have been the stars of such 1 day classics as the Tour of Flanders, Gent Wevelgem etc. With that in mind I registered on the website, booked some accommodation, a ticket under the channel and on the 12th June I headed off to Belgium.

One of the main differences between the vintage scene and sportive type rides in general seems to be the atmosphere and the type of cyclist each event appears to attract. Now Im sure there is some crossover of participants on these events  as I also take part in one or two home grown sportive's on my modern steeds ( steel of course) and I have no doubt Im not alone in that, but, I have to say there is a much more relaxed celebratory atmosphere on the vintage rides which seems to embody a era long since past, that harks back to a joy of cycling and the freedom that two wheels brings. One lovely element that I wholeheartedly approve of is no cycle computers!! So no Garmin here, no average speeds, max speeds or power outputs and most of all no STRAVA. Just the wonderful joy of two wheels and three triangles to tackle in this instance, cobbled tracks and hills  deep in the Ardennes country side. Brilliant.

Saturday dawned and I headed down into Oudenaarde to check out parking and get my bearings, There was also the opportunity to take part in a short 25k ride that took in the Paterberg and the Koppenberg cobbled climbs. The Paterberg got the better of me as I slipped a gear halfway up and resulted in the walk of shame but I shook off my disappointment and managed to ascend the Koppenberg where others were falling by the wayside.

My school boy hero has his own cycle route

The walk of shame up the Paterberg

Back in the centre of Oudenaarde the cycle jumble was in full swing as was the music and a fantastic dance group called the Dipsy Doodles. The town also plays host to the " Tour of Flanders " Museum which is well worth a visit ( more of this in another blog) The afternoon saw the town centre Retro Criterium take place with various race categories which on this occasion I was happy to watch (but may take part in next year).  All this added up to a real vintage vibe and a great atmosphere. However the highlight of the afternoon had to be meeting Tom Simpson's daughter Jo and talking about her dad, just wonderful.


There was even a penny farthing race 

Some wonderful vintage bikes
Alex Stefanovic ( third rider from the left) in full flight, well ok then medium flight.

Lead out lap for the multi speed  Criterium race

The highlight of the afternoon ....meeting Tom Simpson's daughter Jo



 So Sunday dawned, a fresh, bright and sunny morning, it looked like it was going to be a great day. The atmosphere at the start was electric and with a blessing from the local priest and a wave from the town Mayor we were off, heading out into the Ardennes.
A busy start line

The Town Mayor and Priest 


The first feed station
And another feed station
Cobbles galore




The Kemmelberg
The final feed station 
So I guess the photos sum up the day for me and whilst I could wax lyrical I'm not going to, It was just a great day out, a great weekend away, meeting some wonderful people for whom riding on two wheels brings so much pleasure. Belgium is a great country with a rich cycling heritage and the Retro Ronde doffs its hat to... not only this but so much more.

Happy days and see you all next year.
















Sunday, 23 March 2014

Santa Cruz Super light

An interesting job came into the workshop from a returning customer last week. He and his friend regularly go riding at weekends in all weathers and as a consequence their bikes need regular maintenance. The Santa Cruz super light needed a complete overhaul with new frame bearings, bottom bracket and headset. The rear shock needed an air can service and new bushes, a new rear brake was also required as the caliper I rebuilt last year finally breathed its last. So with the bike stripped down to its component parts the rebuild could begin.
Santa cruz SL broken down

old bearings removed 

new bearings being pressed into place

rear triangle re-fitted


rear shock ready for an air can service

in the vice

Air can removed exposing shock seals

Air can seals removed 


shock seals removed 


Old seals at the top with some new seals from the kit below.


shock rebuilt and ready to be refitted to the frame



Fox float shock refitted in the frame

fully serviced and re-built ready to go back to the customer.

Its very satisfying to see a bike come back to life once the bike shed can get its hands on to it.



Monday, 21 October 2013

l'Eroica 2013 My ride Part 3

Sunday morning dawned and as I opened the shutters I was greeted with the ends of the night time darkness, and early morning mist/fog. The ground looked damp but not wet so after a quick shower and breakfast, dressed ready to ride, I put the Raleigh in the car and we headed off to Gaiole. Well as the sun came up and the fog started to clear the contrast to Saturday could not have been more stark. The views down into the valleys were spectacular with vineyards as far as the eye could see, it was....well beautiful.
My spirits lifted, we headed down into Gaiole but could not get into town so decided to park up in a Winery car park just outside the town centre .


We walked into town passing many riders whom had already started and the atmosphere was vibrant to say the least .In town I made my way up a side street to the back of the que whilst Sue walked up the main street to wait  for me to ride through. There were vintage bikes everywhere you looked, it was truly a feast for the eyes. During a conversation with other riders I met up with an english chap called Mike Marber and we cycled some of the route together. Good weather, good conversation , the Strada Bianca and the feeling that you were part of something unique, it just made for one of the most memorable cycling experiences of my life. I think the photos below say a lot more than my writing efforts so please take a look and as to the question would I do it again, you bet, it was bloody brilliant!!










Well thats my ride finished, the smile says it all!!

Final stamp check

A well earned double espresso





 My Flicker LEroica 2013  file with all our trip photo's http://www.flickr.com/photos/50167860@N02/sets/72157636802329983/









Sunday, 13 October 2013

L'Eroica 2013 My ride Part 2

  So we had arrived at http://www.villagloria.it/index.php?lang=eng just north of Siena and about 20k from the small town of Gaiole, the start of L'Eroica. We woke up on the saturday morning to mist, low cloud and rain and my heart sank as to what might be for the Sunday ride. However we ate a quick breakfast jumped in the car and drove to Gaiole to sign on, soak up the atmosphere (and the rain as it turned out).
We made our way from Quercegrossa via Vagliagi towards Gaiole over some of the Strada Bianca that we would be cycling the next day. It didn't look good in the rain with rutted roads and steep descents, I was worried as to how we would fair? However we arrived in Gaiole, found somewhere to park up and made our way to the centre of town to sign in.
The un-organised chaos of signing on to the L'Eroica

Finally at the front of the que!

Following signing on we had a good look round the stalls and wondered the side streets taking in all that was on offer. Vintage bikes, parts both NOS and some that looked ready for the skip were  available for sale but as forums inter-mated in the UK, prices were of the inflated variety and although there were some very tempting things to purchase prices were just to steep for me.



I think these need a little work 
Parts old and new ( well almost)
Seats covered up as the rain pours down.

 The rain just kept on falling so we decided to get some food and made our way to a restaurant . It was supposedly a Pizzeria that couldn't serve Pizza (the oven wasn't fired up) or indeed Cappuccino ( the machine was broken!!!) Not a great start to the weekend and as the rain fell we headed back to the car and our hotel for hot showers and hot food. Tomorrow was another day and lets hope it was to be a dry day