Festeggiamo ! L’Eroica

Evan L'Eroica 1975 CCM Tour Du Canada DSC_0353

This Sunday, October 6 will be the 17th Edition of L’Eroica ( the “Heroic”), held in Gaiole, Chianti Italy. I wish I could be there this year but I had the great fortune to participate in 2011 where I was recognized in article by VeloNews stringer. It is an absolutely amazing celebration of all things Italian, cycling and much more; a must do “once in your life” event . Several of you have asked me to write a bit more of my experience there and any advise I could share, so here it goes.  

The event runs over two days. Saturday is registration, cultural events and a bike jumble. The actual ride is Sunday and is capped at 5000 participants. Exceptions the day before the race at registration building can made granted by the organizers if you have a beautiful story, told in person, as my friend Fred can attest to 🙂  It is a lottery to get in now. 2013 is full up so don’t miss the signup for 2014.  For the 2013 edition of L’Eroica there were spots for:

  • 1500 Italian males born between January 1, 1954 and December 31, 1997 (under 60) are selected through a lottery.
  • 1000 foreigners under 60 years of age are selected through a lottery enter the draw by registering online on the website www.eroica.it beginning January 21 to March 3.
  • Italians or foreigners males born before 31 December 1953 (over 60) and women regardless of age and number, are unlimited and can register online February 1 to June 20.
The Ride
There are two majors courses, 35/75km and 135/205km. I road the 135km course and can’t comment on the 35/75km course directly as while they start/finish in Gaola, they run on different roads.
The L’Eroica started as an event to preserve and celebrate Italian cycling traditions. Italy was once criss-crossed with white gravel road, the strade bianche or sterrati  but they are disappearing with modernization and are being rapidly paved over. In Chianti the remaining sections are now protected as heritage sites and the course are a mix of paved highway and strade bianche. The general consensus from finishers is that the 135/205 km ride as a combination of distance, heat, descents on gravel,  extreme grades of the climbs made the experience was much harder than most expected. There are some great photos here of roads. At about the 55 km mark the route splits into the 135 and 205 km loops. I noticed a LOT of Italians stopping, discussing and then choosing the 135 km.  Very few went the long route. Fred and I decided they knew something we did not and that discretion would the better part of valour. We also took the 135 km route. We were able to enjoy the wonderful food and drink at the rest stops leisurely instead of filling our pockets and rushing off. We got to finish in time to take in the festivities still in full swing mid-afternoon in town. After dinner we saw all but the fastest and fittest 205 km riders straggle in through the dark, early evening. Some were clearly suffering and were being met not by streets lined with cheering supporters but by people packing and leaving.  We knew we had made  right choice in hindsight. I’m still tempted to ride the 205 km but if I do I will make sure I get to town by 4 AM for an early start so I can be in by 4 PM to take it all in!

L'Eroica 2011

Evan LEroica 2011-10

Your Bicycle
The organizers, while they did not seem to care about the mechanical
fitness of the bikes, were trying their best to keep the riders on
“vintage” bikes pre 1987 senza clipless pedals, indexed shifting and with
exposed cables runs. Technically your bicycle must be pre-1987 but I spotted some modern replicas as well there were a few local bandit riders early in the day on
modern MTBs and road bikes but they seemed to disappear as the day
progressed.
There is a lot of sections are REALLY steep so you can’t bring too low gearing. While I chatted to a Brit who rode/walked a fixed gear track bike with no brakes (!) and saw a fair number of straight blocks, I rode with 42X32 low gear with a Campy Rally that I put on my bike for the event. I was really glad that I did as I used my lowest gear a lot and finished the ride pleasantly tired and not thrashed as I witnessed with some of the riders who came in later.  A 30X32 would have been even better for my battered knees though.
 Evan LEroica 1975 CCM Tour Du Canada DSC_0329
What goes up goes down very quickly in Chianti and the downhill sections can REALLY be challenging on vintage brakes and tires. I witnessed a few near misses and there were several crashes as riders with dry old brake pads and squishy calipers lost control on narrow, soft gravel sections crowded with other riders. I put new modern pads on my Universal 68’s which improved the braking from terrible to merely crappy. My arms got quite sore at spots trying to slow my bulk to take the series of hairpins on rutted gravel at 15% grade while shoulder to shoulder with other riders trying to do the same. Next time I going to fit some good centre-pulls like Mafac or Weinmann with modern pads. As well the strade bianche was quite rutted and washboarded in sections so for comfort and control slack geometry is be recommended.
There were a lot of flat tires, dozen if not hundreds, most of them tubular tires from what  I could see that were either too light for the gravel or old and rotted out (some of the bikes looked liked they had just been fished out of grand-pappa Coppi’s attic on the morning of race). Some of the experience riders squeezed on cyclo-cross tubulars to great effect and some of the veteran Italian riders I chatted in broken English with rode fat 29-30mm tubulars of mysterious origin.  I used 32mm Grand Bois clincher tires which worked great; I think 25mm would be the absolute minimum width. The next time I will ride on a nice fat set of 38-42mm wide 650B tires! Inspect your spokes for nicks and cracks, those roads are tough on old, fatigued spokes and most of us do not have the svelte physique we
used have and are packing an extra 5, 10 or 50 pounds to punish our poor wheels on pot-holed gravel.Good lights are a must and they need to last for 2-3 hours. There is at least an hour riding in the dark in the morning and about an 1-2 hours in the evening if you do the 205km loop. The first 10-12% downhill at Brolio is packed with nervous riders, very sketchy and hard to judge in the early morning light!

You should bring spares and tools. I did not see any support on the road except for groups that had a team car (amazing vintage Fiat Cinquecento, 600 Multiplas and 2CV’s as well the modern rentals) as the road are open to traffic in most parts.

The Day Before (Saturday)

Make sure you get to Gaiole the day before to register and take it all in. The town is humming with activities and there is great bike jumble with all kinds of vendors selling and trading parts, clothing and memorabilia. You can get your bike officially photographed Saturday at the town hall for their archives.

Ride Day 

If you are going on the long loop, get to the start early at least 5:00 AM to miss the big crowds.  It took us at least half an hour to find the start in the dark and minimal signage, signed in and out on the course.

You do not need to carry much food if any as there is pastries, fresh fruit, vino, stew and bread in abundance at the rest stops. Make sure you stay hydrated and have two bottles for the mid-portion stretch before Monte Sante Marie which was blazingly hot in the afternoon for us with no shade and no water stops for what felt like an eternity.  There several DNF’s lying under trees in the early afternoon suffering from too much food, vino and heat prostration.

There is very limited/no support if you have a mechanical and be warned that timely medical support may be not be available if you crash. 

The town is one big festival all day Sunday with many of the 35 km riders dressed to the nine in turn of the century costumes parading and hamming up for photos. Celebrities were spotted in town with Moser, Saronni and other Italian luminaries presiding over ceremonies and ribbon cuttings while the rest of us were grinding up and down the hills.

Riding the strade bianche gave me a tiny insight into how hard the men who raced the post war Giro d’Italias were, pounding on those roads day after day, battling the giants of the day Coppi, Bartali, Maginni …

Festeggiamo!

Two Wheel Thursdays 6:00PM Thursday Sept. 26

Your friendly Toussaint team Jason and Evan will be at Two Wheel Thursdays with Rogue Clothier and Cycle Company who has teamed up with Commonwealth Bar & Stage to bring you an awesome opportunity to meet your fellow urban cyclists.

Two Wheel Thursdays. Stop by Rogue 735 10 Avenue SW, Calgary at 6:00pm, where we will be heading out for a 0:45-1:00h urban bike ride, then heading next door to Commonwealth at 7:00. That have set us up with free entry, $4 PBR and $4 Hi-balls for anyone who went on the bike ride!

Come out, ride bikes, drink beer, and get awesome!

https://www.facebook.com/events/436624346446849

We will have some Toussaint demo bikes on hand to borrow, “san vin” …

Customer Builds

It’s been a busy summer and I am finally getting  around to posting some pictures of some customer builds.

I like to call this one the “Speedster”. A 54cm Velo Routier with Nitto moustache bars and white Soyo NJS grips and no racks. The owner agonized whether to leave fenders off, I’m glad he left them on. DSC_0114DSC_0115

This Velo Routier build was for a 6’5″ customer for commuting. It was a bit a rush job as he wanted to get most of the short Canadian summer but I managed to locate a supply of steel mustache bars for him ( I have 2 left) as he is solid 240 lbs and want a stiffer set of bars. We installed microSHIFT 10 speed bar ends BS-T10 shifters for him and some large pedals for size 13 feet.

Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier 650B Commuter Bicycle 1

Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier 650B Commuter Bicycle 60cm 2

Guest Blog | Velo Routier Review

Cycles Toussaint Velo Routier Bob Review

I spied Cycles Toussaint on CycleExif http://www.cycleexif.com/cycles-Toussaint and it very much intrigued me as I have been looking for a 650b purpose built bike to try after reading, reviewing and researching 650b bikes on bike forums, at the North American Handmade bike show (which I went to in Portland and Sacramento) and the Oregon Handmade Bike show which I attended twice. I was only considering steel as I much prefer the supple and comfortable ride as well as the “traditional” look of small tubed steel. I also cannot afford a $5000-7000 650b bike though I have constantly growing appreciation for such a fine steed. After reading about Cycles Toussaint’s Velo Routier, I was further interested though not having seen one or ridden one I had to give it serious thought. I contacted Evan who politely and kindly informed me about Toussaint and the Velo Routier concept as well as his experience with his personal Velo Routier which he has ridden on some longish multi-day rides (100 – 200 km/day) with and without the front rando bag loaded. I informed him I wanted a bike for quick overnight dashes to camp as well as rides of 40-80 miles. I wanted to be able to ride dirt and gravel roads which are plentiful in the area I live and have the great fun exploring these roads and areas.

I was more than pleasantly surprised upon receiving the bike. It had been packed with care and not a dimple in the shipping box despite travelling 1000 miles to me though it would have been nice to see bubble wrap or recyclable “styrofoam” pellets to cushion the bike in the box as their site distinctly implies. Their bikes are a complete bike; designed in constructeur style and complete with complete fender set in hammered aluminum with aluminum struts and leather washers, a stainless front mini-rack designed to affix a nice size rando bag and a good size stainless rear rack to affix panniers and/or rear rack bag atop the rack. The bike is not a heavy duty touring bike nor is it designed to be but rather more of a randonneur or brevet bike. The Routier went together well though I did substitute a Sachs “New Success” front derailleur because it has more compatibility with the very nice cranks which look very much like T.A. cranks and share same 50. 4 bcd thus ensuring an almost infinite range of gearing. The 46-30T compact crank and 10 speed cog set seem to be a good choice for the hilly and rolling terrain that I had ridden the bike on thus far.

I have had 8 one to three hours rides on the bike so far. I took the bike on a quick overnighter which was only 38miles each way and affixed an Ostrich f-106 bag to the front and a copy of a Carradice saddle bag to the loops on the stock leather Gyres saddle which is a saddle similar to a Brooks Swallow saddle which is still breaking in, obviously. The bike comes complete with racks attached, rear fender attached and included a full size pump (yay, no mini pump:-P) which fits very snugly on the non-drive side seat stay which has 2 pump hooks brazed on. Also included were 2 nice quality bottle cages and a bell to go on the stem. It was interesting to see Dia Compe centre pulls; they modulate and stop well and look great as their finish matches the hammered and polished alloy fenders. The racks and fenders have no rattles despite the bike bouncing along on the aforementioned gravel and dirt roads. It’s a great choice and an interesting one that the bike comes with the nice Pacenti Pari-Motos as they are an expensive tire and to have them come on any bike less than 3-4 thousand is yet another hint of this bike’s well thought out design. Too many bike companies try to scrimp on items and components to save on costs such as bottom brackets, headsets, hub bearings and aforementioned tires; Toussaint did not do this as the bike came with a needle bearing headset (to possibly prevent any front end shimmy which sometimes happens with low trail bikes) and a sealed cartridge bottom bracket which seemed to be on par with an ultegra level unit. It is nice to see alloy cups on the bottom bracket rather than silly plastic ones.

The fit of the 57cm bike seems ideal for me with the supplied 120cm stem and I find the bike very comfortable to ride over varied terrain. The bike is quick to spin up (likely due to 650b wheel size and the light, lively and supple 300gram Pari-Moto tires) and cracks and ripples in tarmac are hardly felt. I am experimenting with tire pressure to see what works best on the different road surfaces and the load carried on the bike. The finish of the frame and evenly applied decals gives the overall package a classy yet elegant look though I wish a head badge were on the bike. Any questions I have had about the bike were quickly answered by Evan.

Cycles Toussaint is a very new company (started in spring 2012) and clearly the designers of the bike and its components and overall package and aesthetic have been given great thought and the down tube shifters are not just a nod towards traditional constructeur type bikes but they shift swiftly and with accuracy. There is no other company that offers the value, finish, degree of detail and design and ride of a 650b randonneur or brevet style of bicycle that cycles Toussaint delivers! This is their first offering and I would strongly recommend any cyclist to seriously consider Toussaints components or bicycles if seeking this style of machine! I would not hesitate to purchase another bike or parts from cycles Toussaint! The price of approximately $1700-1800 for the complete bike is truly an unheard of value.
Bob Chung
P.T. Cyclery
Port Townshead, WA
http://www.ptcyclery.com

 

Madonna di Ghisallo – The Patron Saint of Cyclists

Evan_VR_4 - Copy

A little more on the medallion on the top tube of my build. Madonna di Ghisallo is the patron saint of cyclists. The medallion can be bought from the chapel  at the top of Ghisallo Pass north of Milan but I bought a few from a table a the bike jumble the Saturday before I rode L’Eroica 2012 . Unfortunately, we don’t have any for sale but apparently Ric Hjertberg, the “Wheel Fanatyk”, has some available  http://wheelfanatyk.blogspot.ca/ .
The medallion has an embossed Madonna di Ghisallo framed by a chainring and chain with an inscription in Italian that translates to “The Madonna Will Protect”.  She is flanked by the inscription ” Keepsake Ghisallo Sanctuary”  on the one side and the chapel set in mountains on the other.  It comes with long straps that can accommodate put to 31.8mm diameter top tube. I’ve seen a few creative installations on stems and handlebars but I decide to mount it the “proper” way on the top tube which required cutting off the excess strap and some filing.

Calgary Floods

 

Heavy rains have brought extensive flooding across Alberta and here in Calgary, impacting multiple communities and forcing thousands of people from their homes. .

The best way to help is through your financial support. Cash donations are the most efficient way for you to translate your care and concern into immediate, meaningful help for those affected by this disaster. Canadian Red Cross teams are actively responding across the province to ensure that immediate needs are being met. Your help is urgently needed

http://www.redcross.ca/Donate/Donate-Online/Donate-to-the-Alberta-Floods

My Personal Velo Routier Build

Evan_VR_9 - Copy

I finally managed to build up a Velo Routier up for myself. I wanted a bike ready for commuting and multi-day unsupported rides. No camping for me, but I need the capacity to carry clothing, and gear for any combination of snow, hail or torrential rain and temperatures that range from -10C to +30 C which are all possible on the same day out here in Alberta where we live and ride!

Evan_VR_7 - Copy

I went to my parts bin and put together a mix of classic and modern. I stuck with our stock wheeset (Jetline rims, SS 15g spokes and Access seal hubs) but went with a bit heavier rubber with Grand Bois Herte tires and with our ultralite Maxxis inner tubes. Other stock parts inclulded a Luxe crankset (46T-30T), Kalloy seat post and my nicely broken-in Gryes leather saddle which I moved off of our prototype 2 bike.

Evan_VR_5 - Copy 

I decided to have a little fun with the drive train with a Huret Jubilee long-cage rear derailleur, Mavic front derailleur and Simplex Retro-friction shifters. I mounted the shifters in a nod the 1970’s weight weenies, front shifter on the downtube and rear shifter on a Dia-Comple bar-end pod – saves a few grams on a shorter cable run and one less barend shifter pod :-). I used a SRAM 8-speed chain and cassette which worked great with the old Huret and Mavic derailleurs and have the benefit of being available in small town shops in the case of a repair.

Evan_VR_6 - Copy

Stopping is supplied by Mavic Raid brakes. Greater fender clearance and cool factor aside, they are noticeably more flexible than the Dia-compe 750. While I want to match the Raid brakes with classic Mafac half-hood levers, I stuck with the Dia-Compe DC204QC brake levers as I have not been able find a pair with hoods in decent condition. To think those levers were as common and unloved as dandelions when I was a kid!

I mounted the front and rear rack in traditional constructeur fashion to the top of the fenders with bolts and leather washers. A Velo-Orange decaleur mounted to a Stronglight A9 needle-bearing headset with TTT handlebars/stem and shellaced Tressostar cloth tape. I have no idea how anyone wraps a set of bars with 2 rolls Tressorstar, I always end up using 3 rolls.

I’ll be riding it my annual Rocky Mountain 4-day extended weekend tour starting this Saturday. This year is the our easy route with four 100 km days, two of which are pretty flat and two day that end at the Radium Hot springs. June is the wettest month of the year on the eastern slopes but traffic is light as the tour buses and RV’s are not out in full force yet.