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John Parsons' Riding L'Eroica Britannica

posted 5 Oct 2014, 02:26 by Richard Nichol   [ updated 5 Oct 2014, 02:27 ]

My apologies for the delay but here is John's account of his ride of L'Eroica Britannica:

John Parsons (one of the older non racing members) rode the L’Eroica Britannica sportive based around Bakewell Derbyshire 21st June 2014. This was the first edition in this country of a popular event in Italy organised there for the last 4 years.  It was for bikes pre 1987 with toeclips and straps and downtube  gear controls.  There was a dispensation in force from the normal sportive rules as wearing of crash helmets on vintage bikes would not be in keeping with the period. 

John rode his  Flying Scot restored to 1963 condition with the only up to date parts the Continental tubulars as his only vintage ones were unreliable for such a ride. He had entered the 30 mile route as it was a very long time since he had attempted to ride such a route.  The morning dawned with bright sunshine which got hotter as the day wore on.  Start was at 9am in groups of around 20 which was OK but the first few miles were very hilly and was out of breath very soon into the ride and struggling to keep up with the rest of the group.  Legs OK just breathing deeper than he had  done for years.  Once on to the Monsal trail which is a disused railway line and fine gravel it was ok with gentle gradients.  The first food stop was after 13 miles and the bacon butties on offer were a bit too much to stomach after  breakfast in the hotel.  Biscuits and a cup of tea were adequate. 

Conversation with many like minded riders was most enjoyable as he set off on the next 10 miles which according to the route description were very steep and gave brilliant views of the Derbyshire Dales.  Unfortunately the racing instinct surfaced as a good decent after the first climb presented the opportunity to catch a rider who had dropped him on the climb.  With him still in sight, John continued to the next junction where he turned left as it had route arrows.  Eventually he caught and dropped him laid on the grass verge on a long climb and was feeling rather good but soon realised that he should have been at the next stop by then.  But with more arrows indicating the route just kept on going enjoying the sights and feeling good.  He had to walk a few times on the steepest parts as the old Simplex gears were not keeping the chain on the 25 tooth sprocket.  This turned out to be one of the Tour of The Peak toughest climbs “Mam Tor”.  Over the top it all seemed downhill and went through Chapel-en le-Frith which he knew was definitely not on the 30 mile route.  Following more arrows the climbs made him more and more apprehensive about getting back to Bakewell as he knew he was steadily heading in the wrong direction.  A group of mountain bike riders were impressed by his guts at attempting such a hilly terrain on such a bike.  Eventually he asked a man in his front garden the quickest way to Bakewell which was in the direction he was heading on to the A5004 and was 25 miles away.  By this time exhaustion was setting in and the long climbs were taken very slowly. At that point the A5004 is just like the North Yorkshire Moors road, long steady climbs and descents with several hairpin bends.  Fortunately the wind was very light from behind.  A local rider caught and dropped him but he was going too slow for the offer of a tow and just couldn’t  keep up with him.  Over the brow of a hill a town appeared but it turned out to be Buxton on the A6 which was still 13 miles to Bakewell.  Back at the Bakewell Showground wife Anne was reading her book enjoying the sun and non-alcoholic cocktails and beginning to worry about the non appearance of John.  He was overdue by 2 hours on his estimate and she was worried as several riders had come in with broken bikes and injuries. She also knew that he had no money or food with him as it was only a 30 mile ride.

Back on the road the ride was taken very slowly to conserve what energy was still available using  44x 25 on even the gentlest of inclines.  On the outskirts of Bakewell he realised that he would be coming in on the wrong side of town so had to thread through the crowds in the pedestrianised part of the town centre to get back out on to the road into the Showground and finish.  Once on to the finish road and through the crowds it was 2.30pm, Anne and John heard the announcement as every rider entering the finishing straight was named.  Relief for both and a well earned bottle of L’Eroica beer to toast an enjoyable if exhausting ride.  The old Worthy woollen shorts were sagging a bit with the sweat, later found he had lost 5lbs in weight.  On reflection it was the confusion of the arrows which were actually for the 100 mile route that had started at 6.30am, resulting in him doing 58 miles instead of the 30 planned.  Never did get his bacon butty, the thought of it kept him going.  There was no timed finish, everyone did it just for the fun.  There were the delights of the Showground to enjoy and money to be spent on the cycle jumble, spares for the next restoration project, the 1964 vintage Viking Severn Valley used as workbike.

Bike spec:-

Frame      Flying Scot Continental model, Renolds 531 DB tubing, frame  fitted with TDC steel headset

Brakes     Mafac Top 63 centre pull.

Chainset  Campagnolo Record 52/44 chainrings

Wheels    Fiamme Sprint rims on 32/40 Campagnolo Record small flange hubs.

Saddle     Brooks Professional leather with plain alloy seat pin.

Bars         GB Maes bends.

Stem       Milremo Pivo.

Gears      Simplex Prestige plastic front and rear.

Block      Regina 5 speed 15/16/17/21/25

Pedals    Campgnolo Record road with Christophe toe clips &  leather straps

Pump     Bluemels alloy fitted with Campagnolo QR adapter

Bottle cage  Milremo steel clip on.

Spare tubular carrier  Campione QR.

The whole bike cost £57-14s-6d when purchased from Bill Beatties in Stockton on 18th August 1963!


West Hartlepool CC 1950’s road jersey given to John by Ken Bainbridge in 1966

Worthy Woolen shorts with chamois leather insert.

Crodoni leather shoes with TA shoe plates.

White linen cap from 1968.