italian clarion

riding bikes in Piemonte, Italy - Fellowship is Life - La Compagnia è Vita

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

pay your taxes...???

Stivali !

Good website here:


Road tax doesn't exist. It's car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads arepaid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937. [Don't believe a 'single issue website campaign'? OK, check out's article on the subject then. ] The ironically-named helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists - who are sometimes branded as 'tax dodgers' - would pay the same as 'tax-dodgers' such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED. Many of those who believe road tax exists, want cyclists off the roads or, at least registered, but bicycle licensing is an expensive folly.

Speroni !

Monday, 18 November 2013

L'Eroica - 6th October 2013

Stivali !

In February this year after just finishing a rather cold granfondo Laigueglia in Liguria, I received a phone call from Paul Frost (Fenland) asking if I fancied doing this year’s Eroica (the classic ‘old bicycle race’). Held in Tuscany on the strade bianche (white gravel roads). It was easy for me to say yes as we are already in Italy, but didn’t give a second thought to getting hold of a bike or the other regalia required by the ‘regulations’. After all, it was still 8 months until the race.

The Regs call for steel bike frames of the 80’s era or earlier with toe-clips & straps, exposed brake cables, down tube shifters and woolly garments & old style banana helmets. Picking up this gear was almost as difficult as the event itself (both of which were surprisingly hard).

Listening to my companions, Ian (Tuxford), Steve & Lyndsay Clarke and Paul Frost (Fenland) getting their bikes ready was frustrating as I was here, in the heart of cycling, struggling to get hold of anything to allow me to ride, until right under my nose, our local bike shop in Chieri came up trumps with a very nice second hand ‘Elio di Torino’, meeting all the requirements, fully campagnolo equipped and in my size, if actually being from the late ‘80’s early ‘90’s.
Elio Torino

what a beauty

there is something about the slenderness of a steel frame

olympic rings on the fork crown

exposed cables

campagnolo rims & hubs too

8 speed - works so well

25mm tyres for the rough stuff

columbus competition tubeset

the downtube shifters were indexed, something which I think came out post 1987
(post 1987 is not allowed, but it was campagnolo everything, so that was ok)

after the event (when these pics were taken) I'd taken my old
style clips & straps off, what a bloody nuisance

Marco Gios of Gios cycles fixed me up with a lovely pair of Duegi wood sole lace up shoes for free too (still in the original box !), all this just two weeks before the event.
I now had to get out on it and suddenly the thought of fitness crossed my mind, I certainly hadn’t been riding as much as in the past, but it was more a social ride than a race, the object being to finish, not to beat a certain time (or rather Ian). Which distance should we ride? Originally I was keen to do the full 205km route. But I hadn’t ridden over 150km all year, let alone 150km on gravelly hilly ‘roads’.
it helps having a big van
The Friday before the event we collected the British contingent from Pisa airport and drove to our accommodation which Ian had booked, not exactly in the vicinity of Gaiole in Chianti but it was nevertheless fantastic and with an outdoor swimming pool. (Paul was staying in Florence with his family and arrived a few days earlier).
We arrived in the dark and my trepidation about the location of the accommodation was heightened as we drove for over a kilometer down a narrow gravel path. However, the very nice villa complex more than made up for any concerns. While unpacking the 3 bike bags from the roof rack Ian caught on of the ratchets with his left eye as I threw it down from the roof of the van, could have been nasty but luckily he’s made of rugged stuff and didn’t whinge too much. Without further ado the guys set to unpacking & building the bikes up while Lorraine & Lyndsay made dinner.

We all went to bed happy and woke up happy too, but just worried about the weather, rain wasn’t anticipated, let alone heavy rain ! It wouldn’t last. We went to sign on in Gaiole with 4000 other riders, it was still raining, heavy. We perused the open air bike-bits market. There were some fine machines on display as well as some rather exotic equipment. It was still raining, heavy. We had a coffee and a bite to eat. It was still raining, heavy.
This helped us decide, if it was beautiful sunshine on the Saturday we may have been tempted to tackle the longer event, but the fact that it was tipping with rain influenced our decision and we chose the 135km route which we knew would take at least 4 hours. Back to the villa and final preparations for the morning. Lyndsay had bought some old school shoes at the market & got them set up for the ride, the bikes were checked again. Ian considered how much air to put into his 28mm tyres donning his 60 year old Hill Special (made at the Clarion Cycle Works) , Steve oiled his Carlton and Lyndsay’s Harry Quinn. We tried on the clothing, unsure what the morning weather might bring, we had to be up at 5am, leave at 6am, race at 7am. A fantastic italian feast and earlyish to bed.

Ian, Steve, Lyndsay & me (don't look too close at Steve's skinsuit)
5am and various groans & moans later we were having breakfast together. A picture paints a thousand words, but we looked rather splendid (see photo- this was at 5am).
Leaving the villa and Lorraine & Carlo behind the journey to Gaiole gave hope, it wasn’t raining, infact the sun was coming up and the roads were almost dry.
1st section of strade bianche
a perfect day
We crossed the start line at 7am and made off for a surprisingly swift first 10km. It’s funny how there is never any wind early in the day or late at night.We then hit the first section of strade bianche. It took us 2h30’ to get to Radi (first food stop) at 48km. What a welcome feed station that was. The selection was vast and included raw mince, horse meat, various salamis, bread soaked in wine, nutella, ham, honey, fruits, wine and water as well as many desserts & biscuits. That took at least half an hour.
Steve & Lyndsay

buon apetito
ristoro Radi
how much wine would you like sir? Fill her up guv
We started to not worry about the time. This ride would take more than 4hrs.

The sun was really belting down at 10am and the never ending views made it feel great.
Ian met a team-mate

Some of the climbs (and descents) on the strade bianche were very challenging in gradient, trying to maintain grip and keeping your feet in the toeclips, avoiding the ruts caused by the rain the previous day. One particular descent had me worried, too slow and you were off, too fast and you’d overcook the bend at the bottom.
a rather nice soup awaited us

mechanics were on hand if required

4 white roads out of the way and two more by the time we reached the next feed station with more of the same fayre in Asciano at 12 :22. That made a total of 29km on the rough stuff 84km in total, over half way. One more food stop and 4 hours later we finished in Gaiole at 4:50pm.
back at the villa after a long day in the saddle
A welcome beer sat on the cobbles of the main street went down well. It seemed like half the route was on gravel when infact only 33km was. It certainly sapped the energy. We reckoned less than 10% of people rode up all the gravel climbs. It certainly was a satisfying experience and all the better for riding it as a group. Would we do it again? Maybe next year. As for using ‘old style’ bikes & gear:
Back at the villa, couldn't keep my eyes open after the third glass of wine
1. don’t waste your time trawling ebay, shop local
2. steel IS real
3. new technology is not necessarily better
4. old lycra is not forgiving (Steve wore his Dad’s old 80’s skinsuit).

Speroni !