How to Play by the Rules at the Eroica California

Photo: Erik Mathy/
Photo: Erik Mathy/

Here’s a little sidebar to help you figure out your ride for the Eroica California.

The Eroica California Regulations

“Eroica California is an event for cyclists using Historical Bikes or Vintage-Looking Bikes (as hereinafter defined) and with participants dressed in period cycle clothing.” – Eroica California Regulations

So you want to participate in the upcoming Eroica California, but you aren’t really sure what to make of the “regulations“, as the organizers put it. Don’t worry, there are many people out there who aren’t quite sure what to make of them, either! With the help of Evan Baird at American Cyclery, has come up some ideas to help you on your way.


“Historical Bikes (also called Bici Eroiche, in Italian) are all road racing bikes built in 1987 or earlier, with or without gears, as those built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. These bicycles most likely have a steel frame, but also other types of rare frames are permitted, such as the aluminum frames built by Alan and Vitus, with screwed or glued joints and the Exxon Graftek frames of the late 1970’s with carbon tubes glued to aluminum lugs.” – Eroica California Regulations

There are almost too many bikes to list that are from a period considered by the Eroica organizers to be legal. The Italian masters, such as Colnago and Bianchi, come immediately to mind. You can also find bikes from France, England, and even Japan that will fit the bill. Here in the US, the legendary Schwinn Paramount was a racing mainstay. If one looks hard enough, fully made in the USA Trek frames can also be found.


Photo: Erik Mathy/
Photo: Erik Mathy/

“Vintage-looking bikes with steel frame from new or recent construction with vintage look and characteristics may be used only if they are road racing bikes assembled using vintage components or replicated parts similar to the original as described above. In particular if the bikes are inspired by the design of road racing bicycles of the 1970’s and 1980’s, they must comply with rules a), b), and c) above, regarding shift levers, toe clips and straps, and brake cables.”  – Eroica California Regulations

A resurgent interest in vintage cycling may make it difficult to find a nice older bike, or at least find one at a good price. So what new bikes can be purchased and used in the Eroica California? There aren’t many. With a year cut off of 1987, the technologies in use then are very rare in new bikes sold now. While most of them are OK or can be swapped out/modified to work, the biggest limiting factor is the headset and stem. Back then, threaded headsets and quill stems were the norm. Threadless headsets and modern stems didn’t come into play until mid-90’s. Many high end road bikes were sold with quill stems as late as 1999.

The New Albion Homebrew
A basic, lugged steel, quill stemmed, downtube shifter equipped road bike for a fairly reasonable price. To be Eroica legal, you’d only have to replace the brake levers and saddle.

Soma Double Grand Randonneur
A more touring based bike than the Homebrew, with cantilever brakes, but also equipped with downtube shifters and a 1” quill stem. To be Eroica legal, you’d only have to replace the brake levers and saddle.

Almost Everything From Rivendell
Grant Peterson’s little bike company that could, Rivendell, has had a solid resurgence as of late. Every single one of their models uses a quill stem. The Atlantis, in particular, would make a very good Eroica bike. You would, of course, as with all new bike models, have to replace the brake levers with period correct items.

New Eroica Legal Quill Stems, Brake Levers and Saddles

Quill Stems: Soma and Nitto both make brand new quill stems in a variety of lengths, angles and overall sizes.

Brake Levers: Velo Orange makes some very smart looking non-aero brake levers that will do the trick nicely. Dia Compe makes two separate models as well.

Saddles: Luckily, there is a wide, wide variety of new saddles that follow older, vintage design cues. Everything from leather saddles like Brooks to Selle San Marco Regal (and various knockoffs thereof) are readily available.

Photo: Erik Mathy/
Photo: Erik Mathy/