NOVA Eroica: Eroica For Modern Bikes

Photo: Paolo Martelli/ Eroica

Eroica California is coming to Paso Robles for the fourth time on April 14-15. Besides the regular ride where vintage steel bikes and wool kits are encouraged and where toe clips are a must, there’s a new category: modern bikes.

NOVA Eroica Italy
First edition NOVA Eroica Italy… now coming to California. Photo: Eroica

Yes, your slammed carbon disc with 11 electronically-controlled gears is now eligible for NOVA Eroica. Actually, any bike, be it a gravel, cross, or an aero bike, can be used as long as it has a drop handlebar.

Eroica California
Photo: Paolo Martelli /Eroica

Instead of having four different routes to choose from, NOVA Eroica participants will ride the 87-mile coastal loop featuring 7,019 feet of climbing and 25 miles of unpaved road in timed segments.

Nova Eroica is limited to 200 entrants so jump on it!

Eroica California Part 2: Hospice of San Luis Obispo

The Eroica California is supporting Hospice SLO, an all volunteer, non-profit hospice organization founded in 1977. Photo: Erik Mathy/

“The people here, in the organization, are just great to be around. Besides working with my clients, I also volunteer in the office once a week, answering phones, just to be around them.” ~ Stuart Wetherbe – In Home Support Volunteer.

One of the most intriguing, and least talked about, parts of the California Eroica is it’s support of Hospice of San Luis Obispo County (Hospice SLO). Hospice SLO is something of a rarity. Founded in 1977, it’s an all volunteer, non-medical service based, non-profit hospice organization. It’s on fairly recently that not just our medical community but also out society as a whole has started to openly discuss things like palliative care and home hospice. Establishing a hospice organization in the 70’s was very, very much against the norm. The services they provide, which includes support groups, grief counseling, in-home support, taking care of client pets, are all provided entirely by volunteers. I wanted to talk to a few of them, to see why they would take on such difficult and emotionally demanding work. I came away impressed by their dedication, thoughtfulness and care they feel for not just their clients, but for Hospice SLO itself.

Tani Smida – Pet Peace of Mind Volunteer

Tani Smida has been a breeding and boarding birds for nearly 30 years in the San Luis Obispo area. She recently got a call from one of her friends, asking for help on behalf of Hospice SLO. A pair of Macaws had been placed in San Lois Obispo’s animal shelter when their owner went into hospice care. The shelter was ill equipped to care for them. They were under danger of being put to sleep. Would she help? The answer was yes.

Why she volunteers:
“There are 2 reasons we are here on Earth. One is to learn and the other is to give back. Service is such a gift to the giver. You walk away feeling like you’ve gotten more than you have given out.”

What she has taken away from volunteering with Hospice SLO:
“The beauty of it is that I’ve had experience with hospice, watching a friend pass away. I took it as quite a compliment that they trusted me with these two birds. It’s been an honor.”

Jennifer Everett – In-Home Support Volunteer

Jennifer Everett first came to Hospice SLO with her son, Oliver. Her husband, Todd, had been diagnosed with a highly aggressive cancer and she brought Oliver in for counseling. Oliver was 4 years old. He spent nearly 2 years in Hospice SLO’s counseling program. Jennifer herself took a “On Year To Live” class to help her understand and appreciate what her husband was going through. On the dedication wall outside of Hospice SLO’s office there is a tile bearing her husband’s name and the message “Oliver’s Dad”. “When I came around the corner and saw that for the first time, I thought that was the most perfect thing he could have put. We come here all the time to sit and remember Todd.”

Why she volunteers:
“Hospice SLO was a huge help to us during my husband’s illness. My son Oliver got nearly 2 years of free counseling. I took a ‘Last Year of Your Life’ class. After Todd passed away, I wanted to give back. My background is in childbirth. I believe that we should be born in our homes, surrounded by our friends and family. I think we should die that way as well. Birth and death are so similar. There is alot of waiting, introspection and emotions in both.”

What she has taken away from volunteering with Hospice SLO:
“Everybody comes into it with an idea of what hospice will be like. I know I did, having been through it with my husband. But every person is different. There is no textbook for it it goes. We, the volunteers, have to roll with it, and honor the fact that everybody’s experience is unique. I have to remember to support their process as best as I can. I need to be able to facilitate their journey.”

“Carpe diem. Explore every day and every person. Don’t just sit back and let life happen.”

Stuart Wetherbe – In-Home Support Volunteer

Stuart Wetherbe moved to San Luis Obispo 2 years ago from the East Coast for his work, which is being a full time care giver for the elderly. He found himself with free time. “I had friends who had done hospice work, and they spoke very highly of the experience.” Hospice SLO was attractive to him because it was unique, an all volunteer, non-profit, non-medical hospice. “The people here, in the organization, are just great to be around.”

Why he volunteers:
“Dad had cancer. It came out of remission. I got a call, “Dad’s dying.”. I realized that we’d never been close and I determined that I wanted to see him, tell him that we were OK. That I loved him. When I walked into his room, he opened his eyes, put his arms up, gave me a hug, and then fell back into unconsciousness. All the roles we’d played in our lives melted away. There was just this being, laying there, and we could just be there with each other taking comfort. No words. No roles. It moved me to tears.

Three days later, I was sitting with him. Words weren’t necessary. I sat with him, held his hand.There was a faint squeeze of his hand in acknowledgement and he took his last breathe. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life.”

What he has taken away from volunteering with Hospice SLO:
“Care giving is something that I want to be doing. I look at it as a way of enriching myself. There is a way that I learn and grow through this practice. I learn how to help people with very serious life issues. I tend to see myself in other people, so by helping others, I get to explore myself more. I believe that as much compassion as I have for myself is as much as I have for another person.”

Chantal Donahue – Pet Peace of Mind Volunteer

Chantal came to the United States from the Philippines almost 30 years ago and settled in San Luis Obispo with her husband. “SLO is the happiest place on Earth. How lucky could I have been, to come here?”, she tells me. Her current charge is Buddy, an elderly cocker spaniel. “Visiting my client, bringing Buddy to her, it feels like I am taking care of my Mother, my Aunt, my Uncle, who I couldn’t be there for in the Philippines when they were ill.”

Why she volunteers:
“I’ve always loved animals. We always had them in the Philippines. I also took care of my Aunts and Uncles. We are there for people’s birth and death. That’s a part of our culture. When my son went to college 2 years ago, I needed a purpose. Hospice SLO became that. The way they respect the older people, take care of them, it is very much an extension of my own culture.”

What she has taken away from volunteering with Hospice SLO:
“I feel blessed to be living here, in this place, in this country. I want to give back.
I can’t give money, but I can give myself. That is much more important. Volunteering, for me, it makes me feel joyful. By helping others, we heal ourselves.”

Eroica California Part 1: Building The Tin Man


A custom built, 1981 Zunow. You can tell it's custom by the lack of crazy neon 80's paint job Zunow frames are (in)famous for.


Josh Carroll, the manager of the SF Caltrain Bike Station, is the best kept secret of San Francisco bike mechanics. The guy has serious chops. Just as importantly when dealing with me, he also has serious patience and a sense of humor!


The attention to detail on a Zunow is breathe taking. Even the bottom bracket shell got some super sexy custom cutouts and paint.


Campagnolo Nuovo Record everywhere!

Eroica California – When building a bike is an adventure in and of itself.

After picking up the Zunow from George, it sat up at American Cyclery for a few weeks as life did what life does…continue on regardless of my well laid plans. Or lack thereof, if I am to be honest about it. A mere two weeks prior to the Eroica California, I woke up in a panic at 3am, realizing that I was leaving the following Saturday with my son for a week in Wisconsin for his spring break. If the Zunow was going to be get built, the arrangements had to be made in the next 2 days.

In a word (or two): Oh CRAP!

At a slightly more suitable hour of 9am, I dropped a line to my long suffering favorite mechanic, Josh Carroll, down at the San Francisco Caltrain Bike Station. Josh is my secret weapon for goofy bicycle projects. Most people view the San Francisco Caltrain Bike Station (SFCBS) as a mere parking garage for their commuter bikes. What they don’t realize is that the building may house their rides, but it also houses one of the most kick ass bike mechanics in San Francisco. Namely Josh. And because not many people know the super nice bearded dude parking their bikes can also hot rod them, Josh sometimes has some spare time for my bike shenanigans. Which are almost always at the last minute.

That says alot about the guy’s sense of humor and patience. I’m just sayin’.

Josh was amenable to seeing what he could do, so I dropped the Zunow off with him Thursday afternoon. I also dropped off my Chris Kelly road bike, which was acting as a brake donor and sizing mule. For the next week, while I tried to get in my only block of training before the Eroica, Josh got to work assembling the parts needed for the build.

All seemed to be going to plan when I got an email from Josh with the following image attached to it:

The Zunow, looking kinda hot...but lacking a drivetrain.

The silver Zunow, Campagnolo Nuovo Record drivetrain, Mavic Open Pro wheelset, Soma pedals, Diacompe brake levers, Shimano Ultegra brakes, white Soma Ta-Bo saddle, white handlebar tape and white cable housings all came together into a one really sexy package. In my googley eyed lust, however, I completely missed one major detail: No front chain rings, no chain.

It turns out that George had 2 crank arms, each with a different Campagnolo bolt pattern, available for the Zunow. He and Josh were trying to coordinate to get the chainrings handed off, but the timing wasn’t quite working. Life is what happens while we’re making other plans!

The Tuesday before Eroica California comes around…no chain ring, and therefore no Zunow. In order to facilitate things, I drive to George’s house after he is done with work, grab the missing chain ring, make a side trip to REI for some supplies, and then make the equipment drop with Josh in Oakland. I have to leave Wednesday night after work for a side trip to LA. It’s down to the wire. The Zunow has to be ready Wednesday, by 4:00, so I can grab the 4:30 ferry home, finish packing, eat dinner and drive to LA.

If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done right?

When I arrive at the SFCBS, the Zunow is stunning, all ready to go. There is, however, one stumbling block: The gearing. The front two chainrings are a 46 inner and a 52 outer. The rear cassette looks terrifyingly tiny as well. Knowing that the Medium and Long courses have a solid amount of climbing in them and that I am totally out of shape, there is no way I will get anywhere pushing a 46:AnythingAtAll. No way! Josh and I talk over the options. The other crank arm has a 135 BCD bolt pattern and only one chainring on it. Luckily for me it’s a 41. A 41:SomethingToSmall is WAY better than a 46:AnythingAtAll!

While Josh swaps out the crank arm, I make some calls to see if I can find a chainring that’ll fit. Low and behold, Evan at American Cyclery has “a stack of them, what size do you want?”. He’ll bring a 52 tooth down to Paso Robles for me. I just have to remember to not use the front derailleur. Josh looks at me knowingly, grabs a roll of electrical tape, and quintuple wraps the front downtube shifter in place to make sure I don’t do anything stupid in the meantime.

A good bike mechanic is like a shrink, always saving us from ourselves. You know what I mean?

After mad sciencing a vintage Swiss Army medical bag to the front handlebars as a camera bag, I take a first ride on my Eroica California rig. During the short trip from SFCBS to the Ferry building, several things become apparent:

  1. Running shoes completely suck with bike pedal cages.
  2. Non-indexed downtube shifting is weird, but one can get used to it.
  3. 7 speeds are…a very small number of gears.
  4. Modern Shimano Ultegra brakes paired with vintage brake levers work insanely well.
  5. Vintage brake levers wreak havoc on non-gloved hands.
  6. This 1981 Zunow rolls smooth as butter! DAMN!

On arrival home, my partner Heather promptly dubs it “The Tin Man” for it’s all silver finish. The Tin Man and I pile into my car. With a scant 2 miles under our belts, it’s time to go to the Eroica California.