When did you first hear about Eroica and why did you decide to bring the Eroica experience to South Africa?
I discovered this crazy ride where everyone is in vintage kit, riding old bicycles, and drinking wine on the internet! I was doing some research about South African bicycle frame builders form the 1970s and 1980s, and I just stumbled upon some cool photographs of dusty riders on the strade bianche. I was hooked. Further digging revealed a whole growing subculture of bike collectors and vintage steel bike riders that were no longer simply displaying their collections at home, but actually getting out there, riding them, and celebrating their passion for old steel. I was lucky enough to be contacted by Eroica to bring the event to African soil. By that time I was already running Tour of Ara (www.tourofara.co.za) - my 6-day all-gravel vintage steel bike stage race through the Karoo desert - so Eroica knew I had some intimate knowledge of our gravel road networks, and that I was a vintage bike enthusiast who didn’t shy away from a challenging ride.
Apparently, South Africa is ripe to become the “next big thing” in gravel. What makes the country so good for riding?
South Africa is crisscrossed with the most incredible and diverse network of gravel roads. Anything from big, wide, smooth gravel roads to jeep track to single track even. All wonderful to explore by gravel or all-road bicycles. The distances are bigger between towns (at least 100km most often), but there is a lot of adventure to be had out there. Fascinating little towns, wild camping, challenging terrain. It’s always been a mystery to me that more South Africans down ride touring or gravel bikes, but things are changing - many die-hard mountain bikers or road riders are adding a gravel bike to their quiver.
Keisie, Kogman and Kingna: three beautiful vintage bike gravel routes but also three rivers meeting in the Montagu Valley. Help us discover the routes of Eroica South Africa.
It’s simple. The135km Keisie is THE Eroica route - tough, but you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular and remote scenery. The 90km Kogman is the ‘party route’ - a ride through some pastoral countryside and a stop at a brandy distally, back into town a quick beer, then off to beautiful Baden and a swim and lunch with wine at Pietersfontein. My choice! And of course the 45km Kingna - this route also traverses the pastoral countryside and stops at the brandy distillery, but it’s really the option for first-timers.
What’s new this year?
We’re adding a concourse to show off some of the beautiful and desirable bikes that are hidden in our local private collections. Of course there will be rare Cinellis, cool Colnagos, Bianchis to dream of, beautifully restored Tommasinis, but the real stars will be the super-rare South African built Hansoms, Alpinas, Du Toits, Geminis… to name a few. Many folks don’t know that South Africa had a burgeoning frame building movement in the 70s and 80s, and some of the bikes were produced in very low numbers and were often very experimental, some with outrageous paint jobs. They might not be as refined as the Italian or Japanese bikes, but they are unique to our country and capture a fascinating part of our rich cycling history.
Five things not to miss at Eroica South Africa
1. The 135km Keisie route. This route is truly spectacular, and a chance to get out into some really remote Karoo landscapes.
2. Our Pietersfontein lunch stop! Nic and his old Volkswagen Kombi will be joined by Poppie van As this year, to create one of her special roosterkoek (fire bread) creations for each rider. There will be swimming, wine… you get the picture.
3. The official Eroica dinner on Saturday night Italian in style, African in spirit! A chance to raise our glasses in celebration of completing the day’s riding.
4. Delicious homemade gelato by Montagu-local Dominique available at the Eroica Festival venue
5. Our unofficial farewell-ride on Sunday morning. With a historic tour of Montagu, and breakfast at one of the many great little cafés scattered around town.