Vintage cycling events have become massively popular in the last few years. The Tweed Run has been going for eight years and tickets for this year's London event sold out in just 30 seconds! The Eroica Britannia festival had its second outing last year and attracted 50,000 guests as well as winning the UK Festival Awards prize for the best non-music festival. This year, 4,500 are set to ride around the glorious Derbyshire countryside on pre 1987 vintage steeds, including Ride Velo and lots of our friends. If, like us, this is your first time, we're here to help you look the part!
So what are the rules of the vintage ride? Well, in a nutshell it's got to be more is more: more flags, more flowers, more dogs, more picnic baskets, more red lipstick and definitely more hats! Sales of Captain Fawcett's beard oil and moustache wax will have gone through the roof last weekend. There were numerous splendid beards, and particularly moustaches, on display with twirls and points a-plenty.
It's festival season, so remember that vintage encompasses everything that is family values and you're never too young to wear tweed. We chatted to a seven year old riding a tag along with his father and admired his tweed jacket, tank top, shooting socks and plus fours. But where do you go to buy children's vintage? "I had the outfit made for me in Vietnam. It only cost £8!" His father was wearing a patchwork union jack flag jacket and breeks - presumably also custom-made. So if you happen to be in the Far East between now and June 17th you know what to do! Not very British though.
Far easier, if you're a grown up, is to visit your local charity shop. We spoke to the guys at The Light Blue who had nine riders at the Tweed Run. They'd picked up their natty waistcoats and plus fours for less than a tenner a piece! Londoners don't tend to be so lucky. Vintage tweed is like hen's teeth round Brixton way so we urbanites have to find other ways of purchasing dead men's clothes.
eBay is the preferred way to pick up vintage bargains, though it has its drawbacks; you can't try on clothes and returns aren't straightforward. We found that we'd set our hearts on the perfect item, only to be outbid at the last moment. But in the end we found a few good tweedy staples here, along with a bargain Eroica jersey for under £20.
Remember that there are dressing up competitions, and for those who put in the extra effort, big rewards are on offer. Winners of the best dressed man and woman at the Tweed Run were awarded a beautiful Louis bag by Hopkinson England worth almost £200. The overall winner on the day won a Pashley Guvnor bike no less, from London cycle emporium du jour, Velorution. The judges look for imagination and for an outfit slightly different to the standard kit - so get creative.
At Eroica, in addition to the Sunday morning ride through the Derbyshire hills, one of the highlights of the event is a giant dressing up competition: 'The Best in Show'. Anything pre 1987 is acceptable, but you can see that the Edwardian era to WWII is very popular with the punters. As well as Best Dressed Family, Guy, Gal and Rider, there are categories for Best Dressed Dog and Best Moustache! Oh and not forgetting your classic steed; Best Bike. Organisers say they're looking to: "Celebrate vintage, beautiful dresses and hats for the ladies, tweed, evening wear, flamboyant accessories for the guys..." No shrinking violets here please!
Now down to the important, but thorny, issue of footwear. Mr Ride Velo and I had rather a heated discussion about socks... Personally, I'm in favour of Argyll, which as you can see in the photo above can look very splendid and not at all 'Golf' with a decent pair of brogues. Robbie, on the other hand, wanted to adorn his perfectly formed calves with tassels. I thought that was far too OTT so he went for embroidered pheasants as a compromise. However, he looked on very enviously at all the dapper chaps with tassels and wished he'd been more assertive! REW Reynolds cycling shoes are obviously the choice of the well dressed man but brogues come in a decent second place.
You're going back in time, so it's perfectly acceptable to smoke at a vintage event. Large pipes look and smell fantastic, cigarettes with ebony holders will also do. Alcohol intake is encouraged, so find a bottle carrier to strap onto your bike. Our favourite was a Veuve Cliquot champagne chiller on the pannier rack which held two cold bottles with enough extra room for some smoked salmon blinis. A Fortnum and Mason picnic hamper is the classic choice, strapped to the back of your steed.
If you're not too hungover by 6am on Sunday 19th June, there's the Eroica ride which comes in three strengths - 100 miles, 55 miles or 30 miles. Remember that for this event you'll need a pre-1987 steel mean machine so you might want to factor in the extra weight when making your selection. Several companies will hire bikes for the festival such as Glory Days, so book your steed on line from a great selection of British classics. Alternatively, polish your Raleigh or dust down the Mercian languishing at the back of the shed, it's time to give these old troopers an airing.
No-one would fancy riding 100 miles in a Tweed suit - 13.7 miles for the Tweed Run was plenty and thank goodness the weather was cool! A different outfit will be required for the Eroica ride and the overwhelming favourite look is a classic merino jersey. Paul Smith has just released his Cycling Scrapbook (reviewed this week) which is choc-full of inspiration taken from his own personal collection of over 5,000 cycling jerseys. However, I don't think Sir Paul is going to be hiring out his prized maillots to the likes of you and me! Once you've chosen your look, it's time to go shopping.
If buying new, be prepared to pay top money for a stunning Santini or De Marchi classic jersey. You can pick up some second-hand items on eBay but they still go for about £80 each. Eroica produce their own range of jerseys each year and these can be bought at the festival if you've left it to the last minute. You could purchase a slimy polyester reproduction number for about £20 and look, if not feel, the part. Or else - if you've got a couple of weeks to spare - shop for retro merino in the eBay USA section. Much cheaper! But watch for import duty which seems to be applied very randomly...
Ladies with step-through classics, the choice is much easier! Simply don a pretty frock, a girly cardy and some sensible shoes and you're off. Flowers in your basket and on sunglasses will win you Britannia bonus points too.
And finally accessories for the ride - goggles, sunnies or specs go down a storm, while headwear ranges from the rarer choice of beret, flat cap, or Pith Helmet down to the classic casquette. Check out Velotastic for a great selection. Tote bags, army rucksacks, or musettes from Eroica will all make you look the part and are a handy place to stock your supplies for the essential mid-ride picnic. After all, there are no time chips here!
If you have any tips for sourcing vintage or retro cycling gear, please let us know in the comments section below. But above all have fun with it! Channel your inner Eddy Merckx or Jacques Anquetil, gnash those teeth and sweat into your casquette up the Derybshire hills imagining you're scaling Hautacam. See you in June!