If you’re going to organise a mass-participation bike ride here are a few tips designed to ensure maximum enjoyment for you and your riders:
- Ban any technology that makes cycling easy. Indexed gears, out; compact chainsets, out; brakes that work, out; clipless pedals, out; lightweight frames, out; modern clothing designed to increase comfort and regulate body temperature, out. In fact, why not specify that all bikes taking part must be at least a quarter of a century old? Yeah, that’ll do it.
- Organise a huge dinner the night before the ride and feed all riders a rich diet of meat, pasta, puddings and cheese, washed down with liberal quantities of Chianti. Keep them up until midnight and cheer wildly whenever one of them attempts to drink an entire bottle of wine in one.
- Encourage all riders to stay in hotels where the early breakfast offering consists of nothing but coffee and cake (more than one type of cake is allowed but all must be extremely sugary and free of any form of dried fruit or nuts).
- Ensure that lengthy sections of all routes follow unpaved dirt roads that are dusty and slippery when dry and treacly and even more slippery when wet.
- Encourage as many riders as possible to use tubular tyres so that when they puncture there is a satisfying explosion that can be greeted with a hearty cheer by anyone within earshot.
- At the feed stations, offer weary riders glasses of wine and pieces of bread that have been soaked in Chianti and then sprinkled with sugar. Alternatively, feed them rich stews and homemade fruit tarts.
Combine all these elements in the breath-taking countryside of Tuscany and you have last weekend's l’Eroica, probably the most magnificent and absurd bike ride I’ve ever taken part in; definitely the most fun. I am officially hooked.