05 July, 2016

Eroica Limburg 2016 (Valkenburg, NL)

Peugeot Riders

The Eroica is a cycling event, but it’s also a festival with music and food and a celebration of all that is vintage. It is as much about aesthetics as it is about cycling. Beginning in Italy in 1997 as a nod to the cycling races of yore, there are now Eroica events held in Spain, Britain, Japan, and California. This year the Eroica will debut in Uruguay, and this was also the first Eroica event in the Netherlands. Perusing social media, I found this out just two days before the event took place this past weekend, so you can imagine my excitement in learning that Eroica was coming to Valkenburg, a historic city in the south of the Netherlands some 30 kilometers away.

Umberto Eroica

This didn’t give me time to enter the event myself, as there are very specific regulations on what type of bicycle you can use and none of my current bikes fit the criteria: pre-1988, original components, downtube shifters, toe clips, etc. There are allowances for new, steel-frame bikes built in a classic road racing style, and my Soma Stanyan would probably fit the bill, but not in its current configuration. Nevertheless, being a spectator would be almost as much fun, so I got a campsite in Valkenburg and rode on down to the start the next morning.

RGB Rider Eroica

There was a huge turnout across a spectrum of riders, many trying to strike the right balance between function and fashion. Wool jerseys, “hairnet” helmets, and crotched cycling gloves were most common, and plastic water bottles were in the minority. Luciano Berruti, an Eroica celebrity of sorts, represents the epitome of the retro-cyclist chic, some might say by virtue of the fact that at 73 years old, he is quite vintage himself.


Some of the modern builds blended in almost seamlessly, though this was largely due to careful selection of classic-looking components and accessories.

Dutch Rider 362

It was impossible to capture the entirety of the event—while some riders were departing the starting line others were showcasing their vintage bikes and accessories, and others were just arriving. The biggest group of riders were the “team” from Brooks of England, with their blue jerseys and of course, Brooks saddles. Jools Walker from Velo City Girl was amongst them on a classic celeste green Bianchi, as well as Henk Dekkers on an original red Brompton folding bike.

rear wheels eroica

I checked out the starting queue for a while, grabbed a complimentary espresso, and decided I’d ride on up ahead to catch the riders as they began their 60, 100, or 160 kilometer journeys. The Valkenburg centrum with its bridges, gates, and numerous cafes provided a picturesque backdrop for a classic event such as this. 

Eroica Start Birdseye

rider on bridge eroica

Through the Gate Eroica

After several groups of cyclists passed, there was a window in which no one was riding, so I followed the course myself, trying to eye the next good vantage point. Eventually, I came to what looked like the entrance to a tunnel, so I stopped outside and waited for more riders to show up.


entering caves eroica

Again, when things slowed down I decided to ride further on and maybe catch some riders as they came out the other side of the tunnel. What I hadn’t realized was that this wasn’t just a normal tunnel, but rather a tunnel access to the labyrinthine Valkenburg caves, through which the course was routed. I’d have to say that riding through those caves was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike- they were that cool (no pun intended).

Coming out of the caves, however, puts you onto one of the most difficult climbs of the Eroica Limburg. I rode a little more than halfway up before deciding that my Dahon, fully loaded with bags and panniers, was not suited for this type of riding. So instead, I grabbed some snapshots as riders made their way up the hill, some dismounting, others pushing through, but no one turning around (except of course, me, but I was not an official participant).

Raleigh RIder Eroica


two green riders eroica

I rode back to Dersaborg Park, where the festival was taking place and the finish was located, to pass the time and peruse the stocks of old bicycle components. I hadn’t the desire to do a classic Eroica build before, but I certainly did while looking at all the classic bikes there. If there was a part you needed for a build, there was a good chance you’d find it there.

parts table 1 eroica

man at table eroica

blue rider eroica

Finally, the cyclists began to trickle through the finish line, and they were greeted with applause. We enjoyed watching the classic steel, and in a few cases aluminum, paraded by as the riders made their procession through the photographers and other interested parties. Many headed straight for the Brand Bier tents, and others waited for their counterparts to cross the finish line as well. I fantasized about which bike I would want to ride, and what outfit I would need to pull it off. In any regard, I have a whole year to figure that out, but I will definitely attend the next Eroica Limburg, if not another iteration of Eroica in another country.

Golden Peugeot Eroica

The creator of Eroica, Giancarlo Brocci’s vision for the event is centered around wanting “…people to rediscover the beauty of fatigue and the thrill of the conquest”. I don’t know about all that, but it sure looks like a lot of fun.

- Bicyclist Abroad


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30 June, 2016

Scenes from the Stadt [Hamburg]

Batavus Train Station

The Mrs. and a couple friends of ours were running a half marathon in Hamburg this past weekend, so along came I and the little one to visit the historic city and be a spectator to the race. Upon arriving, we checked in and waited for our friends who had driven separately. Apparently, they had gotten caught in the Hamburg Critical Mass, which for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is a very large gathering of bicyclists that more or less take over the streets to promote awareness of social issues or just to celebrate bicycle culture. Too bad we just missed it!

gov bldg hamburg

Hamburg is an interesting place historically, architecturally, and geographically. Prior to 1871, it was it’s own country. Now, it is both the second-largest city in Germany and its own federal state-- so it has its own identity outside of Germany proper. I knew it as the place the Beatles got their start, and I suppose, the birthplace of what would become an American food staple.

Riding past the Beatles

While I never got the chance to do any cycling there myself, there were plenty of bicycles to look at as we strolled along different parts of the city. We visited the Reeperbahn, or the famous “Red Light District” of Hamburg, found the Beatlesplatz (you can sort of make out the silhouettes of the Fab Four in the photo above), and took the U-Bahn to the Rathaus, or city hall, in the Altstadt.

Hamburg Harbor

The Elbe River runs through the city, as it was an important trade route from Europe to the rest of the world and made Hamburg what it is today. Canals abound, but we decided to check some of those out the next time we visited the city. There was simply too much to see in one weekend, and the weather was often uncooperative.

Radisson Hamburg

While maybe not as bike-friendly as Münster, Hamburg is bustling with bicycles, especially around the university, near where we had stayed. And like many cities in Europe, many abandoned bikes have accumulated over the years, some missing their more valuable components or becoming permanent installments on the street. We ate at a burger joint (had to partake in the city’s namesake food, even if it was a veggie burger) that was beside a cargo bike shop that featured all sorts of interesting and unique cargo bikes. They are really becoming a common sight outside of Dutch and Danish metropolitan areas.

Hamburg Streetshot

rain on bikes

Not having ridden there myself, I can’t say for sure how good the cycling infrastructure is, but it has to be better than Düsseldorf, a city I love in spite of its magically disappearing bike lanes. While the ADFC ranks Hamburg as the 35th in cycling safety, Copenhagenize ranks it 14th overall in its list of bicycle-friendly cities, due in part to its extensive cycling strategy, implemented some eight years ago by the Hamburg Parliament.

Searchlight bike

Also of note is the Vattenfall Cyclassics, Germany’s only UCI race, which is hosted in the city each year and involves a huge swath of participants, exhibitors, and spectators, including a children-specific event called the Schul-Cup. The Jedermannrennen is an event in which anyone can partake. More information about Hamburg’s cycling efforts can be found on the UCI’s website.

Not cycling-related, but if you’ve ever wondered where the world’s largest model train diorama is, that’s in Hamburg, too.

- Bicyclist Abroad


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18 June, 2016

A Gazelle By Any Other Name

Juncker by the Pond

One of the great things about living in Europe is the myriad of vintage bicycles that can be found-- either locked to a bike rack, abandoned in an alley, or for sale on the local classifieds. In certain Dutch cities, you can even find them at the bottom of a canal, but retrieving them is best left to the city workers. Nevertheless, I can usually temper my enthusiasm towards owning these bicycles by admiring them and moving along, content in my understanding of their significance or lack thereof. Every so often, however, one will come along that I’ve never heard of, and then begins my journey into the murky world of now-defunct bicycle manufacturers. From Puch and Peugeot to Kettler and Kalkhoff*, there are dozens of brands that were manufactured before, between, and after the Wars, yet haven’t survived the 21st century.

One in particular caught my eye, firstly because of it’s design and secondly because of it’s name. In regards to the former, I’ve been wanting a “proper Dutch bike” since we moved here, and hadn’t got around to finding one that suited my taste. Sure, it’s socially acceptable for men to ride a step-through here, but in my mind, I wouldn’t be able to reconcile that with the fact that they are called omafiets to differentiate them from the horizontal top tube of an opafiets, that is, a bicycle for distinguished grandpas. Also, black is the most common color of Dutch bikes, with Day-Glo orange, polka-dot, and Grimace purple coming in at a close second, so to find an understated silvery grey was a bit exhilarating. As to the name, well, my English-speaking brain found it amusing.


Pronounced “yoon-kerr”, like the current President of the European Commission (as if that helps anyone reading this), Juncker was established in 1898 in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn, which is also home to another bicycle manufacturer called Sparta, one of the largest and most well-known bike and moped companies in the Netherlands. In 1968, like several other competing companies, they were bought by Gazelle and brought under as a subsidiary brand.

Juncker Headtube Badge

These subsequent “Gazelle Junckers” were basically Gazelle’s with the Juncker branding, and perhaps, some less premium components. This model, the Tour de France, is more or less identical to the Gazelle Tour de France released in the later half of the 1970s. Also similar is their inherent inability to be used in the actual Tour de France, but let’s assume the name is short for “Wine Tour de France”, which makes a lot more sense.

Juncker profile 2_Fotor

Name aside, the build is solid as any Dutch bike should be, with some very elegant and understated touches. The full chain case is absent in favor of a partial chain case and a 5-speed rear derailleur. Drum brakes are used on both the front and rear hubs, and a bottle dynamo powers both the headlamp and the rear, fender-mounted light. A frame pump sits snugly against the downtube, and the handlebar grips have a very pleasant knurl to them.

Juncker Gazelle Logo

Tiny little gazelles adorn many of the bolts and bits, as is customary for Gazelle bicycles, and the seat tube decal features the Gazelle logo as well. As to whether the Juncker name or the Gazelle branding carried more weight at the time, I don’t really know, but it is very clear that this line was an amalgamation of both brands. There is no date stamped anywhere on the frame, and Gazelle have changed their serial numbering once or twice over the years, but my best estimates put this particular bicycle as being made in 1976.

Juncker Seat Tube

Interestingly, before I had a chance to test ride the bike, I thought to myself, “hmm, I’ll probably replace the saddle with the Brooks B17 or even the sprung B130 I have.” They seemed to agree with the general aesthetics and intended use of this bike. But after the seller allowed me to take it for a spin, I found the stock saddle to actually be pretty comfortable, at least to the degree that I didn’t think it needed to be swapped out. Sure enough, I get off of the bike and find a familiar name embossed on its exterior.

Brooks Mystery Saddle

I’ve found almost no information about this type of Brooks saddle, and only a couple images on the Internet of other bicycles having them. It’s some type of plastic-covered foam, but it still has the signature bag loops on the back and steel support rails underneath. Other than “Made in England”, I’ve yet to find anything indicating it’s manufacture date, so I don’t know whether it is original to the bike or not. Either way, it doesn’t require an application of Proofide and is rather water resistant, so I think I’ll leave it be.

Juncker Shifter

Shifting is performed by a Suntour lever mounted to the stem, non-indexed as changing gears ought to be. Like many Dutch bikes, stability and control are such that one-handed operation is often more than adequate. 

Juncker on the road

So I’ve finally found my Dutch bike, the one that I can ride around town for pleasure or toss on a couple panniers for a grocery run. The one that can throw a soft light ahead of me when it gets dark courtesy of the electricity generated by my spinning wheels. The one that actually blends in with every other bicycle out there instead of attracting unwanted attention (note: bakfiets are great conversation starters!). As I’ve stated elsewhere, if I had to just have one bicycle, this would be it. Not because it excels at everything—far from it, actually. This would be a terrible bike for off-road or touring—but rather, like the Japanese mamachari, it suits the utilitarian, classy, and functional style of riding that I appreciate more than anything else. It may be a Juncker, but it’s my Juncker.

- Bicyclist Abroad


*Kalkhoff still manufactures bicycles in Germany, but they used to, too. Ya dig?


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