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The bike you ride

Theme for 2023:
French Randonneuse

As noted in the introduction, we welcome riders on all types of non-electric bikes. If you are going for Heroic status, there are a few things to consider: 


Your bike must have at least three of the following characteristics to earn the Heroic stamp:

  • Steel frame

  • A frame made in 1987 or earlier

  • Non-indexed shifting

  • Old style clip pedals and straps

  • Single speed

  • Downtube or period-appropriate bar-end shift levers

  • Tubular tires

  • Fixed gear

  • No braze-ons for cables, etc. All clamps. (Unless they are purpose-built in a constructeur style.)

Things that could disqualify you from being heroic, even if you have three of the above:

  • suspension forks

  • carbon frame

  • clipless pedals (maybe)

  • mountain bike

Note that while we mostly talk about “vintage” bikes, a modern steel bike with clip pedals and non-indexed shifting qualifies with 3 points:

  1. “steel”

  2. “flat pedals”

  3. “non-indexed shifting”


Older steel framed racing bikes or classic randonneur bikes with European pedigrees encouraged. Cloth handlebar tape, Campy Record, non-anodized polished aluminum parts, leather saddles, tubular tires, frame pumps, handlebar mounted water bottles are all coveted.

If you have any questions about whether you bike can qualify, email us at and we'll put you in touch with the Cino spiritual director, David Cummings.

If you need to know, we’ve never turned away a non-Heroic bike rider.  But those riders may be subject to some recognition of their shame.  (Just a warning.)

Over the years there have been a fair number of riders taking their suffering to a new level with single speeds, including fixed-gear machines. Think track bikes and “path racers”. And for the truly tortured, there are those individuals showing up with Schwinn Varsity’s or Suburbans, reliving the days of pretending they were Eddy Merckx as they raced to their next college class.

For garb, we like to see wool clothing, leather shoes, hairnet helmets and white socks of course. 


Support for your ride:

The SAG (support and gear) vehicles will be carrying tools, and even odd spare wheels and tires. But they won’t be around when you need them. Carry spares, a pump, a small selection of tools, and anything else you think you’ll need to get across the mountains. It never hurts to offer a glass of wine at dinner for all your friends so they will lend you their tubes when yours are all shot.

Thoughts on tires:

For tires, we recommend a minimum of 28mm width. 32 or 35mm are even better if your frame can handle the size. Panaracer Paselas are a popular choice and a great combo of price, light weight, grippy tread pattern, and durability.

If you ride tubulars (go heros!), look for fatter Roubaix styles 28mm or better. If you can afford it, get good tubulars, like Veloflex, Vittoria Pave’s, Tufo, or FMB’s. $25 tubulars will work, but you will need to ride slower and bring lots of spares. We’ve had riders go through 3 or more of the cheap ones, and have zero flats over several years on the better ones.

Ruminations on gearing:

Our brains equate dirt with mountain bikes, so the idea of riding a road bike over 50 miles of dirt road is a novelty for many. Riding unpaved roads on a road bike does require some caution and extra bike handling, especially on loose gravel. And you can’t slam into large rocks like you can on a suspended mountain bike. But the fact is, dirt used to be the norm, and mountain bikes are a recent invention.

There is a decent amount of up and down on the first day, and one good sustained climb on the second. The strongest riders can do the whole thing on single speeds running 42×16 gearing, fixed. These are the same guys that eat old, greasy freewheel cogs as snacks.

Various options to give you an idea of what riders bring

  • Nut cases that go fixed: Sub 70 inches, like a 42×17

  • Strong riders, your 42×26 or 42×23 gearing that was standard with your old 60-70s Campy equipped bike works

  • Single speeds for the mere mortals – don’t go fixed, and run a 42×17 or 42×18 so you can coast downhill. This is still a tall gear for the second day’s climb. Perhaps a flip-flop and change to a lower gear just for the climb? Or ride in street shoes, walk the steeper sections and enjoy the forest.

  • Not so strong: Triple chainrings, 32 tooth freewheels will be welcome at one time or another.

  • Internal gear: 3-speed Sturmey Archer hubs were used almost 100 years ago in the Tour, and they were a standard on English Pathracers from the 30’s to the 50’s, so they are definitely Cino if put on the appropriate style bike.

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