Conquering the Strade Bianche: A Tale of Grit and Italian Charm.

As the dust settles and the adrenaline slowly subsides, it's time to reflect on a recent journey through the picturesque landscapes of Tuscany, where the iconic Strade Bianche unfolded its challenges and rewards.

And for those who dared to embark on the 138km Gran Fondo (the amateur version following the Strade Bianche pro race), the experience was nothing short of exhilarating - a test of true grit, Italian charm and lasting friendships.

strade bianche 2024 landscapes of tuscany

The Strade Bianche, known for its unforgiving terrain and breathtaking scenery, beckons cyclists from around the globe to ride its white roads. That included a group of my friends, alongside a troop of trusty Kingston Wheelers, who together we took on this unique challenge. 

From the starting line in Siena's historic city, to the finish in the world famous Piazza del Campo, the route takes on gruelling off-road climbs, winding descents, and rapid tarmac sections. 

pearson forge strade bianche carbon road bike

The choice of bike was the new Pearson Forge, and without too much bias, it felt lightweight, nimble, had ample tyre clearance, and proved ideal for the task ahead. Despite my recent bikefit happening quite close to this event, I felt optimised, and the recovery from a broken leg seemed robust, ready for five and a half hours of hard riding. Full steam ahead!

The route contains nine gravel-strewn, centuries old paths, posing a challenge like no other with their unpredictable surfaces and punishing climbs. Each one is graded by varying degrees of difficulty depending on length and gradient. They demand unwavering focus and determination as you tick them off one by one.

pearson forge strade bianche carbon road bike siena final climb
I had chosen to build my bike with a Shimano Dura-Ace compact groupset, featuring a 50/34 tooth chainset and 11-34t cassette, fully prepared to take on the task ahead. Some off-road sections hit a heady 18%, worthy of a wheel spin if caught pushing too hard out of the saddle, so a low gear is handy to twiddle away while seated.

The final sting in the tail is an ascent through the city walls of Siena. A roughly paved, 200 meter leg burner, akin to riding directly up an escalator on the London Underground. The men and women riding the Strade Bianche pro races the day before made this look easy.
pearson forge ere wheels duraace groupset
I had been asked to test a pair of Ere Genus 45mm deep wheels with Pirelli Cinturato Velo 700x32 tyres, which were set up tubeless and at a pressure of 70psi. They felt fast on the tarmac and dealt with the mixed surfaces of Strade Bianche sections without a fault.

It was noticeable that many riders were on gravel bikes and making good progress on all sections, I estimate at less than 10% off average road bike speeds. I had dabbled with taking my On And On, this would have been perfect to tackle such a course, however the lure of the Forge was too much to resist.  

strade bianche 2024 pearson

Amidst the physical exertion and the thrill of the ride, it was impossible to ignore the sheer beauty of the Tuscan countryside. The rolling hills adorned with vineyards and olive groves, the ancient villages perched atop distant hills—each vista seemed like a painting come to life.

And as riders weaved their way through this idyllic landscape, spurring each other on, the feeling of camaraderie was ever present. It was a reminder that the Strade Bianche is not just a challenge, but a journey through the heart and soul of this country's culture. 

piazza del campo siena pearson

And as the ride drew to a close, with the cheers of the crowd fading, one thing became abundantly clear: we had formed unique bonds in a community united by our love for cycling and our appreciation for the extraordinary. The Strade Bianche holds a special place in the hearts of all who participate. Its beauty, its history, its sheer intensity. 

So let us return to the hills of Tuscany and the streets of Siena, where we find not just a unique event, but a celebration of Italian cycling, and that is something worth revisiting, time and time again.

The next Strade Bianche is on 2nd March 2025

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As you said a truly exhilarating and enjoyable ride and I can confirm the On and On is perfect for the event. Mine was setup with 40mm deep Pearsons Rock and Roll wheels with Pirelli Cinturato Velo 700×32 tyres. The tyres were tubeless with 75psi on the back and 70psi on the front. I had a single 42 chainset and 11-42t cassette which gave me the range of gearing I needed. It flew along on the tarmac and gravel roads and was light enough to try and attack the climbs (not like a pro though). Celebrating finishing the trip by sampling some local red wine and t-bone steaks was an added benefit. Might be tempted to do it again next year!

Ben Staines March 10, 2024

Well done Will- and beautifully written; having watched the pro stage last Saturday (where Podgacar steamed ahead ) during my return from Italy I am in awe of those hills!!

Lidia Lonergan March 10, 2024

Amazing ride Will, well done. My Minegoestoeleven felt exactly like you described your ride on the Forge, showing the versatility of Pearson’s aero bikes. Two years on I dont regret my choice, if anything looking to add a 3rd Pearson to my collection!

Remo March 10, 2024

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