48 Degrees North

Vintage Velo

Two-day, 110-mile bike ride evokes sport’s golden age while supporting scholarship to Kalispell Montessori Schools

By Tristan Scott
Jason Thompson at the start of the Cino Heroica bicycle ride. Tristan Scott | Flathead Beacon

The Cino Heroica bicycle ride is a time capsule with a pulse. For two days, it invokes a bygone era, capturing the golden age of cycling in sepia-toned relief until it’s cellared for another year, only to be uncorked by an unlikely assemblage of heroic riders in a tucked-away corner of Northwest Montana.

Engineered in 2007 as an underground, word-of-mouth event for diehard vintage bike enthusiasts, this year marks the return of Cino Heroica (pronounced chee-No He-ro-i-ka), which features custom bike builds bearing gleaming top tubes of Reynolds steel, as well as Italian and French names like Cinelli, Colnago, Motobecane and Pinarello.

Don’t get too mesmerized by the aesthetics, however, because awaiting participants is a sadistic course that reduces any stage of the Tour de France to a casual Sunday stroll. Imagine: A glimmering shoal of more than 100 wiry, wool-clad, soon-to-be wine-drunk cyclists and their vintage, intricately lugged steel road bikes strike out on a two-day journey that takes them 110 miles on mostly unpaved gravel roads, from Kila to Hot Springs and back. 

But even riders who aren’t gluttons for punishment can join in the fun and will appreciate that the Cino now benefits Kalispell Montessori School as an official fundraising event.

Still, riders who arrive at the start swaddled in lycra and straddling frames of carbon fiber and titanium alloy will be shunned as non-heroes and turned away, while those who grind on old steel-framed track bikes with European pedigrees are held in the highest esteem, and immortalized as heroes.

A heroic bike is mandatory, and must bear certain requisite characteristics – the most common heroic bikes consist of a steel frame made prior to 1987, with a fixed-gear or single-speed hub and old-style clip pedals and leather straps.

Once riders are certified heroic, they’ll negotiate wheel-sucking potholes, endure untold flats on tubular sew-up tires, mend broken head sets with duct tape and scab together snapped cranks with whatever hardware is on hand. At the lunchtime fete known as Pranza, arrangements of uncorked wine bottles strike haphazard poses beside cured meats, cheeses and other traditional fare, while curls of smoke from filter-less Gitanes cigarettes mingle with the dust-choked air.

In lieu of performance gear and sweat-wicking garb, the riders wear wool jerseys, long skirts and loose-fitting trousers gathered at the calf. Sports drink is a swig of brandy and the fellowship of anguish drives gasping riders to the crest of every prominence, while grit and pluck guide them down the breakneck descents, hands crimping white-taped handlebars.

Riders spend the night in Hot Springs, marinating in the town’s slippery, mineral-rich pools to soothe their aching quads. The dinner at Alameda’s Hot Springs Resort is an elegant affair, and cyclists are encouraged to dress in formal attire – seersucker jackets, ascot ties, scarves, aviator sunglasses, and fine gowns are the standard regalia.

Learn more at https://www.kalispellmontessori.com/cino.

The Cino will be a truly memorable ride for you and a fundraiser for Kalispell Montessori. Funds raised through this event will be put towards student scholarships so that more Flathead Valley children can experience a quality Montessori education.

Date and time

Fri., July 21, 5 p.m. – Concours d’Élégance

Sat.-Sun., July 22 and 23 – The ride


Kila School – 395 Kila Rd., Kila, MT 59920

What is Cino?

The precise definition of “Cino” has eluded riders for a decade, but most heroes who participate in this event will experience a revelatory moment – usually while sucking dust on the roadside with a punctured tube and a tire iron in hand, or with their road-weary quads soaking in a brackish cocktail of sweat and mineral water in Hot Springs – when they divine the essence of Cino.

Cino is all about style. It’s about drinking a four-ounce cortado from crisp white porcelain. It’s a baguette shoved down the waistband of your cycling shorts and a bottle of wine in your jersey pocket. Cino is riding hard and dirty before cleaning up for a gastronomic orgy of meat, cheese, pasta and bread, drinking chianti from crystal goblets.

Cino also has a lot to do with bikes, so here are a few tips to make your whip as cino as possible.


• Steel-lugged frames

• Fixed-gear or single-speed hubs

• Tubular sew-up tires

• Brooks leather saddle

• Non-indexed shifting

• Downtube shift levers

• Old-style clip pedals and straps

Not Cino

• Carbon forks

• Lycra

• Instant coffee

• Gearing

• Suspension

• Whining

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