Friday, 3 December 2010

Pashley Roadster Sovereign - full review

About time I gave this wonderful bike a proper introductory review with pictures. Apologies for the untidy state of my garage! (click the pictures for large hi res images!

pashley roadster sovereign
Pashley Roadster Sovereign

The Roadster Sovereign is the flagship model in the Pashley range, with a handbuilt frame, hand assembled in Stratford Upon Avon, UK.  Pashley are one of only two remaining hand made frame builders in the UK and were founded in 1926.

Its a sit up and beg style bike, very solidly built and gorgeous to look at.  Its a traditionally lugged and brazed frame painted in Buckingham black.  The quality of the frame is clear to see as is the deep tough paint finish - this is a bike built to stand up to the elements.  You will notice that it is a large bike - this is a 22.5" frame but it has a characteristically high bottom crank, so when you ride it you really are quite a way up in the air!

As you will see from the picture, it has a fully enclosed chain case, integral stand and rear pannier rack all included and again, all hand brazed by Pashley.  It has front and rear metal mudguards, nicely finished and tripped with chrome detailing at the front.  The pedals are alloy with rubber grips.

pashley roadster brooks b33 saddle
Brooks B33 saddle

As you will see it comes with an enormous Brooks B33 saddle in black leather, which is sprung at the front, and also at the back with hand coiled springs.  I think the saddle sets the bike of wonderfully and is very comfortable (and should last a lifetime)

pashley roadster handlebar
Chrome handlebar

On to steering, the Roadster Sovereign has a high chrome plated handlebar with swept back grips mounted to an alloy stem.  It comes with standard brake levers, the gear lever for the Sturmey Archer gearbox, and a Pashley bell.  (incidentally, about the bell - it aint a girly bell - this is a big loud ding dong bell, not a tinkle - I use it regularly, it really makes people jump and know you are there!)  You will note that I have changed the grips on the bike - the only thing that lets the Pashley down in my book is the cheap plastic grips they come with - I find them uncomfortable, and in the winter, cold.  I have replaced them with Brooks leather and alloy grips which are supremely comfortable and look great.

Those brake levers (front and back) operate internal Sturmey Archer drum brakes - no maintenance at all and no ugly brake calipers messing with the look of the bike.

The gear lever operates the 5 speed Sturmey Archer gearbox mounted in the rear wheel - again, maintenance free gears and no external derailleur to ruin the look of the bike.

pashley roadster front hub
Front hub and wheel

That front hub, as well as housing the front drum brake, also houses an internal dynamo which powers the halogen front light.  The tyres as you can see are Schwalbe Marathon Plus puncture resistant tyres - they are also huge - this bike 28" rims!

pashley roadster rear rack
Rear of bike, coatguard, lights and rack

At the back of the bike is the integral stand and pannier rack.  You will also note the rear wheel has a coat guard to add further protection from spray on a longer coat.  Fitted to the back of the rack is an LED rear light - this one however is operated by battery not dynamo for obvious reasons.  You will see my pack on the rear of the bike - its a Carradice Barley and I will be doing a review on that in due course - suits the bike well I think.

Lock and pump

Other extras include an aluminium vintage looking pump and an integral lock.  The lock is very clever, and when closed makes the rear wheel inoperable.  The key lives in the lock, only coming out when you close it - meaning you always have a lock and key with you.  I dont recommend relying on this lock for long periods, but its fine for a quick trip into a shop for a few minutes.

So those are the features - but what is it like to ride?

Well, its sublime.  The size of the bike is the first thing you notice - its huge and that really gives you an imposing feel on the road.  The sit up and beg nature gives you a really really comfortable position, no bent backs, no aches and pains.  Its a lovely way to ride a bike, and you really feel like you are gliding along.

Its a heavy bike, and certainly no speed bike.  Severe hills can be a challenge with only 5 gears, but honestly, they would need to be very severe to be a problem.  The brakes will take a bit of bedding in, though these sort of brakes will never stop you dead (its not the kind of bike to be going fast enough to worry about stopping dead) - rather they glide you to a stop.  And I think that really sums the bike up - its a bike for cruising, for pootling, for posing.

I think its absolutely gorgeous and am delighted with it.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Brooks Leather grips

Oh Boy, look whats just arrived in the post!

These are my black grips, and my wife has a brown pair.

These will be fitted to the Pashleys tomorrow, and I might then get around to a proper review!

These grips are just beautiful, machined alloy ends, connected with spokes that thread through a set of leather washers.  Warm, comfortable, breathable.  Cant wait.

Famous Pashley riders - part 4

You may remember their music video - those are Pashleys!

State of the British bicycle industry

Nice article from Director magazine about the state of the British bike industry, including an interview with Pashley.

Click the link below

Sector profile | The British bicycle industry

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Ukuleles and bicycle

I really do like Nippers Bicycle and Ukulele site.

Most of all I love this picture!

Thats the same as the Pashley I recently acquired - the Roadster Sovereign - dont have so many Ukes though!

Nippers blog can be found HERE

If you want to know more about the Ukulele - try my blog HERE

So, what goes in the toolkit?

Any prepared rider should carry around a simple toolkit with them - you never know when you will get caught short.

What do I carry in mine?

  • Puncture repair kit - for the obvious
  • 13mm spanner - for wheel nuts and seat post
  • Allen key - to fit gear levers, brake levers and handlebar stem
  • Rag - to clean hands
  • small phillips screwdriver - to remove chain case if necessary
  • Couple of tyre levers
  • Some cable ties - handy for tying back anything that comes loose
  • Small amount of duck tape - just because!
That is perfectly fine for day to day riding.  If I was touring I would probably add a spoke key and perhaps a wider range of allen keys and spanners for more serious tinkering.

What do you carry in yours?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A bigger saddlebag

On my Pashley, I want the bike to be functional. I have some larger clip on panniers for the rear rack, but I wanted a larger saddlebag to carry a waterproof, saddle cover, and still have a bit of space for a bottle of milk (or wine!!) if I am out and about.

The obvious choice was Carradice - handmade in Nelson, Lancashire, UK, these are old favourites amongst touring cyclists, so couldn't resist.  I bought the Carradice Barley, and it fits on the saddle and rack wonderfully.

I'll be doing a fuller review of the bag in due course (when I get around to a review of the bike itself!).  In the meantime, here is a picture!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

New saddlebags for Pashleys

Well, I say saddlebags, toolbags.  My wife will be attaching hers to her Pashley saddle, but on my saddle I have a Carradice Barley bag fitted, so mine is going on the handlebars.

Real leather bags from Selle, for a great price - sorry for the picture, but this is them sitting waiting for a coat of leather proofing (tallow Proofide) to dry...

Modern neoprene stuff just wont cut it on a Pashley!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pashley update

Pulled the bikes out of the garage as the leather treatment on the Brooks saddles had dried and been polished off.

This allowed us to refit the saddles, check the bikes over properly, and figure out how to operate the child seat (more on that in a later post, but we bought a rear child seat for our daughter)

I adjusted my brake levers slightly so they are in easier reach of my fingers without stretching, and fitted my Carradice saddlebag (again, more on that in a later post) but otherwise, all was good.

Now for upgrades... honestly, the Pashleys dont need much if any upgrading, but I am not a fan of plastic grips on handlebars.  Therefore couldnt resist Brooks leather grips to match my Brooks saddle.  Placed and order and they will be fitted later in the week.

These are very clever grips and reported to be supremely comfortable.  The grip is made of rings of leather held together by aluminium ends and spokes running through them.  Good eh?

First Pashley ride report

Well, the bikes are home and safe.  This afternoon my wife and I went to pick up our new Pashley bikes, one Roadster Sovereign and one Princess sovereign.  The roadster is in Buckingham Black, and the Princess is in green.

Our first ride too - we picked the bikes up and cycled them the five mile trip home.

I can honestly say I have never had a bike experience that has put such a permanent smile on my face.  Perhaps the only thing that would compare was when I got my first bike as a child, but the memory aint what it used to be....  We didnt even come straight home, despite it starting to rain - no, we went the long way so we could have a pootle through town...!

These things are such fun to ride - the riding position is supreme and I love the way you are high above the traffic.  Oh, and they turn heads - afraid they do - cycling behind my wife I could see the amount of folks on the pavement turning and looking as the bikes went past.

The comfort level is brilliant, you really do feel you are swooshing along or gliding.

And, to those who worry that they are too heavy for hills, well, the bikes are heavy, but the gearing works brilliantly.  There is a particularly long steady hill on the way home that I had worried about - all I can say is that I never found myself having to stand in the seat - just dropped the gear - sure you make slow progress, but the Pashley aint about fast progress is it?

We are overjoyed.  The bikes are now in the garage and the seats are in the kitchen getting their first ever coat of Brooks Proofide.

Its arrived!!

Ridiculously over excited. Despite being told by Pashley that our bikes would be on a 3-6 week turnaround, just had a call from the cycle store to say they are in - in ONE WEEK!

Will be heading out shortly to pick them up and cycle them home.

Review to follow!

The Beauty of Brooks

One of the nicest things about Pashleys (aside from their handbuilt frames) is their choice to use Brooks for saddles.

Brooks are a handmade leather saddle maker from Smethwick in the West Midlands, UK and they make such beautiful things.  They started in 1866

My roadster will be coming with this saddle, which is the Brooks B33 - I mean, just look at it!

After breaking in this thing will be supremely comfortable and with care and attention it will last a lifetime.  Pretty good huh?

The sad thing is (as far as my wallet goes) is that Brooks dont only make saddles - you see I now want to kit the Pashley out with brooks accessories too!

Famous Pashley riders - part 3

Another famous Pashley rider - actress Lily Cole

Lily Cole on Pashley Princess Sovereign

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Famous Pashley riders - part 2

More famous folks on Pashley bicycles!

Kelly Brook - Pashley Princess Sovereign


Friday, 19 November 2010

Famous Pashley riders - part 1

Seeing as these are the bikes to be seen on, it comes as no surprise to find some famous folks riding Pashleys.

As I come across pictures, I will share them with you.

vivienne westwood pashley
Vivienne Westwood - Pashley Provence

victoria pendleton pashley
Victoria Pendleton - Pashley Poppy

More soon!

Nice Pashley feature

From the Independent newspaper

In John Major's sepia-tinted English dream of "long shadows on county cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog-lovers and old maids bicycling through the morning mist", the old maid is surely riding a Pashley Princess. It is the most English of bicycles. From the sturdy mud and chain guards that prevent the entanglement of one's flowing skirts, to the bottom-friendly Brooks saddle, to the forlorn eyelid of steel that sweeps up to the handlebars, to the wicker basket deep enough for several bottles of fizzy pop, the Princess is a nostalgic Valhalla.
But despite a twee, Miss Marple-ish image, Pashleys are no collectors' items. Sales of the Princess have doubled in the past financial year, and Pashley has never seen such interest in its whole range, both ancient and modern. It is all the 28 employees of Pashley's Stratford-upon-Avon factory can do to keep up with demand, even though a Princess, for instance, leaves one little change from £500. Punters are not flocking to Pashley for a bargain. So what are they after?
Adrian Williams knows. At 51, the lanky, boyish director of Pashley has embraced what Americans like to term "living the brand". There is nothing Williams cannot tell you about Pashley cycles, from its inception in 1926 under the guidance of a First World War dispatch rider, W R Pashley, to its third-generation financial difficulties, to the management buy-out Mr Williams himself spearheaded 12 years ago. He now owns 75 per cent of Pashley, sharing the burden with another investor he describes as " quiet and very supportive". To reinforce his credentials, Mr Williams is wearing a Pashley-embossed belt and polo shirt. "The classics are vending very strongly," he says. "There seems to be a kick against the mass-produced. People are increasingly looking for originality, something that you can't get anywhere else. When we go to international shows, people see things that are all very samey. And that's because bikes are increasingly made by people who go to the Far East with a shopping list. There aren't these great, indigenous designs, any more. People see our stuff and feel relieved, because it's different." Pashley is certainly different. No other company in the world makes bikes like this, in a factory like this. Mr Williams came to this most English of companies via his very own St Paul moment. In the early 1990s, a friend had told him about a new Bath-Bristol cycle route. But Mr Williams did not own a bike. He borrowed one - a Pashley - and instantly fell in love.
"There I was, cycling down a hill from Bath, on a spring day with the blossom out," he says. "For a moment, my whole world slowed. A week later I went to the Paris air show, and the car I was in was jammed on the periphery for hours. That was it."
Pashley bicycles are all made for those spring days. Unlike mountain bikes, which have strong, straight handlebars and a forward-thrusting riding position, the swept, high handlebars and anterior seat positions that Pashley bicycles share, tend to encourage a straight-backed ride. Osteopaths, Mr Williams says, prefer Pashleys.
The director takes me to the factory floor, a crowded mass of things getting done. There are, all told, 150 variants of Pashley cycle, put together using 6,000 parts, by 22 production staff. The logistics of such a complex, hand-held operation, make Mr Williams visibly anxious.
"I like to think of the factory as like different plants in a pot," he says , with a satisfyingly English choice of simile. "You're trying, very carefully, to grow all the different plants at the same time. But it takes care."
To the outsider, unburdened by the director's strain of constant gardening, the factory is a joy. The sleek curves and straight spines of what will become Pashleys are lined up in orderly queues on the shop floor. Wheels of all diameters hang gleaming on racks above us. A man with a blow-torch blasts together sections of frame on a pile of bricks. And, on one work-top, there is a black vice so huge I assume it has been borrowed for the day from the London Dungeons. The staff seem genuinely in love with what they make. There are no conveyor belts, no fixed assembly line. Employees must be able to swap and change positions depending on demand, so they all know their products inside out. Mr Williams' second-in-command, Dan Farrell is, by turns, design manager, IT programmer, jigging and tooling expert, fixtures man, production overseer, and photographer. He loves Pashley so much that, for the past six years, he has lived on a canal boat moored 10 yards from the back of the factory.
Despite the increasing popularity of the consumer bicycles such as the Princess, the backbone of the company is their work-bikes. Pashley, for instance, have long supplied the Royal Mail with postman's bikes, a major commission, in terms of sales and prestige.
"This bike is specifically made for the Royal Mail," says Mr Williams caressing a shining red work-bike. "It's a handy thing because, as they have moved towards a once-a-day delivery system, they needed to be able to carry weight on the front and the back. So you need a step-through bike that is incredibly strong. And the detail is fantastic: the mudguard can stand a great deal of abuse, the specific, all-weather braking." Pashley work-bikes are, for instance, used by American motor companies and on Kazakh oil fields, so staff can make their way around vast sites. It is, Mr Williams says, an environmentally friendly alternative to bussing staff, although, in environmental terms, a few workers cycling in an oil field seems a small drop in a large barrel.
Pashley is making serious headway in London with its work-bikes. The sandwich chain Pret-a-Manger uses Pashleys to courier its lunchtime orders around the city, and Green & Blacks uses the fridge-loaded, ice-cream vending trike to keep its organic chocolate cool. Domino's Pizza, a recent convert to Pashley, was, perhaps, a little hasty in choosing red for the colour of their work-bikes; the police came knocking at their headquarters, convinced they had stolen the bicycles from the Royal Mail.
Despite the financial importance of the work-bikes to Pashley's survival, the classics are the pride of the fleet. And, of those classics, the Princess is the acknowledged queen. Beloved of recent converts, including Helena Bonham Carter, and starring in 101 Dalmatians and Simon Pegg's forthcoming film Hot Fuzz, the history of the Princess is surprisingly hard to come by. No one, not even Mr Williams, has any record of when Pashley started to make its flagship bike.
There has been only the occasional "tweak" in the Princess's design since Mr Williams's directorship, of which the replacement of the metal chainguard for a durable plastic version was the most significant, a change which caused Mr Williams, who prefers to keep things traditionally all-metal, a sleepless night or two. In the end, custom made way for the customer. "The chain used to rattle against the guard," he says. "And people thought it was annoying."
Away from the bustle of the shop-floor, a selection of Pashley's finest recline on stands. The Princess and Roadster classics sit alongside trikes of all shapes and sizes, which in turn sit alongside the Tube Riders, bendy, laid-back cruisers in pastel colours. Mr Williams rides the Pashley Moulton TSR, an odd-looking bike with a jagged frame, tiny wheels, and the upright bicycle land speed record, result of a collaboration between Pashley and the designer Alex Moulton.
The director looks over the stable with pride. "We must be masochists," he says. "To make and produce everything here. It's hard. We don't pay ourselves much because we're trying to find a margin. We've got nothing on the shelves because it all moves through so fast. I suppose the reason why I do it is that, in my blood, I am a manufacturing and engineering person. Our whole history, the reason we are a powerful nation, is because of the Industrial Revolution. So I find it extraordinary, how British people treat manufacturing and industry as something grubby. As a nation, we are a highly creative people. But we need the means to express ourselves."
Mr Williams and his team at Pashley have found their way. And cyclists are continuing to find their way to Pashley in ever greater numbers.
Perfect for Miss Marple Wannabes
Ride on the mean streets of Shepton Mallet
Special features Five-speed gearbox, a skirtguard and chaincase (so that your flowing summer dress does not come to a sticky end).
What's in your basket? A bottle of ginger beer and a jar of home-made jam
THE DELI BIKE Around £780
Perfect for Cheeky scamps.
Ride on the mean streets of The farmers' market
Special features A massive nameplate on which you can advertise your wares, a small front wheel, and a steel front carrier that can hold 25kg
What's in your basket? Bacon, loaves of bread, and luvverly fresh fruit
THE TUBE RIDER Around £470
Perfect for Surfer dudes
Ride on the mean streets of Santa Barbara
Special features Easy-ridin' cruise position ensured by the sweeping handlebars and lowseat, twist-grip gears, and a range of washed-out colours
What's in your basket? Nothing but air

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Pashley Roadsters compared

Helpful (if slow) video showing the differences between a Pashley Roadster Classic and Sovereign

Lovely Pashley video - with lovely soundtrack

What a happy video - showing off the Pashley Princess Sovereign perfectly - and what a great tune!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

GOT A UKULELE ...: Ukulele plus classic bicycles

As I say in my intro, I play and blog about the ukulele - was therefore delighted to find this video by a chap called Nipper on his Pashley Roadster - thats the bike I am getting - check it out.

GOT A UKULELE ...: Ukulele plus classic bicycles: "I absolutely love this video. A couple of reasons: I love the ukulele (did I mention that?...) I am about to pull the trigger on a cool c..."

New blog - ordered our Pashley bikes!

Hi folks - a brand new blog.  Why?  Because as much as I searched on the net, I was amazed at how little there is to read about the very wonderful Pashley bicycle company.

Considering this brand has had a 100% increase in sales in the last 12 months, and if you want one you have to wait for an order from the factory, I find that surprising.

So, wife and I have recently bought a Pashley each.  Me a Roadster Sovereign (see below)

And for her - the Pashley Princess Sovereign

Call us eccentric, but honestly when you see these bikes in the flesh, you realise what they are about.

You see Pashley are one of only two remaining hand made bike makers in the UK, and these things are built at a factory in Stratford.  These are not foreign factory produced frames, they are hand made, hand brazed, lugged frames put together with the best quality components you can think of.  Brooks leather saddles, Sturmey Archer drum brakes and gears, Schwalber tyres - you get the picture.

But why have we bought - well, we aint getting any younger (though still under 40!) and both own mountain bikes.  We asked ourselves - when did we last go down a mountain??  In fact, when do a lot of people go down a mountain on their bikes.

You see, thats all part of the problem.  Racing bikes and mountain bikes used to exist solely for sport.  For some reason, the bike shops thoughts - "oh, everybody wants a bit of that", and we all swallowed it.  We all bought them.

Now, if you are a racer or a downhill rider - you need those bikes, and that is fine.  Problem is, if the back is starting to ache, you are not an athlete and you want a bike for nipping to the shops or pootling around the lanes - why is my only choice a bike that is uncomfortable?

Well that choice in recent years started to widen, and you will find a host of commuter or hybrid type bikes for sale - all more functional putting comfort and posture over performance.  That got my wife and I thinking....

We read around, and found Pashley - sure, we too thought - "eccentric", and then we saw one in the flesh.  The chap in the shop chuckled as we placed an order - he said "these bikes just sell themselves".  He was right.

So, in a factory in Stratford on Avon, our two bikes are being built.  Not going to see them for 3-6 weeks, but we cannot wait.  I will, of course, provide full reviews of both in due course, but will, in the meantime look to keep this blog populated with Pashley items.