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.