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.


  1. I just bought one a couple of hours ago, took it home: it is a very slow and heavy bike. I have a couple of other bikes but this one almost kills me on the way up to my house. Any recomendations? For sure my other bikes are less than half the weight o this Pashley.

  2. Julio - the Pashley IS a large heavy bike - there really isnt any other way of looking at it! It's not designed for hills, its more of a cruiser for taking it easy on the flat.

  3. lovely bike just as it is. HEAVY and elegant. managed to wire a b&m toplight into the rear rack. seeing as the front bulb comes 2.4watts stock from b&m, the .6watt toplight was a no brainer. save on battery costs.
    lovely write up!

  4. elegant is the word jason - I like the way you waft along on it! I think the height of the bottom bracket adds to it - you just seem to float along above the traffic!

  5. Julio - any decent bike mechanic will be able to re-gear the hub for. new cogs are reasonably priced.

  6. Agreed Christopher - and many do change the hubs. Bear in mind though, that no matter how much you change the gearing, this remains a large heavy bike, and you will never get over that.

    For me - My local area is generally flat with only moderate hills, and I find the supplied 5 speed hub spot on. Only ever have need to use 4 of them to be honest

  7. Thank you for a lovely review! In part, it convinced me to go ahead and order one last week. I had been thinking about it for a while. It arrived today and I'm extremely pleased. What a nice bike!

  8. Glad you like it - its a fabulous bike!

  9. Hi there, thanks for this review! Your bike is beautiful, and I'm thinking of one for myself. I'm female and considering the Roadster Sovereign in the 20.5" frame - the girly versions aren't my thing - but I'm interested in how tall you say it is. I'm 5'7" and have enough leg length for the 28" x 20.5", but am wondering if the 26" x 20.5" version might suit me better. I live in the outback so can't visit a store and would need it freighted.. I'd love to hear the thoughts of an experienced Roadster rider!

    1. I'll be honest, not sure I can advise. From memory though, the Pashley guidance on inside leg is accurate and should probably be followed

  10. Loving your blog and detailed review. Where's the review of your wife's Princess Sovereign - I'm about to buy one and need to hear your words!

  11. I bought a Pashley Sovereign and like it very much. Mine is the smaller mens model as I'm 5' 4". The only problem I have with the cycle is the sturmie archer gears. I disliked the large ratio differential between 2nd and 3rd gear which made progress, for me more difficult. I had a new larger cog(not the right term) where the chain goes on at the wheel. This made first gear easier and 2nd to 3rd easier. Very cheap to have done. If I was having to have a new hub fitted I'd have a new Nexus 7 speed one fitted. (Is this going too far for all you traditionalists?) The Nexus system is great and the ratios between each gear is much more even. I also have a Skeppshult cycle with this fitted.

  12. Just received my new roadster sovereign, was I pleased? Yes and no!
    After a two and a half week wait I wasn't surprised to find one of the gears not working because I had already read many reviews of a similar nature and was prepared for that. When received the front light was not working and a replacement was to be dispatched, six days later still waiting, also the coat guard is of such poor quality it's been removed my advice would be to just buy the classic and save some money! But after all that it still cuts a dash and is a very comfortable ride it reminds me a bit of my old MG Midget stylish, a bit flimsy in places, but it's got something about it.

  13. I fancied a Pashley and as a 63 year old male who has ridden three speed roadster bikes all my life. I wasn't keen on the male classic, so I took a princess classic three speed out for a test ride. I felt really comfortable on it and it rode like a dream. I have ordered the 22.5 inch frame in regency green. I have fancied a step thru bike for some time and I am really looking forward to riding it.
    At the moment I ride a Raleigh superbe which needs a complete overhaul, new bearings and the like which I shall be carrying out in due course. It has been a wonderful bike and I will keep my Raleigh as well as the Pashley