Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Pashley Princess: How the Choice Was Made

I have been asked by several people now why I chose the Pashley Princess over the Gazelle and other options, so I wanted to describe the process that led to this decision.


First, I want to say that I do not necessarily think that Pashley is "the best" bicycle. It was the right choice for me, and this decision was based on very subjective criteria. In terms of quality, I think that most of the manufacturers profiled here are equivalent, and any differences in preference between them are a matter of personal choice. Please be certain to try out a bicycle before deciding whether or not it is right for you; it is the only way to really know.

My initial choice was between Gazelle, Batavus and Pashley. These were the only models out of the list here that fit all of my criteria and were available locally to try before buying. Gradually, the Batavus fell out of the competition, because it just did not pull at my heartstrings in the same way as the other two, lacking some of the more elegant touches. And so the real choice soon became between Pashley and Gazelle.


Selection factors:

1. Fit: The proportions of the Pashley fit my body just a tad better than the proportions of the equivalently sized Gazelle. Namely, the Pashley felt a bit roomier between the saddle/seating-tube area and the handlebars/front wheel area. Note that the Pashley Princess is available in three different frame sizes. Size "small" is smaller than Dutch bike sizes; sizes "medium" and "large" are equivalent to the 51 and 58 Dutch frames. I tried the Pashley "medium" and the Gazelle 51-size.

2. Getting the Perfect Configuration: To get a Gazelle configured with all the components I wanted (including adding gears, but more importantly, getting both the colour I liked and the brake system I wanted on the same model) would have involved more customisation and more money than Pashley.

3. Aesthetics: The subtle elements of Pashley's design -- including the angles, the curvature, the style of the chain cover and dress guard, the placement of lights, etc. -- appealed to me just ever so slightly more.

4. Je Ne Sais Quois?... : Granted, this is a rather vague factor, but I think it is important if you want the kind of bicycle that you will have a love affair with. The Pashley got to me at the intuitive/emotional level. It whispered "Take me, I am yours!..." in a sweet husky voice. What could I do?

And so there it is. My Pashley Princess Sovereign is now at Harris Cyclery, getting customised with a coaster brake and 7-gear Shimano hub. I also asked for her to be fitted with a drop-down stand and Brooks leather handles. By the time I return to the US, my green beauty will be waiting for me, and oh how happy our union shall be!

But I have a confession to make: I still want the Gazelle!... Yes, in addition to the Pashley... But that's insane, right? I don't need a second bicycle. Right?...

[Edited to add: I have now posted a full review of my customised Pashley Princess.]

25 comments:

  1. I well understand why you chose that gorgeous green Pashley. I am all for falling in love with your bicycle. Watch out-- I could well fall in love from yours from afar!

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  2. Thank you Sara! Just a few months ago I never thought that I would use the words "love" and "bicycle" in the same sentence, but here we are. I am a gonner!

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  3. Yes, you can buy the Gazelle, but you have to buy the Batavus as a penance!

    I find I have bike lust, more than falling in love with a bike (not as permanent, obeys no logic at all).

    Currently lusting after WorkCycles Industrial bicycles, particularly the Kruisframe. But I suspect I will settle for the Torker Cargo-T. (Lust is variable depending on the price, you see.)

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  4. Haha! Err... But seriously, I really hope that this doesn't turn into a collecting obsession; I can't afford it! The whole point was to invest in one very nice bicycle, that would be the bicycle. But now I find myself wanting all sorts of crazy things, including a Brompton folding bike, a custom A.N.T. Boston Roadster, and a Rivendell Betty Foy. (What?? I thought I hated road bikes, how can I want a Betty Foy!) Yeah. Crazy.

    The Torker Cargo-T looks awesome. Torker makes excellent bikes, and I had considered the T-530. I love it how their colour choices are always between something very subdued and something absolutely insane, like the charcoal or screaming lime green that the Cargo-T is available in.

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  5. I can see why you fell in love with this bike. I'm going to look at one today. I am becoming velo obsessed. I have a 1974 Schwinn that I ride as a road bike, a Specialized hybrid for casual rides and now looking for a pretty bike for commuting so I don't have to wear cycling clothes and change at work. Thanks for the great blog ~Jen

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  6. Velo obsessed is a common theme among the Weblogerins, isn't it!

    After riding the sporty Austrian KTM, I have been wondering whether I need a second bike in addition to the Pashley if I want to go riding up hills and through muddy trails at top speeds. How is the Specialized for that -- or is it too mild?

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  7. I looked at the Pashley Princess Sovereign today and I'm in love. I think that I better start saving my money. Also saw a few cool Dutch bikes but if you have a chance, stop over to my blog and see what I bought for commuting until I can buy the Pashley.

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  8. I love the end of your story because even after I chose my Dutch bike over a Pashley ... I still want a Pashley!! Like, really, really want :)

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  9. I have been dying to try a Pashley! Love the fact that they have such a small frame size. Congrats. And by the way, if you're looking for someone to convince you you don't need two bikes, you prob shouldn't be asking me... ;-)

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  10. ... the Gazelle is a beatyfull charming lady, the Princesse of the Nord :) The Pasley is a agry victorian teacher + a cheap copy of the Gazelle, sorry :-)

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  11. Anonymous--

    Actually Dutch bicycles copied English bicycle designs and not the other way around. See here for a brief introduction to the history of Dutch bicycle manufacturing:

    http://www.rijwiel.net/intro_e.htm

    "...Old Dutch bicycles largely resemble English bicycles. Before the turn of the century, the English bicycle industry developed more quickly than others and therefore had the best reputation at the time. So Dutch manufacturers attempted to make English looking bikes."

    "...The ladies' bike with the long head tube and the bent down tube is sometimes considered to be typical Dutch, but is actually of British origin."

    "..."Well, what is typical Dutch then? Firstly, in Holland bicycles were widely used for transport. Only in Holland, with its flat landscape, heavy old delivery tricycles were a feasible option. Carrier bicycles were also used widely in Holland."

    In the first half of the 20th Century, most European companies had their own version of the elegant relaxed style bicycles. I love both English and Dutch designs... as well as French, Swedish, German and Italian : )

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  12. I agree with you and Dottie. After I bought the Pash, I still wanted a Batavus, and my heart still is torn that I did not buy a 'real' Dutch bicycle.☺ I guess when you love something, you can never get enough. I just said to H today that I think I could be the Jay Leno of Dutch-style bicycles! Congrats on the choice. I can't wait to read more!

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  13. I agree that Dutch bikes are copy of English bikes, but they are improved copy.

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  14. I understand the 'je ne sais quois'. I was in Germany and the Netherlands this spring and had made arrangements to bring a bike back with me, if I found one. While I went to many bicycle shops, and had many choices, none seemed just right. I bought a Batavus here a few weeks ago;it fit slightly better than the Pashley. Do I understand about the Gazelle? Yes indeed. I am going to Toronto soon and if the Club Monaco there still has some in stock I will be testing a Gazelle (and maybe sorely tempted to buy it), even tho' I am perfectly content with the Batavus.

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  15. Welcome to the club, Sigrid : ) Thankfully, my finances will do a fine job of keeping my velo-mania in check for the time being!

    Anonymous, what can I say -- If you believe that bikes made in NL are absolutely superior to all others, then I wish you all the best in enjoying them. At least you are free of the torment of wanting other bicycles.

    Sox, it's great that you were able to get a Batavus in the US in the end; far less hassle. Please update with your thoughts on Gazelle after your visit!

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  16. I am looking for bike right now and I had the opportunity to test two bikes and completely and totally fell in love with one though it isn't the most practical. I love in LA and it is really hard to get to test ride pretty city bikes. I am thinking I may never find the right bike for me, but your post is inspiring to keep me hunting.

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  17. I've just found your site and LOVE it.

    I ordered a Princess Sovereign last week, a 17.5" frame and in green. I have named her Muriel and cannot wait for her to arrive. They have become so popular that there is a 6-8 week wait. It is the perfect bike for me as I am short and get lower back pain if I have to lean forward on a racing bike. I just hope no one steals her, insurance is a must, she cost more than my car is worth! Now all I have to do is find a suitably chic helmet.

    I hope this doesn't happen to me: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/ethicallivingblog/2009/jul/03/bike-blog-catcalling

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  18. My wife purchased a Princess Sovereign about 9 months ago. Since then she's had a silly grin on her face and kept saying how much fun she (princess) was having and how practical the baskets where and so on.

    After much subliminal peer pressure and with a tax scheme designed to encourage cycling meaning a 1/3 discount, I too am now the owner of a black, mid-size Princess complete with wicker basket. If you see a guy in London on one, it could be me.

    The first day I rode her back from the store, somebody on the side of the road commented to her companion 'what a lovely bike'. No-one ever said that about my Kona MTB so now I'm wearing a big cheesy grin too.

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  19. I am 5'6 and a half and I can't decide btwn the 20 and the 22.5 frame sizes. Help! I think it's because I've not ridden on an upright before - only crusiers - so I tend to want to sit farther back on the bike. I tried the 20" classic model and it felt a bit cramped. I then tried a 22.5 sonnet and it felt much better but they didn't have a 22.5 sovereign on the floor to test so should I order one based on testing the sonnet?the pamphlet said it is the same as the princess but without some of the accessories.

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  20. Anon. - I am 5'7" and the 20" frame is perfect, but everybody's proportions are different. The Sonnet is the same basic frame as the Princess, so whatever size fits you in that should also be right for the Princess. Keep in mind also that you can move the saddle back, placing you even further back from the handlebars if necessary.

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  21. Thanks Filigree for replying. I'm just shy of 5'7" but I have long legs and I was expecting the guy at the bike store would have been expert in sizing people up for bikes but I didn't feel confident upon walking out of there so I've put off making any decisions for now. Maybe I will have to go back and test drive them again to be sure.

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  22. would a 17.5 inch frame fir me iam a 5" 5 looking at a sovrigne

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  23. You have the most fantastic, beautiful and helpful blog! And the pictures are wonderful! Thank you so much - I had been searching for info on just the right bike (tomorrow is my 43rd birthday and I've wanted a perfect bike for my entire life, now I'm finally getting one!). You have really helped.

    thanks again

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  24. My husband bought me a green Princess, which I took out for the first time yesterday. I love the look of the bike, but think my gears need adjusting. Gears 2-5 all feel like the same gear. We live in very flat, open terrain, and it can be very windy so interested to see how that goes! Love your blog.

    ~Q~

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  25. What a great blog... I am in same dilemma... looking for a dutch style bike for my wife for Christmas and have come to same conclusion... Gazelle or Pashley!! I have ridden a friends Gazelle - and to be honest couldn’t believe it... so much more comfortable than my mountain bike - it felt as if I was riding a Rolls Royce... I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Pashley, but as you have... do they give an equally smooth ride?

    Thanks

    J

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