Monday, January 25, 2010

The Pashley Princess as Winter Bike

In several posts now I have expressed my frustrations with winter cycling and my disappointment over not riding as much as I did during warmer months. But today I realised that winter is more than halfway through already, and I have been cycling all along. Not as much as in the Summer and Fall, but cycling none the less. So it's not so bad, really. Not because I am becoming more brave or skillful, but simply because it doesn't snow all the time and the temperature isn't always below 30°F. On some days it is even enjoyable again.

Since mid December I have been riding my Pashley Princess exclusively. Initially I considered getting a "beater bike" for the winter, but came to the conclusion that I should just stick with the Pashley. It was definitely the right decision.

I don't need a winter bike, because the Pashley Princess Sovereign is a winter bike. For one thing, everything on it was designed to withstand the elements: The fenders, internal gear hub, fully enclosed chaincase, enclosed hub brakes, dynamo-powered lighting, extremely durable powdercoat and rustproof components make her essentially a zero-maintenance bike in winter weather conditions. I know that some feel the Princess is "too pretty" to ride in the winter, but the prettiness in no way detracts from her toughness and utility. It simply does not make sense to get a sub-par winter bike because you think your bicycle is too attractive to be used the way it was designed to be used.

The other major benefit or riding a Pashley Princess in winter, is its incredible stability and indifference to weather conditions. I had noted this several times when riding in the rain, and it is also true in slushy winter weather. I am trying to put my finger on what feels so good about this bike in bad weather. It is probably the combination of the heavy frame, stable handling, wide tires and enclosed brakes that makes it feel just so wonderfully stable where other bikes don't. I can ride this bike through a flooded road and corner at close to normal speed, and it will behave the same as on a dry road. It's pretty amazing and certainly helps in winter, when there is either slush or lake-like puddles from melted snow everywhere.

Pashley's platform pedals interact well with all of my winter boots and I have not had to worry about slipping.

And my trusty Carradice Barley saddlebag has proven itself to be completely rain and snow proof even in the nastiest weather. All in all, I cannot think of a nicer winter setup: I simply ride the Pashley and don't worry about a thing other than watching out for sudden chunks of hard snow on the road.

Speaking of obstacles on the road, here is a stunner I experienced cycling home at dusk yesterday. On one of the side streets near my house the asphalt cracked so much that it formed a "step" in the middle of the road, with 8+ inches of elevation change. If you are coming from the direction this picture was taken, you can see the rise as you approach. But coming from the opposite direction (as I was last night) you really cannot see the drop that awaits you; it just looks like a regular crack. So I basically launched my Pashley into the air by riding straight over this crater at full speed. I am glad to report that the bike handled it fine. It landed hard, but was very stable, and just kept going as if nothing happened. I did stop to check the tires and rims afterward (as well as take some pictures, in disbelief that such a thing could have formed right in the middle of the road overnight), and everything is perfectly fine. I wonder how other bikes would have fared under the same conditions.

Having ridden the Pashley Princess in both warm months and cold, I can say that she is really at her best in poor weather conditions. I can think of few other bikes that are so well suited for the title of "winter bike". And if she is beautiful to boot? Well, I won't hold that against her!

52 comments:

  1. the pashley is powdercoated? i didn't know that. it sounds like it does make a perfect winter bike. does this mean that you will not ride it throughout the rest of the year? if i were to ride such a nice bike as my winter bike, i'd make sure i gave it a warm bath with plenty of soap come springtime!

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  2. Yes, Pashleys are powdercoated - at least the Princess and Rodster models. Very thick and durable. I have wiped mine down with a rag, once, and was surprised at how easily the grime and salt stains came off. You can see in the pictures that it's not even particularly dirty now. Though the grime is more noticeable on the Co-Habitant's black frame than on my green.

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  3. I sprayed mine down with my favourite 409 cleaner and everything just washed right off, both road oil stains and bike grease and salt and other crusty nonsense that was stuck to it. It wasn't even that difficult and the result was "like-new." I am not really worried about my Pashley in this sense anymore. At some point I'll drop the bottom panel of the chain guard (takes about 1 minute to remove and 2 minutes to reassemble) and clean-up/oil the innards. Maybe.

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  4. That's one heck obstacle in the road...

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  5. I agree, the Pashley PS can be a great winter bicycle and I applaud you for using it! Hoorah! I envision myself riding my PS in many winter-like scenes in my head (a Swedish fishing village on a snowy winter's day, to work just a few miles away...) But I choose not to ride mine in winter for a variety of reasons (salt, salt, icky gross salt, cold, cold, VERY VERY cold, money, money, lack of replacement money, etc.) - but that's silly me and I think everyone else should ride their Pashley's year round because of course these bicycles are meant to be ridden!

    30 degrees? What's that? Sorry, still do not like winter, but glad you are out enjoying it!

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  6. that ledge is teeth chattering!

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  7. That settles it. I'm getting a PS. Actually, I had decided that long ago, but reading about other peoples Pashleys makes me yearn for the day I get to buy mine. :) Just have to keep on saving...

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  8. There were some really wonderfully sunny days before today's downpour! And the Princess looks so nice next to (what's left of) the snow!

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  9. wow that carradice is certainly good looking. goes well with the whole bike!
    snow bunny pashley <3

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  10. Pashelys ARE pretty (I developed a serious case of lust at first sight for the Gov'nor myself) so I can understand the feelings of the "too pretty to ride in the winter" faction. There is however a deep beauty in using, really using something in the manner its creator intended. Sort of like when a valuable vintage guitar or violin is in the hands of a musician, out on stage making music instead of tucked away in a climate controlled vault.

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  11. I concur in all aspects of your assessment of the Pashley. I have a Roadster Sovereign and ride it to work and back everyday without the slightest thought for the weather. I LOVE drum brakes. Like has been said elsewhere, there is no such thing as bad weather- only bad equipment.

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  12. Without being too patriotic, I suspect the reason that the Pashley copes so well with poor weather is that it is designed and built in England!

    I have a Roadster, and I must admit to the fact that I haven't ridden it over the winter, in fact it needs a service as I've screwed up the gear cable trying to adjust the chain clanking in the case.
    I'm interested in the number of men who would consider a Princess? I was steered away from it by the salespeople in my bike shop as I am 6'2" and they said it would look too feminine. However, I normally ride in my work suit so I wonder if I would have been more comfortable with a step-through frame...

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  13. boo to big holes on the road. they hurt no matter what bike you're on. after reading this, i'm itching to get on my big bad dutch bobbin bicycle. your pashley post reminds me how i miss riding that beauty. i bet it can withstand the winter too!

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  14. @Counsel

    I am 6'-2" and over 200# I will ride what I damned well please. (regardless of others opinions!) ;-) FWIW I have yet to find a step through frame that will fit properly. I do have a 57cm Mixte that I plan a few upgrades on for Sunday afternoon rides. I have never ridden a Pashley (though I would love to try one). They certainly seem up to the task of surviving any type of weather or road condition thrown at them.

    Aaron

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  15. I am riding both Pashley and Brompton in the winter weather; both are excellent! I think the Schwalbe Marathon and Marathon plus tyres fitted to both bicycles have a good deal to do with feeling safe in wet conditions. They seem more secure than tyres I have used on previous bikes.

    @nowhere, The musical instrument analogy is a good one. I play vintage/expensive instruments on stage and in the studio because they sound great and play well, it is the only consideration. As to the vintage violins you mention, most are played because this is needed to keep them in good working condition.

    best
    Nipper

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  16. counsel, i would ride a loop frame bike if there were one large enough for me (i'm 6'1 and usually need a 23-24.5" frame). i ride my wife's step-through frame bikes occasionally (even though they're too small for me) and i don't feel self-conscious. people in this area don't think twice about seeing people riding unusual/"inappropriate" bikes (we've got some pretty creative bikes around here). then again, if i were in the middle of redneck country and had to cope with certain types of hatred on back roads, i might think twice about riding a loop frame. in holland, it's typical for men to ride loop frame bikes and no one thinks anything of it.

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  17. Counsel -- I think step-through frames look quite normal for men. I think it's hard for a 6'2" gent to look feminine, anyway. Those are my thoughts. My husband (6') is considering a step-through so he can carry our son in a child seat attached to the front of the bike.

    I really agree with you, Velouria! I am really enjoying riding my Pashley PS in shitty (read: cold) weather. I feel intrepid, yet totally stable and safe. I swapped out the dainty basket (mine is the smaller frame with the not so great basket) for the Brooks Hoxton basket and the bag that's made for it. I find I can fit everything in there, even my laptop, and I don't feel weighed down in the least. It clicks right off so it's easy to deal with in every way. The bike looks exactly the same as she did when I bought her last summer.

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  18. @ Counsel and 2whls3spds -

    (or maybe @ Pashley and other classic bike makers)

    As a 5'11" woman I was a little discouraged this weekend to discover that most step-throughs are too small for me. Seems to me here's a niche that needs to be filled.

    We did see three or four plenty manly looking men riding step-throughs around Portland while we were out test-riding though.

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  19. This post sounds pretty familiar :) I've noticed many of the same things as you, riding my Raleigh and Electra Amsterdam year-round.

    http://www.portlandize.com/2010/01/all-weather-bicycle.html

    It's amazing how Raleigh-esque the Pashley is, from the frame style (even has the rounded fork crown, just not the chromed dimples) to the pinstriping, to the fenders.

    Regarding men riding step-thru frames - I dream of getting a WorkCycles Omafiets. Having the step-thru frame is just really convenient sometimes, and it comes in a large enough size it would fit me well (as many people of all shapes and sizes in the NL ride step-thrus, they don't assume they are only for smaller people). The really super long head tube also means you can mount a big rack on the front and sport a crazy huge basket :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleverchimp/3416600472/

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  20. Imaginary Bicycle - The largest Pashley loop frame should fit you. Mine is Medium and I am 5'7". Also, have you tried the Dutch bikes? I know that Gazelle makes some pretty large frames! Both Dutch and English women can be pretty tall.

    It's nice to read the men's conversation discussing loop frames : )

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  21. @imaginarybicycle: Clever Cycles in Portland now carries a Gazelle step-thru with rod-operated hub brakes, as well as the WorkCycles bikes. Both are on the high end of the price range for city bikes, but they will last generations under heavy use.

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  22. I am pretty sure Workcycles' Oma comes in 61cm. That's an idea . . .

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  23. ahh yes... one of the pleasures of Winter, whether driving or cycling, is variable terrain. What once was a mild bump from a root one day is a massive frost heave the next; where once was flat tarmac, a gaping (or in your case, a Cliff-like) rim-killer has taken it's place.

    I am especially concerned about some of the less-than-well-kept side and secondary roads in the Cambridge and Somerville areas after a snow storm and the plow trucks have been out tearing up large chunks of the roadway. Since my commute carries me through the dark of the evening, I have to be especially vigilant in spotting these obstacles... even with a decent light, I find that they can be deceptively hiding in the shadows.

    Ride safe!

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  24. Just came back from the store on my single tube step through. We've got more than our share of rednecks around here (thank the FSM for Mississippi). As I stopped at a light a pickup pulled along side me and its window rolled down. The guy driving leaned out and said:

    "Hey, nice bike. Classic!"

    Then we chatted about bikes until the light turned green. The fact that it was a "girl's" bike never came up in the conversation.

    Protip for the guys: They're chick magnets.

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  25. 2whls3spds - If all else fails you can always turn to WorkCycles for their Fr8 or upcoming Gr8 (which should be a little less utilitarian). Step through, not pretty but adjustable to almost 7 feet and 550 pounds. Running light, very practical. And available in the US: http://www.workcycles.com/workbike/internet-resources-links-for-workbikes.html.
    Imaginary Bicycle - At 5'11" you are average for Dutch women so all manufacturers have a loop frame your size. Really. I'm 5'8" and have to look up to any female under 30. It's frustrating sometimes - but good for my posture.

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  26. Frits B: "Look lady, I'd be perfectly happy to look at your eyes if THEY were what was at eye level."

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  27. I've been saving up my pennies since the fall so I could buy one of these beauties.

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  28. The Pashley in Flight!
    If you were a teenage boy, you'd have spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get video of yourself catching some air!
    If it's in Cambridge, call the Works (DPW) and tell them it's a hazard to cyclists, they'll fix it remarkably quickly. Don't know about Somerville's DPW.

    The Dutch are statistically the tallest country in the world, so they've got to have tall frames, but finding one in your neck of the woods (or even this country) might be challenging. My partner is 6'5" and has never been able to try a bike in his size before ordering it. He tries it in the largest size available and then takes a leap of faith.

    PS- I love the biolabs rhino in the first picture!

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  29. I read an interview with a famous retired athelete a few years back. The writer conducting the interview was invited to have lunch at the atheletes house and was astonished to be served ice water in a crystal goblet and simple snacks on fine china. The writer, feeling weirdly guilty, commented on the "extravagance" of the set up. The subject of the interview commented simply "Honey, why have nice things if you don't use them?"

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  30. I'm so happy to hear this! Your Pashley has everything that a winter bike needs, so it would be a shame to relegate her to the garage. She is pretty, but not too pretty to be ridden in harsh conditions.

    Funny how you noticed that all of a sudden, winter is half way over. Time is really flying.

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  31. @ portlandize & Frits B - Clever Cycles does indeed have Dutch bikes :) And they are big enough :D

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  32. @imaginarybicycle: after writing that, I went and looked at your blog and saw the post about you visiting Clever Cycles :) I've been eyeing a Secret Service myself, but I think overall I'd rather go for the Oma classic, when the time comes. Did you end up getting a bike from them eventually? Cheers!

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  33. The Pashleys & Raleighs - bikes for all seasons!

    Then:

    Firstly, it's neither sinful nor illegal for a man to ride 'a step-through' bike!

    Secondly, the bike does not make the man; in fact it makes a man Man to ride such one because it's practical for him to do so.

    I would never let the opinions of others (especially the stupid/ill-founded) be the bars that imprison me! ;))

    Lemony.

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  34. It's one thing to prefer step-through frames because you like to wear long coats or can't bring your leg over the saddle for some other reasons (or maybe your bike is a heavy basket bike?), but, otherwise, what is it about having a top bar that makes a bike less safe in the winter?

    I don't have the same amount of winter riding experience that many of you perhaps do, but the little I experienced this season (about sliding on snow and slush) suggests that the last thing you want to do when the bicycle starts to lose traction is put a foot down, instead continue to pedal, steer and counterbalance.

    Maybe I just have really slippery shoes. :)

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  35. @MDI: I don't know that it's really less safe. I think there are certain situations where you might want to put your foot down in snowy weather, but hopefully the top tube of a diamond frame bike is low enough you can stand over it anyway, if you can't put a foot down while sitting on the saddle. I suppose the step-thru frame would make it slightly easier to step down if needed.

    I think the larger benefit of the step-thru is convenience. If you have stuff stacked on the rear rack, for instance, or a child seat, it's very difficult to mount a diamond-frame bicycle (I know from experience), whereas a step-thru makes it easy. It's certainly possible to ride a diamond-frame bike in a long coat (I do it almost every day), but the step-thru does make it easier.

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  36. Wouldn't it be GRAND if a truly powerful headlamp was available to suit these bikes? Something that keeps the style but outputs like an automobile headlight? Riding to work and back in Toronto these days means it's REALLY dark, and just "being seen" isn't enough. I would love a headlight that could let me see those abyssal new potholes as they emerge, but the only half-decent ones on the market seems to be $300 and look like the starship enterprise...

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  37. Counsel said...

    I have a Roadster, and I must admit to the fact that I haven't ridden it over the winter, in fact it needs a service as I've screwed up the gear cable trying to adjust the chain clanking in the case.


    I also adjusted my chain to decrease clanking, but alas, this is something endemic to the design of the Pashley chain case. My chain is very well tensioned but still clanks when coasting and I hit a bump - especially in a corner. The trick with the gear cable is to look into the observation window in the right axle nut that the cable exits through BEFORE you loosen anything. There is a BLUE dot on the cable that you need to observe the position of. At this point place the shift lever in gear # 2 ( that's why it has a circle around it ) and observe that the blue mark is JUST visible. Fine tune from there.

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  38. Fine tuning a modern 5-speed Sturmey Archer hub is tricky business. I think I got it now, but last year I was so confused by the whole thing that I called SA offices in Amsterdam, the Pashley distributor in USA and was piecing together information from Sheldon Brown's web site and manufacturer PDFs of different time periods. It's tricky indeed for someone to encounter it for the first time.

    It seems harmless to those used to deraileur bikes, but, first of all, even taking off a rear wheel, let alone tensioning the chain, may mess up the cable adjustment. It's obvious if you really think about how the cable sits relative to the rear axle, but someone buying an internal gear hub bike for the first time might not know this! I admit that I only understood the relationship between the shifter cable and the position of the axle in the drop-outs after taking a close look at the whole assembly and mentally tracing it step by step. I repeat myself, but it's not inherently clear unless you have prior experience.

    As John in Roseburg points out, the blue ring on the stem of the indicator chain suggests proper position through the viewing hole. I recommend downloading the Sturmey Archer PDFs for more information and reading Sheldon Brown (what did he NOT describe in detail?). Also, don't twist the indicator chain itself (unless you need to) because screwing it in and out will change the relative position of the blue ring itself inside the axle and there is a rather counterintuitive procedure of getting it right after that. Scary stuff!

    Oh, and regarding the Pashley chain slap, yes it annoyed the crap out of me but eventually I realized that it will just clank... As your chain gets older and filthier and less flexible, and the whole chain case "matures" it will happen less. Maybe. Or maybe you will learn to filter it out? I don't know... :)

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  39. Wow, they actually put dots and stuff on the indicators of the new hubs? :) The old ones you just had to kind of play with the shift cable tension until you got it so you could shift into all gears, and it didn't slip in any of them. Of course, I happened to end up with a 4-speed hub too, which is unusual and has a 2-piece indicator, so the adjustment of the indicator is different than on the more typical 3-speed hubs.

    It's not really scary, as you're not likely to damage the hub in any way by playing around with it, it just can be a bit confusing/frustrating trying to figure out the best adjustment.

    I think bikes with a full chain case do just rattle a little under certain circumstances, my Raleigh does as well. That's probably why the Dutch make cloth chain cases, rather than steel :)

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  40. Mike - I agree with you about the lighting. As good as Pashley's dynamo-powered headlight plus the extra CatEye lights are, I would ideally like even more light. I know that in theory it is available, but it costs a fortune : (

    Portlandize - MyRaleigh DL-1 metal chaincase rattles only when I go over bumps, and my Pashley's plastic chaincase does not rattle at all. I would like to try a Dutch vinyl chaincase, but I was scared off by the rust spots, or whatever it is, that I see leaking out of Batavus chaincases...

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  41. MDI: ". . .taking a close look at the whole assembly and mentally tracing it step by step."

    That is not how to adjust a gear hub, that is the principle life strategy; although I must append the advisory notice that applying it universally will tend to land you at odds with anyone who expects you to "respect my authoritay."

    And some of those people have more guns than brains and shit.

    "As your chain gets older and filthier and less flexible . . ."

    The raison d'etre of a chain CASE is to prevent this from happening.

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  42. My Raleigh's chaincase also only really rattles when I hit bumps, are they saying the Pashleys rattle while just pedaling on flat ground?

    I don't know about the comparative water-proof-ness of the vinyl chaincases vs. steel or plastic - but I do know most Dutch folk park their bikes outdoors all the time (even at home), so I assume the vinyl ones are fairly waterproof. Never had a bike with one myself though (if I ever get that WorkCycles Oma, I'll let you know how it is). :)

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  43. portlandize.com said...
    My Raleigh's chaincase also only really rattles when I hit bumps, are they saying the Pashleys rattle while just pedaling on flat ground?


    The Pashley chaincase rattles only when you hit bumps. It does not rattle just pedaling on flat ground. It's not terrible.

    Velouria's Pashley supposedly doesn't rattle at all, but it also had extensive work on the drive train done by Harris, including a rear hub replacement to a Shimano hub and some adjustments to the chain case itself, so it's not a fair comparison.

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  44. Just to be clear though, those adjustments were not because anything was wrong with the bike. They were done because I asked for a Shimano 7-speed coaster brake hub to be installed instead of the stock hub when I was buying my Pashley. So naturally, this involved rebuilding the rear wheel, re-attaching the chaincase, and all sorts of other modifications. Whatever they did to it, the chaincase is "like buttah".

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  45. I have taken up cycling in my 50s and have just bought a Pashley Princess Sovereign. My daughters have a a Pashley Poppy and a Princess Sovereign and love them. The step through frame just seemed logical although a few mountain bike riding colleagues have said it is a bit "Mary Poppinsy". I really don't care as here in the Vale of York (in England) we have no mountains and hardly any hills. Flat as a pancake. In any case I dislike Mountain Bikes.

    I considered some of the Dutch bikes, but at 5'8" the Princess Sov 17.5" frame suited me well.

    In Europe (well on the continent) step through frames are considered normal for men. It seems only in North America and England that men feel they need that bar. Seems rather silly and a bit insecure to me. ;-)

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  46. I'm just deciding whether to buy a Pashley or a Swedish Pilen instead. The Pashley isn't highly recommended here, as they do have a higher tendency to rust than the Pilen, but dammit they're also prettier than the Pilen, and that's alpha omega to me (ontop of having a sturdy bike, of course).

    I daresay you'd enjoy a trip to Copenhagen one day. We bike. A lot. Have you ever checked out http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com ?

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  47. My jumping in on this blog is really just an excuse to announce to the world (at least that part of the world that is interested) that I have just bought a Pashley Princess Sovereign.

    Being a male, I did think twice about getting a step through "ladies" bike. My other choice was to go with the Roadster Sovereign with 26" wheels, but the 20" frame was too small for me. I'm also 64 years old, so having a step through is so much easier on the legs and hips. I'm 5'11" but still found myself going to the 22.5" frame in the Princess to find the right size for me.

    I live in Hamilton Ontario Canada, and you don't see too many bikes like Pashleys or other European bikes on the roads in this neck of the woods. Even though we're only about 45 minutes from Toronto we're a world apart as far as the bike culture is concerned.

    The Princess is a love affair for me, and I've only had it for a few days but can barely stay off it. Happy spring riding everyone!!

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  48. David,

    I'm originally from London, Ontario although I have been resident in England for a long time. Like you I really like my Pashley Princess Sovereign and although I wondered about getting the step-through I am used to seeing it on the continent where the "men's bike" diamond frame is considered a bit eccentric for normal cyclists. Step through is the norm for both genders. I am very happy with my decision and the 17.5" frame suits. My daughter has a green Sovereign so I opted for the black. Looks nice.

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  49. I have a Pashley PS ,22 yr old in perfect condition . It has Rod Breaks. Needs break pads but can not find any on the web. Also like a splash guard as well as a rack . Any suggestions ?

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  50. I am seriously considering a Pashley Princess Classic thee speed. The 22.5" frame is just right for me, I'm 6' 4" tall and I love the high north road bars. The riding position is just great for me, I find them superbly comfortable and I can happily ride all day. I have ridden bikes for over 50 years almost always three speed roadsters. At 61 I don't really feel at all self conscious riding a step thru

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