Thursday, May 13, 2010

Debasketification

We've all been caught off guard here by the wintry temperatures over the past few days. I was in disbelief at first, but gave in and got out the wool coats and boots again. Yesterday the sky was dark and the forecast promised continuous rain, and so when we needed to go on errands across town we took the Pashleys - after making some minor modifications.

When I was explaining to the Co-Habitant months ago that the Princess feels slow to accelerate from a stop compared to my other bicycles, he immediately suggested that the basket might be at fault - producing wind resistance at slow speeds with its dense wicker enormity. I dismissed this idea for a while, because the basket is just so nice. I did not want to believe it could have any significant role in slowing me down.

But after the de-basketification procedure (we finally got some wrenches that allowed us to remove the handlebars and take off the entire basket support system), I have to admit that he was right. Without the basket, the Princess is faster to accelerate from a stop, and it is also easier to maneuver. I guess I am just not a "front basket kind of girl" despite liking them aesthetically. I miss the basket being there, but the handling and speed of the bicycle are so improved by its absence that I just can't see myself willingly re-attaching it. Instead, I will get some roomy panniers for the rear rack to increase load capacity.

In addition to the de-basketification, we changed the angle and rise of the handlebars some more, so that they resemble a vintage roadster set-up and allow for a more aggressive - yet still upright and comfortable - posture. This has further improved things, and I prefer the look as well - reminds me of a path racer!

With these changes and the effects they've had, I think I will keep the bicycle and continue tinkering with it. I would like to replace the Marathon Plus tires with cream Delta Cruisers, and I think this will make the Princess zippier still. This bicycle may not be super fast or light, but it is undeniably safer and more comfortable in bad weather than any other bike I have been on, and that is no small thing.

The Co-Habitant's Roadster is happy that the Princess will be staying, and he assures her that she looks just as good without the basket as with. If anything, her graceful long neck is now more visible and all the better to admire. What a flatterer!

30 comments:

  1. Wow, Princess does look quite elegant even without the Basket. I never thought much about the wicker basket working against me. Good to know...

    So how did you change the handlebar position exactly? Did you lower them, raise them? Made the handles angled up or down?

    PS - I have to admit, I love that Princess still has a home in your stable.

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  2. Interesting, interesting! Are you going to sell the basket??

    Although I'll miss the Marathon Plus tires, I am curious to learn whether they were, in fact, slowing down the bike.

    BTW, have you considered writing a book? You're one of the best writers in the cycling blogosphere and you seem to be well on your way to having enough material and pictures.

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  3. What an interesting discovery! I would never have thought a front basket to have such an effect on the speed one can pedal. Perhaps I will have to give this a try at some point (though I'm not sure I can live w/out my basket, and may just have to deal with the slower speeds). Thank you for sharing this insight.

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  4. I noticed the same thing with my old Electra Townie bike when the clamp actually broke and my basket and contents fell to the ground. A hairline fracture in the plastic rendered it useless(It's so hard to find baskets without a clamp/mechanism made of plastic these days). I then immediately noticed that ditching the basket made a huge difference in steering — especially getting up hills. I haven't replaced it for now and use panniers, but I miss the convenience of a basket. I usually have my purse in it and like to see it at all times.

    I now have a Pashley PS but the basket it came with was a touch smaller than yours even though I have the 20" frame model. I would like to replace it with a Wald basket like Dottie has on her Betty Foy but I think that would require moving the Pashley's Dynamo light and I'm not sure how to do that or if I want to.

    The biggest problem I'm having with my new Princess is that despite all my seat and handlebar adjustments my knees are killing me. I've been commuting on it every day since March. I didn't expect this problem since my Townie is lighter (but not much) and has a decidely more laid back posture and the PS is more upright so despite the Pashley's weight I thought things would equal themselves out. I had no knee pain riding my Townie so I can only assume that the Pashley's upright stance is making use of different muscles in my legs and putting more stress on my knees. This makes me sad because I love my Princess but not at the expense of my knees.

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  5. The Pashleys look really good. I'm about to buy a Roadster Sovereign (tested it yesterday and it felt very comfortable). The Co-Habitant's bicycle looks awesome with the Brooks bags, but in my case, more carrying capacity is needed, therefore I will have to "basketify" mine instead. My only fear is that it may detract from the retro look. Any suggestions?

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  6. Hi, how's things. He's wright, with or without. FANTASTIC! Just wish my old Elswick looked as good. May be, one day!

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  7. Of course, if you strip off the fenders, kickstand, and everything else that can be removed, and install a 300hp engine, it'd be quicker yet. I think you have found a nice compromise.

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  8. Ah, I'm glad Eustacia Vye is staying with you! :-)) I do like the angle of the handlebars... might try that on mine. Yours looks more graceful without the basket, I must say. If a tad naked!

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  9. Interesting!

    I swapped out the v small wicker basket that came with my Pashley a while ago for the Brooks Hoxton basket. I take it off when I don't need it because I like the way it the bike looks without it. I haven't noticed wind resistance, though, probably because it's not dense like the wicker.

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  10. Steve - How did you guess, those are some of the changes I'm planning next!

    Jazzboy - The Co-Habitant carries an enormous amount of stuff in those two bags, you would be amazed. Fits more than my basket ever did, even though the basket looks larger to the eye. He is actually about to write a 1-year review of his Sovereign and I will post it here as a guest post, stay tuned!

    dagmara - Have you considered asking your local bike shop to lower the gearing on the Pashley? The original gearing they come with is quite high, because they were designed for flat areas. Lowering the gears would be a pretty simple procedure and would solve the knee pain problem.

    Kara - I lowered the handlebars a bit (by lowering the stem), and then angled the grip areas of the bars down considerably. In the 4th picture from the top you can see this pretty well. For me, this position is not only more aggressive, but also more ergonomic and my body is actually more comfortable. I am still completely upright, but it is *much* easier to "lean in" now when going up hills.

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  11. neighbortease - Wire baskets don't have this problem, because they allow air to travel through. Also, they are usually shallower than the wicker. The wicker basket on my Pashley was so enormous - tall as well as wide - and so densely knit, that it was like having a wall erected in front of the bike. I have now read similar things about people's experiences with wooden crates and other solid carriers placed in the front.

    Herzog - Sure, I can sell the basket. Are you interested? Eventually, I'd like to find a tiny basket that can be used only with the straps and without the support and can be easily removed. But still, I plan to carry the majority of the weight on this bike in the back from now on.

    G.E. - I did not think the bike was slow with the basket until I compared it to another bike with similar geometry (and without anything on the handlebars) and wondered why that one was faster. I like speed and prefer to cycle as fast as traffic conditions will allow, so this is why the basket thing matters. But for those who are "The Slow Bicycle Movement" types of cyclists, it honestly won't matter.

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  12. so inspired have i been by your blog i am about to start tinkering with this ratty old Hawk Phantom.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/28731708@N03/4476122669/in/set-72157623735378248/

    would love your suggestions!
    dean

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  13. I have to admit, I'm a leetle bit disappointed that your wonderfully modified Pashley won't be coming on the market, but I am glad that the two of you have repaired your relationship!

    I think you mentioned trying a bike with foldable rear baskets once? I have one on mine, plus a front wire basket, and it's great-- really quick to fold up or out, holds more than expected, doesn't rattle, and has no really noticeable effect on how the bike rides. I do kind of like being able to see my things right in front of me in a front basket, but I know that really, things are just as safe in the back.

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  14. I fully support the changes you have made. They are all improvements in my opinion, based upon experience. Good going.

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  15. In the context of the Hoxton basket/wind resistance, I was thinking more about the weight of something on the front than whether or not air can pass through. I got what you meant about the wicker wall. Pretty basic aerodynamics :) I have found that weight on the front of the Pashley can be intense, mostly on the Williamsburg Bridge, which is kind of major for a hill in NYC.

    I have the Brooks roll up panniers, which are pretty great. I only use them on days when I go to the greenmarket in addition to carrying my laptop. Cannot believe how prominently Brooks displayed their logo on these things. I had to pimp mine to hide it. That said, they are pretty great for hauling long stalks of green garlic and branches of flowers.

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  16. Interesting. I've noticed no difference in how my bike rides when I remove the enormous front rack and basket. Maybe I'm in denial because I'm all about handlebar baskets.

    Yay for the Pashley staying around :)

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  17. Sooo, uh, how many bikes does this make in your life? Can we expect a post exploring the problem of a growing velo family?

    There must be a universal rule describing the maximum percentage of available square footage bicycles can occupy in a dwelling occupied by more than one person before the other occupants have a Basil Fawlty freakout and heave them all into the street and stand panting and cursing while the nieghbors stare out of half opened doors with cell phones in hand.

    While the total number of bikes in your inventory is indeed quite modest I get the impression that your apartment is too. I don't really know how many bikes are in my house but there are15+ in the basement at any given time(oh lord, I just counted and there are 30 not including frames), 2 on the first floor, Parts of 2 on the second floor, 4 or 5 bikes or frames and untold bazillion parts in the attic. I would probably have one in the cupolla if the hatch was big enough to squeeze one up there. Luckily my wife rarely goes into the basement or attic and the ones on the main floor are vintage wall hangers(they do work though) so she doesn't have to climb over them. I do make sure hers is easily accessed. There is also usually a stray laying in the back of my truck or loitering under the deck trying to look like it's just waiting for a bus.

    I'm glad they aren't cats.

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  18. I read this quickly whilst waiting at an appt. today. I had these thoughts:
    -I am glad we are not alone in this cold snap.
    -I too pulled out my winter wool coat today, the green lighter one was an improvement over the parka I pulled out last week. :)
    -V's Pash looks nice sans basket.
    -Good for her for working on Pash and staying committed.
    -We all have the freedom to change our minds.
    I have some tinkering I want to do as well, but it is pretty minor.
    I'm still dreaming of finding my 'in-between' bike.
    Good for you!

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  19. margonaute - The bike I rode in Austria had folding rear baskets. I was going to get a set of Wald ones here, but suddenly all of the local bike stores seem to be out!

    neighbourtease - The Brooks roll-ups are my ideal panniers, so I am glad to hear you like them. Do you mean that your laptop fits in them? Or that you carry it in the front basket while carrying groceries in the panniers? I am hoping that my laptop might fit sideways, but wasn't sure.

    Dottie - I've been thinking about your bike from this pov. It's possible that it was designed differently. Another possibility is that I simply have unrealistic expectations about how fast I can/should go on this type of bike!

    spindizzy - Are you describing a scene from your own past? : ) My problem is that the Co-Habitant is also into bikes; in fact he had been trying to convince me to cycle with him for years before I became interested on my own accord. So I suspect that - as long as we tread the brink of financial ruin carefully - he would rather have the problem of too many bikes than the far more tragic problem of a non-cycling wife. The storage space is indeed difficult - though we do have a new studio space and some of the bikes will be migrating there. And, of course, hearing about how many bikes you have makes me think that things are not so bad : )

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  20. Interesting to note that the police here in England recommend wicker baskets as a theft deterrent. Apparently any self-respecting bicycle thief avoids wicker basket bikes as they are not seen as being fashionable.

    With the type of cycling we do theft isn't a major problem and we removed our baskets for the winter as we didn't have a need for them. I use my cycle at work and the pannier suffices for the occasional bit of kit or paperwork I need to carry. Now that summer is here the wicker baskets will come out again when we go shopping.

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  21. Velouria, the panniers do hold my laptop, which is a macbook pro. They are a bit floppy when not full so I generally fill one and roll up the other until I need it. On most days I carry my laptop in my front basket, but the panniers are useful, too.

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  22. Try a VO porteur rack. I put one on my mixte and love it. A Rivendell Sackville medium shopping bag sits perfectly when it's full and folds flat as a pancake when it's empty.

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  23. I can't buy the wind resistance theory. Wind resistance goes up with the square of your speed. So at low speeds, the basket should cause almost no resistance. You should have noticed it instead when you got up to speed. I could see it being a problem starting up if you had a strong head wind, maybe.

    Is it a heavy basket? A lot of weight on the front of a bike makes it hard to handle at slow speeds and maybe you were feeling this instability when you start up?

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  24. BTW - I love the intense red/green contrast int he photos.

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  25. Wow! I have to admit I like the look of the Pashley sans basket and when I finally get mine I think I'll have the basket/support removed too.

    Fiona:)

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  26. Velouria,

    In December, I would have killed to get you to sell me that basket when I needed one! Alas, now, I have a basket but not the money. :( So, no, I'm only vicariously interested.

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  27. The basket is beautiful but I prefer the look of the stem without it too. So elegant. :) Never thought it would make much difference with the ride, though...interesting discovery!

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  28. I could never get rid of the basket. Where would the dog go? But you're right, the acceleration on Pashley takes longer. If I was riding in a city with lots of start and stop in traffic I think I'd take the road bike.

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  29. Oh yeah, I ditched the rack thing the basket goes on. I attach the basket to my stem thing with velcro tape.

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  30. Sarah - Thanks for stopping by! I've read about your velcro tape DIY and have considered doing the same, but I think it still will be pretty time consuming to remove/reattach the basket. Do you ever remove it?

    Interesting to read that if you were riding in the city you'd take the road bike! I am beginning to wonder how my new bike with drop bars will feel on city commutes compared to the upright bikes.

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