Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Pashley Guv'nor: A Retrogrouch's Dream

When borrowing bikes from Portland Velocipede, I had thought the Co-Habitant might like to try something entirely new, like a Gazelle or a Brompton. But he is a die-hard Pashley fan and seized the opportunity to ride the Pashley Guv'nor. The man is not overly fond of writing, so I will do my best to communicate his impressions - though the picture above pretty much says it all.

The Pashley Guv'nor is modeled on the 1930s Path Racer, and its faithfulness to this concept is remarkable. The frame is relaxed, with the same frame geometry and 28" wheel size as the Pashley Roadster. But while the Roadster is made of high-tensile steel (heavy, utilitarian), the Guv'nor is made of Reynold's 531 tubing (super light, high-end).

Additionally, the Guv'nor features fancier lugwork, and is equipped with sportier and more luxurious components - such as the racy upside down "North Rroad" handlebars, a Nitto stem, leather grips, and a Brooks B17 Titanium saddle. It is available as a single speed or a 3-speed, and a crazy limited edition with 4 speeds and golden lugs exists as well.

The Guv'nor is fitted with cream Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires, and it intentionally lacks fenders. No lights or racks either. Like a traditional path racer, this bicycle has a high bottom bracket and horizontal chain stays. Because of the high bottom bracket and the slack seat tube, there is a huge amount of seat post showing, which exaggerates the aggressive appearance. Although the Co-Habitant's Roadster has the same amount of exposed seat tube, this is disguised by the huge rails and springs of the Brooks B-33 saddle that the Roadster is fitted with. The flat and unsprung B17 on the Guv'nor, on the other hand, leaves every millimeter exposed.

Front and rear drum brakes give the bicycle a clean appaerance.

They also allow for black rims with golden pinstriping (not really captured in the pictures, but it's there).

Drivetrain and track fork ends. The one aspect of the Guv'nor's components the Co-Habitamt dislikes are the cranks; he thinks they are "ugly" - though personally, I do not think they are bad looking.

Close-up of the handlebars, with brass bell and retro-style Sturmey Archer 3-speed shifter.

The vintage-looking shifter is a nice touch.

As I did on the Abici, the Co-Habitant rode around Portland, Maine on the Guv'nor - even taking it along into a dining establishment. No one seemed to mind and the bicycle received compliments.

The Pashley Guv'nor, waiting for his beer and calamari. Unlike the Pashley Roadtser, it is extremely easy to maneuver and drag around due to its light weight.

In terms of ride quality, the Guv'nor handles like a cross between a roadster and a road bike. It is very light, fast, and maneuverable - yet also stately. Some aspects of the geometry can take getting used to: Because the saddle is so far back due to the slack seat tube (plus the seat post has set-back), the handlebars are extremely far away. The Co-Habitant thinks that Pashley should have either used a shorter stem, or a seat post with no set-back; otherwise the posture feels too extreme - especially in combination with the slack seat tube and the forward position of the pedals.

Riding the bike around town was tremendous fun for the Co-Habitant, and of course he would love to own such a bike in a world unhindered by practical considerations. But the Guv'nor woud hardly be a reasonable choice for regular commuting, given its lack of fenders and lights. And while in theory, these could be installed, doing so would ruin the authentic Path Racer look - which is the very heart of the concept behind the Guv'nor. Ultimately, the Guv'nor was not designed for practicality and makes no claims to be a daily commuter. It is a trophy-bike, meant to be taken out in fair weather and enjoyed for its unique ride quality and vintage aesthetics. More than anything, it is the concept itself that is impressive: Pashley created this bicycle true to the original and made it painfully handsome in the process.

Many thanks to Portland Velocipede for loaning out this bicycle.

47 comments:

  1. yeah, the slack geometry on your second picture is kind of crazy.

    I was looking to the Guvnor and AntMike's Scorcher bike when I started building up a bike around the Sturmey Archer 3-speed fixed hub -- basically the final product was a Path Racer with racks and fenders. The North Road bars do feel odd at first; though in my case, the degree of sweep back in the bars makes them come in much closer than normal ... so I can sort of see why Pashley would think about setting the handlebars where they do.

    I still prefer conventional road bars for most applications, but I do like the look of the North Road bars and hope that the Guvnor might encourage other manufacturers to do something similar.

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  2. Hmmmm, we've lusted over these but never taken one for a test ride or even off the rack for that matter. That sort of geometry might be exactly what The Baker needs. He's 5'11" but has very short legs so finding a bike that will accomodate his short bottom half while providing enough room for his top half to be stretched comfortably is a huge challenge. He currently rides a '69 Raleigh 3-speed and he likes it but after a long-ish ride, he's pretty uncomfortable. Now, just to get that windfall of cash.....

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  3. Love these bikes. I'm currently building/modding a Torelli Tipo Uno that in the end will look a whole lot like the Guv'nor. Mine will be a singlespeed/fixed, but with 650B tires and bars similar to those North Roads.

    Anyways, this review is great. Makes me happy w/ the direciton I'm going w/ my Torelli.

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  4. Hey Brad keep me posted on the Tipo Uno- I'm currently riding a '09 Schwinn Madison (fixed) but have always liked Torelli's bikes.

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  5. I've always loved the look of the Guv'nor. A great call on it being a trophy bike. A gorgeous, admirable and relatively reasonably-priced trophy bike.

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  6. cris - The upside-down Albatross bars on my mixte reach waaaaay further back than the North Roads on the Guv'nor; it's amazing how many different versions of such bars exist, with completely different degrees of reach.

    Dottie - I also happen to think it is reasonably priced for a lugged Reynolds 531 bike. But most people I have talked to consider it expensive - mainly because they mentally add the cost of things like fenders, racks and lights, considering the Guv'nor "unfinished" in is current state.

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  7. Its pretty, but its a bike with no hope of providing its master with functional utility or purpose. Sort of like a jet ski with Schwalbes. Not that there's anything wrong with aimless wandering on a perfectly fine morning in September, mind you, and if you can swing it.

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  8. I keep begging my husband to try out a Guvnor or Roadster but he keeps declining. Given the slack geometry which is very, very obvious in these pics (probably less on the Pashley site but I'm guessing the Co-Habitant is pretty tall and needs the saddle well up) my bloke is probably more suited to the Roadster. But I like the sound of the sporty performance. Has anyone else read the story on the Pashley site of the two guys who took a couple of Guvnors in a hilly road race?

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  9. Luv that Guv. 531 frame, 3-speed, drum brakes, white tires. Wow.

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  10. imagine... a bi-coastal, Portland to Portland bikeride!

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  11. ...on actual 1930 path racers : )

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  12. Exactly. It is a shame the Guv'nor is not available in a truly authentic fixed gear + front spoon brake option.

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  13. i wonder what the rationale is for using drum brakes front and rear on a lightweight bike that isn't designed for foul weather fun. the primary advantage of drum brakes is that they are impervious to weather. but this advantage comes at a penalty, namely weight-- they are significantly heavier than rim brakes. maybe the decision was made because they look simpler and cleaner than rim brakes? but to me, to couple drum brakes with a lightweight reynolds 531 frame seems counter-productive. or perhaps modern drum brakes have become lighter? does anyone know?

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  14. I think maybe MDI deserves a trophy bike. Doesn't he have far fewer in his stable than you?

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  15. somervillain - I think the idea was indeed to have an uncluttered appearance, but as you say, I am not sure the drum brakes accomplish that more than a couple of clean caliper brakes would.

    Anon 2:16 - I agree entirely; the problem is on his end: He is capricious and no bike seems good enough. I think he is saving up for a Peter Mooney.

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  16. Put the deposit on the Peter Mooney NOW! The wait list is long! A Peter Mooney ooooohhh, what envy..............

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  17. Another great post and interesting review of a bike we've all seen pictures of, and well lusted after, with dropped jawbones. But to actually get a ride and try out a model on the street, that is unheard of in my part of the world? LGRAB recently posted about her adventures with Girls and Bicycles, when they were able to try out cargo bikes, bicycle shops, in the USA, seem to be very forthcoming, and so much more customer friendly, you are very fortunate.

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  18. A lovely review!

    Ladies and gentlemen commenters: based on the experience of the members of the Guvnor Owners' Club, the bicycle is wonderful commuter.
    Likewise it has completed the challenge of Tuscany's 127 mile L'Eroica more than once...

    My only suggestion for the Co-Habitant would be to try a size up. He looks to be on a 20.5" frame, but to potentially fit the 22.5" a little better, whereupon a more harmonious positioning of saddle and bar might be found.

    If you'd like to hear more about the bicycle and its riders, do drop by the Guvnor Owners' Club

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  19. It is a 22.5" frame, actually. The next one up is a double-top-tube 24.5" frame, which is a different bicycle, really.

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  20. James - Thanks for the link! The Co-Hab is just over 6' tall and he rode the 22.5" bike. The bike only looks small because of the insane seatpost extension. But he could not have gotten a larger frame, because he would not have cleared the top tube when standing on the ground. This is all due to the high bottom bracket.

    welsh - In the US these kinds of shops are a very, very recent phenomenon!

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  21. It is more attractive to me with each look.
    Impractical suits me just fine.
    (dons goggles and pith helmet)

    As for the drum brakes, I have seen 1930s Raleigh, BSA, and Triumph path-racers with stock drum brakes on E-Bay and elsewhere. I'll try to find the pictures I saved and post them.

    There is a fellow here who has perhaps the only two Pashleys in the county- he has a Gent's roadster and a 3-speed Guv'nor. I exchanged cards with him while waiting alongside the Amgen race route.

    Perhaps he'd let me try his out; we were very similar in height and build...and he really wanted to try a full chaincase Tourist himself.

    CK

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  22. These bikes are the freaking BOMB! I built a vague imitation of one and it's neat but it just made me want the real thing even more. The one thing it really needs is a seatpost with a horizontal forward extension like the pathracers of old to make up for the crazy slack seat-tube angle. I'm going to make a couple of stainless steel versions for Raleigh DL1s so those of use that want to be a little more over the pedals can be, then when I get my hands on one of these monsters I'll be all set...

    Spindizzy

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  23. Spindizzy, it's really weird that Pashley reproduced the pathracer so faithfully in every detail except one, the modern set-back seat post. Can you imagine how it felt with both your hands and feet way ahead of the saddle? It's not a comfortable position to be in.

    On my Roadster, I have it dialed-in just so, the pedals are slightly ahead but mostly under me (forward-facing Brooks clamp) and the handle bars grips are about 3 inches below the saddle and not too far ahead for a _slight_ forward lean, but mostly still upright position. It's a very powerful position and allows for a top speed of around 21-22 mph on a heavy (65+ lbs) loaded Roadster on level ground. Now if there is even the slightest downhill or tail wind... it just barrels on.

    I imagine with the Guv'nor set up right you could easily hit 25-28 mph on flats, who knows, maybe 30 :)

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  24. MDI said...
    " it's really weird that Pashley reproduced the pathracer so faithfully in every detail except one, the modern set-back seat post. "


    Don't forget the drum brakes.

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  25. Great review - I've longed for a Guv'nor for a while, but just couldn't justify it in practical terms. I was lucky enough to be at last year's UK Cycle Show in Earls Court, where the full Pashley range was on show, including some interesting prototypes - the Clubman being the most exciting for a 'one bike to rule them all' chap like me - check out this link for a pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/britishcycling/3994091518/in/set-72157622420164973/

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  26. "It is a 22.5" frame, actually. The next one up is a double-top-tube 24.5" frame, which is a different bicycle, really."

    MDI, I am curious as to your statement. Do you think the double top tube makes that much of a difference regarding stiffness and weight compared to the single tt version?, Or do you mean that the larger frame would affect your personal riding form in such a way as to narrow down your positional adjustment options?

    Or something else entirely?

    CK

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  27. As for the Drum Brake debate.... If one were to use a rim brake on the guv nor, one would loose the beautiful rim in need of a rim with braking surface. The pin striped rim is a nice bonus

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  28. Pashley could've used a rod front brake, these rims are actually rod brake rims with proper rod brake surfaces on both sides of the spoke run. Or, as Velouria suggests, a spoon front brake... :)

    But I think drum brakes are totally okay and even sort of period-correct-looking. I don't think they weigh that much without the dynamo.

    Corey K: I have a 24" DL-1. The top tube comes up less to the seam of my pants than my 22.5" Pashley (all due to that crazy high bottom bracket). A 24.5" Pashley would be out of this world. You'd need substantially longer legs to comfortably clear it. The bike would look quite large. Add that second top tube and it would make a very different impression. I'd certainly like to see these in person some day. Having said that, I don't know whether the 24.5" frame has exactly the same angles with 2 more inches of head tube and seat tube (and an extra rod installed in between them), or if the geometry is altogether different.

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  29. They should make a truss frame model of the double top tube version! Would be pretty authentic.

    Re hub brakes: While they may have already invented in 1930 (but were they?), they certainly were not used on pathracers. It would have been fixed + spoon brake on the front.

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  30. Hey people, flip those bars right side up, and take some of that stretch (and ache) out of your back. Let's not criticize the slack geometry of the bike if we're doing crazy things like putting the handle bars on upside down.

    The Nitto North Roads--like the Albatross they're modeled after--are specifically designed to produce a comfortable, upright riding position, which is negated when installed improperly. Looks fast, but also uncomfortable to ride.

    Also with the bars wrong-side-up, the rider's head is pointed at a small patch of concrete about three inches in front (if you're lucky)of the front wheel. This head position is extremely dangerous for city riding, and not to mention impractical and uncomfortable (two things which, in my opinion, should always be married in cycling). Upright bars produce an upright riding position, greatly improving the vision of the cyclist and completely opening the peripheral vision up.

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  31. I have converted my Pashley Guvnor into a high-end roadster. It works even better as a roadster than as a path racer because the frame geometry is exactly the same as on a roadster. Withs a Brooks B-73 saddle, full fenders, front and rear racks and coat guard, front headlamp with a built-in hub dynamo and an upgraded 8 speed Sturmey Archer hub, its a completely different bicycle! It makes an excellent commuter.

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  32. I should add here that at 5'7", I bought the 20" Guvnor. A traditional Roadster would already be too tall for me. The steering is much more predictable with an upright Nitto Albatross bar. Its such an elegant bicycle. The ride is cushy and with the conversion, its not exactly a light bicycle any more. But in the roadster configuration, the Guvnor handles favorably even though it will never be as fast as as my Raleigh Superbe.

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  33. Drum brakes are weather-proof and reliable. There is the clean look and I also have them on my Raleigh Superbe. There is no problem like with traditional rod lever actuated roadster brakes. Of course disk brakes are much lighter but drum brakes give an old-fashioned note of nostalgia to an English bicycle.

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  34. Ryan - I don't think anybody here is criticising slack geometry in of itself. The person who test rode this bike commutes on a Pashley Roadster with upright handlebars that is just as slack, and I commute on a Dutch Gazelle, which speaks for itself. What's weird/interesting about this bike is the combination of the slack geometry and the aggressive bars - it is neither like a roadbike, nor like a roadster - but very much like a vintage pathracer on which it was modeled. As for upside down North Roads, this is not exactly a new idea but a very traditional one.

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  35. I can't comment on whether upside-down North Roads are worse than right-side-up North Roads, but the stem is slightly too long and the set-back seat post is a mistake. As Spindizzy points out here, and in other posts, it was supposed to have a set-forward seat post, as can be somewhat replicated by moving the Brooks clamp forward. That's how my Pashley Roadster came from the factory. If they knew this detail about their geometry, why did they go with the modern seat post on the Guv'nor? No doubt to please the same crowd that was happy to see a titanium rail saddle on the bike.

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  36. i love this bike so much. one of our local bike shops has one for sale, but i have been unsuccessful in my attempts to convince my cohabitant to acquire it...

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  37. About brakes

    Are 28" rims for caliper brakes available? I would imagine the reasonable choices are drum brakes or rod brakes (stirrup).

    I can't imagine spoon brakes providing much stopping power. Practically, I imagine that drum brakes are more readily available and easier to adjust compared to stirrup brakes, and I suspect the weight penalty is not severe.

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  38. This is a nice production bike but if you have any mechanical inclination you can build something similar for half the price and own an actual vintage bike.

    I just built one using a 60's nervex-lugged steel touring frame, vintage Gian Roberts & steel Campy parts, Brooks saddle plus Velo Orange fenders & Porteur rack for $700 total.

    I think half the fun of a "vintage" anything is that is has percieved history and sentimental value. Reproductions of vintage things are something entirely different.

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  39. I wonder what the weight difference is between the frames of the Guv'nor and the Roadster?

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  40. I would probably guess between 4 and 5 lbs

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  41. Hello People
    I live in London across the pond, I have a Guv'nor, and have no problems commuting to work 3 days a week and I use a track bike for the other two days. I carry water proof trousers. Mudguards/Fenders are fine but this bike is an old fashioned race bike.

    If it rains such is life. I have some powerful LED lights fitted front and rear. My machine is single speed but i fitted a 16 tooth cog in place of the factory fitted 18. most sundays i take it out for spin also. the upside down handle bars are very smart. cutting thru heavy traffic with a long wheel base bike takes skill. but can be done with practice.

    I feel the weight is just right. Brakes never let me down.
    save up and get one you will not regret it.

    I like speed but tend to keep my body weight down and don't feel this well designed bike is for all. but many will love it, if they actually took one for a spin.
    Regards
    Tony...

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  42. I'd like to know who actually makes the bars for the Guvnor as they aren't std. Raleigh North ones, I just bought a pair and the rise is much larger than the near flat rise of the Guvnors.

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  43. The steerer tube a traditional 1" ?

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  44. Bought one of these without having ridden it. Just fell in love with the way it looks. But it rides really nice. Granted when I take it out I don't ride far. This is a nice leisurely ride bike for me down to the coffee shop or through Griffith Park here in Los Angeles. While I do commute with it sometimes I have to allow for extra time just because I love to take the long way and take my time riding.

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    Replies
    1. where did you buy this bike?

      Delete