Friday, February 18, 2011

The Pashley Princess: a Retrospective from a Former Owner

While we are still in hibernation season, I wanted to write a retrospective review of the Pashley Princess I used to own. My existing review of this bike was written after only a month of ownership and leaves a great deal out. I hope to make this review more representative of my overall experience, while providing the sort of information that might be helpful to those shopping for a new bike.

I owned a Pashley Princess Sovereign from June 2009 until August 2010. A lugged steel bicycle made in England, the Princess is a thing of beauty and quality. It was my first "nice" adult bicycle, and the first bicycle I've ever ridden for transportation. As such, it saw me through a period of almost continuous transformation as a cyclist - defined by changes in skill level, confidence, knowledgeability, and preferences. For that reason, I will arrange this review chronologically - from the start of ownership to the end.

The Decision to Purchase
My Pashley was not an impulse buy. I did a lot of research, test rode a number of bikes, and took my time deciding. Among the other bicycles I test rode at the time were Gazelle, Batavus and Velorbis. During those test rides, I remember that I did not feel comfortable with my ability to control the Dutch bikes (Gazelle and Batavus) in comparison to the Pashley. I did not understand why at the time, but now I think I do: Dutch bikes have a light front end, which can take some getting used to. The Pashley's handling felt natural from the start. As for Velorbis, I remember thinking that it was similar to the Pashley, but not quite as nice, and so it was out of the running. I also admit that my deep attachment to England - where I spent a good part of my twenties - influenced me as well. I liked the idea of having an English bicycle.

First Impressions
I purchased the Pashley Princess Sovereign in June 2009 from Harris Cyclery (not a sponsor at that time), together with my husband's Pashley Roadster Sovereign. I chose the 20" (medium) bike in "regency green," and immediately made a number of modifications to it, including the installation of a 7-speed coaster brake hub, netted dress guards and Brooks leather washer grips, as well as extra lights to supplement Pashley's lighting system. All lady's Pashleys have 26" wheels. Detailed specs can be found in my earlier review.

The bicycle's saddle height traveled steadily upward over the course of my ownership. When I first began cycling as an adult, I was extremely nervous about it and felt that I needed to be able to have my feet almost flat on the ground while remaining in the saddle. Over time this nervousness went away as I began to pick up bicycle handling skills. The 20" frame accommodated me throughout this process.

As far as ride quality, initially I was quite pleased with it. What I liked the most about the Pashley Princess was its stability and feeling of "solidness." It made me feel very, very safe - which in turn "empowered" me to try vehicular cycling. Pretty soon, I - a clumsy novice - was cycling for transportation daily in Boston traffic. What I didn't like so much about the ride almost from the start, but could not immediately express, was how much I struggled to pick up speed and go up hills on this bike. But at the time I thought that this was normal for classic upright transportation bicycles, and did not see it as a problem.

One thing that caused some frustration in the beginning, but was entirely my fault and not the bike's, was  the question of how to transport my laptop. I did not trust the idea of clip-on panniers, and the front basket did not feel entirely stable with a huge bag in it. So, for the first few months of owning this bike, I carried a messenger bag. But eventually I stabilised the front basket by securing it with a myriad of zip ties and began to transport my laptop bag inside it - which was fine. However, had I just bought a clip-on pannier, such as the Fastrider I now own, it would have been even better.

Discovery of Limitations
The first inkling that my Pashley may not be the right bike for me, came after I acquired and refurbished a vintage Raleigh Roadster. Despite being larger and clunkier, the old Raleigh DL-1 was considerably faster to accelerate and easier to ride up hill than the new Pashley. I was stunned by the discovery of these differences, and my interest in frame geometry and ride quality was launched largely as a result.

With the arrival of Winter 2009-2010, my qualms about the Pashley's handling were temporarily forgotten, because as a winter bike it was truly fantastic. Since I ride slower in the winter anyhow and stick to shorter distances, acceleration and climbing long hills no longer played an important role in day to day transportation cycling, and I was once again happy with the bike. But as soon as the snow began to subside, the frustration began anew.

The more skilled and confident I became as a cyclist, the farther I started to travel, and the more torn I began to feel about the Pashley Princess. It was such a sweet, well-made, picturesque and iconic bicycle - How could I even think of giving it up? But beyond gentle trails and neighborhood streets, I felt limited on it.

Experimentation and Modifications
In Spring 2010, I began to experiment with the Pashley's positioning and components in order to address my complaints: I lowered the handlebars, raised the saddle, replaced the sluggish Marathon Plus tires with the faster Delta Cruisers, and even removed the front wicker basket in hopes of reducing wind resistance. Each of these changes indeed made a difference, and to my delight the bike now handled similarly to the vintage Raleigh.

I also installed a set of Wald rear folding baskets, which improved my quality of life immensely.

The Decision to Sell
At this point, I was once again happy with the Pashley Princess and had decided to keep it after all. I rode it for most of the summer without complaints. But then, something unexpected happened. By some bizarre stroke of luck I came across a 1990s Gazelle, which I was able to acquire for less than the cost of a Brooks saddle. The second-hand Gazelle handled similarly to my vintage Raleigh, but it was newer and I felt more comfortable using it for transportation. Once I had the Gazelle and found myself riding it all the time, I could not financially justify keeping the Pashley. I decided to sell it and did so swiftly to avoid further agonising over the decision. It was a beautiful bicycle, and I basically learned transportation cycling while riding it. But I do not regret my choice.

In Conclusion
I would describe the Pashley Princess as an elegant and well-made bicycle that is perhaps best suited for those who prefer to cycle slowly and do not live in a hilly area. But ride quality is highly subjective, and so I would recommend reading as many reviews of this bicycle as you can to get a sense of how others feel about it. After all, Katie Doncaster toured across Europe on hers and found it to be well suited for the trip. It is also worth noting, that the Princess model should not be compared to the men's Roadster model, as the latter has 28" wheels and possibly different frame geometry (it looked like it, but we didn't measure when we had both bicycles). While I decided to sell my Princess, my husband continues to ride his Roadster [edited to add: and has now posted a 2-year review].

51 comments:

  1. Oh, Eustacia...so many fond memories.

    Your Pashley was how I first found this blog and was sucked in immediately. And of course, I have a Pashley of my own now. Which I love.

    But it is not perfect. Many of your comments about the Pashley I completely agree with. If there was even a bigger size available (I have the 22.5") I would prefer that. With my height and frame size, It feels like I am riding on top of the bike, instead of being enveloped. Also, it is slow up and sluggish up hills. And SLC has enough hills to make that an everyday issue.

    I have a feeling that if I went with the traditional Dutch bike (in 61cm frame) it would be a better fit for me, geometrically speaking.

    BUT there is something about the Pashley that will not let me quit her. Its her English beauty that gets me every time. I guess it's the anglophile in me.

    It is hard when the facts fight with feelings. In my case, the feelings always win.

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  2. Kara: "I'm a war of head vs. heart, it's always this way. My head is weak, my heart always speaks before I know what it will say..." :)

    Your comparison between the Pashley and the DL-1 reminded me of when we found our vintage Raleighs, and were flabbergasted at how much easier they were to ride than our Electra Amsterdams.

    Of course, the Amsterdam is an extreme example due to the really wacky frame geometry, but it's made that way to address the type of person you were when you bought the Pashley - timid about riding and wanting to be able to plant themselves firmly on the ground while sitting on the saddle. There's nothing wrong with that, and I think the Amsterdam is a good sort of "gateway" bicycle, but I don't think too many people will probably keep one their whole lives.

    My Raleigh isn't perfect for me either - it's too sporty to be my ideal transportation bicycle, but it's really an amazing bicycle and I feel blessed to have found it (I mean, really - a 1953 Raleigh in perfect working condition?!?) - and if, as right now, I can only afford to keep one bicycle, I can't complain too much about having this one.

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  3. Kara - I hope no one throws rotten vegetables at me for saying this, but there is something about Dutch bikes that I find not entirely attractive. A sternness of design that maybe goes a little overboard for my taste? The black and white ones almost look like angry nuns, who might hit me with a ruler if I'm not good. The English roadsters, on the other hand, have a refinement and lively sweetness to them that I process as "warmer" - and the Pashley Princess with her wicker basket is the epitome of that.

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  4. Portlandize - That's true about the Amsterdam. Most people I know who bought one kept it for just a few months before getting a different bike.

    (Your Raleigh is too sporty for you?...)

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  5. Velouria - my Raleigh is significantly different than my wife's DL-1. I sit notably forward on it, the handlebars are lower than the seat, it's a short frame with small tires, etc. It's not too sporty for me to ride (I love riding it), but it's too sporty to be my ideal everyday transportation bike. I'd prefer something more like the DL-1 or your Gazelle.

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  6. Is it the Sports, the Sprite, or a different model altogether? I had a Sports at one point, but didn't find it too sporty. On the other hand, my saddle wasn't high enough to be above the handlebars.

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  7. It's the Sports.

    I don't find it too sporty in general, it's just that for practical trips like shopping and whatnot, I think a bike like the Gazelle would be more practical and comfortable for me. The Sports' short wheelbase kind of limits what I can carry on it, which is one issue, plus the sitting posture of the Gazelle (or similar bike) would definitely be more comfortable for me for my daily trips.

    I love the sports, and I love riding it, but if I had to choose my ideal transportational bike, it would be a little different.

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  8. "Velouria said...
    Kara - I hope no one throws rotten vegetables at me for saying this, but there is something about Dutch bikes that I find not entirely attractive. A sternness of design that maybe goes a little overboard for my taste? The black and white ones almost look like angry nuns, who might hit me with a ruler if I'm not good. The English roadsters, on the other hand, have a refinement and lively sweetness to them that I process as "warmer" - and the Pashley Princess with her wicker basket is the epitome of that."

    A perfect example of "brand continuity" that drives "brand perception."

    P.S. Did you forget to turn on photo enlarging?

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  9. Portlandize: Great quote! That sums it up nicely.

    Velouria: I agree with you about the aesthetics of the English Roadster. There is something that is very romantic and sweet about it. (And the nun comparison made me giggle!)

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  10. Walt - definitely true. And Pashley's catalog with images of riding through the meadows doesn't help. On the other hand, look at this and tell me that I'm wrong about Dutch bikes!

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  11. Velouria: which is kind of funny, considering Amsterdam is the city with the wide-open Red Light District right in the very center of the old city, centering around the old church :)

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  12. Velouria

    How does the Gazelle handle the hills? Aren't you sitting too far back to be able to get up them effectively? I'd love to get one but I'm worried about this aspect of it's handling.

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  13. portlandize - Indeed!

    Nicole - That is what I assumed as well, but no: my Gazelle is easier up hill than my Pashley was. Not only is the Gazelle more upright and relaxed, but it is also 5lbs or so heavier, so the whole thing really is a mystery to me.

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  14. Ahh, thank you! I'm very interested in knowing how different bikes handle up hills, as my daily commute (once I'm actually brave enough to ride up the hill rather than toss my bike on a bus!) includes a hill that is 300 metres of up over 2.5km. :) I currently have a mountain bike (Rocky Mountain Fusion), and am looking for a different commuting bike.

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  15. dotted lines - You might find this post helpful. It talks about general differences between different types of classic transportation bicycles. Good luck with your bike search!

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  16. I feel similarly about my Pashley. It is slow to accelerate and hills are tough. I also have ongoing issues with slipping gears, which doesn't help with the hill climbing. My Dutch bike, although heavier, is easier all-round.

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  17. I have the troubles that Jennifer mentions, with gear slipping as well as hill-difficulties (my relatively feeble legs don't help!). I do love the Pashley - how she feels to ride, how she looks, and how she carries stuff, and in my size (the 17.5" frame, which is a perfect fit for me) there are far fewer options among dutch bikes etc.

    But now that I'm fully addicted to bicycling and mainly reliant on bikes and feet, I wouldn't want the Pashley to be my only bike unless I lived somewhere flat (which I don't), or perhaps somewhere where the bike mechanics were very experienced and competent with the 5 speed SA (which they aren't, round here, though they're very kind). As part of a stable/fleet, she's a delight.

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  18. The gear slipping is a hub adjustment issue, and many new bikes with internally geared hubs have that problem unless the bike shop you buy it from takes the time to test the adjustment before selling you the bike. It's unfortunate, but in no way related to Pashley per se (here's a post about a Workcycles Oma with the same problem).

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  19. Jennifer--is your gear shifter on the right side of the handlebar black with red or black with silver?

    Regardless, I was going to say that the hub needs adjustment but it looks like someone has already said it. This adjustment is in theory very simple, but in practice requires both patience and test-riding. I've seen several online accounts of someone's new bike experience ruined by it. Insist that the bike shop get this right. There should be never any slipping gears, ever. They might need to tighten the shifter, too. If nothing solves it, you need a new rear wheel under warranty.

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  20. Pashley or vintage Raleigh - the English roadster has to be the best bicycle design in the world. Thanks for another roadster fix.

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  21. It is well that marriage is not like cycling or we would all wind up like oft-married Hollywood stars!

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  22. Thank you for this detailed story of your Pashley. Very interesting to read, as I continue to daydream about Pashley ownership myself.

    The smaller wheels is one of the major reasons I decided to get the WorkCycles Oma instead of the Pashley, which were my two top choices. The Pashley felt altogether too diminutive for Chicago streets.

    In my experience, the Velorbis feels quite different from the Pashley, certainly more substantial and faster (but not as much as Oma). There are design similarities between the two, though.

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  23. Dottie - I have not tired the balloon tire Velorbis, but the regular one with the same tires as the Pashley Princess. Possibly it was the Danneborg (it was red), but I don't remember exactly. Have you ever tried a Retrovelo? I'm curious how you'd compare the ride quality to the balloon tire Velorbis.

    Steve - more like "Big Love"!...

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  24. Thank you for this post! I spent a significant amount of time reading your blog, among others, in my decision to get a Pashley (which I'm still waiting for - should be arriving soon).

    My neighbourhood is relatively flat, so Pashley would be perfect for trips to the store, restaurants, friends' houses, and just exploring. I can never get tired of roaming my neighborhood!

    However, I worried about the limitations you expressed when it comes to my commute. The route to work is very hilly and I struggled with the decision to get Pashley for commuting. I had a difficult time with hills on my test ride and that left me worried.

    So I've come to the conclusion that one bike might not be able to do it all for me. I'm sure I will love the Pashley but will likely need a zippier bike for longer rides and my work commute. I'm thinking Betty Foy!

    And just to make this post even longer - I really enjoy your blog! Very informative and a joy to read.

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  25. As I have mentioned in other posts, I had a similar experience with a large, comfortable bike when I first started getting back into riding. It was a beautiful machine, but not at all suited to my terrain or riding habits. I got a different bike that I love and when the big, heavy black one started collecting dust, I knew it was time to say goodbye - no (or very few) regrets!

    I notice the Pashley had a large seat mounted rear bag. How did you like the bag and do you continue to use it on another bike? Any thoughts on that versus panniers?

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  26. I've had my Pashley Princess Sovereign since October 2009 and she's a lovely ride - everything I was looking for in terms of comfort, upright position and let's face it, looks. Is any bike as pretty as an English roadster? I find because of her weight once you get the acceleration going she doesn't require much effort to scream along on the flat or downhill; less in fact than my vintage mixte which is 7 kg lighter. Going uphill is a different matter, and I live in a hilly area. I'm not ashamed to say that if it's too tough, I get off and push. I have the same feeble legs as No Nickname, and I've had to get off the mixte and walk from time to time as well :-)

    I haven't had any gear problems with her; the shop I bought her from was good, and throughly tested and adjusted everything before I paid my money.

    But every time I get on my Pashley after riding my mixte, her incredible stability gladdens my heart. These bikes are beautifully balanced. I feel safer riding in traffic on the Pashley. I feel happier riding the Pashley anywhere. Except up hills!

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  27. Oh how I miss seeing the Pashley here. :) It should be interesting to learn what my impressions of riding a Pashley in a hilly area are compared to that of other Princess owners. If it ever gets here. :/ And I'm never going to be able to see another Dutch bike again without thinking of nuns!

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  28. I bought my Pashley in the spring of 2010 in the 20" size and I too now think I would have been better off with the 22" model. I have found her to be extremely taxing on my kneecaps and on hills but I love the stability and the features too much to sell her as yet. I am not an experienced rider but I wanted a better quality bike than the Electra bike I had purchased the previous year which wasn't as nicely equipped. It has barely left the garage since Pashley came along so I will either outfit it with some accessories and keep it as a spare or look for a ligther, vintage bike on CL. I love my Pashley but I did underestimate how heavy she would be. I have not made any modifications to her though.

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  29. Thanks Melissa : ) You should have no problem with the Betty Foy on hills, so I think that would be a great supplement.

    Carinthia - That's exactly how my Pashey felt post-mixte riding. It is a very stable and comfortable bike.

    dagmara - My modifications did make the bike a tad lighter, but not enough to make a big difference. But I think it was more the weight distribution that caused problems for me, rather than the weight itself. My Gazelle is heavier, yet is easier uphill and almost easier to carry up and down the stairs.

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  30. arevee said...
    "I notice the Pashley had a large seat mounted rear bag. How did you like the bag and do you continue to use it on another bike? Any thoughts on that versus panniers?"


    That's actually a small bag: a Carradice Barley (see my review from 2009). I love this bag for touring bikes and now have it on my Rivendell. But in retrospect, it was silly to install it on a transportation bike. The only reason I did so, is because I was afraid of carrying my laptop in a pannier at first. Eventually I removed the bag from the Pashley and installed Wald rear folding baskets. Detachable panniers are an equally good option (as the baskets). But I no longer think that a saddlebag is suitable for commuting - First, because it's neither detachable nor large enough to swallow my workbag, and second, because it is not safe to just leave on the bike for hours at a time.

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  31. Thank you for the detailed post-ownership review - hindsight is indeed 20/20. My question is, if you had made all of your alterations right off the bat (getting the right frame size, replacing the tires, lowering the handlebars, removing the basket, etc.) do you think you would have still had the same frustrations with the Pashley? Obviously the opportunity to get your lovely vintage Gazelle was too good to pass up, but had that not happened would you still be happily cruising on Eustacia Vye? I'm drawn to the Pashley Princess Sovereign 1) because it's readily available from multiple locations where I live, while I would have to really search to find other bike brands of similar style and quality, and 2) because I really am an Anglophile and think the Pashley looks elegant and refined, while a massive Dutch Omafiets looks almost too severe for my tastes (not that they aren't refined in their own way!) I am just hesitant to commit without knowing if it really would be suitable for the wide variety of places and terrains I plan to live in the next 3-5 years or so.

    On a different note, I just got Wald folding baskets in silver. They are on my vintage 3-speed and will be tested out tomorrow on a jaunt downtown!

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  32. Claire - I lived in England for a good part of my 20s and really miss it, which accounts for my attachment to Pashley as well. But... If the vintage Gazelle did not fall into my lap, I would probably get a modern 3-speed Gazelle, a Bella Ciao, or a Retrovelo (see this post). The Pashley is not only more sluggish uphill than the Gazelle, but it is also less cushy (not as soft on bumps). The Bella Ciao is also less cushy than the Gazelle (similar to the Pashley in that respect), but is half the weight and downright zippy up hills. So I would choose either the cushy bike (Gazelle) or the light and fast bike (Bella Ciao) but not the bike that is both slower and less cushy (Pashley). Hope that is not too confusing.

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  33. I love my Carradice saddlebags! I've been using them for the last few years. I don't always put a lot in them, but they are a convenient place for my rain gear, spare tires, etc, especially on bikes that don't have other carrying capacity. Haven't worried too much about them getting yanked from my bike (knock on wood), though I do run a small cable lock through the bag, saddle, and seatstay. As for sizing, I have seen one that can swallow a workbag whole, so that might be an option if you can find it.

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  34. Thanks MDI. Yes, the shifter is on the right, and is black with silver. The bike shop has tried to fix it with no success and I will now try elsewhere. The problem here is that the bike shops recognise a demand for these bikes and stock them, but don't take care to learn the skills necessary to maintain them. This is the same shop that yesterday knowingly sold me a Brompton with an extended seat post (I'm 5'2") and extra firm suspension, and when I queried why the bike didn't fold as neatly as I had thought, told me that's just how they are. I demanded and got a full refund when I got home, read the Brompton brochure and realised what they'd done. However I will never set foot in that shop again. They just want the quick sale and are not interested in individual customer needs.

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  35. Thanks, Velouria, for adding the clarification about the internally geared hub in general needing competent bike shops. I should have been clearer - I didn't mean to blame the Pashley for the lack of local mechanics with 5-speed SA experience in this midwestern town, where people generally ride mountain bikes, road bikes, or else cruisers with 3-speed hubs. Part of the problem was that when I bought it I didn't realize just how specific the range of skills possessed by some bike shop workers might be (!), so I idiotically allowed it to get set up wrong to start with. I've since found a better mechanic (also inexperienced with 5-speed SA, but otherwise much more experienced and careful), who has made the problems much less severe, but I'm afraid the initial damage is hard to eradicate altogether without some more serious overhaul than I can get round here, alas.

    By the way, I agree about the Pashley downhill. I ride her down from the supermarket, very fully laden, and she feels SO gloriously stable and easy to control. Betty Foy zips up the hills, and is pretty easy to haul groceries on (since she's sort-of a touring bike), but the Pashley definitely wins when it comes to a nice steady ride down with generous quantities of milk, cat food, etc.

    And her basket is just the right size for a cat to sit in (in the garage! not to the grocery store!) One of my (indoor) cats has decided that she needs to visit the bikes every day, and sitting in the Pashley basket and rubbing against the gear thingy is part of that ritual for her.

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  36. Your experiences parallel mine with my Workcycles bike. The Workcycles was just fine until I purchased a Sam Hillborne. I now find myself riding the Sam all the time. The Workcycles is well made and a gorgeous bike but, when I get home from work and decide to go for a ride, I pass right by it and pull out the Sam. We do not have snow so that is not an issue. I will likely sell the Workcycles one day to someone who can truly appreciate it as it is a very nice bike, someone who really wants a fine quality Transportation bike. I see it as a part of the learning process. I will lose money on the deal as it is now a used bike and that funny wheel lock does not (and never did) work.
    I remember complaining to a dealer about losing money as I bought and sold side by side shotguns. I would buy, then decide I did not like a certain design, barrel length, weight, etc., then sell, and buy something different. I lost money on these transactions usually. The dealer who I complained to asked how much my college education cost me. He then stated that I was getting an education in fine quality side by side shotguns and the money lost was the price of my education. That shut me up!
    I wonder now if there is a bike out the that will be better for me than the Sam (other than another Rivendell). I do not have the luxury of a local bike shop that carries high quality bikes so I rely on the thoughts and experiences of others like you, but, of course, that information has its limits as we are all different and do not always prefer the same things. For me, there will be a cost to my education regarding steel lugged bicycles and I have to accept that if I am going to buy more than what I already have without being able to try them out first. I can accept that or buy no more bicycles.

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  37. I bought a Pashley Princess Sovereign in July 2010 and had problems with gears slipping from the first day. It was so frustrating and I was at the bike shop so many times I was embarrassed to go back. The bike shop kept saying it was the shifter. The shifter was replaced 3 times - each time with a different shifter. By November though, they finally got the right one and I haven't had problems since.

    I live in a hilly area and I also find the Pashley heavy and slow - at the same time I love the stability over rough roads, the feeling of safety in traffic. I bought the Pashley more for the looks, I admit. I rode a Gazelle on holiday this summer and the fit was much much better for me. I'm tall and long-waisted and the cockpit (?) - the distance between the seat and the handlebars - is just too short for me and I keep pushing myself back on the seat. I'm starting to think of selling it too.

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  38. Thank you for this.

    My wife rides a Pashley like this one and adores it - she carries our 15 month little one on the back in the Pashley supplied seat. She thinks the frame fits her, though she is 6" plus. That said, I am SURE, she had a frame size choice (though we are in the UK)

    Thankfully we are not in a hilly area and are blessed with lots of cycle paths - the bike has totally replaced her car for trips to shops.

    Re the slipping gears - these Sturmeys are superb, and once set they really are a gear to forget about. They do go out of sync in early days though, as cable can stretch. I just adjusted ours, and they are spot on (and from my memories of SA gears as a kid, expect them to stay that way)

    Baz
    http://gotaukulele.blogspot.com/

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  39. Cool, I didn't know Pashley had their own child seats!

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  40. Okay here is the deal.

    At some point Sturmey Archer replaced the awesome 5-speed hubs with a wider range version. The older ones have a black & red shifter, the newer ones come with a black & silver shifter. Maybe it's just getting the kinks out, but this new set of wider-range 5-speed hubs have been troublesome for people. I've at this point seen many online accounts of the gears slipping, and even visited a bike shop which was trying to rebuild/fix this hub on a Pashley rear wheel. After all their efforts, it was still not 100%. This isn't Pashley's problem per se, they ordered the hubs from SA like everyone else. I blame SA's quality control with the new hub version. Something's not quite right there and I hope they work it out and offer replacements to people who have the wider 5-speeds that have issues.

    Maybe the problem is the shifter, I don't know. But something is definitely going on. I wish I could get my hands on the new 5-speed hub so I can take a crack at it, but nobody I know rides one. By advice if you are having problems is be very firm until the bike is 100%. You should have NO slipping gears problems, that's just not right. If they can't fix the existing hub, someone has to eat the cost of getting a new one. If Pashley does it enough times, maybe they will come to SA with this problem and SA will do something about it.

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  41. "That is what I assumed as well, but no: my Gazelle is easier up hill than my Pashley was. Not only is the Gazelle more upright and relaxed, but it is also 5lbs or so heavier, so the whole thing really is a mystery to me."

    I saw a Pashley up close recently for the first time and was struck by how traditional it was. They don't call it the classic line for nothin'.

    Having seen the attachment method of the seatstays (bolts on both ends!)made me question the quality of steel and the tightness of joinery beneath the lugs. The paint felt like it was applied in a sawmill. That's harsh, I know, but I like the bikes for the roughness. It's certainly built with far looser tolerances than a modern bike. Pashley doesn't list what the frame material is, but I'd say it doesn't differ much from the original: plumbers' pipe.

    All these together create power transfer inefficiencies.

    "I'm curious how you'd compare the ride quality to the balloon tire Velorbis."

    While I haven't ridden the Velorbis or Retrovelo, but have been riding Fat Franks for 3 years. Inflation pressure is the key: a 10psi difference can make a nervous, twitchy, irritating bike into a barcolounger.


    Jim

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  42. MDI--I've heard similar problems regarding Sturmey-Archer's re-introduction of the S3X, their 3-speed fixed gear hub. A friend built up a wheel on it, rode it, and one of the pins sheared off inside it. The local bike shop contacted S-A for a replacement pin, but they somehow didn't have replacement parts yet!

    I guess you just have to wait a few years for them to get the kinks out...

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  43. V ~ As you know I have had my Pashley heart sinking moments as well. My Pashley came in March of 2009 and though I love her, I have also decided to part with her this year ~ an agonizing decision.

    I agree with what you said on a few levels, as I have become an more expeienced road bicyclist, I want to go further, faster. I find the Pashley's slowness not meeting my needs for the city I live in, but she is an absolutely wonderful bicycle.

    One of my recent Pashley posts for your readers from my viewpoint:
    letting go
    My life with Pash here:
    Pash and I

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  44. Ah, a wonderful retrospective. I'm sure you know I feel similarly about several of the things you brought up and I STILL have yet to address a few things like the angle I have on my handlebars (I think I need to tilt down) in addition to installing the double kick stand.

    I think you made a wide decision by not having a bunch of bike redundancy in your collection. Whenever I muse about getting something else like a Batavus Old Dutch or Velorbis Scrap Deluxe, Don always reminds me that I will need to sell the Pashley. It's just too expensive a bike to leave languishing and un-ridden in the garage.

    I use my Amsterdam for my longer trips and hill climbing now (when I can anticipate this sort of thing). Otherwise it's a lot of panting and imagining my pre-pregnancy clothes continuing to fit:)

    S*

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  45. It's a real heart-breaker because I have to admit I've been feeling the same way towards my Pashley Britannia that I got almost a year ago.

    I live in the hilly city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the North East of England and visited your blog loads in the build up to my purchase but I'm afraid I have to face up to the fact that riding my bike in town is unplesant.

    I take a 3 mile detour to get home along a less severe incline (no joke).

    Do you think a Raleigh Caprice 3-speed would do the trick? I found one from the 60's on ebay and I'm hoping a blind leap of faith will see me through.

    I almost can't bear to start the bike search again...it's like having to rehome my pet!

    And many thanks for maintaining such a lovely blog!

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  46. Hi
    I'm torn between the Pashley Princess Sovereign and the Velorbis Victoria Classic - my head says Velorbis, my heart says Pashley, any suggestions gratefully received!

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  47. Hi Anonymous!

    Did your heart give way to a new bike as yet? I am new to Pashley and have just ordered a Penny. So I understand your angst! Whatever you ride it will be great because the bike that speaks to you will be a very dear friend for a long long while.

    Good luck

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  48. I know this is a pretty old post but I had a question. What type of kickstand is that you used on the Pashley? It looks like a double stand but it fold to one side?

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  49. Thanks for the update. Those Pashleys are such sweet bikes.

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  50. Hi, I hope it's not too late to post with a question. I'm 44, living in Central Virginia (Piedmont terrain - moderate to low rolling hills). I've been lurking on bike blogs and thinking of changing my car-dependent ways by cycling around my suburban town (easily done) for daily errands. It seems a Pashley would be ideal for this. But I also want to commute by bike to my office which is 17 miles away. This will be a huge lifestyle change for me (can't remember when I last rode a bike)and I really want to succeed at the mental and physical shift.
    I have an opportunity to buy a 1983 Pashley Princess that needs minor cosmetic work but is otherwise sound and am wondering if that is wise. While she'd be great around town, a 17-mile commute seems unlikely to be successful.
    Do I need two different bikes? Yikes. I hate to think of investing that much money. But I do want something lovely and charming to toodle around town in, raising eyebrows and turning heads. ;) Is there a bike that will accommodate both?

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