Saturday, September 15, 2012

A (Pashley) Penny for Your Thoughts

Pashley Penny
The Pashley Penny is the companion model to the Parabike I wrote about earlier. This unusual bicycle looks vaguely old-fashioned, but unlike the Parabike it is not based on a specific vintage design. Part cruiser, part mixte and part mountain bike, its uniqueness is enhanced by eccentricities such as the split curved downtubes. The Penny defies classification, and this seems to be how the manufacturer intends it - explaining that the bike "provides the perfect excuse to experience more rural rides."

Pashley Parabike & Penny
While the Parabike's aesthetic is defined by the continuous curvature of its top set of twin stays, from head tube to rear dropouts, in the Penny the curve is interrupted and inverted. This difference is so visually dominant that it overshadows the structural similarities between the two bikes. The Penny also lacks the military/historical somberness of the Parabike, coming across as more light-hearted.

Pashley Penny
Made of cro-moly steel, the Penny is handbrazed and powdercoated in Stratford-upon-Avon in England, like all Pashley bicycles. It is fairly lightweight for its category of bikes, coming in at under 30lb. 

Pashley Penny
Like the Parabike, the Penny is built for 26" wheels and fitted with 26 x 1.75" Schwalbe Marathon tires. Colour-matched fenders and chainguard are included.

Pashley Penny
Components include a 5-speed Sturmey Archer hub, hand-operated hub brakes front and rear, a Brooks B67S saddle, a Stronglight crankset, non-slip platform pedals, rubbery "faux cork" grips, and a large bell. Unlike the Parabike, the Penny is set up with straight, rather than swept back, handlebars.

Pashley Penny
Standing over the bicycle for the first time, I was overwhelmed by all the flowy slender tubes; it was a bit like standing over a swaying rope bridge. Not that the tubes sway. It's the form and the repetition that give that impression of movement. A unique design to be sure.

Pashley Penny
One thing I had wondered about when seeing pictures of the Penny, was whether the stepover was low enough to be practical. Unlike a traditional mixte, the twin parallel stays here don't extend all the way down to the rear dropouts, but connect to the upper seat stays - which places them rather high. However, this is compensated for by their downward sweep. When mounting the bike, the stepover height resembles that of a typical mixte. 

Pashley Penny
Riding the Penny, my first impression was that it felt too small for me (I am just under 5'7"). My test riding partner agreed that the Penny's "cockpit," even with the straight handlebars, felt smaller than the Parabike's. Later I looked up the sizes of the two bikes and was surprised to see them described as the same: 19" (48cm). Of course this measurement refers to the seat tube length, and it's possible that the Penny's virtual top tube is shorter than the Parabike's. Regrettably, I did not measure the bikes and have not been able to source geometry charts. But the good news is that the Penny will work well for smaller riders and those with shorter torsos. 

Putting the fit issue aside, the ride quality and handling of the Penny felt very similar to that of the Parabike, which I liked very much: maneuverable, extremely cushy over bumps, mountain-bikey but with a relaxed cruiserish element to it. These are entirely different bikes from Pashley's Roadster and Princess line. Personally, I prefer the way the Penny and Parabike ride to the classic Princess. Of course the looks are a matter of taste. 

Pashley Penny
One advantage of the Penny over the Parabike, is that - to my eye at least - its aesthetics do not conflict with a standard rear rack. So turning it into a practical city bike would be fairly simple. Unfortunately, dynamo lighting is not included. Also not included are the waterbottle cage mounts that I noticed on the Parabike. Step-through frame designs often do not lend themselves to this, and it's too bad. Finally, I am not sure why the Penny was set up with straight handlebars rather than swept-back bars - I suspect that much of this bike's target market would find the the latter more comfortable. 

Pashley Penny
In their description of the Penny, Pashley suggests that this bike is meant to move effortlessly between town and country. I can see that. Provided that it's a fairly flat area, this bike could feel equally enjoyable to ride through meadows and forests, on cobblestones and on busy city streets, for shorter and longer distances. It is a nice combination of comfortable, maneuverable, and intuitive to handle. The durable powdercoat and the enclosed brakes and gears allow outdoor storage and make this bike a good choice for winter and inclement weather conditions. If the unique look of the Penny appeals to you, the bike is worth taking seriously.

Pashley Penny
The Pashley Penny is available in "willow green" (shown here) or "dusk blue" - a dusty indigo. Current retail price is $1,195. Both the Parabike and Penny are available for test rides at Harris Cyclery in West Newton, MA. Many thanks to them for setting up these demo bikes.

30 comments:

  1. Vivienne Westwood rides a Pashley Penny about London! And even onto the red carpet. http://rdujour.com/2009/03/16/vivienne-westwood-bike-riding/

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    1. A few years back I read an interview with her where she describes the bike, but I can't find it. I notice the picture of hers shows dynamo lights and a rack.

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  2. To me, those sweeping lines give the impression of speed -- or that of riding a suspension bridge!

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  3. I love Pashley bicycles they ride fab - incl the Penny.

    But with their new colour schemes they look awful.

    Come on Pashley bring back the tasteful and vibrant colours again!

    Trots diddlie

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  4. Nice bike, love the unique look.

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  5. The Penny appeals to me. I always thought loop frames looked too cutesy and this is something different. Too bad about the size though. I am taller than you and long in the torso.

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    1. Others have said this, but honestly I don't see the Penny as any less "cutesy" than a traditional loop frame design. I would not even say that it's more gender-neutral - I mean, there's the name; it is clearly marketed to women. Which is fine. The biggest difference between the Penny and the loop frame Princess is the handling.

      Sizing - yeah. I would say this bike is ideal for those under 5'6" or with short torsos.

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  6. There is a potential solution to the short virtual top tube problem for those who must have this bike but are too tall. The downside is that bars would be lower.

    I am not sure how much the average Penny customer will want to do this, but one could get a Nitto Technomic 12cm stem (I think that's the longest reach) which has a fairly tall neck, and replace the stock riser stem while keeping all other components the same.

    It would be a direct swap. Need to undo the allen bolts, remove the brake lever and grip, replace the stems and reassemble. Depending on which handle bar clamp diameter stem one gets, it may need an aluminum can shim (not visible after installation).

    I think together with the stock bars that would stretch the position out enough for taller people to be able to ride it without being cramped, although, like I said, bars would be somewhat lower.

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    1. That could certainly be a way to go, though the dramatically longer stem (I think the current one is like 5cm) would change the handling. Could be interesting.

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  7. The handlebars remind me of those that Pashley uses on the Poppy model. Even at just under 5'4" I recall that the Poppy felt cramped with the straight bars, but after changing them, it provided more room and comfort with hand positions. I'm wondering if Pashley will make changes to these handlebars, or perhaps they have worked well to date for those who buy their bikes?

    I really love the color and the lines of this model though... it is quite lovely.

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    1. I am pretty sure they are the same handlebars as on the Poppy. But unless I am missing something, if anything the straight bars should have the opposite effect. While they might make the hands feel cramped, they should actually expand the feel of the cockpit itself, since their hand positions are further forward than those on swept back bars.

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    2. My eldest daughter has a Poppy and the handlebars are the same as on the Penny.

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  8. Can you tell me how the ride on the Penny compares to Riv's Betty Foy? I have had my Penny (here in the UK) since April, and as you say, it's perfect on the flat but I am finding that I tend to run out of gears easily.
    It is a fun bike though, a bit like the velo equivalent of a Mountain and Moorland pony!

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    1. The Rivendell Betty Foy should do better on hills for sure, provided you set it up with derailleur gearing. Overall I would say it's a more performance/long distance oriented bike. It is somewhat lighter. And finally there are provisions for carrying things both in the front and rear.

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  9. Making a comparison between the Penny and the Parabike, I have two thoughts:
    1) The Penny is awfully cool looking and I'd like to ride one sometime
    and
    2) if the Penny had an imaginary military role, I could see it as being the issue bike for Scottish Highland airborne troops- you could easily ride it in a kilt!

    That color is very attractive, to me at least.

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  10. I can see the benefits of the low step-over, but the Penny looks like an afterthought to the Parabike. The handing sounds promising, but I am not excited about the looks.

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  11. Again, neither the parabike nor the Penny are new models. Pashley has been offering the Tube Rider for some time.

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    1. In that sense, the Princess, Poppy and Britannia are basically all the same bike as well.

      What was the step-through equivalent to the Tube Rider? There isn't one currently on their website that I can see.

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    2. Just got a reply to this on Twitter: It's the Pashley Provence.

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  12. Sorry but some of your reviews, such as this one and that of the Honey, veer towards language descriptors and not numbers or geo, where stuff really is.

    Short virtual tt? Get a bike the proper size. Bars not commensurate with the style, whatever the style may be...if it fits it works.

    I feel your lack of geo understanding his influencing when you choose to discuss aesthetics of bikes.

    Look at any modern Dutch Giant or whatever. They're just hybrid bikes. Same as this.

    Personal sensations over bikes that don't fit really don't count for much that have been ridden a few miles...I dunno. It's not quite right.

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  13. You mention the lack of bottle cage mounts. I have a Parabike that has the mounts, but their location on the seat tube makes it nearly impossible to retrieve the bottle whilst riding as its removal is blocked by the twin top tubes. 20 ounce bottles are the worst. A solution is a bar-mounted bottle cage.

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    1. Hah! I have "twin rocket" bottle mounts on my Pashley Roadster's handlebars.

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    2. That's too bad, and good to know. But I bet it's still an advantage to be able to drink at red lights. With the Penny, you'd have to get the bottle out of a bag or basket, or else resort to some wacky setup like on MDI's bike.

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  14. I don't know if you can answer this question, but is there any practical reason for the curved tubes, or is it purely a matter of aesthetics?

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    1. On the Penny, the curve lowers the stepover.

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  15. What's with all the one-size-fits-all bikes? I found the Linuses too small, and I bet this one would feel that way to me, too. Do manufacturers think all women are under 5'5"? Never mind the ones who think all humans are over 5'8". Bikes should come in a range of sizes, whether for men or women. This just annoys the heck out of me as a long-inseam, medium-height female. Raleigh made three different sizes of the Sports in the "women's" model. I have the medium one. Were women really a wider range of sizes 40 years ago? I don't think so.

    Otherwise, the bike is cute, but like the Linuses or the Pilen you tested earlier this year, the one-size-fits-everyone thing means I probably won't ever consider one. That just seems like a bad business model.

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  16. I got the blue Penny a few months back after 20 something years without a bicycle. I was initially looking at the Princess but when I realized how heavy it was, I quickly started looking at other models ( I need to carry it a flight of stairs ). I like the look,the color, the internal hubs and the Brooks saddle is incredibly confortable. I am 5'8" and do not feel it is too short for me. However, I wish Pashley had used the same handlebars as on the Parabike,I would prefer to ride more upright. Also, I wish they had put at least a rear wheel rack on them. I have since purchased a rear rack in black and a basket. Someone suggested changing to a longer stem but for me I think just having a more curved handlebar would do the trick. All in all, I think my heart remains with the Princess or the Sonnet. Any thoughts on the handlebar situation would be welcome.
    Thanks

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  17. I have this bike and am thrilled with it. I got it in navy and changed the tyres to white, it turns a few heads! Initially when I went sample bikes, the bike shop owner kept trying to persuade me to sample in-shop aluminium ones, which were rough and bumpy, however when I tried the Para, upon which the Penny is based, it rode like a dream, it felt like it was pushing me rather than I pushing it. I ordered it straight away much to the shop owners dismay. Word of caution though when my Penny arrived the shop owner who was meant to put the bike together had not secured any of the fittings, including the breaks and had not set the gears at all. It was unrideable, fortunately my husband sorted it all out for me. Pleased to see its got a mentîon on lovely bicycle also as when I was researching on the internet for reviews I could find nothing about it, which was a shame as it is truly a fabulous bike. I am 5 foot five, by the way and height not a problem for me.

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