Pashley 101

July 14, 2009

I get a lot of questions about my Pashley from readers, so here is a bunch of information on the Pashley Princess Sovereign.

Oh, and I have recently written a follow up, Pashley 201 and Pashley 202.

First of all, that black bike that you see in the photos? Yes, that's the Pashley.

Can you get them in Edmonton, AB? Yes! At redbike. Their link is on the sidebar over there so feel free to give them a call or a visit:) 4th floor distribution brings them into the country from overseas (they're located in Toronto), but 4th floor distribution also distributes to retailers across the country. In Vancouver you can get one at Rain City Bikes, and in Toronto you should go to Curbside Cycle.

People always tell me they want a Pashley, and I often direct them to the Batavus Old Dutch. I ride a Pashley because I am quite petite (5'0) and my legs are short (I'm longer in the torso). The wheel diameter on the Pashley is 26" and the bike frame I ride is 17.5" so it's correctly proportioned for me. If I were a few inches taller, say 5'4, I'd probably be riding a Batavus. The Batavus Old Dutch has a 28" wheel diameter and it rolls along like a dream! It's too tall for me though, and after a lifetime of riding my brother's old cast off bikes I'm not interested in riding a bike where I have to hop on and off every time I start and stop. If you're looking for a beautiful bike? See if you like the Batavus. It's also less expensive so you get a lot of bike for your buck.

Back to the Pashley. I took the basket off mine because it doesn't hold as much as I want. There is also this front cargo bit that the basket sits on... I took that off too because it wasn't really doing anything except squeaking and rubbing every time I turned the handlebars. I replaced the basket with another wicker one (one of my readers, lovely bicycle, suggests that my basket might be from basil, and I think she might be right).

Things I love about a bike like the Pashley (these are things that are also available on other brands of bikes. I'm not saying these things are exclusive to Pashley):

She looks great.

Drum breaks (so there isn't that annoying squeaking of rubber rubbing the wheel when breaking). Also, these are sort of weather proof.

She is made of steel. This absorbs impact and feels super solid to ride. My aluminum framed bike is lighter, but I feel every tiny bump on the road.

The Princess Sovereign (as opposed to the Princess Classic) comes with all the accessories like a great bell, a basket, lights, rear carrier, and a skirt guard. The Princess Classic has all the important bike bits too, and you can always go around finding the extra accessories you want.

The lights! Super bright and great for being visible at night. The headlight is powered by the oscillation of the front wheel. The harder you pedal, the brighter it gets!

Upright riding position. Not a necessity for wearing more tailored items, skirts, dresses, etc... but it certainly does help. I get a lot of comments from readers who ride bikes with a horizontal top tube (mountain bike, road bike). They lament that they can't wear heels while biking or wear dresses like I do because their bike isn't the same. A low swoop top tube helps, but it isn't a must. I've ridden in dresses in heels on my road bike before, and that bike has those crazy egg-beater pedals too!

Rear rack. It's the kind that has the spring loaded clamp that can keep your cargo down. Many rear racks are just a plank and you have to use your own chords to lash stuff down. It's not a big deal, but I like the clamp thing. Keeps my precious cargo in place!

Enclosed chain guard. Never have to velcro my pant leg because there's no fear of my beloved wide legs getting caught in my chain. It also prevents sand and crap from dirtying my chain. Less maintenance.

Steel fenders. This is the thing I hated about my Amsterdam and it's what sent me shopping for a beefier bike. The fenders on the Amsterdam are aluminum and they would rattle persistently. Edmonton has a lot of pot holes because of all the snow and thaw each season. Despite the bike place using lock tight on all of Amsterdam's nuts and bolts the fenders continued to make the most awful clanking every second of every ride. Unbearable! Then one day I discovered that Amsterdam's rear fender had actually cracked and had split right in half. So the bike store was great and ordered me a new one, but Amsterdam the company took its sweet sweet time and I was basically without a fender for the entire summer. Of course the bike worked, but it looked hideous. And fenders are all about enabling you to cycle through rain! No rear fender means you've got that mud splattered all over your back. No thanks. Pashley has steel fenders so they're super solid, and if a fender is rubbing against the wheel or something like that, they can be massaged and coaxed into their desired position without snapping in half.

Basket & Rear Rack. Excellent cargo options. You can actually go do real-life things like bring food to a friend's place, go get groceries, shop for shoes, take a pile of books to school... you name it! To me this is preferable to hauling all of my life's cargo on my back in some ugly and uncomfortable knapsack or anything similar that leaves my back sweaty.

Brooks saddle. Enough said.

People often ask me if the bike is heavy. Sure, it's heavier than my 1-speed road bike and the Amsterdam, but it's fantastic. It's more expensive, but that's because it's built in the UK, not in some mega-factory in China. Batavus, by the way, is about the greenest bike you can ride if you factor in its construction and the company's practices.

The thing I tell people who are concerned about Pashley's weight is for them to question what qualities they're looking for in a bicycle. Lighter doesn't always mean better. Sometimes BETTER is is better. The Pashley is heavier, but it's an heirloom bike. With proper care that bike is going to be something my grandkids can probably ride. It has 5 gears so if I'm riding a hill or want to go faster or slower, I can just gear up or down to accommodate. I've never had a problem with hills... it takes me a while, but I just go into first gear and employ some yoga-like breathing techniques, imagine how my butt is getting firmer, and climb that hill. Pashley makes me strong. I don't want that comment to be mistaken with the Pashley being labourious to ride. She's easy to ride because she is so well made, the effort you put in works with you, not against you.

Also, Edmonton doesn't have TONS of hills. It only has some. I'm not sure if I would ride a Pashley if I lived in San Fancisco. I would have to be REALLY strong for that.

Anyway, if you're somebody who really prizes weight above other things, then Pashley might not be for you. However, you can be like me and have a light bike for the rides when you want a light bike, and a Pashley for other times. Also, consider what you're looking for when purchasing a bike. If you don't love your bike (no matter how light), you won't want to ride it.

So there's my 2 cents about the Pashley, hope it's helpful to anyone who is out shopping!

P.S. In the comments section I was asked how far I ride Pashley. Approximately around 9-10 km one-way when I'm out and about for an afternoon? I live really central. Ran into a friend who also rides a Pashley and she says she does 25-30 km one way, so double that if you're thinking round trip. I never have to ride more than 30-40 mins one way, wherever I'm going, and it's totally fine. I never feel tired or anything...


Sigrid said...

Miss S ~ I've been thinking about my Pash a lot lately and have a post I've been mulling over about my thoughts on her; so thanks for the post!

One question for you - what is the distance you would say your average ride is on the Pashley (rt and with how much pausing in the middle)? I find mine works best for trips closer to home when I am in the mood to lollygag. I'm just curious.

PS I purchased mine from Curbside in Toronto. They had a free shipping deal in February and also the USD finally improved against the Canadian Dollar, so a bike I had originally ruled out as too expensive suddenly became much more affordable.

Dottie said...

Thanks for the information-stuffed post! I love reading about your Pashley. I bought a Dutch bike instead of a Pashley, but I've been thinking lately that perhaps I need both. I don't think that would be overkill, as I ride everyday :) Kinda like you and your Amsterdam and your Pashley. The two bikes feel very different to me, more so now that I am used to riding the Dutch bike. I recently test rode the Pashley again and fell in love. I'm working on putting a post together about my second impression.

Oh, and great picture collection!

MamaVee said...

this is very helpful!! I am currently comparing my choices so that in a few years when I am ready for the queen bee solo bike I will make my purchase. ( it might be sooner than later though b/c I am not loving the townie Xtra cycle for my hills and am considering seeing if I can leave it with my in laws on cape cod ( so I have something to ride there that has kid toting capacity as well as beach blanket capacity).

I am training for a triathlon and have begun to use a road bike and am now addicted to the effortless speed I get there. Also on the Sorte I have effortless pumping. Something about the alignment of the seat and pedals on the Sorte b/c even though I am upright- I can lean in and pump on a hill. ( which I do have a few of. not major and I get by with 5 speeds on the Sorte carrying both kids... and yes my bum is better than it's been- ever) what would you say about the alignment of the pashley? Can you lean in and pump when needed?

I am short- 5'1" so I have issues with correct fit. I am still a wobbly rider at times and like to get my foot firmly on the ground when stopping in traffic.

The things I like most about the pashley are the lights. ( I want a bright light for night riding) and the skirt guard) The other bikes I am considering (-Betty Foy and custom built bike from MA ( ANT bikes) do not have lights or skirt guards.

And I have tons of potholes too- so I want a smooth ride. my teeth chatter on the road bike for a small bump. No fun!

dagmara said...

You are not helping to dissuade me from purchasing one at
I wish I'd done a bit more research when I bought my Electra Townie last summer.
I'm having a lot of fun on it, sure (see but in hindsight, I wish I'd gone with a Pashley or Batavus.
(I don't find the Townie to be very light by the way.) The parts rattle incessantly. I've had to tighten the fender bolts several times. And my wire baskets makes a lot of noise too with every bump. I sound like ChittyChittyBangBang!

I don't have too much trouble climbing Toronto's hills with it so long as I keep the seat high enough. That helps a lot.

One thing I like about the Pashley is that it definitely appears to be a more compact bike than the Old Dutch but until I test both I won't say anymore more.

P.S. I too have wondered how long you're rides are averaging because I've been trying to commute to work, a 30 min ride, and I don't always look so lovely upon arrival. And definitely more so when I wear pants.

Lindsey said...

I am glad to see you are riding your Princess in the snow too!

You can find Pashley's in the USA at


Kitty Rides said...

I have been debating a Pashley for over a year now. I wanted it before and still do, but I live in Montreal and pull a bike trailer and I fear it would be too much weight :-(

I found a gently used Amsterdam however that I am buying this weekend.

Could you see yourself pulling a chariot trailer with the Pashley?

Jen said...

I ride a vintage Hercules 3-speed. Although she's the favorite child out of all my bikes, she is challenging on the hills. I live in Mid-Ohio and it's quite hilly here. I have been thinking about, someday, upgrading to the Pasley because it's a five speed, comes with all the bells and whistles and is very similar to my beloved, Agatha. I looked at a Batavus and it was too big and too heavy for me and my terrain. I think the Princess Soveign is probably my answer. Thanks for the great post.

Lovely Bicycle! said...

I've just gotten back to the US, and have been riding my Pashley Princess for the past 2 days. Mine is a larger size, green, and with several alterations from the standard model (coaster brake installed, leather handlebars, my own dress-guard). I will write a review if it soon.

Regarding the basket issue, you are so right. The basket and the metal support on which it sits, bounce and damage the paint on the head tube. The whole set-up needs to be removed and replaced with something more usable.

Is your basket held up by any kind of support from below, or does it just hang on the handlebars? It looks perfectly level, so I would be impressed if you get that from the handlebar attachment alone!

Montrealer said...

You said: "I ride a Pashley because I am quite petite (5'4) and my legs are short (I'm longer in the torso). The wheel base on the Pashley is 26" and the bike frame I ride is 17.5" so it's correctly proportioned for me. If I were a few inches taller, say 5'4, I'd probably be riding a Batavus."

Could you please confirm, are you 5'4 or shorter? (You may have mistyped above... you are 5'4 and if you were a few inches taller, like 5'4...??) I am 5'2 and a half, and am wondering whether the Pashley would suit. It's so beautiful...

miss sarah said...

Montrealer: Omg, you're totally right, I've got typo city! Fixed it. I'm 5'0:)

Lovely Bike: The basket hangs right off the handlebars, my bike guys used pliers to bend the super prongs to fit perfectly.

Kitty: I'm actually going to attempt to tow the chariot with the Pashley... if it's brutal then I'll switch to the Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a great bike too. Fantastic frame, but the attachments are a little cheaper. I still like riding it:)

miss sarah said...

Mama Vee,

Can totally stand up and pump my way up a hill, the rider is seated surprisingly close to the handlebars which is something I don't get with the Amsterdam. That one is more reclined. Although, since it's lighter I don't usually have to stand up to get going.


RidingPretty said...

THE Best 101.. how in depth and thoughtful! Did you know there is a pashley poppy give away?

Tinker said...

On Amazon, there is a Biria Quick Klick basket that can be mounted and removed easily, and it looks rather nice. (Also a Quick Klick handlbar bag which sounds as if it might use the same mount as the basket.)

I think I will attempt to mount a HUGE Topeak basket on the back of my GT Transeo LTD (how can they call this a commuter w/o fenders or a basket or any modern conveniences, such as a dynamo hub and lights)? I was looking at the Dekra D Drive Urban Voyager, and it has a speedometer, fenders, a bell, front hub dynamo, front light (apparently no rear light), but the shaft drive looked like it was too close to the tires to allow the Big Apples to fit, and I know if I want wheels to last I need to stick to the fat tires. (I'll be giving my 1972 Raleigh to the Yellow Bike Project, here about.)

Lorenza said...

hello Miss Sarah!

lovely post about Pashley! I left a comment not long ago that I was getting my Pashley soon... well I had it for over two weeks and I am absolutely loving it! It's heavier no doubt (I am 5'2'') but a joy to ride and it's making me stronger, fitter and healthier by the day. She's beautiful and incredibly elegant, I get a lot of nodding and smiles when I ride around :)

I love the fact that it's built all by hand in Stratford-upon-Avon (birthplace of Shakespeare!) in a small factory where every small element is created with a lot of love and pride...

I am over the moon for having gone for it (I was worried about the weight too) and I think I will have many happy rides with it.

Although I call her Pash, I have named her Vita :D Have you got a name for her?

Your blog and posts (together with Sigrid's) is what really inspired me to go for a Pashley!

L xxx

Montrealer said...

Thanks Sarah!

Lorenza, what kind of terrain/distance do you ride with your Pashley?

Lorenza said...

@Montrealer - sorry only seen you left a question for me (I could not link to your blog)... I ride in a city environment (manchester uk) and my daily commute is only a short, about 5 miles, but I have done 20 to 30 miles in one trip so far and I have never felt tired or aything, if else I feel more energised and happy!

L x

Anonymous said...

Love the netted dress guards on your bike. I've been looking for them and they only seem to sell them in Europe. I can't find one that will ship to the US if I'm even reading the German correctly? Were did you purchase yours? I have a Pashley Sonnet and would love to add them to really finish her off in style. Thanks Linda

miss sarah said...

Hi Linda,

The skirt guards came with the Princess Sovereign model... so I'm not sure how to get them separately. I've seen people manufacture their own, but I have no idea how that works. The Sonnet might look like with grey ones:)

If its any consolation for not having them, I don't find that my clothes generally get stuck in my spokes. Except for the time when I was riding my road bike, then I got bike grease on my dress:(


Taylor said...

I just bought a Pashley Sonnet Bliss last week, and although she must stay in my parents home until they bring her to Ottawa in the Spring (I bought her from Curbside in Toronto and I couldn't take her on the bus home, which is fine since I wouldn't take her out in the snow storm we just got. I have a winter bike for that!) I just cannot wait until she gets here! I didn't find her to be too heavy at all, Im 5'1 and she fits and rides like a dream. When I took the Electra Amsterdam out for a spin, It was nice, but I just couldn't believe the difference between the two! I found the electra to be far too bulky, long and heavy, I had trouble getting it back in the shop after my test ride. The Pashley fit me perfectly. The only worry I have is getting her up hills, the Bliss is a three speed and I do like to stand to pump up hills and with the Bliss I noticed this was a little awkward. However, the hills I encounter aren't that bad, I'm not too worried. The only modifications I think are really necessary for me are the back rack, and the skirt guard looks mighty helpful. Although I might add new grips too.

I had chosen the name Miss Bliss before I chose my bike, and I didn't know the Pashley I chose was named the Bliss until I came home to read some reviews. It seems like we were made for each other!

It's a solid ride and I can't wait for her to join me on my commute!

zouch said...

Miss Sarah,

as a bicyclist whose wife is slowly rediscovering the joys of cycling, i salute your advocacy of cycling as a part of Regular Life. my family in Europe grew up doing errands on bikes and did so into their Golden Years; what is it about North Americans that makes them allergic to bicycles as soon as they're old enough to turn a key in the ignition?!

my wife (also Asian) has struggled with trying to get a bike that fits her; she'll tell you she was asked to join the Basketball team when she was growing up overseas and tell you that's she's 5'4", but it's apparent only one of those things is true. (it's obvious she's not 5'4". ;-) ) for now, she spends most of her cycling time on the back of our tandem letting me handle traffic challenges for us, but she's making noises again about wanting to dust off her tiny (cute!) MTB and getting it back out there herself. we'll see,...

while viewing your vid of touring Edmonton, a few things startled me; firstly, dear, it seemed you were riding dangerously close to parked cars doors. living in the SF Bay area, not much time passes between hearing stories of some new'ish rider "getting doored", and it's just so avoidable by staying a little further away from them where you also have the benefit of better becoming a part of traffic.
secondly, in a couple of cases it seems you're stepping through your Pash with your body on one side of the bike and all your weight on one pedal while it still moving; i know we all did this as kids, but it only takes one tiny little pebble or irregularity on the ground to unsettle the bike while you're riding this way, and if it happens to cause the bike to wobble such that you're falling *towards* the bike you're unlikely to be able to step back through in time to save yourself and very likely to wind up on top of your bike on the ground. even if by chance you don't get hurt, or ruin a dress or a pair of cool shoes, it's the sort of event that could leave a lady in a dress getting 'talked about', if you know what i mean,... ;-*

lastly, 'fess up; as a guy with shoulder-length hair (and sisters and nieces) i have to ask; did you do a quick hair-fix after taking your helmet off in the vid, or are you just one of those people we envy with that Asian hair that's indestructible? ;-)

miss sarah said...


You pay a lot of attention:)

Yes, I do tend to ride really close to car doors. Luckily I've never been doored, but in Toronto I see it all the time because of the parked cars and narrow streets. When I'm on the bike I don't feel as though I'm too close, but I'll make sure I try to stay safe in that respect.

As for the dismount, I never even thought about it being dangerous! It's just what comes naturally. I never really ride around that way, it's always on the dismount. Still bad? Hopefully my sense of propriety will remain intact:)

Asian hair? In the bike video I seriously don't comb it. I wouldn't say my hair is indestructible though. I can get some serious bed head. Maybe after all these years I can put the helmet on without messing it up? Sometimes when I'm getting it cut I tell the girl that I wear a helmet a lot, so she knows.

Lastly, thanks for reading, and keep commenting! People like you really keep me going:)

miss sarah said...


You pay a lot of attention:)

Yes, I do tend to ride really close to car doors. Luckily I've never been doored, but in Toronto I see it all the time because of the parked cars and narrow streets. When I'm on the bike I don't feel as though I'm too close, but I'll make sure I try to stay safe in that respect.

As for the dismount, I never even thought about it being dangerous! It's just what comes naturally. I never really ride around that way, it's always on the dismount. Still bad? Hopefully my sense of propriety will remain intact:)

Asian hair? In the bike video I seriously don't comb it. I wouldn't say my hair is indestructible though. I can get some serious bed head. Maybe after all these years I can put the helmet on without messing it up? Sometimes when I'm getting it cut I tell the girl that I wear a helmet a lot, so she knows.

Lastly, thanks for reading, and keep commenting! People like you really keep me going:)

zouch said...

hi Miss S!

sorry to be so long getting back,...

thanks for taking my comments in the light they were intended; i hope they help you and/or some others that might be reading along.

i wouldn't say i pay that much attention, but some things that i've seen people do that have gotten them into trouble just really seem to jump out at me. of course, having played piano (and other instruments) and now having a titanium-enhanced wrist from a fall off a bicycle at below walking speed might make me a little more sensitive to this sort of thing, i guess... ;-*

dismounting; best thing to do is come to a near stop while still astride the bike and then step down at the same instant you come to a complete stop. getting your weight all off to one side of the bike is asking for trouble, especially with a leg crossed where you aren't as likely to be able to get it out where you'd need it in a hurry to save yourself if you were to begin to fall.

some people risk pretty much the same thing at a start; doing the 'step on the pedal and swing your leg over as you start out' routine puts folks at the same risk, but complicates it further because weight on the pedal puts the whole drivetrain under tension and commits you to moving, even if you're already starting to fall over. 8-0

somewhat more insidious in risk is where you'll sometimes see people 'hop' along on one foot as they get themselves started, too; just stepping on something slippery and having your foot come out from under you *once* will pretty much cure most people from trying that again! ;-) (if the roads in Edmonton are anything like what i've seen elsewhere in AB, they can be pretty dirty for much of the year, and it isn't hard to find something to slip on at a start/stop.)

best start is to put your weight on your pedal to lift yourself onto your seat as you start out, without putting any 'push' onto the standing leg; ideally, you just lift it away from the ground as you begin riding. done right, all of this is not very exciting looking, but it's likely to help avoid some excitement we just don't need. ;-)

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