Beautiful Bicycles: Pashley Princess Sovereign

My Pashley Princess Test Drive

My Pashley Princess Test Drive

Key to integrating cycling into my daily life is possession of a beautiful and functional bicycle.  Nearly everyone in America thinks of bikes as sports machines that require specialized or casual clothing.  With a certain type of beautiful and functional bicycle, this is simply false.  When I first started shopping for bikes, I did not know that such bikes existed – those with skirt and chain guards and dignified seating positions.  Last year I spent a lot of time researching and test riding beautiful bikes before finally choosing my Azor Oma from Dutch Bike Chicago.  This will be the first post in a series about the beautiful and functional bicycles I found.

I’ll start with the Pashley Princess Sovereign, since she was the close runner-up. I became familiar with this bike because it is the ride-of-choice for two great bloggers, Girls and Bicycles and Ecovelo. Hand built in Stratford-upon-Avon, this bike is as lovely as they come. The Princess Sovereign is also up to the challenge of daily use, with five gears, hub gears and brakes, kickstand, basket, bell, chain case, skirt guard, sprung leather saddle, lights, wheel lock and fenders. Beauty and function.

Pashley Princess

Pashley Princess

If you live in the States, be prepared to search diligently for the perfect beautiful bicycle. (This is something Trisha can attest to, as she calls shops in London to inquire about purchasing a certain Batavus.) When I began my search, there were no Pashleys to be found in Chicago.  I located a super nice and helpful bike shop in my native North Carolina, North Road Bicycle Imports, that carried them and considered having one shipped, but did not want to purchase without a test drive.   Luckily, I soon vacationed in Vancouver and was able to stop by Rain City Bikes to check this lovely lady out. I enjoyed the ride there and was nearly convinced that this was the bike for me, but was still torn between the Pashley and the Oma.

I returned to Chicago empty-handed. Then the U.S. Pashley distributor emailed me to say that a Chicago bike shop picked up the Pashley, Boulevard Bikes. I was so happy to test ride it again, and I’m glad I did. Once I got on the Chicago streets, I was sure that the bike would not be ideal for me. It felt too small, somehow, on the big road. Miss Sarah of Girls and Bicycles has said that she chose the Pashley over an Oma because she liked the smaller frame. For me, it was the opposite. I’m 5’7 and the hugeness of the Oma works well for what I want, while the Pashley felt cramped.

Pashley Princess

Pashley Princess

Even though the Pashley Princess Sovereign was not the right bike for me, I highly suggest that women looking for a beautiful and functional bicycle check her out! Pashley also has the Sonnet Bliss, which is the same but in pretty colors.

Comparing Princess and Oma:

Rain City Bikes in Vancouver, which also sells Dutch bikes, sent me this very helpful comparison of the two bikes.

This is a tough call. I will answer in bullet form for brevity.

1) the oma is an incredibly stout bike. very well built and also beautiful. comes with everything but the front rack. that is not standard. it is an add on.

2) the oma has an eight spd Shinmano nexus hub. some consider it the best in the world.

3) the oma has 700C wheels which is far more efficient for commuting.

4) the oma is slightly heavier than the pashley.

5) the pashely is still handbuilt in england by great frame builders.

6) the oma’s are hand built in holland and belgium by excellent frame builders.

7) the pashley is a little tighter feeling. so a good option if you have shorter legs or arms and feel that you would be “swimming” in the oma. probably not an issue for someone who is 5’6″

8 ) the pashley comes in different colors. one of which you know, regency green. it also comes in white (ivory) with cranberry accents.

9) the oma only comes in black. which most people want anyways.

10) the pashley comes with a basket. the oma does not.

11) the pashley comes in a 3spd (no rear rack) and a 5 spd with a rear rack. both have leather Brooks saddles. as does the Oma.

12) Shipping to chicago will be aprox $200 and aprox $200 for duties. amount quoted in CAD… minus aoubt 8% for USD exchange.

13) You will be very happy with either bike. every one of our clients loves their Oma/Pashley’s.

I’d be happy to answer any questions about the Pashley!

See Pashley Part II: Sonnet Bliss HERE.

  • kenny

    If you love beatiful classic bicycles check out Velorbis at http://www.velorbis.com.

  • msdottie

    Kenny, the Velorbis is another beautiful creature! I also considered the Velorbis Victoria and Scrap Deluxe when shopping for a bike, so will be posting about them in the future. Thanks!

  • miss sarah

    To be honest, and I’ve said this to lots of people, if I were just 3-5 inches taller (or my legs were a touch longer) I’d probably be on a Batavus Old Dutch. I LOVE the huge huge wheels, and it’s a super great value. That’s a lot of bike for a good $500 less than Pashley.

    Alas, having freakishly short legs led me to Pashley. So for the girl who is petite and needs the small frame? Pashley is fantastic. But if you’re normal sized? Seriously consider indulging in the smooth smooth ride of the dutch Batavus:)

    S*!

  • Scott

    We’re getting a Velorbis shop in Chicago!

    http://www.copenhagenbike.com/

    Dottie,

    I rode a Pashley at Boulevard recently too, the roadster sovereign. I had been looking at it forever online, and I was super excited to try it. But I didn’t like it as much as my Azor oma. At least now I can test ride a Velorbis to compare with the Azor secret service (probably my next bike).

    • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com dottie

      Yup, I visited the new Velorbis shop today – http://copenhagenbike.com/

      I prefer my Oma to the Pashley, too, but now I really want one of those new Pashley Poppies. Sigh.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00359329171411037482 Filigree

    Dottie, I wonder what frame size that Pashley is. My guess is that you tried one of the smaller ones (they make three different frame sizes). If I am not mistaken, the largest size should be the same as the Azor Oma. One thing I liked about the Princess, is that the 51-size frame actually felt roomier than the comparable 51-size frame of the Dutch Gazelle.

    • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com dottie

      The bike shop guy assured me that I was on the correct frame size. I don’t really trust regular bike shop guys when it comes to these types of bikes, though, because I seem to know more about the bikes than them! One day when I have some time I plan to re-visit the Pashley and give it another test ride. I’ll try to use a larger frame, too. It will be interesting to see how it feels after 8 months of riding the Oma.

  • Heather

    I came across your thread, I am 5′ 10″ and have bought a large frame Pashley – it is the bees knees …… love it

    • Kathleen

      Thank you for posting this. I, too, am 5’10″ and have been saving my pennies (by riding my too-small mountain bike purchased at an auction three years ago rather than driving my beater). I am ready to invest in a “luxury” bike (I’ve never owned a new or luxury car) that I can ride the 30-mile trek along our beautiful river in South Bend, Indiana or on my commute to the Farmers Market and, of course, to work. I was planning on checking out the Pashleys in Chicago but apparently this Azor brand is also worth looking into?

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  • http://bespoke.onthefourth.com Kampy

    There is a great interview with Adrian Williams, owner of Pashley, on Bespoke’s website: http://bespoke.onthefourth.com/?p=552

  • NormanF

    I ended up building a high-end roadster from a Pashley Guvnor. The hardest part I had to find was a fold down rear rack and I finally managed to get one from a bike shop in Germany. The Pashley build quality (Reynolds 531 maganese-moly steel) is impeccable and the most unusual feature is alloy rather than generic steel 635mm rims. That makes a difference in the ride!

  • NormanF

    A follow-up note: I’m 5’7″ and the Pashley Guvnor I have is a 20″ which felt about right. Most roadsters are available only in 57cm which means its going to be even taller with those big wheels and while a big bike (like my Raleigh Superbe 23″) can work after a fashion, a roadster that’s too big would be too scary to even contemplate riding!

  • Lorraine

    I have a gorgeous Velorbis bike – Scrap Deluxe ladies which I’m over the moon with. I am small at 5ft but they had the perfect frame size (I think they had 17″ & 19″) and 26″ wheel sizes for me. My husband has the Scrap Deluxes mens version too although he needed the larger frame ;)

  • Ian Martin

    Hi firstly love reading your blog Dottie and your pics are great. I have a Pashley Paramount and love Pashley bikes, perhaps because I live only 40 miles from Stratford Upon Avon where they are built.
    You felt the Pashley Princess was too small for you, this is because it was the smallest 17.5″ frame. Pashley also do frame sizes of 20″ and 22.5″ one of which will suit you better. Visit their website http://www.pashley.co.uk and all their models are on there. Great English bikes, even their contemporary range like my Paramount have lovely upright riding positions.

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  • http://flyingpigeon-la.com Josef

    Having ridden several Dutch bikes alongside Pashleys, all other things aside, the Pashley bikes are brilliant in that they come in smaller sizes. This one fact has prevented a lot of very cute, and very eager, women from buying a Dutch city bike from my shop.

    If the Dutch bike makers ever make it big in the U.S., they’d do well to take a page from Pashley and produce a smaller version of their famous bicycles!

    If you’re under 5’4″, the selection available is not as ample as it ought to be – and Pashley, for the moment, fills that gap with an adult bike that will fit shorter riders.

  • http://www.girlcanbike.com fiona

    Dottie~

    I know this is an old post but thank you so much for the comparison. I’m 5’8 and though I loved the Pashley Princess Sovereign and I test rode the medium of the three available sizes I still felt a bit large on it with my longer legs and arms. I would be buying the OMA w/out test riding it but I feel instinctively it would be a better fit for me size wise plus I can get that option porteur rack which I love too.

    Fiona

  • http://na Leah Murphy

    Yes I am grateful to read these posts too! I am 5 8.5 and have just bought (by mail order – silly as it sounds) a pashley princess. I really love it and have looked at a lot of bikes on line and tried a few. But I have never actually tried the Pashely. So I bought it based on my leg length measurement 33.1in or 84 cms – which would fit either a medium or a large. the medium feels a bit small so I am going to have to try and sell this one or exchange it!! I am now sure that a large would be a better fit for me. Good to get confirmation about the size from various people here thanks! The Pashely makes a wonderful piece of decoration in the meantime!

    • CT

      Leah, where are you and your pashley located?

      • Leah Murphy

        I am in Wellington New Zealand! I have even had a 8 gear hub put on the bike which came with an extra but worthwhile expense. Wellington is a hilly town! I hope I can sell it for the same or similar to what I bought it for and just get another one – large frame size – fitten with another 8 gear hub. It is such a great bike!! Everyone who has visited my house in the last few weeks says Ooh La La as soon as they walk in the door and see it!

        • CT

          Would have been great if you were in California! Would have loved to take a look at it, because medium should be my size. Too bad you weren’t able to try it out where you live.

        • Sharon Thomas

          Hi there, I live in Kerikeri New Zealand and am also interested in buying either a Pashley or an Azor Oma bike, also an 8 speed. Did you buy mail order from the UK direct? I’m 5’7″ so think that your bike would also be a bit small for me if you still looking for a buyer….Thanks

          • http://na Leah Murphy

            Hi Sharon

            I have since had the bike fitted to me aka changed the seat height and the handle bar height and it is just fine! The seat post does show a little more silver than it would if I had the large size but it is not at all noticeable. I just love it. Apparently other geometry does not change in the larger bike anyhow – just seat post height. AT 5’7 the meduim Pashely would fit well (but do check out the inner leg height measurement vs physical height to be sure). My inner leg length means the med or the large are fine for me. I got mine from Velo Ideale in Christchurch (with lots of good advise about size and bike style etc). I am also aware that Urban Bicyclings in Point Chev Auckland sell Pashely and other brands. They are really nice guys also.

  • Caroline

    Leah,

    I too would like to know your location :). You can contact me at juicy.couturegirl (at) yahoo (dot) com.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.dingdingletsride.com Samantha

    Nice to see how long the comments continue on this post – considering it went up over a year ago! I started researching Dutch/City bikes a few months ago, and am now patiently waiting for the arrival of my own (Axor)WorkCycles Oma! And yes, I even created my own bike blog too. I’m 6ft tall, with long arms and legs, so I have the opposite problem that many of you have mentioned. I did a lot of test riding, but both stores that carry Velorbis and Workcyles were out of stock of the larger frame-sized Omas. I did test rides on another WorkCycles bike in the larger frame (Opas, basically) and found the fit I was looking for. While so many women need to find bikes and other gear sized smaller, those manufacturers that do make women-specific items seem to always forget us tall women. It’s hard to find bikes made for women in the larger frame sizes. I’ve been riding a men’s mountain bike for years and never really cared, but now I’m tired of thinking about what skirts I can wear when I ride.

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