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.
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.
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.