The Princess’s Maiden Voyage

(n)+1 – The Princess arrives

Keen eyed followers will have noticed my blog has had a wee change to its subtitle. Being now the owner of three bikes I felt it was time to declare my (slight) bicycle addiction. N+1 and all that.

If I can take you way back, back to long before this blog started, then you would find a road cyclist, that turned utility cyclist, that turned mountain biker. Horses for courses; I cycled the ‘best’ option for where I was living at the time. I have to confess however that I, usually, only owned one bike at a time. Proper cyclists would be horrified by this, but those with small accommodation (and tight budgets) might understand this.

I grew up with a road bike, because that’s what my Dad had and that’s what we road on the roads of Suffolk. I cycle commuted on a hybrid, and then when I got more adventurous and moved to the Scottish Highlands I took up mountain biking. When I then moved to Edinburgh in 2018, I donated my somewhat unwell mountain bike to The Bike Station where it might have become parts or got revamped and then sold on or given to an essential/NHS worker.

I bought a Brompton because it fitted perfectly with my lifestyle; commuting and getting around town with a bit on easy cycle paths for a few miles out of town. It was something I could pop in my small city car and take away with me too. I took it on holiday, to my mothers, to my friends, camping etc. I then really I missed the longer cycles I had done on the West Coast, so I got a road bike to compliment it. Nice long rides into the countryside followed, and this is still my blast of fresh air, exercise and escape from the city. I don’t ride competitively, but I like to feel I could if I wanted.

So why buy another bike, especially one that so closely matches the uses I have for the Brompton? Well, here’s the thing; I don’t really know other than the first time I saw one of these bike I fell in love. There’s the classic timeless design, the functionality of hub gears and brakes that will work in all weathers and the need minimal maintenance. There’s the comfortable seat and riding position, the fact that my elbow and neck cause me problems after long rides in road orientated positions. There is also the fact that Brompton’s are so prone to theft that I won’t leave it anywhere so I find shopping trips and going about town actually quite nerve wracking. I’m not saying the Pashley wouldn’t get stolen, bikes get stolen a lot in Edinburgh, but it is perhaps less desirable than a nice road bike, or an expensive e-bike. I can hope.

Like Brompton, Pashley cycles are English. Made in England since 1926. The Princess is the classic bike, with a basket for your shopping, a skirt guard to protect your clothes, and comes in two colours; quiet classic black or (British Racing?) green, both with gold tasteful and very small detailing. They are copied the world over, but the Pashley is the quintessential British bike. Made for riding on cobbles and roughly made roads it should be totally at home in Edinburgh! Just look at her, she is gorgeous.

I travelled to the Highlands to get her – Gumtree – used three times during lockdown. My Pashley was almost like new. I rode her and grinned, bought her in a heart beat, and brought her home. Her maiden voyage was a proper trip for a bike of her nature; shopping, ride along the sea front, coffee, ride home. I did a mere 11.3 miles and I didn’t stop smiling once. I got smiles from pedestrians and fellow cyclists too. Now, I really can’t carry off the ‘Call the Midwife’ appearance that goes with this sort of bike, but I have to admit, the basket is damned handy.

Coffee stop on the maiden voyage at Cramond, Edinburgh

Sure, I’m wearing a leather biker jacket and trainers rather than a waisted ladies tweed jacket and brogues, but I don’t care. And I’m not wearing a plastic hat, it looks ridiculous on a Pashley plus I’m only doing double figures downhill! I’ve fallen over running as fast as I’ll can go up hill on her, and I hurt my knee not my head.

She is the Princess Classic, so she has a 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub, not unlike Bromptons. I was surprised how easy it was to get up hills, and that was very good news because Edinburgh has a lot of hills.

Unlike the Sovereign, she doesn’t come with lights or a stand, but I’ve ordered the stand from Pashley. It arrived today and will get fitted later. I’ve also got a couple of Pashley t-shirts which also arrived today, because they were in the sale, irresistible, and I need some new tops anyway (plus I’m a bit sad like that).

Even the wrapper is gorgeously English
Believe it or not, a Large is a 14 (for me a nicely flattering 12)

As I’ve said, horses for courses. She won’t replace the easy carry and fun manoeuvrability of the Brompton, and certainly not the long distance, faster, road bike type trip. But bikes are much more flexible that we often think (and are marketed), and I don’t know which will be the bike of choice. Someone asked me on Twitter if I could only keep one, which would I choose, and at the moment I honestly don’t know. It would be between the Brompton and the Pashley though, the road bike is superb fun but I cycle every day and these two are far more practical. At the moment it’s hard to call, but maybe in a few months time I will be able to answer that question.

…and who knows, maybe she will turn me into a lady and I’ll buy some brogues.

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