Let’s run through the checklist of today’s urban cycling temptress. Floaty skirt: check. Dreamy expression: check. Soft focus glasses: check. Blog updated to record all the above: check. All that’s missing is a sit-up-and-beg, step-through framed roadster to complete the look. With a bunch of freshly cut flowers in the handle bar basket, hair flowing in the sunshine you’re all set to bring love and light to the world of cycling. I call them the Pashley Princesses. There’s even a bike with your name on it: the Pashley Princess.
Pashley Princesses are making a clear statement: style over speed. “You might beat me away from the lights”, they say to themselves (and the online world at large via their blog), “but I’m in a different league to you Mr MAMIL when it comes to looking chic.”
Riders of this bike are a UK urban cycling species who didn’t exist 5 years ago. The closest you might find was a girl creaking around Oxford or Cambridge on a bike that had probably seen two world wars and ridden to the moon and back. As a former Oxfordian (town, not gown), female undergraduates in summer time were a serious traffic hazard, not for their dangerous riding, but for their high distraction factor.
Want to know who’s queen of the Pashley Princesses? Kelly Brook. She’s a regular at the annual London Sky Ride sporting flirty numbers guaranteed to spark a reaction. I’m sceptical about whether she rides a bike the other 364 days a year. The Venn diagram intersection between Pashley riders and FHM cover models must be a small and possibly limited to just Kelly.
Pashley, Velobris and The Dutch Bike Shop all supply elegant, practical bikes designed to last a life time. And that’s the bit that interests me – these bikes are all the rage, the icon of choice for the style supplement stylists. What happens when they’re not so cool? What happens when their riders rumble their lack of practicality for riding up hills or further than five miles in one go? I’d like to see the Pashley Princess sorority follow Eddy Merckx’s famous statement “don’t by upgrades, ride up grades”. If Johnny Onion can ride the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris on an unrestored 1920’s bike, what’s to stop a plucky Pashley Princess attempting the Etap du Tour?