The Pashley Guvnor is a 1930’s style path racer that Pashley Cycles released in 2008 as a singlespeed and 3-speed, and later occasional limited edition variants (the brass-lugged 4-speed Plus Four, the 2-speed Plus Two and a Ralph Lauren Rugby Tweed Run limited edition also shown here and here). There is this nice timeline from Duchy Wheeler on the Guvnors’ Assembly. See also the Pashley Guvnor microsite.
If you need axle wingnuts for your Guvnor, Duchy Wheeler has a fresh batch for sale on eBay – click here! Note also that he also had some tapped to 13/32″ 26tpi “which would be suitable for the S2C hub fitted to the Plus Two model.” I bought mine from him (see pics at bottom of page), and shipping from the UK was inexpensive and surprisingly fast.
Note to my U.S. homies: if, like me, you have no local Pashley shops to test ride a Guv’nor, and you can decide on a proper frame size (hopefully considering my criteria below), then you can order your Guv directly from their U.S. distributor, Belmont Distribution, via their website BritishBicycle.com. Shipping is free to your door, and Pashley does a better packaging job than most bike companies, so you don’t have to worry about dents or scratches in transit. I was also happy to see that their prices are the lowest anywhere I’ve found, the standard MSRP, with no up charge for the double top-tubed 24.5″ frame, as some on-line dealers have. Nota bene: sadly, Pashley only includes the packet of Guv goodies (officially, the Maintenance Kit) in the U.K. Market: tea, tool kit, spare tube, oil and saddle treatment. 😦
Below: this is an old Flying Pigeon path racer that some poor chap put a rack on; in this photo, you can easily see the dramatically decreased angle of the seat tube and head tube; you can also see how far forward the front wheel is, and the long chainstays are evident from the gap between the rear wheel and the seat tube; although less clear, the bottom bracket drop (below the centerline of the hub axels) is quite small
Below: an early 1900’s BSA Speedy path racer; as an earlier model, the chain stays are shorter and the BB drop looks more typical of road bikes, but the slack angles and forward-positioned front wheel are evident
But the Guvnor is much more than a retro looking bike. The frame geometry is taken directly from Pashley’s 85 year old Path Racer model, and uses historic Reynolds 531 tubing that Reynold’s drew for Pashley. In fact, the main reason I created this rather long blog entry was to pull together a lot of disparate information about the Guvnor into a single site, as well as some info that I’ve compiled myself. While shopping for a Pashley, I was put off by the lack of detailed frame and component specs provided by Pashley – and I have no local dealers to visit for a look-see. So, let’s take a look! Note that some of these are pics of my Guv, with a few “after market” add-ons here and there…
The 531 frame tubes are butted and brazed into custom lugs, and there are four nice lugs on each frame, or five lugs on the 24.5″ double top tube model, which is what I have. The rear triangle is super cool D-shaped tubing with bolt-on seatstays and long horizontal dropouts. The fork is a hand-brazed, tubular crown design with beautifully-sloping oval blades and what Pashley calls a “relaxed” rake; I measured this to be about 120mm, which is indeed pretty damn relaxed (typical rake, or offset, for a road bike is 40-45mm)! What you won’t find are many brazed add-on’s, like water bottle mounts (they belong on the bar), rack mounts (egads!) or lots of cable stops (though there are a few). There are a couple bolt-on chrome stops that I absolutely love. There are also two mounting points fore and aft, probably for legally-required reflectors or lights; these could be used for fenders, too (though some may remind you that fenders have no place on a path racer!). You can get the bike in any color you’d like, as long as it’s Buckingham Black. The metal head badge is pretty nice. There are not many decals on the Guvnor, which is nice in many respects and somehow adds to the mystique. It also causes daily inquires from admirers as to the brand of your bike.
Let’s talk geometry and sizing. The Guv comes in only three sizes, which are the center-to-center seat tube lengths: 20.5, 22.5 and 24.5″ (52, 57 and 62cm). Now hold on, don’t run out and buy a Guv based on these sizes. I’ll come straight out and say that I think a lot of Guvnor owners are riding under-sized bikes. This is because the Guv geometry and design specs are much, much different than those of modern bikes. Two observations: (1) lots of Guv owners mention that they have to run their saddles really high (and in some cases replace the seat post with a longer version – crikey!), and (2) a quick Google image search of some vintage photos of bikes and riders clearly show that most riders back then could not possible straddle the high top tubes of their bikes. If any of you remember riding road bikes from the 70’s or earlier, you probably recall that your top tube was supposed to either touch you b’ness or come very close to it – not much more than 1 cm of clearance. By the 90’s, this had increased to about an inch. With the advent of manufacturing-cost-savings and super-long-seatposts, the sloping top tubes of “compact” geometries (yuck), clearance rules have gotten ridiculous.
Below: this seat post is near its max extension (from the excellent site Lovely Bicycle!)
Pashley themselves are a wee schizophrenic about their sizing recommendations, providing two different sets of guidelines. On the main Guvnor page they indicate “inside leg” measurements:
While their Guvnor microsite suggests different a much different size range for the large frame:
As explained below, I think the 33″-37″ size range for the 24.5″ frame is probably pretty accurate for most people. But the 31″-35″ range for the 22.5″ frame seems way off to me – with my 34.5″ inseam, I’m solidly in the 24.5″ largest frame size range based on my rides on this frame size. I roughly think the maximum inseam for the 22.5″ frame should be around 33″. Unfortunately, I can’t really provide any specific sizing insight on the 20.5″ frame aside from my general remarks below. This leaves very tall chaps out in the cold; anyone over maybe 6’6″ might not be able to raise the stem or seatpost up enough, despite the overall height of the Guv.
There are three things that drive the need to “size-up” your Guvnor: the high bottom bracket placement of the old path racer geometry, the ginormous 28″ English (ISO 635) wheels spec, and the upside down North Road style bars, which are the signature of the path racer style. BB drop on a modern road bike is 70-74mm, while on my Guv it’s about 50mm, an inch higher; so this raises up the rider and increases the top tube height (standover height), while reducing standover clearance. The 28″ English wheels are ISO 635 diameter. 28″ Euro, 29″ MTB and 700c wheels are all ISO 622 in diameter. These wheels are BIG! This raises the bike up a little bit more (by 1/2 the wheel diameter difference), particularly when the height of the 1.5″ balloon tires is taken into account. The result is that the pedals are high up in the air (about 2.5″ higher than a modern road bike!), so the saddle must also be higher in order to give you sufficient leg extension. So if you size the frame based on modern standover clearance rules-of-thumb, you’re going to have to raise your seat post way up high (which is not right, and is ugly, on a non-sloping top tube bike) and then you’re way too bent over to reach the drops of the North Road (which have 50mm of drop). So now, not only is your saddle up too high, you’re bent over into an overly-aggressive (for this bike) posture. Some poor souls must then raise up the quill stem to compensate; the retro-grouches at Rivendell will tell you this is perfectly OK, and will even sell you a quill stem with ridiculously long quill height (insert merry-go-round music here). So now you have enough seatpost and stem showing to look like you’re riding a Brompton. Nonetheless, at least one rider has noted that many Guvnor riders probably won’t try to get as much leg extension as they have on their road bike, so the saddle will be lowered a bit – good point. Thus, the intended usage may push a buyer in one direction or the other.
From my experience, one should have virtually no standover clearance on their Guvnor, or even negative clearance so you can’t straddle your top tube without laying the frame over slightly when stopped, just like people did for the first 100 years of cycling history. Of course, you don’t want to take this too far to the point where you look like one of those poor kids who are trying to grow into their older siblings bike while their cheap-ass parents spend more on one tank of gas than it would cost for a properly-fitting children’s bike. I digress. I’m 6’2″ with a 34-35″ clothing inseam and a ~90cm pubic bone height (PBH). Yes, I’m now recommending the Rivendell geezers measuring methods. Truthfully, I love their frames, but I hate their Shimano-Barcalounger spec’ed bike builds. Some day I’m going to buy one of their frames, build it up with Campy and send it back to them. Once again, I must apologize, dear reader, for my digressions. According to conventional frame geometry sizing, I should’ve ordered a 22.5″ Guvnor, but the above rationale led me to order the 24.5″ from Pashley’s U.S. Distributor, Belmont Distribution via their direct order website BritishBicycle.com, and am I glad I did!!! Not only did I get the super-cool double top tube, but my saddle is in a nice spot and the saddle-bar height difference is extremely comfortable (as in the stock Pashley photos above, but my stem is positioned lower), yet still efficient enough for faster, longer-distance rides. Straddling the bike with shoes on, my family jewels are in light contact with the top top tube (not to be confused with the bottom top tube). Tilting the bike a couple degrees when stopping allows ample clearance, if needed. In addition, I have a history of choosing slightly undersized bike frames for myself, so now I shy away from that possibility.
Before we look at the some frame dimensions, one more thought on sizing. I, along with a lot of others, firmly believe that the top tube (or effective) top tube length is a much more telling dimension for guiding frame fit compared to seat tube length, which have become meaningless with all the new variations on frame design. There are zillions of websites discussing this, so I won’t expound too much – but with the Guv, I would strongly recommend comparing the top tube lengths (if you can find them!). I hope I’ve already convinced you that stand over height is not a useful sizing gauge – in fact , it’s only useful for very traditional, flat top tube road bikes.
Here are my 24.5″ frame specs, where “measured” means I eye-balled it myself, so the numbers are likely not exact. Pashley doesn’t provide much info (send me more info and I’ll update these)…
And some size-specific specs:
One thing that might surprise you is the relative seat tube and top tube lengths. Normally, these two length are generally pretty close, except for smaller or women’s-specific frames. My custom-built Alchemy frame put me, for example, on a frame with both tubes being about 58cm. In contrast, my Guvnor seat tube is 3 cm longer than the top tube! I would never fit on a 62 cm road bike! But a 59 cm top tube is pretty close to my other bikes (a bit longer due to the slack seat tube angle) – so this agrees with my recommendation to use top tube length, rather than seat tube length, as one of your guides to sizing.
Concerning weight, in 2008 a BikeRadar review listed the weight of a single-speed Guv as 13 kg. This was apparently for a 22.5″ frame (based on the stand over height they listed); however, this may have been a nominal weight provided by Pashley, because the review also provides a frame weight (2720 g) and a fork weight (967 g) – and I doubt they disassembled the bike!
So what does all this mean to the ride!? Well, I guess I was expecting a very casual, Amsterdam bike type feeling, and I was willing to accept that my Guv might be limited to “fun rides” and such. After a couple spins around my block to get the saddle and handlebar positioning dialed in, I was immediately shocked at how great the Pash felt to ride. Yeah, the front wheel is way out in front of you, but the handling is still quite sharp. Somehow the geometry and long wheelbase just seem to work out. I also didn’t feel like I was riding high up, even though I was. With a large frame, the bars are not raised up at all, but the position is very comfortable and still feels “racey”. In short, it’s a supremely rideable bike, one that you feel like you can either just cruise along on, or hammer and spin it up. Amazing.
OK, let’s look over the bike front-to-back! Looking now at the Guv’s fork, aside from the tubular crown and long curvaceous blades, there are a couple other peculiarities. Firstly, there are these two mounting points inside the left blade; in the pics, I’ve plugged them with some short bolts, though they don’t come that way (yikes!). These are most likely for a bottle type light dynamo, though normally these mounting holes are tapped on the outer sides of the blade. Hmmm… There is also a little tab to receive the front hub “brake arm”. The dropouts also have these little slots for the axel safety washers. Charming. The lack of canti or disc brake mounts is notable, as is the lack of any eyelets near the dropout for fenders or racks. This is a path racer, people. There is, though, a hole in the crown to mount, presumably, a light or reflector. But you could also use this to mount a small, partial fender, using either an L bracket or a daruma.
Moving on up, the headset is nicely polished, if not somewhat nondescript. The Nitto stem is a little disappointing. The satin finish doesn’t match anything else on the bike, and is particularly conspicuous sitting there between the shiny headset and handlebar. There’s also been some consternation about bar slippage, presumably because most road quill stems have a 26mm clamp and most North Road bars have a 25.4mm clamp (which, in turns seems to be a Law of Bicycle Parts that bars with “MTB” size grip diameters, 22.2 mm, must come with 25.4 mm clamp diameters; call me a dreamer, but it seems like all that should be necessary to interchange road/MTB diameters is for some guy in China to press a button on a machine). Apparently, the Guv originally came with a particularly problematic Cinelli stem, and the Nitto is supposed to be better – the Nitto should be a 25.4mm version, because the Technomic is available in either 25.4 or 26.0mm versions. Of course, it’s also available in a polished finish, which should have been spec’ed on the Guv. Mine slipped once, so I greased up the clamp bolt and tightened it down more than I usually would. Note that the clamp bolt does not thread into the aluminum stem body, but instead into a (steel) nut (old school!), so you’re not going to strip any important threads.
The handlebar is a (now) well-known North Road style, which can double as a 1.3 lb anchor in a pinch. It’s made from highly polished chro-moly, as if anyone would know if they were to sneak in a highly polished aluminum bar. In case you haven’t already figured it out, keeping the weight down was not on Pashley’s priority list for the Guvnor. The bar specs are below, but it’s a medium width bar with moderate sweep and a decent 50mm drop. Less racey than a Lauterwasser, but more sporty than an Albatross or porteur bar. Keep in mind that you can flip the bar over for a 50mm rise, if you want an upright position. But please don’t do that. Now several folks have complained about the somewhat longish stem lengths that Pashley spec’d (also listed below) for the Guv, but the length and the sweep of the bars brings the grips back to a very nice position. I should note, though, that I have pretty long arms (35.5″ sleeves). So be prepared to buy yourself a shorter, polished stem. The Pashley leather grips are pretty sweet, with cool herringbone stitching, a practical rubber under layer and heavy-duty turned alloy end caps. Be advised, though, that these grips can be a major PITA to put on and take off. One of mine was pretty typical for rubber grips, but the other was a real chore to get on the bar. I assume the variability is in the grips, not the bar – but that could be wrong. The only negative point is that the leather is a poor match with the Brooks saddle. Lots of people complain about the stock (Sturmey) brake levers, and I agree that they just look out of place on the Guv with their black body. I replaced them with Diacompe DC-135’s, which have a slightly longer lever and are really quite elegant. The only drawback is that I lost the reach adjustment from the original levers. The 3-speed shifter is a classic trigger style, which is infinitely better than the standard twist shifter. There’s also a nifty little brass bell that makes a high-pitched, very civilized, very English ding; I placed mine on the stem like all the hip kids these days – but you can put it on the bar.
The alloy Kalloy seat post is a decent polished job; its comparatively short length (220mm) supports my sizing theories above. The 27.0 diameter presents a very slight challenge to replacement (which shouldn’t be necessary!). The seat tube clamp bolt is just that – a steel bolt. But it’s hefty and holds the rear triangle together, so I’m not going to replace it with something prettier. The saddle, ahhhh…the saddle. I’m not going to into a Brooks gospel here, but the antique brown B17 Titanium Champion Special saddle is unbelievably nice (and will set you back about US$300 on it’s own). It has a unique chamfered edge detail along the skirts as well as smaller copper rivets (Champion Special series features) and of course titanium rails. Anyone who owns one will tell you it’s a very comfortable saddle after the break-in period (anywhere from 6 months to 6 years).
Moving down to the drivetrain, the crankset is a highly polished Sugino XD-2 with a 42t ring and a polished chainring guard. Some people poo-poo on this component, too – and I agree that it might look a bit too ‘techy’, but up close they are such lovely cranks, I’ve lost my motivation to change them out (although if I did, it would be with IRD Defiant track cranks!). On the other side of the planet (from me), James at Perth Vintage Cycles has a nice write-up on lots of affordable retro crank alternates (he even borrowed my crank photo, sans credit!). The chain is a pretty basic KMC with a single-use Taya Sigma removable link, which the edifying Dutchy Wheeler has indicated is somewhat prone to failure, and should be replaced by something like a KMC spring clip connector. I used Wipperman Connex links on all my bikes, though I haven’t yet searched for one to fit this chain. The bottom bracket is a basic Sunrace alloy model with a 113mm axel (the Sugino cranks require a 110 or 113mm axel), threaded into a 68mm British-threaded shell. The pedals are very cool, polished MKS Sylvan Stream – they come without toe clips or straps. Perhaps in keeping with the racer model, these pedals are narrower than some other MKS models. Duchy Wheeler suggests swapping out with the wider MKS Touring model, and after several rides, I now heartily agree with his sage advice: in ‘casual’ shoes, the end of the Stream pedal approaches the center of my shoe sole. See below for a comparison between these two pedals.
The 3-speed Guv uses the Sturmey Archer X-RD3/X-FD hub combo, with internal drum brakes (!) and a smooth-shifting internal 3-speed gearing. I’m certain that the reason for spec’ing drum brakes on the 3 spd is because Pashley didn’t want to make multiple frame/fork types with and without brake bosses for the various models. Plus in 2008, they probably didn’t know which model was going to be most popular with the public, so they didn’t want to commit to brake bosses in case everyone started buying singlespeeds with coaster brakes. The brakes are not going to compete with discs or even canti’s, but honestly, they are quite sufficient unless you’ll be riding big hills. At least they’re unaffected by rain! Shifting is actually a lot smoother than I expected, probably because I’ve never ridden Sturmey anything. The gear range (shown below) isn’t as wide as I might prefer, but the upside is that the shifting is smoother. If you’re a spinner who shifts frequently to maintain your desired cadence (like me), then you’ll have to adjust your pedaling style a bit. Surprisingly, you barely have to move the pedals to completely change gears – a couple times I’ve come to a stop in high gear, down-shifted two steps to the low gear, and by the time I push off, I’m already in the right gear. Nice.
The rear dropouts are pretty unique. The D-shaped tubing all comes together at these beefy, long, rear-facing dropouts where the seat stays are bolted on, just in case you don’t know how to use a chain tool, I guess. As with the front end, there are no eyelets, for reasons that should now be clear. Don’t forget the (reflector or taillight?) mounting bolt on rear stay arch, where you could mount a fender that uses a seat tube clamp. Don’t tell anyone, but I did that one time when I was in a pinch.
The hubs are laced with 36 stainless spokes to 28″ (ISO 635) Westwood profile rims, which are black with a gold pinstripe. The tires are 1.5″ (40-635) very smooth-rolling Schwalbe Delta Cruisers in cream. I hope you like them, because 635 tires are few and far between, unless you like black. The cream color stays cream for about the first 50 ft of your first ride. Brown would be really cool. I’m going make this search term friendly: in case you’re wondering What Size Tubes Do You Use in 28″ x 1.5″ Tires? (Pashley Guvnor), the answer is the Schwalbe AV17 or any 700x38C to 45C tube, including the Schwalbe AV19. Duchy Wheeler notes that the spare tube shipped with his Guv’nor is an AV17, so this size can be considered original equipment. I wonder if AV stands for Auto Valve? Ironically, their designation for presta valves is SV (Sclaverand valve). Those wacky Germans.
OK, here’s my best take on a detail component spec, for my model 1310 3-speed. As minor specs often change year-to-year, and these are mostly from my bike, they may only apply to 2011-2012 models (again, corrections or additions are appreciated):
Below: Gripfast axle wing nuts sold separately! Contact Duchy Wheeler if you want a set!
Some of my accessories that you can see in these photos:
Finally, a couple opinions on some common complaints about the Guvnor – or perhaps I should say complaints about the Guvnor concept. Pashley describes the Guv as a bike with classic 1930’s path racer style, but with modern components. They never claimed to be selling a faithful reproduction. Nonetheless, a few people have commented that the modern parts spec doesn’t match up with the path racer heritage. Personally, I wouldn’t buy, nor would I be particularly excited to ride, a reproduction bike. By their very nature, a reproduction is a phony. What Pashley has done is they’ve given you a nice blend of the “best of” path racers. First and foremost, the frame geometry, wheel spec, handlebar positioning and fork rake provide a real path racer type ride. You can’t mimic the combination of slack angles and long wheelbase in any other way. Second, they give you a nice taste of historic authenticity and beauty with the 531 tubing, lugs, Westwood rims, and leather niceties. Finally, they make the bike truly rideable and relevant with parts that are modern, but not too modern – Sturmey Archer, not Shitmano, drum brakes, not discs, etc. As to the singlespeed vs. 3-speed, there is validity to either side of that equation – to which the above points still apply.
Some also think the Guv is overpriced, and that one can build up a “path racer” (and now the phrase is being used very liberally) with an inexpensive frame (e.g. a Surly or an old road frame) and some parts from Soma. Wow, are these folks really missing the boat. As I stated above, the main point of this bike is the ride that results from the old school geometry; you’re not going to find any generic frame that can do this. As to the price, of course it’s all relative, but this bike comes with a $300 saddle, $100 grips, custom wheels, special-run Reynolds 531, an English hand-made frame and custom lugs. $1600? There are gads of $2500 mass-produced Ultegra bikes out there that can’t come close to claiming this type of parts spec or workmanship. One guy posted his project bike based on a Raleigh International, and came in a couple hundred dollars under the Guv price tag, and what does he have, but a Frankenbike? He should’ve made a Clubman clone, at least the geometry would be in the ballpark! To put it in one sentence, “A North Road bar does not a path racer make.”