A throwback to the race bikes of the 30s and 40s, the splendid Pashley Guv’nor is a bike whose heart rules its head.
For 800 quid there’s a slew of very good machines out there, whether you’re looking for a nippy and capable sportive steed, a tourer that’ll get you across Europe or even a personal best-setting time-trial ride.
The problem is that Pashley’s Guv’nor is none of the above, but it’s still rather wonderful.
If your head is controlling your wallet then simply describing the Guv’nor will likely keep it ﬁrmly shut. Single-speed, drum brakes, leather saddle that’ll take ages to break in, steel frame and hefty wheels. Oh, and a design that’s cutting edge only if you still think the Charleston is raunchy.
£795 for what’s essentially a throwback to the 1930s? Did you say you stock Trek and Specialized?
The thing is, few of us actually buy a bike without letting our heart get involved. And as soon as you let that happen with the Guv’nor there’s a good chance that you’ll be handing over your hard-earned.
Based on a Path Racer model built in the earliest days of the Stratford-Upon-Avon-based company, the Guv’nor – so named as it was company boss Adrian William’s idea – is absolutely lovely.
Simple lines, beautiful proportions, a faultlessly ﬁnished Buckingham black paintjob, leather bar grips, leather Brooks saddle, gold-lined black rims and cream Schwalbe Delta Cruiser balloons – some of us would be happy to sit it in front of the television and just look at it.
Frame: yesteryear’s carbon fibre
Of course, beauty has to be more than skin deep. Beneath that black paint is Reynolds 531 steel tubing. Those of you with a thirst for bike history will, of course, know that this was the carbon ﬁbre of its day.
Introduced by Birmingham ﬁrm Reynolds in 1935 it was the frame material of choice for serious racers for decades and notched up several Tour de France wins. Despite its success, it has since been superseded by other Reynolds tubes and, of course, materials. But for authenticity’s sake, Pashley has asked Reynolds for special orders of the stuff, and then handbuilt the frames to an extremely high quality.
Ride & handling: old school dependability
What this attention to detail and history provides is a stiff and surprisingly responsive frame. It’s not light by modern standards of course, but there’s a reassuring solidity about it especially when descending.
The sure-footed feel of the Guv’nor is aided by the 28in Westwood alloy rims laced with 36 stainless steel spokes in a three-cross pattern. Designed around a wide, contoured shape they’re stiff and heavy, but not at the expense of comfort.
Those fat tyres help, but they take some effort to get up to speed.
Braking is done by Sturmey Archer drums both fore and aft and their relative lack of stopping power compared with top-end rim or disc brakes takes a bit of getting used to. If anything, this encourages you to take a more relaxed attitude to cycling on a Guv’nor.
Actually, a lot about the Guv encourages you to take your rides at a more leisurely pace than normal. The rolling resistance of the wheels and fat tyres for one, added to the relaxed trail of the fork – none of which encourages rapid changes of direction nor rewards aggressive riding.
The position offered by the North Road, leather gripped dropped bars also feels relaxed. These aren’t drops in the modern sense but are more akin to bars on a US street cruiser – excellent for taking in the sights as you ride.
Should you wish to take your Guv’nor up to race speed, they do afford the ability to tuck Graeme Obree style, but provide little positional variety if you attempt – as one tester did – to negotiate steep climbs.
It will increase your admiration of pre-war Tour riders though.
The Guv’nor, of course, isn’t really designed for taking on Alpine – or Cotswold – climbs. Three Sturmey Archer gears are an option, but ours was ﬁtted with the standard single-speed.
This is a smooth running 42/18 that’s good enough for around town cruising/posing and, we found, ideally suited to towpath pub-to-pub jaunts.
Equipment: retro chic
The Brooks saddle with titanium rails, retro drops, leather grips and brass bell all add to the Guv’nor’s chic. You even get a tin with a spare tube, saddle rub, a spanner and an Allen key, plus a bag of Guv’nor’s blend tea.
The wheels look fantastic but they’re the one thing we’d change, as each wheel alone weighs more than the frame.
Verdict: big grin sheer fun
This is a bike you’ll ride simply because you want to enjoy riding a bike. Obviously, it’s not for training and you won’t take it on a tour of the Lake District – although you can attach mudguards and Pashley’s catalogue states it’s ‘Just the ticket for exploring the English countryside’. But you will smile. And when you return home from your ride, you can brew a pot of the special Guv’nor’s Blend tea that’s supplied with every model sold.