Sunday, August 22, 2021

My Pashley Princess Sovereign bicycle

French Village Diaries Pashley Princess Sovereign
My Pashley Princess Sovereign

Bowled over by a basket, does that make me a total basket case?


Many people have a bucket list of things to do, or experience, before they hit fifty and although I tried to make a list of possibilities, with less than a month to go, it seems I have failed miserably. One of the things I’ve wanted for longer than I can remember is a bike with a wicker basket on the front. Over the years, I’d even gone so far as to look longingly at baskets that I could possibly attach to some of the various bikes I’ve owned, but Adrian’s sensible head has always won me over; they wouldn’t look right on that sort of bike, that would make cycling any distance so much harder etc, etc, etc. This summer, two things happened, and the stars were aligned in my cycling universe.


French Village Diaries Pashley Princess Sovereign Back in the Frame Jools Walker
Back in the Frame by Jools Walker

The first was that I bought cycling memoir Back in the Frame by VeloCityGirl blogger Jools Walker, who has been writing about her cycling life almost as long as I have been writing about our French life. Jools goes into great detail about getting back into cycling in 2010, and that the only bike she was interested in was a Pashley Princess Sovereign. Adrian picked up her book on our kindle and got stuck into reading it before I did, which was unusual as we don’t often read the same things. Every evening, he had something to read out to me from her book and I couldn’t wait to read it myself. Thanks to Jools, we both ended up checking out Pashley bikes on the internet and I could see why she was so determined to own one. Made in Stratford-upon-Avon, to the same design since the 1920’s, the Princess Sovereign is Pashley’s top of the range bicycle, that comes with a Brooks leather saddle, a rear-wheel fitted bike lock, a huge ding-dong bell and an impressive wicker basket, as standard, for around £900 brand new. Jools bought hers via the UK’s Cycle to Work Scheme, I just had another pang of bicycle and basket envy.


And then…a listing on the local free-ads site popped up on Adrian’s laptop, for a Pashley Princess Sovereign, twenty minutes from home, in good condition, with her basket, all for 85€. It was difficult not to get too excited, especially as the ad had gone on the previous day, and I was convinced she would already have been snapped up. Adrian calmly sent a message, enquiring if she was still available, and mentioning that his wife was almost fifty and had long dreamed of owning a bicycle with a basket. Miraculously, no one else had shown any interest and we arranged to visit the following day.


I was awake before five o’clock that morning, thinking about the bike, and kept busy hoovering, dusting and toilet cleaning, anything in fact, to fill the time before we needed to leave. Dressed in my bicycle print dress, adorned with step-through bikes, with baskets and bunches of flowers (just like the Pashley), excited like a five-year-old on Christmas Eve, doesn’t even come close. Despite the excitement, I was anxious not to get too carried away. I am short, very short, and the Princess comes in three frame sizes, so there was a great probability that she would be way too big for me. Also, even if we were a good fit, with all her comfort accessories, she’s a heavy bike. Would she prove too heavy for me to cycle, especially loaded with a picnic in the basket?


French Village Diaries Pashley Princess Sovereign
My Pashley Princess Sovereign, the day she arrived

The first thing I noticed as we arrived at the gate, was that I was eye to eye with the lady selling her and it was such a relief not to be looking up to a long-legged giant. She noticed my special bike dress and was as delighted with me becoming the new owner of a bike she’d loved for years, as I was to be taking the Princess home.


Having spent at least two years in a garage, she needed a bit of Adrian’s tlc, but she is now in tip-top condition, with new, brighter lights. At nine kilograms heavier than my Brompton, the Princess can be a challenge, especially cycling uphill where I can feel every tiny rise in the road, in my legs and in my lungs. It reminds me of what cycling used to feel like when I was nine kilograms heavier, and less fit; the extra effort required to move is astonishing. This revelation alone is enough to keep me focussed on staying fit.


French Village Diaries Pashley Princess Sovereign
Pashley Princess Sovereign out and about in rural France

After a few gentle rides for me to get used to the upright cycling position, (it is fair to say I feel a bit like a meerkat on a double-decker bus in comparison to riding the Brompton), we have bonded and become great friends. From picnic aperos at a chateau by a lake, to cycling past sunflower fields, or using her to commute to the library, every time we go out, she puts a smile on my face as I ride along. She has been with us for six weeks now, although this is the first week where time and weather have allowed me to ride all three. The only problem I have now is which of my three beauties to take out to play.


I might not have come up with “Fifty things to do before I turn Fifty”, but fulfilling the childhood dream to have my own bike with a basket, just before I turn fifty, and for it to be the Queen of bicycles with a basket, is absolutely priceless.




  1. I love that bike more than I can say. I stopped riding my bike because I couldn't be up straight with the handlebars and it was very bad on my back and shoulders. And that basket is to die for! I love it all! (And you're cute as a button in that wonderful top!)

  2. Wonderful blog Jacqui! Great photos too. I'm away from home at the moment and trying to remember the bike that featured in 'Midnight's Children' - any ideas? A Schwinn, a Raleigh? Happy riding on your new steed ;-)


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