Friday, 5 August 2011

Velorbis v Pashley ...Gentleman's relish?

I have for some months now intended to do an objective comparison of the Velorbis and Pashley marques. In my earnest search for a second bicycle with which to Cycle the entire Rhine Valley this Autumn, I was in the happy position of really being unconcerned as to price...for as a true Gentleman Cyclist I was motivated only by the desire to purchase the very best mount available.

Having scoured the internet for "Classic Bicycles" "Real Bicycles" & "Gentlemans Bicycles" etc. etc. etc. I decided that it pretty much came down to one of the two marques above.

I cannot deny that my leaning in the early stages went towards the Velorbis. It felt a little like I imagine it feels for a man intent upon selecting a new whore....the old one has proved serviceable, it has taken good care of you, you are comfortable with what is being offered but their is a yen for something new...the grass is seen as greener on the other side of the hill.....the lure of a sophisticated well put together European model having slightly more kudos than the old familiar British version. Once more, a bit like choosing a lady of the bed-chamber, the front of house element is important however much you try to tell yourself it is not, so I was a little put off by a certain dismissive arrogance displayed by those offering the Velorbis for sale. On entering a certain London cycle boudoir I was met with a deep sense of sympathetic, haughty, distain by a salesman who had watched me secure my ageing Pashly to railings. I grant you that it's probably not the best move to take leave of your old mount at the entrance to a place where you hope to find a new one,...... but needs must!

So, to the Velorbis; the model I selected was the rather impressively named Churchill Classic......forgive me but the name of "Churchill" seems an out and out marketing ploy intent on pulling on the heartstrings of forty-somethings English speakers and readers of Military History. I'm not certain if the bike is marketed under this name across all European countries....if it is, I imagine that sales might not be going too well in Dresden?

The Velorbis website ( I viewed I can only describe as "Nazi Bike Porn".....  with strapping Aryan chaps resplendent in their blondness with leggy short skirted females looking ripe for the bedding.....the website is certainly slick and stylish and works very well....sucking you in. The bike itself on first viewing is I have to admit a tad disappointing. The luscious pictures of well oiled tools, smooth paint, glossy leather and rugged chiseled components on the website is, in my humble opinion, not supported by the reality. Pushing the whore analogy further, a bit like entering a room to find that the advertised 21 year old leggy goddess is a 39 year old stunted hag!

Well...not like that really.....I exaggerate for comic effect, but it was just a little disappointing. The badge struck me as a rather curious amalgam of pseudo-euro-royalty-coat-of-arms and an alpenstock badge. Unperturbed I decided to get up close and personal and examine the merchandise from the bottom to speak. The first thing that struck me was the chain guard. Velorbis have made much on their website of the fact that theirs is metal, powder coated rather than plastic. The point I thought of a chain guard is that it protects not only the rider from muck but the chain too....but the Velorbis chain guard is not a complete cover...only covering the off side of the chain and not the rear most section. While fine for keeping muck of the's not going to help much with keeping detritus off the chain. I am sure that the company has an explanation for that but if you are going to have one it might as well go the entire distance?

Other components appeared to be well chosen.....the bike had a sturdy tight feel to it, the frame a taughter prospect than the Pashley, and all had been well assembled. However, it somehow lacked the heft and quality I expected to find given the description on the Velorbis website. Paintwork was good without being great, a couple of blemishes from spraying here and there, the rims looked solid & the wheel rims and tyres well chosen ....but nothing was really out of the ordinary, and while the leather handlebar grips were hailed by the manufacturer as a luxury feature I wondered at their longevity and durability after a few seasons sweat and grime had penetrated their initial lustre?

So what of the test ride? Well gentle reader I cannot lie. I failed to make one. The sniffy attitude of the sales person, the rather lacklustre overall impression of the bicycle upon me, the uninspiring ambience of the machine, all conspired to put me off it.......but there was more to it,....something else.....something about the "look" tried hard...but somehow it just did not add up to the mount of an English gentleman. Perhaps it really is a well put together sophisticated European model that would have provided me with the ride of a lifetime, but in it's soul it did not have the character I craved.....and in the end, for my money the Pashley delivers a better total package.

So like the conservative (small "c") I am, I return to the familiar.....the Pashley may have a plastic chain guard (but it works superbly I have come to discover), it may not have leather hand grips, the frame might be considered rather soft and lazy, and in the quality of its seperate parts it might very well not be up to the Velorbis...but we do not choose our mounts for such reasons alone. Taken as a whole in it's quintessentially English character the Pashley was and still is the ride I desire. It may not have the gimmicky sophistication of a European Boutique Hotel, but it has the class, comfort and refinement of a fine British Club.....and at almost two hundred quid cheaper, I still have change to get my leg over with a rather glamorous Latvian blonde who is advertising her services in the neighbourhood!

Bon chance mes amis!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Return from a spot of "Donkey Walloping"

As some of you will no doubt remember, besides appreciation of the fairer sex, my other passion is riding horses. You find me now at home after a rather wonderful period of several months helping out on a Wyoming Ranch, a new experience for me but one which I have very much enjoyed. That gentle readers is the reason for the lack of recent additions to this veritable velopeida!

While I appreciate that this blog should have nothing whatsoever to do with horses, I do think that there are some similarities between riding a nag over open country and pedalling oneself across the land. The speed of passing countryside, the ability to go off piste, and the fact that you are not nearly so channeled in the route to be taken on bicycle or horseback than you are when driving a motor car. HOWEVER, having tried a bit of cycling in Wyoming I have to say that I am beginning to doubt my own first principles on this subject!

For I venture to suggest that there is something about cycling in the countryside that is particularly suited to a European environment and certainly not to a North American one!....I cannot accurately put my finger on it other than to say there is something to do with the distances and vistas of the American West that is absolutely not conducive to the Bicycle. Having set off on one particular jaunt (utilising a 1950's clunker I found in an old sheep wagon and then repaired) I spied a rather wonderful distant rocky was 6 hours before I managed to even get within what I thought to be spitting distance of it...another three and I was still not actually at the bottom of the climb! Giving up and getting a lift back to the ranch in a passing pickup I began to muse upon why in Europe cycling seemed so much fun and in the USA, outside of a narrow number of bespoke locations, a mere drag. In the end it comes down to size (and who said size does not matter ladies?...for we all know it damn well does!).

The vastness of the USA, the huge distances between cities and geographical features militates against those great joys of European Cycling..."variation & proximity".....while the USA probably has the most varied terrain of any country on is the lack of proximity and variation within a geographical space that tends to drive the "homus-pedallous" to distraction.

Oddly enough such lack of variation on horseback plays better with the soul, I have yet to fathom why?