As the longest serving UK-based bicycle manufacturer, many retailers might jump to the conclusion that Pashley are fresh out of ideas. Mark Sutton talks to the owners about a brand new Moulton partnership and asks how they develop bicycles that will stand the test of time...

BikeBiz Interview: Pashley

During 1926 a bicycle brand was born out of the Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. The brand, like the playwright, was to become a classic and stand the test of time with equal tenacity.
Pashley Bicycles are simplistic, 1930s inspired bicycles originally designed to be functional, but as the years have passed, instead of changing have retained the distinctive styles of the era and become a style icon. Arguably an era where attention to detail during the manufacturing process was at its most meticulous.
So how does current director, Adrian Williams explain the Pashley phenomenon?
"It is important to stay in tune with the character of the product, refining rather than revolutionising its function and appearance. Over 70 years ago, for example, our ‘Princess’ was a ladies standard model equipped with single speed, rod brakes, string skirt guard, in black," said Williams. "Over the years it has evolved into a three-speed, hub-braked model with more modern components, easier to use and maintain, with a colour choice, yet still retaining its original poise and character."
So, the product has evolved, just maintained the icon styles of pre war bicycles. But why would a consumer choose an ‘old’ looking bicycle over the wonders that grace the market nowadays?
Williams said: "We have noticed that customers have been increasingly complimentary about our products and a few months ago a national paper said that Pashley was “the Harley Davidson of the cycle industry!” But it is just as important to us that customers are attracted by what we offer, find it useful and enjoy owning it. Having said that we enjoy the whole process of designing and developing the bikes and we spend a great deal of time on both style and function. When someone walks into the design office and sees a new offering for the first time and smiles, it is adequate reward for everyone’s efforts. We are constantly asked for our cycles to be used in photo shoots for designer clothing and life style products (and also on various film sets) and customers compliment us on the unique and distinctive styles we have created."
Should the style ever fade into the history books, what would become of Pashley? What does the company have plans for the future to maintain the strong growth seen over the past years?
Williams tells BikeBiz: "Many people know that we have had a close association with Dr Moulton for over 15 years and in the last couple of weeks we have combined our Pashley-Moulton product range with that of Alex Moulton Bicycles to manufacture and market the complete range of Moulton bicycles through one new company, ‘The Moulton Bicycle Company’. This is an exciting time for Pashley and maintains our focus on producing quality, hand built specialist cycles of distinctive character, in England."
The company has recorded very strong export sales and year-on-year growth despite difficult times and, in an ironic twist, exports to the Far-East, including Taiwan, are growing. As many in the UK trade will understand, the ride isn’t without bumps. The rising cost of raw materials, components, transport, utility bills and wage rises have given the company moments of pause.
Williams said of the journey: "UK manufacturing has always been challenging and these pressures are nothing new to us. We have to stay sharp, lean and concentrate on increasing output and production efficiency, while keeping the costs tethered to the tree as best we can."
Pashley supply approximately 150 products ranging from a children’s tricycle to modern carrier bikes to an enormously wide range of consumers and business users. Of these business customers, the Royal Mail have used Pashley bicycles for over 35 years, while other customers include the Ministry of Defence, Jaguar and BP. Taking this into account, it’s impossible to define the end-user of a Pashley bicycle.
Commenting on this Williams said: "It impossible to define the average customer, other than to say that they require something different than the mainstream offering. We have seen a significant increase in the number of people wanting to buy a quality, British made product which can be used equally for leisure as well as a practical form of transport to work."
So why should the independent consider taking on classic bicycles?
Williams continues: "People want them. The bikes arrive at the shop with minimal work required by the dealer. We drive the customers to their door and the dealer only sees the customer again to sell them accessories or service the bikes. In all, a Pashley is a straightforward sale with no comeback and good margins. Whereas most retailers feel more comfortable seeing a row of mountain bikes in the showroom, the more open thinking dealer benefits from relatively high ticket prices and very little competition.
Stockist criteria is to be well presented, in the right area and hold a minimum of three bikes in stock at any one time, simple."
And now is a fantastic time to buy into the Pashley range. The launch of the Guv’nor has sparked a wave of interest in the bicycles. The model is based around the Path Racer, originally developed by Pashley in the 1930s. The classic Reynold 531 tubing has made a comeback and the bike is adorned with a range of attractive components, including a much-sought Brooks saddle.
Of the relationship with Brooks, Williams commented: "They are beautiful components and British made. Their people are good to work with. A few years ago we helped them through a difficult patch and now they are deservedly thriving."
Dealers are invited to see the full range of Pashley bicycles at the Earl’s Court Cycle show in October.
Pashley: 01789 292 263

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