Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pashley Poppy Review and Some Thoughts on Its Modifications

I've now had the Pashley Poppy for a time (a couple of months), and while I did briefly discuss some changes that were made to the stock Poppy bicycle, it feels as though enough time has passed to provide a bit more detail about the changes that were made to the bike, as well as to better evaluate how it's working for my needs.
While our current living location isn't exactly ideal for any type of city bicycle, it has been useful for short rides, and the move to a new place looks as though it will actually come to fruition in a few short weeks. For now, it's useful on trips to the market, or to the very few close by places, but I think it's going to become much more useful after the move. When I think about being able to ride just about everywhere (except, of course, the trips to school), I find it difficult to believe that this is actually about to happen. It must seem strange to most people that I'm excited about moving to a place that's less than 10 miles from our current home, but truly, it's been a long wait and the convenience of the new location is quite exciting!

But, I digress... The Poppy has been a welcome addition to the fold, and with the changes that were made, it's been pretty ideal. The stock set up has short, close to flat handlebars with cork grips. I knew when the bike arrived that, at minimum, the grips would need to be replaced as they were both severely cracked, but after my initial ride with the original handlebars I felt like an adult attempting to ride a small child's bicycle.
Original cork grips, showing one of the smaller cracks
It was completely uncomfortable to me because it felt far too close between saddle and handlebar. I had no recollection of the Princess Sovereign model feeling this way. I don't think at that time I realized the difference a set of handlebars could make in the way a bicycle feels. I really didn't enjoy the ride on the Poppy the first time because of that crunched in feel, and I thought briefly that perhaps this bicycle would be another to go by the way side. However, after obtaining the mustache handlebars for the Hillborne, and realizing that the stretch was just too much for me on a bicycle that has an almost too far reach as it is, I thought it was worth trying these on the Poppy.
I hadn't seen a Pashley Poppy with mustache bars before, and while I initially thought it might be a strange look, they turned out to be a great option. The stretch the mustache bars provided between saddle and stem was just what I needed. The reach isn't so far that I feel overly stretched, but it provides enough room to feel comfortable, and even a bit racier than the standard set up (in my opinion). The ride itself feels more comfortable as well, though I suspect this is just a by-product of being in a more comfortable position.
Mustache handlebar set up on the Poppy
After the handlebar switch, I wasn't sure I liked the standard brake levers, nor the location I'd likely have to place the levers. While typically people who put mustache handlebars on a bike tend to use a similar style of brake levers, I really wanted to keep the upright feel of the bicycle. This was resolved by purchasing a set of inverse brake levers (Note: I didn't buy mine from Velo-Orange, however, they are the same brand) to be placed at the bar ends. This brought its own set of issues, as I didn't understand at the time that the levers wouldn't adjust the brakes, so there was absolutely no tension, or in other words, there was no ability to stop. This problem was resolved with a small tensioner Sam constructed to work with the other end of the brake cables. I have to say, I love these levers! Braking somehow seems easier, and while it may be entirely in my head, the set up really seems to be working.
Tektro inverse brake levers up close
The next decision was in regard to transporting goods via bicycle. For me, it is pointless to have this set up work so well if I can't carry anything with me. Initially, I thought I would put a rear rack on the Poppy, but after some thought, I decided that perhaps a large front basket made more sense.
Wald Woody front basket on the Poppy
Thus far, the basket has provided what I need. I can put two large reusable grocery bags in it, or a slew of other items, and the depth of the basket doesn't cause things to fall out while riding. I have still debated whether or not a rear rack is necessary, but thus far, this particular set up seems to be quite functional.
As for the ride with this set up, I am extremely happy. The ride is comfortable and functional. If there is anything that might feel strange for some, I would say that some might find that the basket is too close to the handlebars, making it a challenge to utilize every possible hand position. It hasn't been bothersome to me, however, as I mostly ride with my hands in the upright position. The brake cables are also to the sides of the basket, which, in super tight turning instances could create a bit of a tight squeeze.
Cables surrounding the sides of the Wald basket
Thus far, the Poppy has been a joy to have and to ride, and I look forward to a lot more riding... who knows? There could be even more modifications to come!


  1. I also modified my Poppy, i got mine with britannia handle bars and a front basket and light! I still have the cork grips, I hope the stay together!

    Now it is much more functional for picnics and shopping!

  2. Glad to hear you are enjoying your modified Poppy. I think that the cork grips came apart on mine due to poor handling on the receiving distributors' end, and not because of anything Pashley did on their side, so I'm sure you'll do just fine. :o)

  3. Hello,

    I am torn between a princess and a pink poppy. My heart was set on the poppy but I prefer the princess riding position. I could change the handlebars on the poppy but wonder if black is more classic and I should forgoe my love of pink?

    1. I think that your choice is a completely personal decision. If you are someone who intends to keep the bike for a lifetime, or at least a very long time, I suppose you would want to ask yourself if you will become tired with the pink, and will eventually prefer a more classic color. Changing the handlebars on the Poppy definitely does change the ride position, so if you're willing to do that (and it's your only concern between the two), then it might be the way to go.

      If you're looking for my personal preference, if I were going to start over and buy either a Princess or a Poppy, I would buy the Poppy and change out the handlebars... but, I would do that because the Poppy felt lighter to me than the Princess. I enjoyed the ride on both bikes though, for different reasons.

      Good luck with your decision. Hopefully, you will have many joyful rides on your new bike! :O)

  4. Hi do you still have the Poppy? I am looking at getting one for my fiancé, I had a sit on it as we are the same height & would prefer handlebars that came round a bit more, but she would not do the distances I do, so just city & picnics etc.
    Are you happy with construction etc?



    1. Hi Al,

      I do not have the Poppy any longer, but it is a great bike for all around/general type riding. For city rides it was a wonderful bike. I'm still a bit sorry that I no longer have it. The handlebars were the best thing that could have been changed (I think) on this bike. It definitely made it easier to move hands around and not fatigue, and I also felt as the bike just fit better with the mustache handlebars. If you have the means to experiment (or can get a shop to exchange handlebars for you), I think it's worth the time/effort to give it a go.

      As for construction, I had zero complaints. Solidly built, beautiful bike.

      Good luck in your (and your fiancé's) search for the right bike! :O)


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