Sinner Mango Velomobile
Speed Ross recumbent
Home made child's recumbent
English three speed
Bob Yak trailer
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Pashley PDQ recumbent bicycle review
An early shot of my Pashley PDQ with a home made front light, B&M Cycle Star mirror, no baskets yet, and those Tioga Comp-Pool tyres...
The Pashley PDQ is a recumbent bicycle (sometimes people like to call them HPVs or Human Powered Vehicles) which used to be made by Pashley in the UK but now out of production. The PDQ's history goes back to the American Counterpoint Presto design. Counterpoint unfortunately went out of business having been sued in the US, but Pashley bought the design and brought it to the UK.
Back in 1998 when I bought my first recumbent bike, a Speed Ross, I also tried the Pashley PDQ. At first the bike didn't appeal to me at all. I didn't like the "wobbly handlebars", and it seemed a bit pedestrian next to the Ross. Little did I know that I'd return to the PDQ.
In 1999 the first Speed Ross broke and I went shopping for a different recumbent to ride. This time the PDQ somehow seemed better than before and I bought one. The handlebars, which put me off at first, actually work very well and the principle has been copied by many other bikes since.
While the Ross was a quicker bike, I found the PDQ to be a better touring bike. While most recumbents are comfortable, the PDQ seat is right up there in offering a top level of comfort over long distances. This bike has been ridden many thousands of miles as you'll see below and never caused me a moment's discomfort when I've been on it. It handles well, and only seems to get better with a huge load on board.
Mind you, like most things, it's not the right bike for everyone. For instance, my wife doesn't get on with the seat at all. You have to try a few to know what you like.
The bike did a great deal of daily commuting to various different Cambridge computer companies until I started to work for myself in 2004. While I lived in Cambridge it also made an appearance on most of the "cambent" Friday recumbent rides (12:30 at the Green Dragon Bridge each Friday).
I have used a variety of pedals. Sometimes I have used toe-clips in winter so I could wear winter boots with thick socks, but mostly I used either double sided SPD pedals or more commonly Flat/SPD pedals.
Cambridge Friday recumbent riders lineup on the river path: Three
PDQs and a Challenge Hurricane.
Some of the many longer adventures that this bike has had are:
Video taken during LEJOG practice and heavily loaded PDQ at the top of Shap Fell during LEJOG.
2008: The bike continues to give very good service.
January 13th - a Sunday afternoon ride to Oosterwolde, about 25 km from Assen. Wonderful conditions for cycling, as ever. Videos below showing part of the route out next to a main road on the left and part of the longer route back through heath and forest on the right:
January 18th - this afternoon I collected an order of new front racks from a manufacturer in Hoogeveen 40 km away. I used the BOB trailer basket along with the rear basket on the bike to carry ten racks back home. A map basket held the maps and a water bottle. As ever, it handled wonderfully despite having quite a lot of weight.
This video shows the bike and trailer, and myself, returning along the fietspad with the load shown in the photo above.
February 23rd - Today I cycled to Groningen and back. I took the direct route there on the bike path next to the main road and covered the 25 km to the "Welcome to Groningen" sign in just 48 minutes. I continue to be amazed at the speed with which one can cycle on Dutch cycle paths. I can now ride my touring bike at average speeds which I only managed in the UK by taking my racing bike to a velodrome ! On the way back I took a lovely and much more winding route through the countryside on very pleasant lanes and bike paths. The videos show the cycle parking at Groningen Station (I went there to take photos for a friend) and one of the off road paths in the countryside on the way back.
This video shows a bike path bypassing a rough section of road
This video shows cycle parking at Groningen Railway station. This covered, watched cycle park accommodates 4500 bikes, bringing the total at the station to over 6000. It cost €10M. No bike is seen twice in my video, and only a small proportion are seen once. Since this time it has been upgraded to accommodate over 9000 bikes.
June 5th - Many rides between February and now, but today I made another outing today to collect front racks. It was also my first proper ride since replacing the entire drivechain a few days ago. Thus far my attempts to get a higher gear have been a bit unsuccessful. I have replaced all the transmission and have a nice (old but nearly unused) Campagnolo Veloce 53T chainring. However, at the same time I replaced the freehub block and could only find a 13-23 (Shimano 105) to replace the old 12-28 (7 speed stuff seems to be tricky to find) so I'm now down to a gear half way between the original and my almost immediate upgrade - just 80" in top gear without using the step-up in the hub. Yeh, so I've a mix of Campag and Shimano. The chain's from Sachs (I bought a supply at the Mildenhall Rally a few years back).
July 19th - 25th - The "Hoek to Hunebed" tour. I collected people from Hoek van Holland and we rode back to Drenthe by the long route. This included crossing the afsluitdijk and was a lot of fun. If you'd be interested in a similar tour, get in touch. Unfortunately, on this tour the rear hub finally gave up completely and I had to continue on another bike.
August 3rd - I built a new rear wheel, around a Shimano freehub excluding a hub gear. This means I now have just seven gears, but have a reasonable range of gear ratios (46 through to 88 gear-inches) with the 12-23 block I now have (thanks to a helpful local bike shop selling me a 12T sprocket for €1) and the 53T front chainwheel. I expect this to be a more reliable setup. Top gear is now about 82", which is nearly enough.
September... - the bike continues to go. It's made several more trips to Groningen and to collect racks, as well as other rides through the countryside and joining in with the huneliggers regular weekend recumbent rides.
2009... - the bike continues, and as I took a job with Sinner Bikes in Groningen three days a week the PDQ did a lot of commuting, covering thousands of km as the commute is a 60 km round trip. I experimented with even larger chainrings, and fitted a 75 tooth chainring which meant that at last I was not spinning out when riding with a stiff tailwind (top gear about 110"). My commuting time was generally under an hour in each direction, sometimes as low as 55 minutes if I had clear cycle paths and a really good tailwind. However, the bike got less use once I had my own Sinner Mango velomobile.
Note how the huge front chainring makes the old 53 T chainring look tiny ! My plan now is to use a 60 tooth chainring (available here)as this gives almost exactly the same gear ratios as when using a 46 tooth chainring with a 26 inch wheel. The gear ratios are also very similar ratios to the bike when new with the 46 tooth chainring that it was supplied with and the 3x7 hub in the top gear, but it's much more efficient.
Since the photo was taken, I've replaced the broken front mudguard, and the back one, and also replaced the forks and given it a good clean. The bike looks much better now.
Further adventures of the PDQ are tagged on the blog.
So... has this bike ever gone wrong at all ? Anything I don't like ?
The early PDQ seat frames were missing a triangular fillet which reinforces it at each side. Everyone I know who had one of the early ones had it break. Pashley replaced them very efficiently.
I didn't much like the Nokian tyres which came with the PDQ. They seemed puncture prone and not to roll very well. Mostly I have used the Vredestein Monte Carlo tyre on this bike. However, Schwalbe Marathon and Marathon Plus tyres are also a good option. I also tried the Tioga Comp Pool slicks for a while. They are fast tyres, with very low rolling resistance, and their hard rubber compound means that they last seemingly forever, but they are puncture prone, and because hard rubber doesn't deform much to the road they lack grip - especially in the cold and wet when you most need it. Good tyres in the summer, but not in winter.
I also have had trouble with the Sachs 3x7 hub gear originally fitted. This lost the ability to freewheel way back on the 1999 Bike Culture week. I had to ride home from what was the longest ride that I'd done up to that time without coasting at all. The bike was taken back to the dealer it was bought from (D-Tek in Cambridgeshire who I've always found to be very helpful) and returned with a repaired hub. A couple of years later the hub ate its ball bearings (not D-Tek's fault) and this time I took it apart and replaced the skimpy ball bearing races with a far larger number of loose ball bearings. It didn't fail again until July 2008 when the ball bearings again were chewed up while on a tour in Friesland. This was repaired by a very helpful engineer, but failed again the next day so I ended up returning home by train and building a new wheel with a normal freehub and no hub gear. I have a web page showing how the hub failed. My bike now has a standard Shimano 7 speed cassette system.
The right hand gear shifter stopped indexing properly in about 2005 and I used it for many years as a friction shifter before replacing with a new one in 2010.
The brakes never worked properly from new. They'd seemingly lock on sometimes which could be quite scary, and they were "sharp" in use. It took me until 2006, before LEJOG, to get around to replacing the brakes. The bike was originally fitted with some truly horrid brakes from Tektro which looked the part but were difficult to adjust and eventually seized up. I replaced them with Shimano V-brakes which have worked reliably since then.
I found the original gearing to be a bit low, so replaced the 46T front cog almost immediately with a 52T. This meant that the straight-through middle gear on the rear hub could be used most of the time instead of having to use the less efficient step-up and while the gearing was still a little low, this suited me under most circumstances for touring in the UK. Now that we're in the Netherlands I need a higher gear again so have a 60 tooth chainring so that I can keep my speed up. I average higher speeds on bike paths in the Netherlands than on the UK's bumpy roads.
My bike has had its paint topped up a few times and the forks became a bit rusty. A kind friend gave me a replacement fork which is now on my bike.
This may sound like a long list, but it's not. Not over nearly ten years of use. The frame remains in sound condition, and that's the most important thing.
In my view, the PDQ remains an excellent touring bike. They're unfortunately long out of production, but are now available fairly inexpensively second hand and I think they're a great buy. Perhaps look out for one which has done fewer miles than mine !
Our webshop has a special section with some of our favourite parts for recumbents, including tyres and lighting.
For more bicycle articles including tour stories, racing trips, bicycles reviews (inc. the Speed Ross recumbent and Sinner Mango velomobile) and instructions for making a child's size recumbent... see my bicycles page.
We now live in the wonderful cycling location of Assen, Drenthe. As well as continuing my basketmaking business, we just have to share this place with other cyclists so we run cycling holidays. Recumbent (or any other type of) cyclists are welcome to join us. You can also read more about cycling here on the blog.