There's no doubting that the Pashley Pathfinder Tour is a lovely looking bike, but unfortunately the ride doesn't appeal quite so much, and it also has some – to my mind – nonsensical kit specification.
In specifying the Pathfinder Tour for its return to road bike manufacturing, Pashley went all-out on the retro parts catalogue. You get a 'classic' bar, classic bar tape, classic mudguards and classic-ish Campagnolo mechanicals. Is this a good thing? Depends on whether you like to be comfortable on a bike apparently built for 'the longer adventure', but also 'a brisk Sunday ride'.
Having recently completed the 100-mile Eroica Britannia in the Peak District on a 1984 Raleigh Corsa, I feel qualified to comment on the relative penury that is/was cycling of yesteryear, and can add that there is indeed camaraderie, bonhomie and solace to be found in mutual suffering. But if you've just spunked £1700 on a modern bike with disc brakes and 20 indexed gears, should you expect to relive what cycling quite rightly evolved beyond?
Keeping with the classic theme, the traditional drop (145mm) handlebar is wrapped with slate grey Brooks organic cotton handlebar tape. The bar tape may look elegant, but modern bar tape would provide greatly improved comfort and grip on the bar. Handlebar shape has evolved over the years and a compact drop handlebar would probably be a smarter choice for this bike as the deep drops can be hard to reach if you're not that flexible. Maybe I'm just used to modern bars, but this one required regular sessions out of the saddle to stretch the upper body and relieve the tension built up supporting a hand and arm position that just wasn't natural.
Staying at the front end, the stainless steel painted front mudguard came loose after a few rides and slipped forward after a bit of foot contact, snarling the brake calliper into a rotor-dragging state as the left-hand mudguard stay bent upward. It turns out that the mudguard is held under the fork crown by ye olde bent sheet metal fingers, even though the guard itself is drilled for a bolt to go up into an expanding plug in the steerer tube. Not the level of detail you'd expect on a £1,700 bike. In the end the front stays needed bending slightly to clear the brake calliper.
Likewise at the rear the brake calliper story isn't great, as the rearmost bolt is partly obscured by the seatstay. If, like me, you like things torqued just so after a calliper realignment, this is annoying as you have to use a ball-ended hex.
This isn't to say the brakes are bad per se – far from it. The dual-piston TRP Spyres are great brakes, and, as I found, can modulate very well in an in emergency meeting a Land Rover on a sharp corner. Braking the front hard enough to lift the rear wheel, the combination of the Spyres and the 32mm Continental Gatorskin tyres kept me in control coming to the rapidest stop I think I've ever made.
The Campagnolo Veloce groupset is predictable and deliberate – you know you've made a shift with this kit, both physically and audibly – the clang of a downshift reverberating through the cassette, hub and rear disc. The Veloce levers' bulbous base is comfortable for large hands to grip, and the change from dual-lever Shimano to thumb-button Campy is intuitive. I didn't really miss the ability to upshift in the drops as I was never there anyway.
The Pashley isn't the lightest bike - but it's not trying to be - and at times it felt overgeared. That's despite a compact chainset and 13-29t cassette, the largest on offer from Campagnolo. This bike is crying out for a 32t easiest gear to make winching the 12kg unladen weight up steeper climbs. And when you have laboured your way to the top of a hill, the 13-tooth smallest sprocket means you'll spin out long before usual, which is a pity as with the longish 103cm wheelbase the Pathfinder is rock solid at high speed and no doubt with a full pannier load.
The hubs are unbranded things of beauty, with deep flanges and nary an ounce of plastic bearing cover to be seen. Up on the stand the wheels spin forever, and the bearings feel snug. Other small points of aesthetic note include 'Pashley'-forged endcaps at the top of the seatstays where they wrap around the seat tube junction, and brass barrel adjusters on the down tube braze-ons. Nice. The rear mudguard is secured by a bolt underneath up into the curved brake bridge, and looks very well done. The rear dropouts feature etched stainless steel plates held on with tiny screws, so as to keep the paintwork chip-free from years of wheel changes.
The disc-specific Ryde rims look lovely, but the rim tape really needs addressing. It's both too wide to sit correctly in the central channel of the rim, and not wide enough to fully cover the inside of the rim. The result is that the rim tape can shift about, exposing the spoke holes. It's asking for a puncture, and would be easily fixed with some decent rim tape. We fixed it temporarily with some electrical tape, but it's not something we should be doing on any bike, let alone one costing £1,700.
The Brooks Cambium C17 saddle looks very nice mated to the unbranded alloy seatpost, and I didn't have any complaints – maybe it's a bit bendy in the middle, but saddles are such a personal thing it's not a call either way.
So it's a mixed bag of finishing and fit. How does the overall package fare on English roads of a weekend morning, en route to Cake?
The sticker weight of circa 12kg road-ready – with pedals, cages, and a layer of real bar tape – should suggest an acceptable experience for a vintage-leaning disc brake-equipped build with full metal mudguards and large, puncture-proof rubber. Pashley describes the Pathfinder as being capable of 'a brisk Sunday ride', but we think the marketing department is being a bit overzealous in their description of the bike. The Pathfinder certainly isn't slow, but it's not exactly a rapid bike if speed is at the top of your list of priorities.
Over a month of Sundays and Thursday evening pub runs the ride never felt more than pedestrian at best – efforts out of the saddle just weren't easily rewarded. It's not that there was excess flex stealing power – the bottom bracket lugs did their job of aiding stiffness down-low – rather, the whole package added up to no feeling of acceleration or sprightliness. Had I purchased the Pathfinder based on the marketing description promising 'a dynamic riding style with a light and responsive feel' I'd be asking for my money back, as I experienced none of these sensations.
That's not to say it's a 'bad' bike – the foibles of handlebar, bar tape, gearing and front-mudguard-fixing aside, it looks great and has more-than-average dollops of practicality baked in. If you want something classy to spin about a flattish area, maybe with a decent rack on the back loaded with blanket, ginger beer and whatnot, or add some front panniers for a spot of camping, the Pathfinder Tour could be your bag. Certainly the package of disc brakes, fat tyres and full mudguards shifts the case towards 'useful' – it almost begs a dyno front hub and fixed lights. As a classic touring bike for cruising around the lanes on a Sunday morning, with a few pub stops, the Pathfinder is right at home. But Pashley's marketing team should step away from the Hyperbole Generator for the next iteration.
The Pashley Pathfinder Tour looks the business, but it doesn't really live up to the marketing hyperbole
Make and model: Pashley Pathfinder Tour
Size tested: 56
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"The Pathfinder has been created for that perfect combination of all-purpose, all year round bike with a choice of derailleur or hub gears. It effortlessly combines modern geometry and performance with the enviable Pashley aesthetic to create a truly refined bicycle capable of traversing the map whichever route you choose.
"Hand-crafted using a specially selected lightweight blend of butted Reynolds 531 and 631 steel tubing and fine-lugged construction, the classic geometry of the Pathfinder provides a dynamic riding style with a light and responsive feel. A longer fork and extended headtube make for a more upright (comfortable) riding position whilst still retaining the classic horizontal toptube. A long wheel base offers comfort and stability when loaded with panniers and the steering geometry provides predictable control over rougher ground.
"Overall performance is enchanced by powerful disc brakes - renowned for being 'the best in their class' – coupled with quality contact points provided by a Brooks Cambium Saddle and bar tape.
"The Pathfinder 'Tour' model is built with the longer adventure in mind, but with the versatility to strip all accessories for a brisk Sunday ride, or to dash across town on the morning commute. The Campagnolo Veloce groupset provides efficiency as well as speed, and unique stainless steel dropout plates offer a sleek and protective finishing touch. The specially selected Continental Gatorskin tyres are renowned for their puncture resistance as well as their exceptional performance in wet or wintery conditions; the perfect choice for jumping between the road and the grit & gravel, or wherever the path takes you!"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Colours Citrus Green or Graphite Grey.
Gears 20 speed Campagnolo Veloce groupset. Ergopower 2x10 shifters. 13-29 cassette.
Frame Traditional lugged and brazed construction. Crafted using investment cast lugs and a specially selected blend of Reynolds 531 and 631 butted tubes. Braze-ons for front and rear carriers. Individually hand-built.
Fork Investment cast crown and dropouts with blades specifically designed for the additional stresses of disc brakes.
Saddle Brooks Cambium C17 rubber/cotton saddle in slate grey.
Handlebar Classic bend handlebar with slate grey Brooks organic cotton handlebar tape.
Brakes TRP Spyre dual piston mechanical disc brakes (160mm rotors).
Wheels 32H disc specific rims and high quality polished hubs laced together with double butted stainless Sapim spokes.
Tyres 700x32c Continental Gatorskin folding tyres with PolyX breaker layer. Clearance for wider, large volume tyres: up to 32c with mudguards or up to 35c without.
Mudguards Colour co-ordinated painted stainless steel mudguards.
Crankset Compact Chainset 34/50T (32-104 gear inches).
Other Features Pashley's own disc dropouts with stainless steel faces, polished aluminium seatpost, turned brass gear cable adjusters.
Frame Sizes 50, 53, 56 and 59cm.
It's very nicely put together. The lugwork is tidy, and the paint is gorgeous.
A bike should be fun to ride. Everything else then stems from that. I didn't find this bike fun.
No reason to suspect it won't last.
It's not comfortable. The handlebar sees to that.
For £1700, you can get better bikes. The Genesis Croix de Fer, for example, at £1749 gives you an 11-speed 11-32 cassette, fully hydraulic disc brakes, 35mm tyres, rear pannier mounts, and all for a kilo or more less weight. And according to road.cc Dave, it rides like the clappers.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It was utilitarian, in that I got from A to B by pedalling.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The paintwork, and the hubs.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The feel of the frame, and niggling design points like the front mudguard.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not really.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not if they wanted to ride long distances, or were averse to spending £1700.
Use this box to explain your score
This was tough, in a way. I really wanted to like the Pathfinder Tour. It looks great, ticks many of my personal boxes - steel, classic, useful - but the ride is uninspiring, and for £1700 there are better options out there. The Genesis Croix de Fer, for example, at £1749 gives you an 11-speed 11-32 cassette, fully hydraulic disc brakes, 35mm tyres, rear pannier mounts, and all for a kilo or more less weight. And according to road.cc Dave, it rides like the clappers.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 183cm Weight: 72KG
I usually ride: Charge Juicer My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, MTB, singlespeed and Dutch bike pootling