Carrier Cycle Heritage

Since being founded in the 1920s, Pashley has become a world-leading manufacturer of bicycles and tricycles for industrial and commercial use, serving a huge variety of businesses all around the world.


As the cycle market was both saturated and largely dominated by Raleigh, Rath Pashley realised that greater success could be had by specialisation. At the time, most local deliveries - bread, milk, newspapers - were made by bicycle. Unsurprisingly, these workhorses were often treated with scant care and suffered hard (and often short) lives. There was a significant demand for sturdy, durable bicycles that would carry heavy loads with minimal maintenance. With his new company 'Pashley Carrier Cycles' Rath set out to satisfy these requirements - with great success that continues to this day.


In 1936 the company was incorporated as W. R. Pashley Ltd. and moved to a spacious new factory (over 30,000 square feet) in Aston, Birmingham. Increasingly, Pashley's customers demanded cycles for vending of ice-cream and confectionery, as well as general deliveries. This led on to the design and manufacture of Ice Cream Carts, Station Platform Refreshment trolleys and specialist units for the dairy and catering trades. The standard Pashley CT-20 tricycle chassis was utilised for many purposes - including rickshaw-type Bath chairs and dairy deliveries (as shown on the right). Pashley's current No.33 tricycle is a direct descendent of the CT-20.


For the duration of the second World War, Pashley's factory was turned over to the manufacture of military equipment and coach-building ambulances on Rolls-Royce and Daimler chassis. Needless to say, the Pashley delivery bicycles and tricycles in service saw more use than ever, due to wartime restrictions on materials and fuel. Following the cessation of hostilities in 1945, demand for replacements was high and Pashley made as many cycles as steel supplies allowed. Meanwhile returning servicemen and war-weary families, taking their first holidays for years, would be greeted on most railway station platforms by increasingly stylish Pashley refreshment trolleys.


The 1950s saw the rapid popularisation of the motor car amongst the middle classes and, increasingly, in UK Government policy. Pashley responded deftly to this 'motorisation' movement by manufacturing Brockhouse Indian Motor Tricycles, and soon applied Villiers engines to their own units - delivery tricycles, rickshaws and the inevitable ice-cream carts. Perhaps the most successful of the motorised Pashley tricycles was the '3 cwt Light Delivery Truck', this with a 'kendrick' wheel layout - two wheels at the front, giving the driver a view of both the loadspace and the overall vehicle width, useful for manoeuvring in tight spaces. Pashley broke new ground with the Pelican rickshaw - they were the first company to install hydraulic brakes on a motorcycle. This innovation may have been influenced by John Pashley, Rath's younger son, who worked at Girling. The prototype Pelican rickshaw has recently returned to the company and awaits restoration.


With all classes in the UK now owning cars, the bicycle industry took a downward turn. Most deliveries were now undertaken by light vans or electric milk floats, rather than by cycles. Pashley's light delivery trucks were ousted by newcomers like the Morris Mini-Minor van. Whilst continuing to manufacture the traditional butcher's and baker's bikes, the main thrust of Pashley's business shifted to road trailers - a multitude of simple, sturdy designs for a variety of purposes from fluid tanks to mobile workshops. Billed as 'designed to withstand the roughest use, over practically any road surface', Pashley created a significant export business and their trailers saw use in many countries around the world.


The 1970s saw a real increase in the demand for carrier cycles, in part due to the growth of the North Sea Oil industry. As motor vehicle use is heavily restricted on refinery sites, most (if not all) refineries operated a large fleet of bicycles. As cycles neither need fuel nor create pollution, other industries increasingly adopted their use to move people and equipment around ever-larger sites - two examples being Rolls-Royce and British Leyland. To meet the demands of heavy industry, Pashley developed the 'Middleweight' tricycle to carry loads of up to 250 kg. In addition, the UK postal service, the Royal Mail, contracted Pashley to build delivery bicycles for them. This was the start of a relationship spanning over forty years, with the Royal Mail, at one point, operating the largest bicycle fleet in the western world - all built by Pashley.


Whilst continuing to supply the domestic market for carrier cycles, Pashley found that work bikes (and particularly the 'Middleweight' tricycle) began to find markets overseas, including at many oil refineries in the Middle East. Other major export contracts included the supply of classic 28" wheel roadsters to health workers in Africa under the auspices of the international charity UNICEF. With increased ground-clearance for unmade African roads and tracks, these roadsters were some of the last work bikes that Pashley built with traditional 'rod' brakes. The introduction of bicycle safety standards was soon to sweep these brakes into history - at least for work bike use. Newer Pashley models now featured maintenance-free, all-weather drum brakes.


Environmental concerns began to be taken seriously in the commercial world, with some companies switching local deliveries from vans to bicycles to reduce pollution. Foremost in this was the Royal Mail, and the 1990s saw replacement of their entire bicycle fleet with internal hub-geared, drum-braked cycles. Increasing interest in promotional vehicles was notable - with Pashley developing special tricycles for both Walls ice-cream and Mars to use for launch events and at theme parks. This business was to augment the traditional 'ice-cream vending tricycle' - the Pashley No.33 - in production for more than seventy years and still in high demand world-wide.


In order to meet the increasing needs of delivery companies to carry larger loads (weight and volume) and to simplify servicing regimes, Pashley re-designed their core carrier cycle range to allow front - and rear - loading using baskets, boxes and/or panniers. Several of Pashley's industrial customers replaced their entire fleets with these new high-capacity, low-maintenance models. Those with even more to carry could now add the new Pashley Euroload trailer - available in flat bed, side rails or EuroBox configurations, this trailer attaches to most carrier cycles with a lockable quick-release coupling and can handle loads up to 60kg. Many brands also continued to make us of the promotional benefits of Pashley's carrier cycles; reminiscent of the Pashley refreshment trolleys of the 1940s and '50s, the Multi-Purpose Vending Cart (shown) became increasingly popular for vending products at events.


In the 21st century, carrier cycles are increasingly used by companies world-wide for hire-bike schemes, transportation, deliveries and promotions. Pashley are uniquely positioned to satisfy these demands with a trusted manufacturing operation that remains in Britain, and an unrivalled 90 years' experience in the carrier cycle market. We continue to produce low - and high - volume runs of special models, specifications and colours that can be supplied on short lead-times and at competitive prices. And, it is not just our contemporary Courier and Pronto bicycles that remain in-demand; our original and iconic Delibike and Classic No.33 (shown) are still in production today and continue to be a very popular choice with our customers.


In recent years, city and urban cycle hire schemes have been introduced into many cities around the world. Pashley, with its experienced design & development team, have created market-leading products for these schemes. Our award-winning city hire bike was designed to offer improved handling, safety and comfort whilst ensuring that maintenance and operating costs were kept to a minimum. Innovative anti-vandalism design features also significantly increase its life in active service. This British designed and manufactured bicycle is of exceptional quality and is now seen on the streets of both London and Edinburgh, with electric models launched in late 2019 to complement the existing fleets.