When FOFFA, the stylish single speed, fixed gear and city bike designers, asked me to review their Ladies Plume I was intrigued to see how a bike so pretty would deliver. As a road cyclist in 'normal life', riding something so elegant would be an experience that I often sacrifice for chasing Strava segments. Now was my chance to slow down and cruise around town on something a little more chic.
The Ladies Plume is described by FOFFA as the bike "where practicality meets style" and I certainly found that it combined the two features very well. I can't imagine your fitness greatly improves from riding this bike purely because it just made me want to go shopping for flowers and artisanal cheese - but of course running enough errands by bike could certainly add up to a good workout.
The Plume is almost like a beautiful handbag or a good pair of shoes in that it is the key accessory that defines your entire look (and can also get you from A to B). A basket at the front would be a good addition to this style of classic bike and you certainly feel very laid back and maybe a tiny bit 'cool' whilst riding it.
The frames come in three different colours. I rode the matt black frame on my test ride but the Plume is also available in light grey and mint green. The handle bars and saddle have nostalgic tan leather covering which also adds to that classic, vintage city feel.
This is described as a ladies bike which I imagine is a throwback to some of the earlier women's modesty-maintaining bicycle designs that included features like the chain-guard and dropped top-tube. However, my partner was certainly willing to bend tradition to have a quick go on it!
Being a road cyclist I found it a real novelty to be able to leave the house in ‘normal clothes’ and just get on the Plume and ride off. One morning I needed to pop out for something and within minutes I had grabbed my lock, keys, phone and wallet and was already out the door. There was no rushing upstairs to change into my technical kit and squeezing into a pair of neoprene booties. I found it hugely accessible and convenient for running errands.
As soon as you sit on the comfortably cushioned saddle all ambition to hammer your bike and get your heart rate soaring disappear. Instead you saunter slowly, getting happily over-taken and riding at a relaxed pace. At first I found myself searching for a more aggressive position out of habit until I got used to sitting upright and enjoying the view.
The sit-up-and-beg positioning is extremely comfortable. I thought riding a bike like this would be harder to handle in London traffic but instead I noticed that being more upright meant that I could see over the tops of cars thanks to a wider range of vision.
Dutch bikes tend to have a reputation for being heavy, sturdy and reliable but the Plume actually has a surprisingly light frame which means that you aren't puffing away when the lights go green and can actually manoeuvre it on a commute quite happily.
On one of my Plume test-rides the heavens opened and I assumed that I was getting monumentally sprayed with mud up the backside. But to my surprise, the guards protected me from every single puddle splash. This meant that although riding in my Sunday best, apart from being a little damp, I didn't turn up at the pub looking completely bedraggled.
Whilst this bike is more suited for shorter trips or weekend rolling, FOFFA haven’t sacrificed the components for style. Obviously only reviewing it over the space of a weekend I am unsure as to how much maintenance it would need but on first look, the components looked and felt strong.
Frameset – The Plume has an alloy frame with steel forks with a classic upright geometry for extra comfort. It only weighs 11.9kg which is light for a bike in this style and helpful if you have any stairs to climb. The frame comes in two different sizes depending on your height.
Gearset – The Plume has an 8-speed Shimano Altus and Rapid Shifter which gives a simple-to-use wide range of gears so you don’t get completely stuck up any hills.
Wheelset – The wheels come with lightweight alloy rims with wide slick tyres for a comfortable ride both on city roads and canal paths.
Extra perks – As mentioned the mudguards and chain guard come in very handy in English weather and eliminate oil slicks as you walk into the office or to your lunch date. There is also an old-school kick stand should you need to prop it up.
I reviewed this bike in the winter but can see it being a perfect ride in warmer months. It was an absolute pleasure to ride and ideal for popping to town, shorter commutes, meeting friends for lunch and leisurely rides.
The FOFFA Ladies Plume is available in March and is priced at £359.99